This story is part of “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser,” a special collaboration between rafa esparza, Image magazine and Commonwealth and Council. See how the whole project came to be here.
I moved to New York in 2015. I’m from Mexico City, where I was doing screen printing and had a brand under a different name, YtinifninfinitY — now my brand is Barragán. The brand is a lot of clothing, some art pieces and some performance. Recently, I’ve just been showing artwork, and that’s something kind of new. I’m trying to do my practice, stepping away from fashion.
Growing up and seeing fashion, I liked the set, the music — the whole environment. That’s how I got into fashion, through all this fantasy. I try to deliver the whole story on a runway show. It’s really important for me to have control over the whole environment — casting, everything that’s going on.
Barragán started off doing performance. It was a little funny — at New York Fashion Week, they were really confused about why we weren’t doing a show, just a performance. It was considered “weird” in the beginning, until other brands started doing the same. For me, it’s personally more fulfilling if a performance is happening — the audience interacts more.
For example, we’ve had a giant rock — we re-created the Sisyphus etymology story. Models were pushing the rock on a ramp and then moving the rock through the audience (we definitely scratched the whole floor). That was one of my favorite ones. I guess the feeling of the piece, the people interacting and trying to avoid the rock, was really beautiful to see. If I had to describe the aesthetic of my work in one word, it would be “disruptive.” You always want to be disruptive in a way that says, “Look at me.”
I met rafa esparza when he was installing at the Whitney, maybe around 2016. He invited me to come see his work. Since then, we’ve connected in so many ways. We grew up really similarly — his parents are from Durango, my parents from Mexico City. We’ve been collaborating organically — we never think too much about it; it just happens. He helped me in my last runway show and did a mask of my face. I don’t like to wave at the end of the shows — it’s not my thing. I don’t like the attention; it makes me feel a little nervous. So we re-created my face in a mask, and we had this kid waving with my face. That was kind of a little joke — it was confusing because the mask looks so realistic; my face was cast and then rafa painted it. I really loved that.
At the beginning of the year, I was in L.A. and rafa was looking for a specific person who sells these mechanical ride machines. We drove a couple of hours away to meet this person who has maybe a thousand of these machines in their yard. rafa had this idea of, “Oh, I want to do something with this,” but he wasn’t sure what exactly at that moment — he didn’t know yet that he would be using this mechanical ride for a performance at Basel. We kind of tried the machines out, looking for the one that looked more like something he could remember from his childhood. He got one, and then we drove back to his house — it was so heavy trying to get the thing out of the truck.
Then the idea kept evolving, and he was like, “I would like people to be part of the machine.” I was thinking, “I would love people to put a coin in it,” which then changed into a kind of raffle ticket that rafa wanted to send to all the riders. And that was it. We definitely wanted to make something physical — something people could take home with them from the performance. What we made actually looks like a ticket, an old pink one from a carnival. It has this feeling of something you’ve found.
We decided to print the font in blue — blue is a color that rafa has been using a lot in his drawings. He likes to use a blue pen. So the front of the ticket has a number and his name, and on the back, he changed the year of the piece to 2202, instead of 2022. And I’m trying to get the same paint — this crazy paint used for cars — that he is using for the piece, so that we can use really tiny splashes on the tickets, so each one is going to look a little different.
We didn’t plan this — it was all organic. For some reason, I was there from the beginning of “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser.” It’s really cute that it happened that way.