Meet Eriko Tsogo Meow Wolf’s “Mongovoo Temple” Creator

Mongolian American artist Eriko Tsogo uses art for empowerment, blurring the lines between alter-ego and self.

Eriko Tsogo of the Betart Collective.
Eriko Tsogo of the Betart Collective. Photo by Leigh Ann Trujillo-baca, courtesy of Meow Wolf.

At Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station, “Mongovoo Temple” is a permanent exhibition by Betart Collective, a family of generational Mongolian artists based in Denver: Tsogo Mijid, Baja Batochir, Jennifer Tsogo and Eriko Tsogo. Tucked in a hidden corner near the under-ground catacombs, “Mongovoo” has been described as “a Mongolian(ism) experience on acid” that transports visitors into “sensory narcolepsy.” Set to an ethnic throat singing soundscape, the walls are tattered with 200 handmade Mongolian “Tsam” masks illuminated by neon lights and accented by a mirrored glass floor and ceiling to create an infinite hourglass vacuum.

“It’s a psychedelic, carefully curated art space experience designed to challenge our notion of time, space, and memory by awakening our inner consciousness,” says Eriko, whose artwork appears on the new Betart merch collection now available at Convergence Station’s shop.

The Betart Collective collaborated with Meow Wolf’s team for a year and a half on the collection prints, hoodies, T-shirts, magnets, and stickers featuring artwork and motifs from Eriko’s “Wrong Woman Myths from Sky” series. We caught up with the artist to ask her about it, which led her to introduce us to her alter ego, BBQ. Here’s what she had to say:

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It’s very graphic, it’s very dark humor, too. It’s very satirical art. I think Meow Wolf was attracted to it more for the color.

I didn’t realize how much nudity I use, the amount of very explicit imagery. So the Betart merch line uses the safe ones from the series, which is very biographical.

I was very depressed when I started the series, and I had no intention of showing the original series publicly. It was the story of a heroine going through a lot of physical traits to depict her emotional turmoil. And so the concepts of silence—she’s an anonymous woman without a face—and oppression, displacement, and the marginal theory were interesting concepts in it. And these are still prevalent, particularly the marginal theory, which is what I live: a person with no land. 

I’m still DACA, so there’s no way for me to go to my country. It’s been like that for more than 23 years now, and art is a way for me to connect to my roots.

I’m naturally a very detail-oriented artist. A lot of my work is about the innate quality of it, and it’s very time consuming. I like to torture myself a little bit all the time. 

I like my visuals to really have an almost elusory, seductive appeal to them, which is very colorful and splashy in spaces to really draw people in. But then when you look, well, it’s quite the gut punch. I’m not afraid to use grotesque or hypersexualized imagery. 

I’m going to be an artist in residence at PlatteForum from January to March. [Opening reception: March 3.] This will be my ‘goodbye Denver’ exhibition, and I’m honored to give it my all. The exhibition is gonna be called “Enter Exit” (working title). Essentially, it’s animated immigrant stories…a greater message on immigration and the current state of immigration in the U.S. 

It’s time for me to discover myself away from my family. I’m really ready for that. I grew up in a family that was very tough. I had tiger parenting, and it was always about overachieving just to make a point. 

I understand that I’m not lacking in anything, and so I just want to really contribute to my world and to my community as a happy person, a balanced person. 

BBQ stands for Bounce Back Qween. They are a symbol for reincarnation and perpetual reinvention. It’s a vehicle for me to be my rainbow self, no holds barred.

BBQ is everything opposite of what an Asian person is usually perceived as: the submissive stereotype, the sexualized woman.

I feel empowered. That’s why sometimes the lines blur between my alter ego and myself, because I wish that very much of me was that person. But there’s still an oppression in me, an obedience, a discipline I keep in my real life. But BBQ is everything.