Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Presencia Flagrante/ El Pasado ya no es lo que Era
Desde los territorios perdidos de el sur de la Alta California he partido en diversas expediciones al Mediterraneo maya, la Atlántida, la isla de Páscua en el imperio de el sol naciente, el Egipto Americano y diversas tierras prometidas tanto australes como en el Noreste de América, Las fotografías de magníficos palacios, templos y otros monumentos son testimonio de que los habitantes de dichas regiones descienden de grandes civilizaciones. Hay quien argumenta que estas maravillas solamente pueden haber sido realizadas por seres superiores provenientes de otro planeta. Otros argumentan que fueron realizadas por una de las tribus perdidas de Mesoamérica.
Este trabajo documenta y por lo tanto nos presenta una “falsa verdad” de lo “verdaderamente falso”. Mientras las ruinas originales reconstruidas se presentan como una falsa verdad las copias de estas son verdaderamente falsas. La fotografía digital se imprime no para poder materializar la imagen como era necesario hacer a partir de negativos sino para legitimizarla como arte y comercializarla como objeto a partir de convenciones ortodoxas. De hecho limitar las posibilidades audiovisuales digitales a la fotografía es ya de por si hacer una reconstrucción historicista.
“La originalidad de la obra de arte es que es real y falsa simultáneamente.”
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
El Tren le Arrancó la Cabeza! (The Train Chopped his Head!)
¡Únicamente la Verdad!
Monday, November 5, 2007
On How Color Migrated Southward from Aztlan in Search of an Eagle Eating a Snake on a Perch of a Nopal.
Bernal made good friends with photographers in Mexico City, people like Armando Cristeto and Adolfo Patiño (also known as Adolfotógrafo). He got to meet Graciela Iturbide and Don Manuel Alvarez Bravo. He made a good portrait of Don Manuel and Graciela quoted one of Bernal’s works in on of her photographs. Perhaps it was Adolfo who developed a deeper artistic bond with him. Adolfo solved the technological and economic hurdle of the lack of infrastructure to make color photography by experimenting widely with the more accessible Polaroid and with photo booths. Although he was not a chromatist we can trace certain iconic references to Louis in Adolfo’s photographs as well as in his objects. In fact the Mexican photographer outchicano Bernal by customizing the star spangled banner with the Virgin of Guadalupe in a large tapestry.
I saw Louis Carlos again in Tucson, Arizona after driving there from Mexico City in what seemed to take forever and where each mile was warmer than the previous one. Through Louis Carlos and his girlfriend Marietta Benrstorff I met what seem to be a mirage in the desert. She was the beautiful Elisa Jimenez who is the daughter of the sculptor Luis Jimenez. He was a good friend of them and shared the affinity for the colorful glossy surfaces with Louis as we can see in his big fiberglass figurative polychromatic representations of the South West. They resemble the colorful plaster figurines sold at the border and Jeff Koons’s porcelain sculptures. They might be kitsch and camp but instead of ironic they are disarmingly proud, heroic and earnest.
Unfortunately this text does not have a happy ending. In fact it has three tragic ones. On October 24 of 1989 a car struck Lou while he was riding his bicycle to Pima College. After being in a coma for four years Bernal died on his 52nd birthday on August 18, 1993. Adolfo Patiño died falling from the ceiling of the building he was living in Mexico City on August 31st on 2005 at the age of 50. Apparently he forgot the keys of his apartment and was trying to break into it. Luis Jimenez was killed on June 13, 2006 when one of his large sculptures fell on him cutting his femoral artery bleeding him to death at the age of 66.
Recently in a panel discussion in Santa Fe I was asked about Jimenez influence in my work. I do not know if I can compare myself to these guys. What they did that really mattered is perhaps more important than art. Bernal and Jimenez as part of the Chicano movement helped to integrate and change society. The three helped to bridge the gaps between people and countries. Yesterday was the day of the death and today a good day to remember them.
1. A strong local brand of cigarettes.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The Beauty and the Beasts.
I was in the nose-bleed section of the Azteca stadium and saw the apocalyptic final of the Pan American games between Mexico and Brazil that ended up as a tie when power in the stadium went out. It was the first time I witnessed the popular local ritual of the “agua de riñón” (kidney water). A drunkard sitting next to me passed me a fetid warm paper cup and asked me to contribute. The cup was half full with urine. Once he figured I wouldn’t dare to help him filling it he threw it down to the more expensive level of the stadium beneath us shouting, “here goes the kidney water!”
Years after, my father took my sister and I to see the most legendary World Cup game. Great Britain kept those freezing rocky islands in the South Atlantic but Diego Armando Maradona beat England two to one and later lifted the cup for Argentina. While he was doing slalom with the British defense and scoring with the help of “God’s hand” I saw two Englishmen wearing their national team jerseys charge against hundreds of Argentinean fans that were dancing with a stolen Union Jack. It was the most stupid act of courage I had ever seen. They ended up rolling down the stairs like tumbleweeds. All hell was breaking loose to the hypnotic beat of drums. A fat guy down below was wearing the light blue striped jersey and punching Brits all around them - beer was flying. A lot of hooligans were arrested that day, after vandalizing the neighborhood. It has been said that rugby is a beastly sport played by gentlemen and soccer is a sport of gentlemen played by beasts.
Not any more. Now the sport of the “El Primitivo” Madariaga and the “Hunchback from Coapa” Cuauhtemoc Blanco, is mutating in the United States into a suburban game where mommies drive their kids to play in SUV’s and is mostly played by women. Another extreme mythological transformation is happening. Through David Beckham the game is being sanitized, associated with the rich and the beautiful and made palatable to Anglo America.
While San Francisco competes as the capital of “football” with places like Dallas and Green Bay, Los Angeles places itself around cities like Milan, London, Buenos Aires, Rio and Barcelona. Beckham is certainly not the best soccer player in the world, or from Europe, or England even. He wasn’t the best player for Real Madrid. In fact, he might not even be the best player in the Los Angeles Galaxy. However he is blonde, cute, metro-sexual, relatively decent, married to Posh Spice and friend of Tom Cruise. His cockney accent connotes Hollywood on this side of the pond. His soccer skills are eccentric and not good enough to make England or the Galaxy win, but will his beauty tame the beasts?
Friday, June 29, 2007
Rubén Bautista ?-1990
I took this portrait of Rubén Bautista in San Miguel de Allende before he died.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Rock & Roll all Night.
I am also including a catalogue/fanzine presentation I wrote for his first solo show at Three Day Weekend: “Rock and Roll All Night”: Anthony Burdin, Three Day Weekend, Los Angeles, 1998.
