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Report: Curatorial Intensive in Mexico City 2018


         In wanderings throughout the city, they call one’s sight and catch it in their warps. They form square grey blocks, made of many different lines coming in and out, revolving in every possible direction, and offering complex compositions, like hieroglyphics or diagrams, languages without words as such. In many streets one would find these mazes of roots, most of them in almost cubical shape. They were probably contained at some point by tree planters from previous urban plans that eventually became obsolete with the new changes of the design of the city, or some other aimless decisions impossible to determine here. For sure some of the planters were affected and destroyed by the same seismic scourge that paused and displaced every activity in the city; even the Curatorial Intensive for which we congregated, was postponed for a few months in order to put all the available resources to help with earthquake relief.

         The shapes of these Mexican roots appear through the city, emerging from the pavement as involuntary concrete cube-like sculptures, but their mesh is rebelling against the previously imposed limits made of concrete or bricks. During the Intensive, I was lucky to stay at Cooperativa Cráter Invertido, where I shared many conversations with Jazael Olguin Zapata (one of the members of the cooperative) about how indigenous imaginaries had surpassed imposed manners in the process of colonialism, as one can see in ceramics, textiles, architecture, and contemporary art. This dialectic cosmogony that Jazael proposed integrates different time relationships of a larger scale than the capitalistic accelerated routines, bringing together a parallel idea of modernity full of immanence, transcultural connections, and possibilities to rethink social relationships.   

         This root-image might be a good device from where to think about some of the topics we dealt with extensively during the Curatorial Intensive at our great host Fundación Alumnos 47. For instance, the subject of the archival practice had a recurring presence. We reflect on the multiplicity of paths that one can follow when making historiography that challenges inherited models. Some of the conversations navigated the undoing of the mesh of history in order to rearticulate both different methodologies and shifting the focuses, as a way to put off-center – descentrar, to use Ana Longoni’s expression (1) – the discourses and locations of history making. The input from the faculty was invaluable; such as Sol Henaro (on her work with La Celda, Melquiades Herrera and some mind-blowing groups active between the 1970s and 1990s such as No-Grupo, among others), Paola Santoscoy (on the history of El Eco Museo Experimental) Tamara Díaz Bringas (on the X Bienal Centroamericana), and André Mesquita (with a contribution about the relationships between art and activism; his reflection on silence in the public sphere was really inspiring). I would like to underscore the fact that the projects of my peers working with this matter were high level as well. Clara Bolívar, Daril Fortis, Marielsa Castro, Rolando Hernandez, Jorge Lopera, Marco Calderón, and Ana María Garzón brought great questions and proposals on the performativy of the archival practice, the problematization of the construction of the memory, and the challenge of avoiding the transformation of the matter of research into fetish commodities. I found particularly interesting how not only to recover matters from the past, but also indeed actualize their effects and histories to read the present.

         In close relation to the previous question, the topic of art as social praxis also had great relevance. The public location of the roots, and their entwined configuration may be again a good way of understanding the complexities of this type of position. The work itself of our host Alumnos 47, introduced by their chief curator Jessica Berlanga, provided a good account of how to articulate successfully a novel approach combining different tactics in the public sphere that range from: participation, architecture, and interventions to a secretly organized campaign to place the organization on the map in their first project, playing wisely with suspense; they distributed a series of anonymous letters in a city as complex as DF. In the many projects she showed, one could appreciate the great care in how to situate the work of the organization beyond its walls, taking specific locations of DF as operation fields in a way that expanded the notion of spectatorship and participative process.

         We had the chance to visit the beautiful studio of Erick Meyenberg, who was one of the artists introduced to us by Jessica Berlanga. The projects he discussed combined a very well articulated approach, bringing together public space, social research, and disciplinary methods that resulted in hypnotic, choreographed videos. Additionally, we enjoyed the presentations of Yasmil Raymond and Lucía Sanromán, both introducing very polemic projects on the construction of temporal communities. The latter introduced the project of Tania Bruguera at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Sanromán talked openly about the challenges of working with a lack of funding, and the difficulties of creating communities when the institution is placed in a working area, surrounded mainly by high tech offices. The former was a project of Thomas Hirschhorn about a monument for Gramsci. It was very problematic because it presented a monument in the public space reflecting on politics, but lacked the input of the neighbours, who didn’t have a say on why a monument was erected; for whom the monument was meant; and who was representing this monument. There was participation, yes, and it was a paid community of workers, but where were the desires of this community? These facts roused significant questions on labor and participation. These last perspectives connected well with the work of my colleagues Isabel Parkes, Josseline Pinto, and Alejandro Morales who were introducing projects that reflected on labor, and precariousness. In the project of Morales, these issues connect with public space, since he has been running a mobile art institution in the shape of a truck in Juarez. It connects well with the work of Beatriz Alonso, who introduced the question of the community with a more poetic take through the metaphor of the communication of the copes of the trees in forests. Personally, I find that it’s important not to forget this kind of approach when thinking about more socially-engaged projects. The challenge resides in finding the wiring between poetics and politics.

         I found the site visit to the Museo de Antropología de México particularly inspiring for my own research. We met with Eduardo Abaroa, as part of his ongoing “Total Destruction of the Anthropological Museum.” He organized a visit with one of the researchers of the museum and also a guide, and used this pedagogical device to approach all the many complexities that rest in such a place and its representations: the complicated relationship with the state and the indigenous communities in terms of extraction and cosmocide (I’m taking this word from the conversations with Jazael); the life of those traditions and their socio-economic systems they carry with them; and the complex technologies of the pre-Columbian cultures as can be seen in their non-phonetic writing, reproductions machines for ceramics, or complex economic infrastructural systems. Finally, I would like to mention the great mesh of independent initiatives and editorial projects that populate the cultural tapestry of the city. We had the chance to learn about these during the visits organized at Obrera Centro by Tamara Ibarra to Primal, Periférica, RRD, Bikini Wax, galería Ladrón, Aeromoto, and Islario, among others. And last but not least, very important for creating the future entanglement of our group, we ended the seminar in the mythical Barba Azul, where the talking overlapped with the dancing.   

1) LONGONI, Ana, ‘Other Beginnings of the Conceptualism (Argentine and Latin-American)’, http://www.cronistas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Other-beginnings-of-the-conceptualism-Argentine-and-Latin-AmericanAna-Longoni-.pdf

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