Made In TexasSeptember 22, 2011
Five large, low white pedestals are evenly placed in the East Gallery of Dallas Contemporary. On each pedestal is a living scene taken directly from a factory, workshop or enterprise in the Dallas area: tables, equipment, ingredients, tools and workers are all borrowed from their original settings and placed in this new context for one evening. As participants enter, they pass a mound of 2,000 pounds of locally-made tortilla chips, then see the first of the working platforms, on which Moises Silguero, winner of the previous year's Texas State Fair Salsa-Making Competition, teaches the employees of Mrs. Renfro's -- a small family-owned salsa manufacturer who has just signed on to commercially produce his Green Salsa -- exactly how to make his winning recipe. On the next pedestal is a replica of Moises' mother's kitchen, where she and her family make tamales in the exact environment where they produce food for catering. After the tamales, employees of the Mozzarella Company, one of the earliest artisanal cheesemakers in Texas, hand-stretch queso Oaxaca, squeeze lime on top of it, salt it, and roll it up into iconic balls. 25 oil drums in a minimalist grid, filled with bottles of Texas-made St. Arnold beer on ice, follow. On the final pedestal is the production line of Absolutely Blooming, where owner Marion Marshall and her team make arrangements of yellow roses of Texas that are occasionally picked up by roaming waiters. All workers in the piece are dressed in their daily uniforms, which include hairnets, waterproof boots, vinyl aprons, linen-service-issued shirts and pants, disposable gloves, street clothes, and marketing attire. Next to these pedestals is a single long table covered in a red-checked tablecloth, where catering waiters sit at one end folding napkins, occasionally getting up to pick up a completed flower arrangement and place it on the table. Viewers interact with the workers however they see fit, and the workers do the same. Participants build plates of all the food being made before them, sit down, eat, talk, pose on and around the pedestals, and in so doing become an essential and completing part of the work. Made in Texas as a whole does not pass judgment on what is displayed on the pedestals or our relationship to it. It simply makes something visible which is not normally seen, and in so doing opens up a dialogue about our relationship to the work and workers that are an invisible part of our everyday world.
Andrew Ryan Shephard