Going to Pacoima somewhere around where the 210 Freeway meets the Golden State Freeway there is a Trailer Park on the hills where there used to be a hacienda owned by no less than Mr. Stetson, the man of the Stetson hats. If you dare to jump a couple of fences and to walk inside, you can find an old bridge in the remnants of what used to be cowboy landscape. In this bridge you can see the vestiges of earlier Californian civilizations. Scrutinizing underneath spray painted murals of later cultures we can see original carvings of earlier settlers. They seem to be classic runes from the late seventies. Some of these hieroglyphs have been deciphered. They represent the former four high heeled, black and white, long haired, sacred deities that spit blood and fire. The dragon was the god of blood, the cat the god of rhythm, the space man was the galactic god and the star man the god of love. The inscriptures are attributed to a member of the Kiss Army tribe known as the OG Kiss Freak. On top of these old fine examples of the classic period there are some more recent carvings from the postclassic period of the late OG Kiss Freak. Among them we can recognize a fine example of the sign that represents LMS, the Lithium Masium Superstar.
My first encounter with the Kiss Army happened when I was learning English in a catholic school in Atchison, Kansas. At the time I was a long haired outcast agnostic (suspect of being a communist for wearing ripped jeans) relegated to hang out with the Muslims during mass time while my roommate indulged in all sort of satanic rituals that involved fire, fake blood and loud music. The proctor of the dorm eventually caught my friend Flavio spitting fire with a spraycan while listening to Strutter very loud. As a result, he got his butt spanked with a cane. Knowing the risk of challenging the norms of such a strict medieval institution he had already stuffed his shorts with a cushion to soften his punishment. The whole human sacrifice was preplanned and the inquisition expected. Despite the torture, he did not repent and continued his pagan activities challenging my musical taste. Puberty was already a painful experience by itself to have it made worse by uncomfortable clothes and the exacerbation of its eccentricity during the seventies (not to even mention disco music, Latin American military dictatorships and other horrible things of those days).
Years later in Michael Asher’s post studio critique class in Calarts Anthony Burdin brought an extensive collection of OG Kiss Freak’s collages. They were composed of an exuberant array of cutout images of Kiss from different magazines glued to varnished pieces of wood later glazed with polyester resin. Some of them dated from the seventies and others were done more recently. It was impossible to distinguish the new ones from the older. One had pornographic images hidding in it perfectly integrated and camouflaged with the concert photographs. Needless to say that the reaction of the class was pretty mute and clueless. I guess the particular iconography and this specific practice at the time were still an unspoiled territory for the voracious anthropological avant garde. To be a fan you have to be militant and to be a Kiss fan is also a provocative statement beyond any sort of redeeming morals. This was not an attempt to do contemporary art about the subject using the usual strategies to lift popular culture to the status of high art or to bring art down to the level of the masses. It was just simply an attempt to be consequent with a practice, a present and a past we can’t escape. An effort to present, accept and reconcile a moment of personal history.
In the Recycler a series of adds have appeared advertising the sale of different collectibles and memorabilia from the OG Kiss Freak. The telephone numbers that appear belong to important galleries that might not be aware of the market and the artist they are unwillingly representing. They are the reliquias of the ongoing performance that happens to be the life of a Valley boy and where the San Fernando Valley is his stage.
Rock and roll is an elastic warp zone. It has been the black hole that crosses the hyperspaces of gender, ethnicity and age. It is where whites can be black (like Elvis or Vanilla Ice) and where blacks can be white (like Michael Jackson). It is the space where Domingo Samudio from Texas transformed into a middle easterner known as Sam The Sham and where a Hungarian Jewish called Ron Gregory became Little Johny Herrera, the father of the East L.A. sound. It is where Gene Simmons turned into a blood spitting human dragon, David Bowie into an androginous extraterrestrial, Marilyn Manson into... ?, and Prince into an abstract sign. Rock and roll radiation mutated Anthony Burdin into the OG Kiss Freak, a.k.a. Scum Pirate, a.k.a. Desert Mix, a.k.a. Swamp Mix, from the bands Scum Pirates Freak Show, Universal Drifter, LMS and Anthony’s Revenge. He didn’t just emulated his idols but eventually created his own to be themselves. Although he doesn’t get the media attention of a pop star, he can’t come back from this fourth dimension because these guys are now himself. This is not some retro fashionable decontextualized Lenny Kravitz nostalgia or some identity politics postmodern strategy. This rebellious schizophrenic act is a simple refusal to suburban boredom, the regular poser of the art world and to pretend to do art. With his dyed long hair, his sunglasses, his old school sneakers and cruising/living in the Es Freak Car (a car the eventually became the Es Freak Motel and his home), Burdin has become his art piece. In that sense he is the real shit.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
"I had a teradrop tattoed under my eye for all my lost homeboys and homegirls. A teardrop is from the heart. We've all lost someone or something in life. It's like wearing your pain on your face, but at the same time you're not letting your emotions out, they're on the inside."
A & I just published a.k.a. BOOBOO by Robert Yager. Going from the general to the specific Robert makes a portrait of Cindy Martinez more known as Boo Boo. The book drifts from the usual images in order to reveal a complex fifteen-year history of struggle inside and out of the gang. It is a story of motherhood, adaptation and survival. Yager states: “her story is more complex than my photos can show. They merely provide a window into her life.” Social documentary practices make less seducing pictures than the theatrical documentation of hand signs, weapons and cholo performance. This essay proves that moving beyond that spectacle has proven to be as difficult for photographers as for gang members. The book comes with a compelling introduction by legendary father Gregory Boyle. A portion of the book goes to Homeboy Industries.
In 1847 Californios and other northern Mexicans had their land and property stolen by force. They formed gangs of bandits to defend themselves and to rob the invaders. This was the case of Joaquín Murrieta also known as “El Patrio.” Some see him as a Robin Hood while others consider him a criminal. Captain Harry Love, a former Texas Ranger was hired to kill the famous “bandido.” He traded the pickled heads of a couple of Mexicans for a $5000 reward but apparently he got the wrong ones.
During the Second World War uniformed sailors attacked the barrios of Los Angeles assaulting young Mexican “pachucos” and ripping their colorful zoot suits. The L.A.P.D. arrived to arrest the minority victims of the attack. The zoot suit was originally an African American youth fashion connected to jazz counterculture but marginalized Mexican American kids identified with it and made it theirs. The oversized suit was both an outrageous style and a statement of defiance. It was a form of self-expression that placed them in the public eye with a heavy price. Encouraged by sensationalistic news reports and the police department, a lot of people believed Mexican American youth were predisposed to criminality. With their particular dress code, “caló” (slang) and style, the “pachucos” were the predecessors of today’s “cholos.”
Easy access to guns and drugs have created a competitive market and a level of self destructive violence that derailed the original purpose of the gangs which was to defend the barrio. Nevertheless the overtly aesthetic “vida loca” (crazy life) and the power it represents effectively seduces the marginalized youth from their expected dead end jobs at the command of others. Quite often it seduces Hollywood, the media and an audience hungry for the spectacle of violence too.
