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Mauricio Limon de Leon

Promise Prohibited 


Mélanie Smith, Maria Elena, 2019, 24 mn

“Promise Prohibited” is a two-channel video that narrates, through an image and sound environment, an undefined drama the relationship between three main characters. Two men, one of them « the Flame » and another of a considerably lower age, intermittently meet up with a young woman.

For the majority of the duration of the video, we observe footage of the typical metropolitan area of a suburb of the Valley of Mexico landscape that still retains a hybrid environment somewhere between rural and poor urban settlement. There, in-between eroded reddish mountains, gray residential buildings and beautiful fields planted with cempasúchitl lowers, several meetings are interlaced.

Many of these are at the foot of a tree that serves as a symbolic element. However, one of the main scenes happens inside a small room. « The Flame » and the woman, sitting on the edge of a bed, look at each other as she starts undressing. On the wall next to the bed there is a pictorial portrait of both characters.

The video ends with a shot of another man, perhaps a stepson of « The Flame », the formal partner of the woman or her half-brother, urinating on top of a hill, from where we observe under a twilight sky the development of a football game played on a court defined by irregular brown chalk lines – hand drawn - that are characteristic of earthy and asymmetric prairie fields.


I am interested in people who inhabit marginalized subcultures, living and working in public spaces and often participating in work that borders the illegal. The pretext that draws me to these groups lies in my recognition and fascination in their specific abilities and particularities that they have developed from living at the edges of society.

I have built personal relationships with various groups that have allowed me to enter their private lives, establishing partnerships and exchanges. I often first enter these subcultures through drawing. I use drawing as a tool to establish a common language between us, often accepting challenges to show the conviction of my intentions, which frequently result in physical and emotional risks. I do this with the intent of gaining their trust and play into their stereotypes, for example I was nicknamed “The Christ of Iztapala”. Once inside these worlds I draw the people I meet, using their daily lives and experiences to illustrate their wants. From these first drawings they often ask me to draw their families and fantasies in order to show off in their neighborhoods. Drawing is important because it is not familiar to them, but through my involvement it becomes our common language as we develop trust. It is a way for me to let them know I acknowledge their presence and serve as evidence of their existence, which is important for people who are invisible within mainstream society and impacts how they cope with their environment.

After I have been accepted into the community I film them. They gain confidence and show me their inner worlds by posing in front of me. I have not only been invited into their neighborhoods but also invited into their lives; I was once asked to visit one of them in a clandestine alcohol rehabilitation center. From these intimate situations I begin to develop a body of work with them using video as my main medium.  The issue of public domain and its relation to the forms and strategies of informal trade and business at the edge of legality are fundamental in the development of my work. Degradation regarding social structures, the value of money compared to the value of subjectivity and the ambivalence of sexuality marked by violence contained in the mechanisms of power relations supplement the content of my work. My intention is to show through our work together a sense of humor and creativity, while also exposing the misery, violence, degradation, and neglect in which they live in. I emphasize respecting individuality, and avoid simplistic exoticism. I show intimacy from a profound analysis and manage a subjective language from a critical look.

My work stems from my interactions with the destitute or unseen. I am drawn to them by an overpowering need to enter those worlds and use my own body, other people, landscapes and exterior spaces as vehicles to understand why I am propelled to do so. The subsequent projects are a continuous dialogue between my wants and exterior situations. I look for different ways to develop these ideas through various mediums such as drawing, painting, ready-mades, film and performance.

Mauricio Limon de Leon

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