Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

6. Untitled BSR MUAC 2010  Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Video Still from Untitled, Juan Pablo Macías. Courtesy of the artist.

Spectroscopies was conceived as a critical response to the commemorative furor that pervaded the cultural production and consumption in Mexico (because it was imposed) during the years 2009 and 2010. Whether it was because they were included in the corresponding exhibitions of the official celebrations for the start of the struggle for Independence of Mexico (1810) and the beginning of the revolutionary struggle for the establishment of a representative democratic government (1910), participating in the institutional activities associated with it, or because their labor was required for the realization of mass entertainment, very few members of the diverse artistic communities of the country were indifferent to the “centennial fever.”

While the exhibition’s curatorial strategy did not address this particular aspect of local artistic life, it offered its participants a wide range of critical possibilities for the articulation of national history through documents, characters, narratives and “evidence,” previously sanctioned by the different regimes in power, or subjected to the relentless censorship of institutional neglect, now exposed, lively, under the risk of a possible official disapproval.

EIG Razo3 Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Vicente Razo, Ediciones de interés general, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

The title bets on a strategy of visibility parting from History, the recovery of an unfelt possibility, consequently, threatening to those who manage their appropriate readings, the “correct” ones. It’s the spectrum (Derrida) the vehicle of a critical praxis oriented toward rescuing the subjugated knowledge (Foucault), group memories whose meaning is clearly positioned and can be accused of being partisan. It is precisely this feature that keeps them buried in the public domain, but alive and insistent in very localized realities.

In this sense, spectroscopy is established as an aspect of critical policy, a set of representational practices through which material density is delivered to a set of banned and postponed narratives in the public space, “lagging behind”, but shaking the daily order of things when finally vocalized in the public realm, in the stand, in the maze of resonances that result in mass media communications.

The curatorial rationale delimits the use of the term spectroscopy from any resemblance to the scientific field that uses this concept to determine the interactions of matter with electromagnetic radiation. But it is precisely spectrometry the technique that allows understanding of the behavior of radiation beyond the visible light spectrum, that is to say, it favors the identification of energy according to their different wavelengths, and therefore, the types of interaction for each of them. Paradoxically, the works by the thirteen artists and the two collectives invited to Spectroscopies, acted in a spectroscopic way, because parting from a critical interpretation of various “underground knowledge,” expressed the complaints, inconsistencies and transactions that have occurred in the non visible areas of the Mexican political spectrum for the past two centuries.

I want to keep the relationship between spectroscopy and spectrometry to comment on some parts where the collective effort, the principle of reciprocal influence, and the focused reading of certain social practices alienated by the routine of their implementation converge, since they have been overshadowed because of their political motivations.

Jota Izquierdo Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Installation View, Jota Izquierdo. Courtesy of  Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo – Difusion cultural,  UNAM.

In this way, Capitalismo Amarillo: Historia de ocasión (2010) by Jota Izquierdo offers a reversal on the everyday experience of the traveling vendors on the Metro [Mexico City Subway] to reveal the organizational networks and power figures behind a consumption similar to the cacophony that introduces them to potential customers. For this, the artist uses a previously developed typology that locates the site of the vagoneo (informal trade within the subway trains) on the map of a proto-capitalist system but undeniably tied to the patterns of the global economy. A display in one of the rooms of the MUAC is taken as a pretext for the marketing of books, television documentaries and various souvenirs surrounding the “centennial fever,” to provide a taxonomy of a sale sheltered by oral persuasion, overexposure to the product and some emotional blackmail based on a very stereotypical version of “patriotism”. The establishment of an emerging classification to activate a critical understanding of recent mass-circulation links Jota Izquierdo’s project with Ediciones de Interés General (2010) by Vicente Razo and Historias Oficiales. Versión 4 (2010) by Carla Herrera-Prats.

For generations, the bulk of the Mexican child population has supplemented their basic education with a series of publications that are not regulated by any educational authority, inexpensive and accessible, which can be used as working material itself. I am referring to the monograph, a paper consisting of a single sheet, printed on both sides, whose content is entirely devoted to a single topic. On the front the student will find a grid of pictures that complement each other, each panel acting as a sub-theme. On the back side there are printed texts, with information tailored to the size of the front image. Considering that less than 30% of the Mexican population has access to internet, the use of monographs is still the most widely used extra-curricular resource in the country.