The early nineties were tough times for the city. Police brutality and racial profiling lead to riots and once again the barrios and the hoods where left unprotected. Robert Yager had come from London via Mexico City to Los Angeles. Wanting to be a photojournalist he decided to document the closest war he had available. He got into his graffiti spray painted 1976 Chevy Impala and drove to the Pico Union barrio. His experience in Latin America and his Spanish helped him to develop the trust and a relationship with the local gang “The Playboys.” Since then he embarked on an odyssey where he has photographed them getting and removing tattoos, having sex, getting married, divorced and remarried, getting addictions and fighting them, jumping into the gang and leaving it to join the army, etc. In other words he has the biggest visual record ever produced on how they live, grow and how they die. His images have become an epical narrative about life in a West that is still very wild. He became their friend and personal photographer. He became known as “Cameraman.”
He has learned that the seduction of these images comes with all sorts of problems. In 1995 he was taking photos of the homies at a party when the Rampart Crash Unit broke in. The cops started beating them and when they noticed Robert photographing they pushed him and hit him. They grabbed his camera and broke it. They took out the film and exposed it. They took him into a patrol and accused him of assaulting an officer. He lost his press pass. He went to court and eventually recovered it once they dropped the charges. Seven cops lied arguing that the camera opened accidentally. Once the film was developed it was all exposed proving it was all taken out. A couple of years later the same Rampart Crash Unit was involved in a scandal over allegations of abuse and corruption.
These images have bothered conservatives that still get surprised of a supposed Latino “invasion” that actually precedes the creation of the United States and Anglo settlements in the American continent. They see them as proof of the savagery of the other. The truth is that the gangs are not coming to the U.S. but actually expanding from here to Latin America. They have also bothered liberals that see them as an exploitative stereotypical construction and would rather see another more positive and sanitized construction devoid of violence. They have bothered Anglos and Latinos alike. These images happened to be the most complete and powerful essay of this particular American dream gone amok. A reality that perhaps seen in its entirety might be understood better.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I took this photograph of Cameron Jamie in a punk taco stand in Mexico City some time ago.
“Le Maître du Ring”: Close to Me Against You: Cameron Jamie & Elke Krystufek, Georges Tony Stoll, Université de Rennes, Rennes, France, 1999, pp 7-11.
“We cannot understand cultural and literary life and the struggle of mankind’s historic past if we ignore that peculiar folk humor that always existed and was never merged with the official culture of the ruling classes.”Mikhail Bakhtin
Master Doctor Sty6 transformed the little grasshoper into “Himself” by making the powerful portrait mask. A mask representing Cameron’s face. But this “Himself” is not necesarily him as Michael Jackson might not be himself neither and probably ourselves aren’t “Ourselves” neither. Nevertheless wrestling as “Himself” is a way to implicate himself as a participant at the same level of the game and not merely as an outsider voyeur or as the avant garde finding another fountain of youth. He has learned the magic power of the mask that has passed from the ancient priests to actual heroes like Blowfly7, El Santo, Superbarrio, Fray Tormenta8 and the Subcomandante Marcos9. The mask does not hide who you are but on the contrary, it reveals some real you. Wrestling and rock and roll are real mythological worlds were performers can transform and recreate their lives. He is Cameron Jamie and as “Himself” he challenged the man/woman/adult/kid/black/white, King of Pop, his majesty Michael Jackson in a classic “máscara vs máscara10” bout for his crown. Michael’s plastic surgery definitely has pushed the body spectacle beyond midget wrestling and André the Giant .
It is Cameron’s duty as a prodigal son of the heroes of "lucha libre11" to pay his dues and to bring the fight from the public to the private space and viceversa. For that purpose he has substituted the arena for the apartment. He fights also regular men and woman sexualizing and questioning the maniquean battle between good and evil. Sexuality has always played an important part in wrestling as it can be seen in the flamboyant manners of gay wrestlers, in women wrestling or in related mutated spectacles such as mud wrestling but apartment wrestling seems to work in a different way. We can only see the matches as they are clumsily documented, unless we decide to fight them ourselves with our partners. We become voyeurs of some sort of bizarre amateur porn partially constructed and partially straight documentary were the only sexual explicit representation is a plastic butt. Real life, art and culture aren’t as easy to predetermined as a wrestling match and in Jamie’s fights the outcome is always uncertain and beyond the simple notions of Good and Evil. It is hard to define in these battles/affairs who is the "rudo12 and who is the técnico13?
San Fernando Valley is one (if not the one) of the American suburbs, models of the inevitable feared dystopia that cities are becoming. Nevertheless the homogeneization of the architecture and urban planning has not resulted in cultural uniformity but in an unexpected ethnically and cosmopolitan petry dish were everything goes. Therefore Mexican wrestling coexists in the Valley with the porn industry. The dislocation of elements from the structured hierarchies of a former cultural system has affected sensitive people like Jamie that are turning suburbia into a center and finding El Dorado where nobody expects it.
Cameron Jamie fighting against his majesty the King of Pop Michael Jackson, has shown us how much we can create ourselves and how much we can’t.
The King is dead, long live the King!.
2. Blue Demon was the blue masked wrestler partner of El Santo in the memorable movie “Santo & Blue Demon against the Guanajuato Mummies”. His academy of wrestling is the most important wrestling school.
3. El Santo is the most popular Mexican wrestler ever. He wore a silver mask and his tomb is lost in a mausoleum that resembles a modern housing project.
4. La Villa is the place where the Virgin of Guadalupe supposedly appeared and where her basilica is
5. Super Barrio wrestles for the people wearing a yellow and red mask and cape and drives the Superbarriomobile to demonstrations and where he is needed.
6. Doctor Sty is a master mask maker and one of the legends of the “lucha libre” world.
7. Actually Blowfly is not a wrestler but an African American singer and rapper precursor that sings hilarious sexual explicit songs. Somehow he dresses like a wrestler wearing a mask with antennas.
8. Fray Tormenta is a wrestling priest that fights to support an orphan house.
9. The Subcomandante Marcos is one of the leaders of the insurrected masked Indians of the Zapatista Liberation Army. He sends poetic communiqués through the Internet. The government claims that he is a teacher of semiotics from the Metropolitan University and publish a photograph of his attributed face. This move backfired. He offered to take out his mask and show his face but people voted against it. Now there is a popular slogan that says: “We are all Marcos”.
10. "Máscara vs. máscara" means mask vs mask. Whoever losses has to take out his mask and show who he really is.
11. Also known as Mexican wrestling
12. "Rudo" literally means rough. These are the bad guys, the ones that cheat in order to win.
13. "Técnico" means technician. These are the good guys, the wrestlers that use their technique and ability to win.
Friday, June 8, 2007
El Santo's Daughter.
