b. 1975, Mexico City
Minerva Cuevas was born in 1975 in Mexico City, and graduated with a BFA from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, in 1997. Her socially engaged practice encompasses a range of strategies and media including film, installation, performance, and site-specific public intervention. Cuevas aims to provide insight into the complex economic and political structures of the social realm, offering the possibility of their playful subversion.
One of Cuevas’s best-known works is the long-term project Better Life Corporation (Mejor Vida Corp., 1998– ), which evolved from her public interventions in Mexico City. Part pseudo-corporation, part non-profit organization, the project revolves around a website that offers a range of public services including the provision of special bar codes to reduce the cost of food items at supermarkets, personalized fake student ID cards, and free phone calls. Small but poignant interventions into the everyday realm, these modest acts infiltrate and disrupt economic and social systems. Mejor Vida Corp. is more than just the sum of its individual parts; in exposing inequality and hardship, it offers a critique of established systems that has the potential to instigate grass-roots revolt.
Cuevas’s five-channel video installation The Economy of the Imaginary: Pirates and Heroes (2006), features superheroes dressed in costumes combining the aesthetics of comic books and Lucha Libre wrestling. These figures engage the public in discussions about the American film industry, the failures of the dominant capitalist system, and aspects of personal struggle while using flamboyant performance to temporarily transform depressed or homogenized parts of Mexico City. The film Dissidence 2.0 (2007–13) focuses on acts of resistance in the public sphere. The protest slogans in its images of demonstrations in the historic Zócalo (Mexico City’s Plaza de la Constitución) serve as a counterpart to another body of work: Cuevas’s graphic campaigns in which she appropriates images of familiar branding designs and alters their accompanying texts. In the installation Égalité (2004), for example, she substitutes a term and concept anathema to contemporary capitalist societies for those of the water brand Evian: “Equality, a natural condition.”
Cuevas has had major solo exhibitions at the Vienna Secession (2002); DAAD Galerie, Berlin (2004); Casa del Lago, Mexico City (2006); Kunsthalle Basel (2007); Le Grand Café – Centre d’art Contemporain, Saint-Nazarie, France (2007); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2008); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2009); Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City (2010); Cornerhouse, Manchester (2011); and Museo de la Ciudad de México (2012). Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (1998); Hayward Gallery, London (2000); Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent (2001); MoMA PS1, New York (2002); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2003); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2008); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2010); and the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth (2013). Cuevas’s work was also included in the Istanbul Biennial (2003); São Paulo Biennial (2006); and Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2007). She received grants from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) in 2003 and the Fondo Nacional para cultura y las Artes in 1999. Cuevas lives and works in Mexico City.