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Title: Illegal Alien's Guide to the Concept of Relative Surplus Value
Date: 2009
Medium: Color lithograph
Dimensions: 15 x 80 in. (38.1 x 203.2 cm)
Credit Line: Acquired through the generosity of Diana G. Karnas and Abe Tomás Hughes II
Object Number: 2010.004
Label Text: 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.