I once heard Lourdes Grobet remark that the principal influences on her work were Mathias Goeritz, Gilberto Aceves Navarro and El Santo.1 This “holy trinity” represents the dialectic, equilateral cosmogony comprising the repository pyramid of Mexican contemporary art. Goeritz, a criticized precursor of minimalism, with his whimsical modernism, his sculptures, installations, concrete poetry and post-dadaist and protoconceptual experiments, serves as the thesis and one end of the pyramid’s base. Gilberto Aceves Navarro was the extraordinary teacher of several generations of artists and art teachers at the Academia de San Carlos. “Think with the tip of your pencil,” he would urge, exalting the use of the right side of the brain. With his irrepressible and sensual expressionism and his anti-academic academy, he is the antithesis and the other end of the pyramid’s base. Then, as synthesis and tip of the pyramid, we have none other than El Santo (El Saaaaaaannnnnttttoooo!). He was the legendary Mexican wrestler with the silver mask from the weird sixties movies, a folk hero with the corresponding dynamic, contemporary popular culture.
Conceptualism, painting and pop are the cornerstones that still account for the greater part of the current artistic production. These patron saints who entrusted Lourdes with a liberating mission like Joan of Arc, were her teachers, including El Santo himself. The rest of us mortals can learn from him only through celluloid.
The 60’s and 70’s, the 68 student movement, the ensuing feminist movement and collective group work were determining factors in Lourdes’ work and vice versa. In this case, the quest for a type of art whose final objective and public acknowledgment would not be subjected to commercial and/or official vested interests was not merely a fleeting, idealistic whim. This is also true of her collective group experience and the collaborative efforts that incorporated this artist into the cultural process, which is ultimately a community effort.
Modern specialization generated an “independent” photographic language that transformed photographic quality, realistic chronicles and the credo of the “decisive moment” into fetishisms and ends in themselves. Furthermore, the crisis of painting with its death foretold, paved the way for artists to explore new media, technologies and multidisciplinary formats. The acceptance of photography as art on its own terms and its liberation from pictorialism gave way to isolationism and sectarianism on the part of many photographers regarding art in general. On the other hand, there are artists who venture into photography without actually understanding its history and its specific practices. In this sense, Lourdes has been a pioneer in the search for the “missing link” between artistic experience and the actual craft of photography itself. Her work has been an ongoing experiment and as such, has generated all kinds of results. It transcends a merely conceptual exploration as well as any kind of purist rigor, whether photographic, conceptual, documentary, etc. It encompasses her personal concerns regarding gender, identity and politics as well as those of a social, cultural and formal nature without necessarily assuming a dogmatic position in this regard. This photographic experience has acted as an inductive process in order to understand or experience reality (or realities) rather than to illustrate certain preconceived ideas. Grobet is not afraid to use the different—though sometimes contradictory—languages available to her when referring to her experience and her particular position, thus relinquishing formal purism. In her own way, Lourdes succeeds in using photography to connect herself, connect us and to make her way through the harsh reality of Mexican life.
I will do my best not to overwhelm any of my prospective readers by analyzing only those photographic series of Lourdes’ work that have deeply affected me ever since I first saw them. I selected them because they have obsessed me more than others.
It goes without saying that her body of work is much more extensive, since it ranges from her first psychedelic experiments to the most recent. She has stapled some borders while transgressing them. She has created landscapes and photographs of landscapes, has altered them and re- photographed them. She has even participated in theater, which I have not seen and about which I wouldn’t know what to say.
To top it off, while she was producing all this, she was also raising a family, whose work could easily serve as the subject for several other essays.
Making “La Lucha.”
It is hard for me to distinguish between the history of professional wrestling in Mexico and the photographs of Lourdes Grobet’s. My first introduction to the world of wrestling came from them. Lourdes’ photos existed long before Cameron Jamie, Jeffrey Vallance, Ralph Rugoff, Mike Kelley, Vicente Razo, Carlos Amorales, Dr. Lakra and an endless list of other young and not so young artists discovered Mexican wrestling, the most sophisticated version of this sport. Although it is true that these photographs didn’t just appear out of the blue and were preceded by Roland Barthes’ articles and even paintings by Picasso, the fact is that there is no body of work on that subject as comprehensive and eloquent as Lourdes’. Her material is as rich and varied as the topic she depicts, covering almost every photographic possibility.
She has explored from photojournalism to fotonovelas1 and constructed color photography. Wrestling is, in fact, a language and a performance, therefore, the realistic objectivity of photographic documentation is always subjected to the super-heroic conventions established beforehand, and consequently, always mythological in nature. I recall the image of a masked female wrestler breastfeeding her baby, proving that one’s private space is always public and is always a performance when photographed. It seems that the mere presence of the camera alters the objective result of the record as corroboration of the Heinseberg uncertainty principle.
From photojournalism and sports photography we go to contrived or (more contrived) photos like the remains of what was meant as a fotonovela produced by the wrestlers themselves. Paradoxically, these images are especially memorable due to their extreme realism. I remember them as still photographs, a combination of action film and a soap opera shot on rustic locations far removed from the glamour of Hollywood. They are blank enigmas without a story that we fill with our enthusiasm and imagination. Other photographs that have also been “deliberately posed” are the ultra-baroque color portraits in medium format shot in the living rooms of the wrestlers’ homes. The intentional though aesthetically balanced hodgepodge of furniture and decorations patterned after European antiques could well be regarded as kitsch, although it would be unfair and inaccurate to describe it as in bad taste. It is as good as the intentions of the good guys and the dirty maneuvers employed by the bad ones. In this case, instead of merely resorting to the aesthetics and the experimentation of the avant-garde, Grobet uses perfectly balanced compositions and a language whose images are as classic in every sense as the heroes themselves.
Painting landscapes (somewhere between José María Velasco and the Sex Pistols).
Who could ever imagine that there was a connection between Mexican landscape painting and punk? In 1977, the very year of the “punk” rebellion, when Grobet was studying in England, she became interested in color photography, Cibachrome and landscapes. Bored with “a colorless land,” like Johnny Rotten, she decided to go out to the country with her children and paint the stones, which she would later document by photographing them. In this case, the painted landscape was not the representation of a landscape but rather the same landscape, intervened as a representation of something else. This was not the American Wild West—ultimately also conquered and industrialized— and therefore deserved, a different treatment as opposed to the romantic, obsessive realism of Ansel Adams and that of the F64 school.
However, the kind of attention Lourdes Grobet’s earthwork got was entirely different from the reaction to Robert Smithson’s sculptures. In this case, the artist was reported to the police and almost confined to a mental institution. Her neighbors interacted with the work by covering the stones with graffiti. Lourdes then expanded her portfolio by also documenting these actions.
In the end, after much quarrelling and arguing among themselves, her photography teachers gave her a failing grade. Upon openly intervening with the photographic subject, Lourdes was breaking the cardinal rule and the false conception of photography as an inviolate, harmless space to be recorded objectively and at a distance. Her teachers could not accept a project that transcended photography itself and that was both a painting and an environmental sculpture. The permanent, brightly colored alteration of nature violently disrupted the romantic bucolic conventions of the English countryside, provoking a storm of controversy. “God save the Queen, She ain’t a human being, and there is no future and England is screaming” said Johnny Rotten.
