Some ‘casas’ in Mexico City
I flew direct from Buenos Aires to Mexico City on Friday, and spent a busy weekend attending family commitments and social events. Of course, there were other activities, too: on Saturday, visits to Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky and La Casa Azul of Frida Khalo, both house-museums in Coyoacan. On Sunday, the afternoon was devoted to exhibitions. At the Museo Rufino Tamayo, most of the museum was dedicated to a solo exhibition of Wolfgang Tilmans, guest-curated and organized by Domenic Molon and Douglas Fogle. There was also an exhibition of a new installation of Thomas Hirschhorn; one of the museum curators, Tatiana Cuevas, organized this project. I was also tempted to visit the formerly-sleepy Museum of Modern Art (MAM), across the street from the Tamayo, as it is now directed by Osvaldo Sanchez, former artistic director of inSITE.
There were numerous exhibitions at the MAM, two particularly memorable. One of them was a small but beautiful exhibition of Spanish-born painter Remedios Varo (1908-1963). Varo emigrated to Mexico in 1941 as a political exile and lived there for most of her life. Her exhibition included a series of beautifully illustrated drawings and paintings, filled with ghosts, doubles and other fantasmagorical references of the otherworldly. The works were collected by Varo’s late husband, Walter Gruen, who donated them to MAM. The other excellent exhibition was of the MAM’s collection guest-curated by the art historian James Oles. His curatorial address privileged “realism,” and the selection of works emphasized the cultural concern and ultimately paradigm of shaping modern Mexico, with the protagonist many times representing a community, the worker, and the common man and woman. While it was a collection exhibition, it was complemented by artworks on loan from other collections.
In the evening, I attended Anselm Franke’s program for unitednationsplaza, “an exhibition as school” that originated in Berlin and is sited for a month at Casa Refugio in Mexico City. unitednationsplaza is created by Anton Vidokle, and this new, month-long iteration of the project in Mexico is organized by the Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo (PAC). (Concurrently, Night School, a year-long version of unitednationsplaza, is taking place at the New Museum in New York.) Franke’s seminar was titled From Animism to Animation: Moving Image in Modern Culture, and focused on the work of Sergie Eisenstein. The evening was briefly introduced by Franke, followed by a lecture by Oksana Bulgakowa. As part of her presentation, Bulgakowa screened excerpts of a biopic on Eisenstein that she co-directed with Dietmar Hochmuth. The documentary was informative and provided much biographical depth on Eisenstein, from his family background to his incursions in theatre and eventually cinema. Sadly, the DVD jammed during the run and little did we get to learn about the makings of Eisenstein’s unfinished film Qué Viva Mexico!
Esentstein’s Qué Viva Mexico! has been the subject of numerous research-based works in Mexico. So much that even at James Oles’ exhibition, La colección: el peso del realismo at MAM, for example, an excerpt of the Eisenstein’s footage was included in the exhibition. Mexico City-based curator Olivier Debroise wrote and directed Un banquete en Tetlapayac (2000). A kind of film reenactment to address historical aspects of the original, Olivier’s film was staged at Tetlapayac, the hacienda that served as location of Eisenstein’s film. (Art historian James Oles was an actor in Debrois’ film, as were curator Cuauhtémoc Medina, and artists Andrea Fraser and Silvia Gruner, among others active in the art field today.)