Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-13-2018


This thesis analyzes two contemporary artworks concerning Mexico City’s complex socio-ecologic history: the installation The Return of a Lake (2012), by Maria Thereza Alves, and the performance Plan Acalote (2015) by the collective Plan Acalli (Carlos Huitzil and Ehecatl Morales). Mexico City faces land subsidence, flooding, and water shortages. Systemic power imbalances and ongoing efforts to transform a wetland landscape to a city conforming to Eurocentric ideals concentrate these problems in marginal communities. Using strategies of eco-criticism, decolonial thought, and performance studies, I argue that The Return of a Lake and Plan Acalote link broad social and ecologic problems with the daily realities of Mexico City’s inhabitants, restructure perceptions of urban space, and forge community solidarity, imagining future environmental justice in the Valley of Mexico.

Both artworks connect with local communities, creating reciprocal relationships. I consider how these relationships demonstrate art’s capacity to reframe discourses of urbanity and the environment. Further, I analyze The Return of a Lake’s use of indigenous cosmology to connect today’s struggle for justice with colonial history. Finally, I address the importance of the bodily experience of urban space, and mourning as a response to environmental devastation. Plan Acalote and The Return of a Lake demonstrate that when community-based artworks are rooted in networks of solidarity honoring local histories of injustice and resistance, they offer new ways of seeing and thinking about extraction and predatory development in colonized places, and support collective efforts toward environmental justice and local autonomy.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Kency Cornejo

Second Committee Member

Ray Hernández-Durán

Third Committee Member

Kirsten Buick

Fourth Committee Member

Szu-Han Ho


performance art, installation art, participatory art, Mexico City, decoloniality, ecologic history