Subsequently during the 80’s, John Divola also created a series of “painted” landscapes. He, however, used flashes with colored filters to temporarily paint the landscape and retain the corresponding actions in the images. Because he managed to produce his photographs without leaving any visible mark on the countryside itself, he did not attract the attention of the environmental activists. Therefore, his project, which consisted solely of a photographic recording, avoided the conflict and social repercussions provoked by Lourdes’ work.
The Teatro Campesino (The Indian as a subject that represents rather than an object to be represented).
Documenting the “Mexico profundo”, that is, the indigenous Mexico, has been one of the principal concerns and obsessions in Mexican photography. The earliest American photographers recorded the American West toward the end of the 19th century, eager to register and preserve, if only the daguerreotypes, of a given landscape and population while they were being decimated according to the premises of Manifest Destiny and modernization. Ironically, the very process of representation unwittingly modified this very Indian reality they conceived as “pure” but which in some cases the photographers themselves distorted in their zeal to comply with what they regarded as faithful portrayals. Edward S. Curtis sometimes photographed an Indian chief wearing a headdress from another tribe, because it was more picturesque. Thus, was born the mythological and Hollywoodesque image of plains Indians galloping through deserts they never knew.
In Mexico, the photographic representation of its Indian peoples has not been characterized by this sense of urgency, although the Indians themselves have not been directly involved in this task. Although it is true that after the Mexican Independence and Revolution the country’s indigenous past and present have played a vital role in the construction of “Mexicanness,” it has largely been symbolic in nature and equally distorted.
In the end, the Indians not only have lost their land and their wealth but also their very representation at the hands of an official discourse that is generally "mestizo"2 in character if not downright "criollo3."
It seems that changes in this perception have not begun until very recently. In view of this situation, Lourdes decided to make contact with a group of Indian actors and contribute as a photographer. In this particular collaboration, she identifies with the actors’ artistic efforts, which is what she values, rather than the fact they are Indians. If there is a “magic realism” in this series of photos it consists on the stage design and the costumes worn and made by the actors themselves. It is an obvious artifice and a theatrical device, intensified solely by the use of infrared film. It may seem that in this case, it is Lourdes’ photography that is subordinated to the Indians’ imagination and theatrical discourse rather than the other way around. The documentation of the Teatro Campesino on tour in New York reveals the Indians’ world out of context and in conflict with the hub of urban modernity. This aspect of the work precedes, at least symbolically, other subsequent essays documenting the phenomenon of Indian migration.
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that the classic period of American architecture—both in the continental and the U.S. sense of the word—had taken place not in the Greek Parthenon and Roman pantheons but rather in the Mayan observatories and temples. Mayan civilization, with its enigmatic disappearance, gave free rein to the imagination of architects as well as of archeologists and other scientists who even viewed the Mayas as survivors of Atlantis, the lost tribes of Israel and extraterrestrial beings. Unlike the Aztecs, with their reputation as bloodthirsty, necrophiliac warriors who sacrificed young maidens, the Mayas were idealized as enlightened Athenians devoted to science. Thus there was a renaissance of Mayan pre-Columbian architecture in general. The most celebrated exponents of “neo-Mayanism” were architects Robert Stacy Judd and Manuel Amabilis. Judd is the author of the remarkable Aztec Hotel (1925) located in southern California. There are even photographs of Judd attired in a loincloth and a headdress. Amabilis, on the other hand, created a number of constructions in Mérida itself and designed the Mexican pavilion during the first Latin American fair in Seville (1929). We must also definitely mention Diego Rivera’s pre-Columbian architectonic fantasies like the Anahuacalli, forged out of volcanic rock.
In 1517, the Spaniards reached the northern part of the Yucatán peninsula. The expedition, headed by Francisco Hernández de Córdova, discovered the Mayas, a rich, civilized people attired in elegant multicolored clothing who wore gold jewelry and lived in cities with lavish temples. Five centuries later, Lourdes set out to explore this region, now a favorite tourism spot. Instead of following the usual recommendations to visit the colonial center or the Mayan ruins and run into thousands of tourists, she ventured into the unexplored, “adventurous” route, that is, to head for the opposite side of the tracks, the suburbs. There she came upon the temples of a new civilization, which she christened “Olmayaztec.” In pre-Hispanic times, when one culture conquered another, it built its temples over those of the subjugated group, preserving and expanding the original pyramids. In some way or another, these suburban settlements are no exception. On top of the Mayan structures and iconography they have incorporated concrete, glass, steel, modernist language and vice versa. The function of these temples has changed considerably: some are now discotheques, bars or public buildings but nevertheless still preserve and/or incorporate Chac-Mools, frets, observatories and false Mayan arches. Equipped with a medium-format camera, Lourdes decided to document these monuments for posterity, just as the explorers, archeologists and photographers Desiré Charnay and Frederick Catherwood had done before her. These records were quite similar to those that Lourdes had already seen, now regarded as the ultimate tourism attractions. In fact, some of them, through sheer mimesis, even purport to attract tourists. However, their proportions, construction methods and functions are entirely different. They combine functionalistic and late modern architecture with local historicism, thus creating an unintentional postmodern pastiche. The resulting photographs function in much the same way. In a dignified, elegant manner which is both amusing and charming, we see the representations of representations of our national identity where the symbols of our Indian past are only a facade, intended to house sphere-shaped discos, bureaucrats, tourists or alcoholic beverages. These photos, ideally suited to a post-national amusement park, present the myth in all its structuralistic glory: modernity at the service of the nation and of the Indian, or perhaps the other way around.
I recently saw the 16mm film Looking for Mushrooms directed by experimental filmmaker and artist Bruce Conner. It includes material he filmed in Mexico during the 60’s, edited in syncopation with shots of fireworks, nudes and other brightly colored images accompanied by a somewhat incoherent narrative whose frenzied pace effectively resembles a “mushroom trip.” There is a new version of this film with minimalist background music by Terry Riley that considerably intensifies the psychedelic effect. It is perhaps the masterpiece of the American romantic fantasy on magical Mexico. I subsequently visited the Siqueiros Polyforum where I confirmed the fact that the effect of Stalinism is even greater than that of LSD and drugs, and can produce “bad trips.”
Now then, fasten your seat belts and prepare yourself for the virtual hallucinatory voyage through Shaman Grobet’s heretofore unknown Mexico. Prometeo is perhaps José Clemente Orozco’s masterpiece and that of muralism as well; it is one of the most dynamic representations ever created in the history of painting. The classic foreshortened figure of the man in flames attempts to blast off in space like the Fantastic Four who yelled, “Bring on the flames!” In Lourdes’ most recent work, the character bursting in flames finally shatters the barrier of pictorial immobility by actually taking off. A circular video especially designed to be projected on a dome similar to that of the Hospicio Cabañas depicts a reinterpretation of the classic figure in true action and movement. Modern technology and digital video techniques have made it possible for the photographer to breathe life into the inert painting, as Gepetto did with Pinocchio.