EIG Razo1 Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Vicente Razo, Ediciones de interés general, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

Therefore, the election of Vicente Razo to insert other arguments about art through these mass publications reveals the permeability of the education system, provided that nobody tries to obtain permission from the monolithic state institution that administers such system [the Secretary of Public Education]. This corruption, associated from the beginning to the institutionalization of free public education, reveals the porosity of the system as a public discourse. Given this possibility, that the artist uses in his favor, it is possible to initiate a discussion among members of the contemporary art public and surprise unwary MUAC visitors, (children and parents forced by the school to visit the museum during the weekend) who could take copies of monographs on conceptual art, pop art, minimalism and the social impact of art providing that each copy was stamped by the museum authorizing its exit under a new condition: passing a work of art as a “gift” from the institution, an operation that in reality simulated a process more harmful within Mexican culture of the public museum as a highly bureaucratic institution.

But this is not the only plausible fracture between critical thinking and cultural offerings. Carla Herrera-Prats again emphasizes the secular myth of “our great pre-Hispanic past” through Historias Oficiales, a work, or rather, a temporary file that allows you to report the construction and visual modulation of certain symbolic universes closely linked to Mexican nationalist discourse of the second half of the twentieth century. In this case, the articulation of the image of the indigenous population in primary school books between 1959 and 2005, a period determined according to the achievement of pre-Hispanic art shows abroad, many of them without a formal official representation but managed remotely through Mexican cultural institutions responsible for verifying the proper use of our heritage and, above all, of its representations.

Carla Herrera Prats Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Installation View, Carla Herrera-Prats. Courtesy of Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo – Difusion cultural,  UNAM.

Through a parodic setting that hybridizes the classroom to the living room of the educated middle class, Herrera-Prats displays a series of reproductions corresponding to the illustration of the indigenous population and the indigenous from the pages of different editions dedicated to teaching the history of Mexico in the national basic education system. The result is a meager collection of images from historical documents, works of modern art and didactic commissioned illustrations. This collection, poor in eloquence when compared with the spectacular staging of the exhibition of archaeological objects, shows an obvious lack of interest in updating and re-contextualizing the current experience of indigenous communities in the contemporary life of our country. It consists of the staging of a poor archive, even better than the “impoverishing” effect than the critics produce on the institutional apparatus and how such representations arbitrate the flow of representations of the national. When considering the latest version of this archival process, an image emerges on the structures of modern industrial and postindustrial Mexico: supported on thin columns, but admirably maintained and reinforced.

7. JUAN PABLO MACIAS Untitled BSR MUAC MONTAJE 2010  Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Installation View from Untitled, Juan Pablo Macías. Courtesy of the artist.

Macia Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City

Video Still from Untitled, Juan Pablo Macías. Courtesy of the artist.

In this adjusted panorama set of a coral exhibition, because it is the result of a diversity of voices, I do not miss the opportunity to comment on Untitled (BSR) (2009 – 2010), by Juan Pablo Macías. In contrast to the works before mentioned, we witness the verification of the archive as the annulment of a political dissident project. The exhumation of the only anarchist library in Mexico, the Biblioteca Social Reconstruir [Social Reconstructing Library], in the halls of a museum of the UNAM, reveals a paradox in the history of post-revolutionary Mexico, in effect, dissident voices cannot be silent, but you can always mute them, depriving them of the clarity of their tone. What looks like an inertia of deactivations towards a modality of political experience, also speaks of an oversight from the public. We have forgotten anarchy, a situation that damages the heritage endorsing its legacy, and the reason why Macías has realized an archeology of memory to recover through video, places, environments, landscapes and buildings through which to outline an insinuated genealogy, not by its formal characteristics, but by its phenomenology: recovering Mexican anarchism perhaps depends on the body remembering actively, the books then can keep waiting.

Irving Domínguez

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One Comment on “Readings of the Apparently Invisible. An essay on Spectroscopies: Memory and History at the MUAC Mexico City”

  1. Romeo Says:

    A lot of whatever you assert happens to be supprisingly accurate and it makes me wonder why I had not looked at this with this light before. This piece really did switch the light on for me as far as this particular issue goes. But there is actually 1 factor I am not necessarily too comfortable with so while I try to reconcile that with the actual core idea of your issue, allow me observe just what all the rest of the readers have to point out.Very well done.

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