Inside Tom O'Connor's Emotional Mexico City Art Installation

Inside Tom O'Connor's Emotional Mexico City Art Installation

BYJustin MoranMar 04, 2024

“We are all walking catalogs of our own experience,” says Australian artist Tom O’Connor, who recently spent time in Mexico City creating a site-specific installation that organizes emotions and memories from himself alongside a sampling of close friends. Titled “The Sum Total of you and I; The Sensory Tapes,” O’Connor’s piece is staged at Maison Celeste, a restored early 1900’s mansion in Roma-Norte, and features 16 paintings, 16 video portraits and a soundscape curated by CDMX local Jose Esperon. “I have always had a fascination with the way emotion and memory are stored within our bodies and psyche,” he says.

Each of the 16 paintings represents monumental moments in O’Connor’s life, with dozens of colorful paint globs dried on top of mirrored bases reflecting back at the maker and viewer. The artist refers to them all as “sensory tapes,” complete with nostalgic names like “I was just soil and flowers” or “baja cotton candy lemonade.” By appreciating the past, and all of its “colorful gems” that “changed a part of us forever,” O’Connor says he was able to set new intentions for the present and future. “That felt good, I want more of that.”

Tom O'Connor's Photo Diary

Complementing O’Connor’s paintings is an intimate collection of videos he filmed over two days in Los Angeles, where he currently resides. There, the artist recorded and interviewed a range of subjects, from Hunter Doohan (of Wednesday fame) to his own sister and jewelry designer Eliza O’Connor. “Shooting these videos was an incredibly emotional experience, it felt sacred,” O’Connor says of the various clips that often resulted in tears falling from his subjects’ eyes. “16 beautiful people from all walks of life poured their hearts out and shared a part of what makes them who they are.”

This immersive installation, created for Mexico Art Week 2024, is soundtracked by an original track made with pop producer Peter Thomas, best known for his work with musicians like Carly Rae Jepsen or Selena Gomez. The 25-minute track was composed to turn O’Connor’s “sensory tapes” into song, layered with samples from the 16 video interviews. Together, it all feels and sounds like a dream, as familiar noises from nature are mixed with expansive synths, piano melodies and diaristic voice notes.

“I think about life as a rushing river with us as stones carried by existence to be shaped, dented and changed,” O’Connor says. “This is the sum total of you and I.”

“The Sum Total of you and I; The Sensory Tapes” is on view at Maison Celeste in Mexico City through March 12, 2024.

Photos courtesy of Tom O'Connor