While I attempted to figure out exactly what was going on in that particular piece, the “man” bursting into flames at times resembled a woman, questioning the validity of my discernment processes and my unconscious. A closer look allowed me to perceive the double gender of this character that truly synthesizes humanity, without reducing it to the masculine half that tends to usurp the representation. In this case, the multiple masculine and feminine sexual organs are not digitally generated special effects, but are actually the physical features of Alejandra Boge. I once had the opportunity to assist Joel Peter Witkin in a portrait of the beautiful Alejandra for which she posed nude, wearing a wig that once belonged to my late mother. Its coiffure was reminiscent of Cunningham’s photograph of Frida Kahlo. Witkin’s photograph annoys me, not only because of the personal references, but also because it seems inane and sensationalistic. When presenting this image of Frida with a phallus and a Chihuahua, he minimizes the literal obviousness and the phenomenon, the complexity of desire as well as of this intriguing character’s sexual and cultural role that identifies the Mexican woman and the artist before the whole world. Lourdes’ video functions in a different way: the ultimate purpose of sexual ambiguity is not to subvert, to shock or to seduce. The Prometeo is not a woman with a penis or a man with breasts; it is a symbol. It is perhaps the adult version of the embryo hurling through space at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey.
The Unisex Prometheus is born and struggles against the artifices of humanity in a symbolic narrative. The production is impeccable and the aesthetics are more reminiscent of comic books and science fiction movies than the world of art, which is for the most part, restrained. Like Conner’s film it constructs its own logic and space. However, this work is a trip and a drug-induced state unique in its genre... if there is really such a genre at all, that is.
Today, “conceptual art” has become the style preferred by galleries, the academy, the market and the mainstream of contemporary art. It has evolved into a conformist formalism that does not attempt to question the linguistic nor validation systems but which, quite the contrary, depends on them completely. We must not overlook the dissident origins of non-objective art and its reaction to a market and a society in crisis. They hark back to its Dadaist roots and its response to World War I to the American conceptualism of the 60’s that responded to the Vietnam War and to Latin American conceptual art that responded to the 1968 student movement, to the Cuban Revolution and to Latin American dictatorships. It is in this context, where it is important to reevaluate and reconsider Lourdes Grobet’s entire body of work as an independent artist and photographer.
Her work has not always been selected, edited and produced with the technical rigor and the standardized values of a market upon which she does not depend and to which she owes no concessions. Naturally, the above entails and places her in constant risk, leaving her vulnerable to all types of consequences. In this sense, there is room enough for success as well as for failure that ultimately cannot be disassociated from each other. Projects like the photographs of the Teatro Campesino have an objective and a function beyond the photographic; they are a model of work and tackle complex subjects, still unresolved either for the photographer or for society.
Of course, there are some works of Lourdes’ that may be more to our liking, but they are no more important than those that are more difficult to judge, that leave loose ends and unanswered questions. Perhaps this is the time to reconsider and analyze the fruits—and the scattered seeds—perhaps chaotic, of this exercise in freedom without formal restrictions that nevertheless involve other responsibilities. Lourdes’ work does not conform to the pure and restricted photographic perspective. Neither does it function according to a strictly “artistic” circuit. It lies somewhere between high culture and popular culture without denying its social commitment while not entirely depending on it. Taking photographs by literally standing on her own two feet and exhibiting in elevators, she crosses the boundary that establishes the arbitrary dividing lines, whether geographic, genre, environmental, etc. Movement and dislocation are constant common denominators in her work. She is way ahead of the postmodern discourses and the art that many of us create today. She is not only an example of unconditional joy in the artistic quest, but also of dignity and freedom, inseparable concepts.
1. "Fotonovelas" are series of photographs in comic book format that tell a dramatic story, like an illustrated soap opera.
2. "Mestizo" is a person of mixed Indian and Spanish blood.
3. "Criollo" is a person of Spanish descent born in Spanish America.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
La Hija del Santo.
“La Hija del Santo,” Lourdes Grobet, Turner Publicaciones, Madrid, 2005, pp. 43-51.
Los años sesentas y setentas, el movimiento estudiantil y como consecuencia de esto el feminismo y el arte colectivo de los grupos determinarían la obra de Lourdes y viceversa. La búsqueda de un arte cuya finalidad y reconocimiento no estuviera sometido a intereses comerciales y/u oficiales en este caso no fue un capricho idealista pasajero. Tampoco lo fueron la experiencia del trabajo colectivo y la colaboración que colocaron a esta artista dentro del proceso cultural que finalmente es comunitario.
La especialización moderna generó un lenguaje fotográfico "independiente" que hizo de la calidad fotográfica, el registro realista y el momento decisivo fetichismos que se volvieron fines en si mismos. Por otro lado la crisis de la pintura con su muerte anunciada abrió el camino para que los artistas exploraran nuevos medios, tecnologías y formatos multudisciplinarios. La aceptación de la fotografía como arte en sus propios términos y su liberación del pictorialismo resultó en el aislamiento y el sectarismo de gran parte de los fotógrafos hacia el arte en general. Por otro lado tenemos artistas que se abocan a la práctica fotográfica sin el entendimiento de su historia y su práctica particular. En ese sentido Lourdes ha sido una pionera de la búsqueda de ese eslabón perdido que es el vínculo de la experiencia artística y la práctica fotográfica. Su trabajo ha sido un experimento constante y como tal ha generado todo tipo de resultados. Va mas allá de una exploración meramente conceptual y se desborda de cualquier tipo de rigor purista (ya sea fotográfico, conceptual, documental, etc.). Este aglutina preocupaciones personales, de género, de identidad, políticas, sociales, culturales y fórmales sin abanderar ninguna posición dogmática. Esta experiencia fotográfica ha funcionado como un proceso inductivo para entender o vivir la realidad (o realidades) y no para ilustrar ciertas ideas preconcebidas. Ella no teme utilizar diferentes lenguajes a su alcance (a veces contradictorios) para hablar de su experiencia y su posición particular sacrificando el purismo formal. A su manera, Lourdes logra utilizar la fotografía para vincularse, vincularnos y actuar en la dificil realidad mexicana.
Tratando de no agobiar al posible lector voy a analizar algunos cuerpos de trabajo en la obra de Lourdes que me han dejado pensando desde que los vi. Es porque estos me han obsesionado mas que otros que los he seleccionado. Desde luego su empresa es mucho mas extensa e incluye desde sus primeros experimentos psicodélicos hasta los últimos (que siguen teniendo algo de esto). Ha engrapado algunas fronteras y transgredido otras. Ha hecho paisajes y fotos de paisajes y alterado los paisajes y vuelto a retratarlos. Inclusive ha hecho teatro que no me ha tocado ver y del cuál no sabría como escribir. Con decir que mientras producía todo esto ha criado hijos de cuyo trabajo también se podrían escribir otros ensayos.
