Gala Porras-Kim LABOR
Gala Porras-KimLABOR
Gala Porras-Kim, 78 west Mexico ceramics from the LACMA collection: Nayarit Index, 2017. Graphite, color pencil and ink on paper. 187.5 x 340 x 8cm (73.81 x 133.85 x 3.14inches). Courtesy of the artist and Labor, Mexico City.




Gala Porras-Kim, the artist working her way into the institutional fold.



Gala Porras-Kim’s work investigates the institutional frameworks that define, legitimize, and preserve cultural heritage, looking at the global circulation of pre-colonial artifacts extracted from their original sites and stored in museum collections in the West. Her work questions the ethical principles of museum conservation while inviting the viewer to assign new meanings to artifacts displayed within institutions.


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The artist analyzes the way in which we acquire knowledge, and considers the potential of the artistic object to function as an epistemological tool outside its traditional context in Art History.





Presented at Labor in 2017, An index and its settings is part of a research project based on the Proctor Stafford collection, a compilation of 235 ancient ceramic burial figurines and vessels (approximately 200 BCE - CE 500) from Colima, Nayarit, and Jalisco on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The project addresses the naming stipulations, its provenance, and the histories we can construct from the information available accordingly.



Gala Porras-Kim, An Index and Its Settings, 2017. Exhibition view at Labor, Mexico City.





In a similar process, in 2019 Porras-Kim traveled to Gwangju (South-Korea) to examine the unplanned worldly afterlife of bodies (1st century B.C., from Shinchang-Dong, Gwangju) in the collection of the Gwangju National Museum, considering the places these bodies have been and how they have been treated since they were taken out of their final resting place, to live a corporal afterlife defined by human laws and institutions.


The works are made using encromancy—divination by ink stains—to contact spirits and ask them to manifest a preferred location for their remains. Through paper marbling techniques, vivid pigments are suspended on the surface of water, and spirits are contacted to reorganize the pigment to realize an image that maps the ideal setting for their remains. “Captured” on paper, the control of the image is relinquished to the spirit. Instead of prioritizing the methods of living people that influence the afterlife, Porras-Kim insists on this spiritual approach to inform human actions and hear from the deceased individuals who inhabited these body parts where they would prefer their remains to rest.





Developed in 2021 and exhibited at Amant on the same year, Precipitation for an Arid Landscape is comprised of several works that investigate the historical and legal facts surrounding the dredging and subsequent removal of objects from the Chichén Itzá cenote, a sacred Mayan sinkhole located in one of the most important archaeological sites of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. At the beginning of the 20th century, these sacrificial artifacts and remains (about 30,000 of them) became part of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology collection at Harvard University. Through drawings, installations, and text, Porras-Kim analyzes the journey of the artifacts following their removal from the Sacred Cenote, spanning from preservation to the legal proceedings regarding their ownership.





In a recent exhibition at Gasworks (London) that continues her investigation on the ethical principles of museum conservation, Porras-Kim examined the (after)life of sacred objects at the British Museum, thinking through ways of compromising with their otherworldly original owners.





“The artist’s engagement with institutions,

if provocative, is not necessarily adversarial.”

- The Ethics of Dust, Martha Buskirk on the art of Gala Porras-Kim. Artforum, March 2022.



Under the Cover: Gala Porras-Kim
Gala Porras-Kim talks to Artforum’s executive editor Lloyd Wise about her recent tripartite project



Recently on view at CAM St. Louis in Missouri, the exhibition Correspondences towards the living object featured Proposal for the Reconstituting of Ritual Elements for the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacán (2019), which consists of official replicas of two plain greenstone monoliths that were found and extracted from inside the top of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican city located 25 miles northeast of modern-day Mexico City, which hosts significant pre-Columbian pyramids. Through these surrogates, the artist made a counter-proposal to INAH: to place the replicas into the Pyramid of the Sun as proxies for the original elements, which might have been used for ritual purposes. The installation includes a letter addressed to Juan Manuel Garibay Barrera, National Coordinator of Museum and Expositions, INAH. A graphite drawing recreating the darkness inside the pyramid, and a brass structure, All Earth Energy Sources Are Known to Come from the Sun (2019), that waits to be activated when hit with direct sunlight, are placed alongside.





“I would ask you to consider reconstructing and/or replacing these elements that have been extracted . . . seeing as the audience of these internal sites . . . might not have been an earthly one.”

- Letter from Gala Porras-Kim to Mr. Juan Manuel Garibay Barrera, National Coordinator of Museums and Expositions in Mexico.



GPK_Proposal for the Reconstituting of Ritual Elements_letter.pdf
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Gala Porras-Kim, Correspondences towards the living object, 2022. Exhibition view by Dusty Kessler, CAM St Louis.




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