Title: Illegal Alien's Guide to the Concept of Relative Surplus Value
Dimensions: 15 x 80 in. (38.1 x 203.2 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Diana G. Karnas and Abe Tomás Hughes II
Moving from right to left against the waves that unite the various scenes, Chagoya sends the figure of the Illegal Alien, his stand in for the common man, on a through-the- looking-glass sort of journey. Using the form of the codex, a bound and folded set of pages that shares a common use in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican societies and their contemporaries in Europe, Chagoya juxtaposes his unassuming hero with a world that requires heroic efforts to navigate and survive. The “Relative Surplus Value” of the title refers, in part, to the concept of diminishing wages while increasing productivity to yield a larger profit, indeed an economic theory with resonance in today’s minimum wage struggles.
The Illegal Alien travels through Chagoya’s alternate histories and re-mapped current events. The length of the trip and the span of the work are punctuated by thought bubbles that give the appearance of a conversation or narrative thread, but are actually frustratingly obtuse in meaning. ("This is no Less Curious: Journeys through the Collection" cocurated by Sonja Gandert, Alexandra Palmer, and Alana Ryder and presented at the Johnson Museum January 24 - April 12, 2015)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.