Haciendo la lucha.
Me cuesta trabajo distinguir entre la historia de la lucha libre en México y las fotografías de la lucha de Lourdes Grobet. Mi primer acercamiento al mundo de las luchas fue a partir de ellas. Antes que Cameron Jamie, Jeffrey Vallance, Ralph Rugoff, Mike Kelley, Vicente Razo, Carlos Amorales, el Doctor Lakra e infinidad de otros artistas jóvenes y no tan jóvenes descubrieran la lucha libre (en su mas sofisticada variedad que es la mexicana) existieron las fotos de Lourdes. Si bien es cierto que estas no aparecieron de la nada y que les preceden artículos de Roland Barthes y hasta pinturas de Picasso, la verdad es que no hay un cuerpo de trabajo tan exhaustivo ni tan influyente sobre el tema como este mismo. Este material es tan rico y variado como el mismo tema que representa y cubre casi todas las posibilidades fotográficas. Lourdes ha explorado desde el fotoperiodismo hasta la fotonovela y la fotografía construida a colores. La lucha libre es de hecho un lenguaje y una representación, por lo tanto la objetividad realista de la documentación fotográfica está siempre sometida a las convenciones superheroicas establecidas de antemano y por lo tanto es siempre mitológica. Recuerdo una imagen de una luchadora enmascarada amamantando a su hijo que nos demuestra que el espacio privado es siempre público y de representación cuando este es fotografiado. Pareciera ser que la mera presencia de la cámara altera el resultado objetivo del registro como demostración del principio de la incertidumbre de Heisenberg.
Del fotoperiodismo y la fotografia deportiva pasamos a las fotos construidas (o diríamos mas construidas) como los restos de lo que iba a ser una fotonovela producida por los mismos luchadores. Paradójicamente estas imágenes llaman la atención por lo realista de las mismas. Las recuerdo como stills de algo que pareciera una película de acción revuelta con telenovela tomados en crudas locaciones lejos del glamour hollywoodesco. Estas son enigmas de una narrativa ausente que llenamos con nuestro deseo e imaginación. Otras fotografias también "deliberadamente" posadas serían los retratos ultrabarrocos a color en formato mediano tomadas en las salas de las casas de los mismos luchadores. El abigarramiento estético conciente y balanceado de muebles y artesanías que imitan antigüedades europeas podrá ser considerado kitsch pero sería injusto y equivocado llamarlo mal gusto. Es tan bueno como la intenciones de los técnicos y las mañas de los rudos. En este caso mas que recurrir a las estéticas y las experimentaciones de la vanguardia Grobet utiliza composiciones perfectamente equilibradas y un lenguaje que resulta en imágenes tan clásicas en todos los sentidos como lo son los verdaderos heroes.
Pintando Paisajes (entre José Maria Velasco y los Sex Pistols).
¿Quién se imaginaría que podría existir una relación entre el paisajismo mexicano y el punk?. Mientras estudiaba en Inglaterra en 1977 (el mismísimo año de la rebelión punk), Lourdes Grobet se interesó por la fotografía a color, el cibachrome y el paisaje. Aburrida al igual que Johnny Rotten de un "pais sin colores", optó por salir con sus hijos a pintar piedras en el campo que después documentaría fotografiándolas. En este caso el paisaje pintado no sería la representación de un paisaje sino el mismo paisaje intervenido como una representación de otra cosa. Esta vista definitivamente diferente al salvaje oeste americano (finalmente dominado e industrializado también) merecería en ojos de la artista un tratamiento diferente al realismo romántico y obsesivo de Ansel Adams y de la escuela F64. Sin embargo el "earthwork" (¿arte ambiental?) de Lourdes Grobet recibió otro tipo de atención que las esculturas de Robert Smithson. En este caso la artista fue denunciada a la policia y casi internada en un hospital siquiátrico. Los vecinos interactuaron con la obra y pintaron grafitti sobre las piedras. Lourdes documentó también estas acciones y amplió su portafolio.
Finalmente sus maestros de fotografía entre pleitos y discusiones la reprobaron. Al intervenir abiertamente el sujeto a fotografíar Lourdes rompía con el dogma y la suposición falsa de la fotografía como un espacio seguro e inofensivo del registro distante y objetivo. Sus maestros no aceptaron un proyecto que trascendía a la fotografía misma y que funcionaba también como pintura y como escultura ambiental. La alteración permanente y de colores fuertes irrumpía las románticas convenciones pastorales de la campiña inglesa causando furor. "God save the queen, she ain't a human being, and there is no future and England is screaming!" dijo Juanito el Podrido.
Posteriormente en los años ochentas John Divola realizaría una serie de paisajes "pintados" también. Sin embargo utilizó flashes con filtros de colores para pintar el paisaje de manera temporal y detener diferentes acciones en las imágenes. De esta manera lograría realizar sus fotografías sin dejar rastro en el campo y pasar desapercibido ante los activistas que protegen el medio ambiente. Por lo tanto este proyecto se limitaría al registro fotográfico y evitaría el conflicto y el proceso social de Lourdes.
El teatro campesino (el indígena como sujeto que representa y no como objeto a representar).
La documentación del "México profundo" es decir del México indígena ha sido una de las preocupaciones y obsesiones de la fotografía mexicana. Los primeros fotógrafos estadounidenses documentaron el oeste norteamericano a fines del siglo XIX afanados en registrar y preservar (al menos en sus daguerrotipos) un paisaje y una población mientras estos iban siendo diezmados bajo las premisas del "destino manifiesto" y la modernización. Involuntariamente este mismo proceso de representación iba modificando esta realidad indígena que se buscaba pura y que en algunos casos los mismos fotografos distorsionaban tratando de apegarse a las convenciones que ellos consideraban fieles. Edward S. Curtiss en mas de una ocasión vistió a algún jefe con algún penacho mas vistoso de otra tribu y así pues se creo la imagen mitológica y hollywoodesca de indios de las grandes planicies paseando por desiertos que no les correspondían.
