INDIANA... ¿LO CONOCES?
Hi. I'm Matthew. I live in Mexico City now but spent almost my entire life in Indiana (USA).
As a foreigner in Mexico, I commonly get asked where I'm from. I usually say "Indiana... ¿Lo conoces?", intending to ask if they know of Indiana. I realized that the verb "conocer" in Spanish is "to know", but more so to experientially know... it's a weird concept (at least for me). So, "Indiana... ¿Lo conoces?" could be "Indiana... have you heard of it?", but often with physical places, it can be interpreted "Indiana... have you been there?"
It becomes a funny question because I think most people in Mexico City have heard of Indiana.
No one has been to Indiana.
I then usually say "jaja that's okay, there's not much in Indiana." If pressed to describe it further, I'll say "It's a very practical place full of nice but not very exciting people. Pretty conservative in almost every way. Lots of cornfields and nice people who work hard and live there because it's affordable and stable and there are lots of sports teams. No one really moves there on purpose. It's a nice place to grow up but, for me, a hard place to stay."
Every painting in this show has a tie back to Indiana - whether a person, place, or thing from my time living there.
As such, I reflected through this work on whether or not I actually "know" Indiana. I thought I did... but as I juxtapose my understanding of Indiana as a "nice" and "practical" place with the responses of people there in the face of recent world events, namely the intensified calls for racial justice and collective action facing the spread of COVID-19, I realize that maybe I really don't know Indiana at all.
To me, it doesn't seem practical to love the USA because it is the land of equal opportunity, then refuse to openly investigate prevalent policies of inequality rooted in systemic racism. It doesn't seem nice to ignore Indiana's past standing as the national capital of the Klu Klux Klan. But, it also doesn't seem nice to me to build walls by lambasting other people on social media who are struggling with these questions in bursts of shallow virtue signaling.
It doesn't seem practical to me to ignore the latest recommendations of the global scientific community for a pandemic that has killed (as of now) over 150,000 of your fellow citizens. It's not practical to me to politicize the pandemic either, regardless of your political agenda. It doesn't seem nice to me to prefer your "personal lifestyle" or your "individual freedom" over actively social distancing and wearing a mask. But, it doesn't seem nice to me to monolithically label anyone questioning the impact of masks as moronic.
It's interesting how quickly you can develop new, more complete perspectives on situations you were immersed in after just a short time removed from them.
So, after 28 years living there and just 2 years away, I'm left wondering: Indiana... ¿Lo conozco?
Photos by Rubén Garay Araujo.