Wiseman is a photographer whose distinctive artistic career has been marked by his relationship to photojournalism. His subjects are clearly interposed with his longstanding understanding of image as something between document and intersubjectivity.
“Interested in cultural processes that include the geographical movement of people, the architectural displacements from one imaginary space to another and the memories-urban collectivities in the process of re-adaptation, the work of Adam Wiseman has established itself as a point of reference to be considered as a transformative part of the photography currently being produced in Mexico. Between still photography and moving image, portrait and landscape, video and installation, Wiseman has developed different work methodologies to explore contemporary socio-cultural themes.” Ivan Ruiz, curator for lo que sucede, Adam Wiseman 1998-2018
Much of Mexico´s rural houses are self-built structures with little or no regulation; architecture built by non-architects. Adam Wiseman has coined the term “free architecture” to describe these houses which in many cases are built with remittances (money sent by Mexicans back home from the US). Peppering the rural landscape and urban working-class neighbourhoods, these buildings tend to reflect the aspirations of their builders. They are financed over time by undocumented immigrants living and working in the US, and are inspired by their new surroundings. Rarely do two structures look alike: each has features from a cross-section of cultures and historical periods. These may be inspired by American suburbia, Hollywood movies or Disney fantasies. They include castles with minimalist Japanese interiors, Swiss chalets with neo-classical accents. This architectural landscape shines a spotlight on a country that is not part of the cultural clichés of yesteryear. It is a culture in constant flux, defined by the pressures of globalization.
Often, these houses are left empty or remain in a permanent state of construction. More like trophies than homes, they function as substitutes for their owners, who have left to seek economic opportunity across the northern border. In the spirit of Robert Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas (1972) and Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque 1969-72, Free Architecture lends importance to a feature of the built environment that might otherwise be dismissed as an eyesore.
For his exhibition at Chalton Gallery, Wiseman has installed the work to reference the window display of a typical British estate agent. Images of houses and apartments are substituted for the fantastical homes of the Mexican countryside. Sited in a Central London neighbourhood that is currently experiencing the impact of a massive regenerative effort, the work sets up a framework to explore questions of dis-placement, re-placement and de-territorialisation within a globalized capitalist economy.
Born in Mexico City in 1970, Wiseman has lived in Mexico, NY, Scotland and Brazil. He has a BA from NYU in Ethnographic Film (1992) and completed the Documentary Program at the International Center of Photography in NY (1996).