Monday, May 11, 2009

Adios Mexico!

Though I have returned to the states (how strange!), I want to jot down the following, so as to remember everything about this crazy and amazing place! Mexico is so rich in art, culture, food, thinking, pretty much shames Australia in so many respects!

* Random things: cinnamon instead of chocolate on capuccinos; snacking on tacos al pastor for brekky (marinated pork, roasted pineapple, onion, coriander, guacamole and chile sauce in little tortillas); eating sushi in Mexico Citywith cream cheese in it (so not sushi!); trying to decipher La Jornada, an exemplary left-wing newspaper, each morning over coffee and fruit; seeing the city come back to life after the ghost-town vibe of the swine flu crisis...

* Excellent government advertisements on the subways informing people of their right to sexual equality (while the didn't mention the words gay or homosexual, it was clearly implicit) and women of their right to free, safe and legal abortion until twelve weeks into pregancy. Also discovering a really great fortnightly liftout in La Jornada called Letra S which covers lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender issues.

* Visiting the Museo de Arte Popular an getting an art high. What a fascinating museum! It looked at everyday expressions of art in Mexican history and culture, and how their art reflects and incorporates the religious ideas of Mexico. Rather than straight Catholicism, Mexican religion (as in much of Latin America) blends Spanish-imported religion with pre-Hispanic, indigenous spirituality - which makes for totally amazing art!

* Travelling an hour from Mexico City to Teotihuacan to see ancient Aztec pyramids. So much history, yet so much is unknown. The murals that remain, disintegrating, on the walls are very beautiful and offer a completely different idea of how to represent reality from the European art tradition. The murals show gleanings of Aztec life - a dentist extracting a tooth, a pregnant woman, a group of people playing a ball game. Amazing.

* An article published by me and Rachel Evans in last week's Green Left Weekly on swine flu:
Streets that bustled only two weeks ago are eerily quiet.

School playgrounds and university lecture halls are deserted. Museums, cinemas, libraries and many restaurants are shuttered.

And most people — from children playing in the streets to workers going about their business — are wearing the ubiquitous blue surgical masks.

Yet another international health emergency has emerged: swine influenza.

Type A H121 influenza, swine flu, resists human immunity, has no vaccine, and sprouted in an underdeveloped country with struggling health services.

Read the rest of the article at the Green Left site...
* Art exhibition: "Presuntos Culpables" at Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City.

This very political and very moving exhibition was concerned with prisoners in Mexico. It stressed how incarceration personalises the deeper failures of a society, and addresses these failures punitively and unconstructively. It emphasised how incarceration is rarely rehabilitative, and how the human rights of prisoners are rarely upheld. By presenting art from the viewpoint of prisoners, it showed the effects of their exlusion from society.

Also included in the show is an excerpt of Guadalupe Miranda's 2004 documentary "Tales from the inside", which follows the inmates Puente Grande Feminine Readjustment Center in Jalisco, Mexico. It never asked them what crime they had committed, instead focussing on their maltreatment and extreme isolation inside prison. Many had not recieved proper judicial attention, and had no set release date. The epilogue said that since 2004, conditions within the jail had seriously deteriotated - ten women are routinely jammed into rooms for six, homosexual behaviour is harshly punished, and women without scheduled visitors are no longer permitted in the visitor's area, effectively sealing them completely from the outside world. Mostly, the film gave a vivid impression of the grey malaise of prison life, and the hopelessness, unpunctured boredom and deep depression of the incarcerated women.

The following photographs are by Pericles Lavat.

* The history of the two revolutions is thoroughly interwoven into Mexican life - 1810 revolution which liberated the country from Spain, and the 1910 democratic revolution which deposed a dictator. The Museo de la Revolucion, underneath the Monument of the Revolution in the centre of Mexico City, showed some of the heroic people who fought. The photos of "las mujeres de la revolucion" were particularly hardcore and moving:

* More unforgettable art, this time, linocuts, which have an unstoppable dynamic of movement.

Now its time to throw myself into artmaking and the art world and as much as I can before we leave for Europe. Its strange to be back in the US and its super consumer rhythms, but still great!

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