Valentina Jager: the face the mouth the back 

Valentina Jager is both an artist and a writer and the two practices often influence one another. Her work is infused with a deeply poetic sensibility that sheds light on the precariousness of truth, the subjectivity of interpretation, and the fragile nature of memory. In her art objects and performances, Jager looks to written texts as sources for exploring how language can be contingent or have shifting meaning.


Jager’s the face the mouth the back takes as its starting point the frequent reporting of violence due to Mexican drug cartels and the occurrence of gruesome imagery that appears regularly in Mexican newspapers. Jager focuses on the forms of these bodies and creates abstract interpretations of them in collaged colored tissue paper. The abstract forms in Jager’s work are also inspired by her research into Japanese Butoh, a form of avant-garde dance that developed in the 1950s in Japan. Through gestures of falling or dropping down, Butoh performers seek to render their bodies as dormant ghosts of death. Yet, despite a focus on death and destruction, Butoh performances are also about rebirth and thus are life-affirming.


Hauntingly beautiful, Jager’s work calls attention to how desensitized people have become to seeing violent imagery in the media. At OCMA, viewers are invited to move through a labyrinthine arrangement of Jager’s large hanging pieces, to immerse themselves in their lush colors and fragile surfaces. This experience evokes a palpable tension between a desire to embrace the work’s seductive aesthetic qualities and an awareness of the violent source of their subject matter. The title the face the mouth the back also references the physicality of the hanging paper work and the challenge of defining the work’s front and back, and positive or negative space. Over time, the colors will fade, like faint memories of once vibrant human beings.


In conjunction with this installation, Jager will present a reconceived presentation of her performance The Incredible Shrinking Mercury. Incorporating humor and movement, the performance orchestrates an invented conversation between a physicist and a philosopher about the concept of Mercury in retrograde, time, and perception. 


Valentina Jager was born in 1985 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She currently lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico

Valentina Jager

the face the mouth the back, 2018

Site-specific installation

Tissue paper and rebar

Dimensions variable

Courtesy of the artist and Guadalajara90210