The basements of Mexicali/Calexico are remnants of an extensive tunnel system built at the beginning of the 20th century, when the city’s population swelled with Chinese and Chinese-Mexican laborers—who were brought in commercially by the coolie trade and American corporations, and funneled there politically by the US Exclusionary Act and the Anti-Chinista movement of the Mexican Revolution. La Chinesca, the namesake of the Mexicali Chinatown, is an investigation into architecture as a historical vessel. Steel sculptures model the inside surfaces of the La Chinesca basements and photogravure prints show stage sets that are fabricated in the tunnels, propagating a certain vision. The works explore the built environment as a personal manifestation of tensions related to nationalism.
Yeni Mao was born in Canada, and spent his developmental years in the US, Sweden, and Taiwan. He received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and subsequently trained in foundry work in California and the architectural industries of New York. Mao lives and works in Mexico City.