Mi Ranfla is More than a Ride: Cybernetics, Exhibition Value, Recognition, and Pride


Artist Ruben Ortiz Torres digs into his archives and offers his readers at For the Record a video piece entitled Custom Mambo (1992, 5 min., 13 sec).  It’s a marvelous study replete with kaleidoscopic imagery and multiple juxtapositions: Mexican folk iconography with 1950s and 60s American pop culture symbols, dancing cars set against women dancing at car shows, signs of the dangerous, furtive, and panicked border crossings contrasting the relaxed, low-and-slow car cruise.  Ortiz brings these signs of arrival into American consumer life, highlighting in them the desire for recognition in a cultural setting that relegates such ingenuity and communication to the margins of American culture.  Custom Mambo also shows the technology of low-rider culture to be a kind of proto-cybernetics, giving cars the capacity to take on human qualities of gesture, movement, and storytelling beyond through aesthetic intervention.  About these re-tooled, re-constituted wonders, Torres-Ortiz notes:

These “rides” constitute an effort to be noticed in a society that doesn’t want to see the people that ride them. I hope the video conveys the overwhelming experience of the Dyonisian “beauty” that escapes any notion of rationality and at the same time hints at some of the problems it raises.