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Walker Presentation is First U.S. Exhibition of the Ongoing Puppeteer Project by Pedro Reyes
Pedro Reyes, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin from Baby Marx pilot, 2009. Images courtesy Detalle Films.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and other towering figures from the history of economic theory take on starring roles as puppets in the Walker Art Center organized exhibition Baby Marx. Exploring the intersections of entertainment, economic theory, and contemporary art, Baby Marx, created by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, opened August 11 and runs through November 27, 2011.

The Walker’s exhibition is the first U.S. presentation of this evolving project, which Reyes first presented at the Yokohama Triennial in 2008. What began as a seven-minute trailer used to pitch a family television sitcom has since undergone extensive development, including script development and the construction of an elaborate set, culminating in a full-length pilot episode that the artist filmed in 2009.

For his engagement with the Walker, Reyes reflects on the entire project to date by creating a new iteration of Baby Marx that employs the tools and procedures of documentary filmmaking. For the first weeks of the exhibition’s run, Reyes and a crew that includes local puppeteers and a videographer will rehearse and film content within the gallery and around the Walker campus for a documentary version of Baby Marx. A range of events will also add context and content for the documentary, including a conversation between Reyes and political philosopher Michael Hardt and a Town Hall debate that asks, “Who will survive in America?” Footage produced during this time will feed back into the exhibition as multiple rough cuts. The installation will also feature the handmade puppets, the original pilot and trailer, and Reyes’ monumental library set.

Baby Marx is set in a small town library where a group of precocious children have brought Marx, Smith, and other key figures from economic history back to life by zapping their influential books in a glitch-prone “Smart-O-Wave” microwave oven. There, the founders of communism and the free market confront each other and their legacies, haunted by the twin specters of Joseph Stalin and Bernie Madoff, as well as the latest global economic crisis.

Baby Marx investigates utopian ideologies and how they function—or fail to function—when mapped onto real-world situations. The project also explores the potential of mass entertainment to impart what Reyes calls “radical pedagogy”—a way to make the often-distorted fundamentals of socialism and capitalism accessible to a broad audience. Reyes says that with Baby Marx, “you can acquire a basic knowledge of some of these ideologies, the most influential ideas from politics and economy in the last 200 years, without having to use books.”

Pedro Reyes (b.1972) is an artist and architect whose work addresses the interplay of physical and social space. He often relies on architecture, design, language, video, and group activities to examine the cognitive contradictions of modern life and the possibility of increasing our individual and collective agency. Reyes has exhibited in institutions throughout the world including the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; San Francisco Art Institute; Serpentine Gallery, London; Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan; Aspen Art Museum; Reina Sofia, Madrid; South London Gallery; Labor Gallery, Mexico City; Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York and Paris; Jumex Collection, Mexico City; P.S.1, New York; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Shanghai Biennale; Seattle Art Museum; Reykjavik Art Museum; and the Venice Biennale.

Baby Marx is organized by Bartholomew Ryan and Camille Washington for the Walker Art Center

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