Omnia sunt communia: “All things are held in common.” The artist Minerva Cuevas, who lives and works in Mexico City (where she was also born), asserts this notion time and time again with “Disidencia” (Dissent), her first exhibition in New York. Cuevas’s far-reaching “cartography of resistance,” as some have called it, includes the food sovereignty protests on the streets of her birthplace, a staged intervention in a Paris McDonald’s, and her own underwater demonstration, which seems to reference a strategy used by anti-Exxon climate activists in 2016.
In the video A Draught of the Blue, 2013, the aforementioned Latin phrase appears on a banner held up by two scuba divers above the endangered coral of the Great Mayan Reef. Other signs in this work read “IN TROUBLE,” “1%” (a reference to wealth disparity and the total amount of coral left on the planet), and “25%” (an estimate of the worldwide deaths caused by human environmental damage and the percentage of marine life reliant upon coral, according to the United Nations). Cuevas puts economic narcissism in close proximity to ecological collapse—or, as Naomi Klein characterizes it, “climate barbarism.”
The parodic Donald McRonald, 2003, extends the horror to corporate overreach. In the video, a McDonald’s mascot look-alike parades in the restaurant chain, incriminating the fast-food monstrosity for its lack of unions, low wages, and employees’ minimal vacation time, while proceeding to order and devour a Big Mac. The slideshow La venganza del elefante (The Revenge of the Elephant), 2007, is a reordering of the German illustrator Wilhelm Busch’s nineteenth-century drawings of human dominance over nature—in it, Cuevas shows an elephant actively pursuing its hunter. For the artist, humor is a weapon, a salve, and an invitation to do better for all. As a young boy reminds us in a different video piece, “we have much, very much to do with our neighbors.”