En México la representación fotográfica de los pueblos indígenas no ha tenido la misma urgencia pero tampoco han estado ellos al cargo de la misma. Si bien es cierto que a partir de la independencia y la revolución mexicana el pasado y el presente indígena ocupan un lugar esencial en la construcción de la "mexicanidad", este ha sido mas bien simbólico y no menos distorsionado. Finalmente el indígena no solo ha perdido tierras y riquezas sino hasta su propia representación en manos de un discurso oficial generalmente mestizo si no criollo. Pareciera ser que hasta muy recientemente esto está empezando a cambiar. Ante esta situación Lourdes optó por relacionarse con un grupo de actores indígenas y contribuir como fotógrafa. En esta particular colaboración ella se relaciona y se identifica con estos actores a partir de su esfuerzo artístico que es lo que valora y no la pura condición indígena. El artificio utilizado en la construcción de lo real maravilloso en esta serie de fotos de Lourdes Grobet es la escenografía y el vestuario utilizados y finalmente creados por los actores. Claramente un artificio y un recurso expresivo teatral si acaso exacerbado en lo fotográfico por el uso de película infraroja. Pareciera ser que en este caso la fotografía de Lourdes se somete al discurso teatral y a la imaginación indígena y no al revés. Documentando la gira del grupo teatral en Nueva York el mundo indígena se ve descontextualizado y en conflicto en el centro de la modernidad urbana. Esta parte del trabajo anticipa al menos en forma simbólica ensayos posteriores que documentan el fenómeno de la migración indígena.
Frank Lloyd Wright consideró que la arquitectura americana (en el sentido continental y simultáneamente gringo de la palabra) había tenido su periodo clásico no en los partenones griegos y los panteones romanos sino en los observatorios y templos mayas. La civilización maya con su enigmática desaparición se prestó a dar rienda suelta a la imaginación no solo de arquitectos sino también de arqueólogos y otros hombres de ciencia que llegaron a ver en ellos a los sobrevivientes de la atlántida, las tribus perdidas de Israel y extraterrestres. A diferencia de los aztecas con su reputación de guerreros violentos y necrófilos ávidos de sangre que sacrificaban doncellas, los mayas fueron idealizados como atenienses apolínios que se dedicaban a la ciencia. Así pues surgió el renacimiento de la arquitectura maya y precolombina en general. Los exponentes mas reconocidos del neomayismo fueron los arquitectos Robert Stacy Judd y Manuel Amabilis. Judd es autor del esplendido Aztec Hotel (1925) que se encuentra en el sur de California. Existen inclusive retratos del arquitecto Judd vestido con su penacho y taparrabos. Amabilis por su parte construyó en la mismísima Mérida en Yucatán y es autor del pabellón mexicano de la primera feria iberoamericana de Sevilla (1929). Habría que mencionar también los delirios arquitectónicos precolombinos de Diego Rivera como el Anahuacalli realizado en piedra volcánica.
En 1517 los españoles llegaron al norte de la peninsula de Yucatán. La expedición dirigida por Francisco Hernandez de Córdova encontró a los mayas, un pueblo rico y civilizado que vestía elegantes ropas de colores, portaba bellas joyas de oro y vivía en ciudades donde había lujosos templos. Cinco siglos después Lourdes se dirigió a explorar esta misma región ahora tan visitada. Ante la recomendación de visitar el centro colonial o las ruinas mayas y de toparse con miles de turistas, optó por lo nuevo y la aventura, es decir por caminar al lado opuesto, el suburbio. Ahí descubrió los templos de una nueva civilización a la que bautizó: "Olmayaztec". En tiempos prehispánicos cuando una cultura conquistaba a otra, esta construía sus templos sobre los templos de la cultura conquistada preservando y aumentando en tamaño las piramides originales. De alguna forma estos pueblos suburbanos no serían la excepción. Sobre las formas y la iconografía maya se incorpora el concreto, el cristal, el acero, el léxico modernista y viceversa. La función de estos templos ha cambiado y algunos son discoteques, bares o edificios públicos, pero eso si, conservando e incorporando chacmoles, grecas, observatorios y falsos arcos mayas. Armada con una cámara de mediano formato Lourdes decidió documentar para la posteridad dichos monumentos al igual que hicieron en su momento los exploradores, arqueólogos y fotógrafos Desiré Charnay y Frederick Catherwood. Estos resultaron de alguna forma similares a aquellos que Lourdes ya conocía y que ahora son la meta del peregrinaje del turismo. De hecho algunos de ellos pretenden por mimetismo atraer a los mismos turistas. Sin embargo sus escalas, sus métodos constructivos y sus funciones son diferentes. Mezclan arquitectura funcionalista y tardomoderna con historicismos locales creando un pastiche posmoderno involuntario. El resultado fotográfico funciona de manera similar. De manera sobria y elegante, simultáneamente graciosa y divertida vemos representaciones de representaciones de la identidad nacional donde los símbolos de un pasado indígena son solo una fachada (que finalmente alberga bolas disco, burócratas, turistas o bebidas alcoholicas). Estas fotografías que cabrían en algún brochure de un parque de diversiones postnacional nos presentan un mito en todo el sentido estructuralista: una modernidad al servicio de la patria y del indígena (¿o será viceversa?).
Recientemente vi la película en 16mm Looking for Mushrooms del artista y cineasta experimental Bruce Conner. Esta incluye material que filmó en México durante los años sesentas editado de manera sincopada con tomas de fuegos artificiales, desnudos y otras imágenes de colores brillantes en una narrativa incoherente con ritmo frenético que de manera muy efectiva asemeja un viaje en hongos. Existe una nueva versión de la misma con música minimalista de Terry Riley que acentúa aun mas el efecto sicodélico. Esta es tal vez la obra maestra de la romántica alucinación norteamericana del México mágico. Posteriormente estuve en el Polyforum de Siqueiros y pude confirmar que el efecto del stalinismo es aún mayor que el del ácido lisérgico y la psilocibina y puede producir malos viajes.
Ahora bien, abróchense los cinturones de seguridad y prepárense para el vértigo del alucine virtual del México posprofundo de la shamana Grobet. El Prometeo es quizás la obra maestra de José Clemente Orozco y del muralismo. Esta es una de la representaciones mas dinámicas que se han hecho dentro de la pintura. El clásico escorzo del hombre en llamas trata de despegar hacia el espacio como el personaje de los cuatro fantásticos que gritaba: "¡llamas a mí!". En la última obra de Lourdes el personaje en combustión rompe finálmente la barrera del estátismo pictórico (entre otras) y realmente despega. En una videoproyección circular diseñada para ser proyectada en una cúpula similar a la del hospicio Cabañas vemos una reinterpretación de la clásica figura en verdadera acción y movimiento. Gracias a la tecnología y el video digital ha sido posible para la antes fotógrafa darle vida a la inerte pintura como Gepeto hizo con Pinocho.
Mientras trataba de discernir que sucedía en este pieza, el "hombre" en llamas me parecía a veces mujer, haciéndome dudar de mis procesos de reconocimiento y de mi inconciente. Una mirada mas atenta me dejo ver la doble sexualidad de este personaje que realmente sintetiza a la humanidad sin reducirla a la mitad masculina que suele usurpar la representación. En este caso los múltiples órganos sexuales masculinos y femeninos no son efectos especiales generados digitalmente sino que son los rasgos físicos de Alejandra Boge. Alguna vez tuve la oportunidad de asistir a Joel Peter Witkin en un retrato de la bella Alejandra en el cuál posó desnuda portando una peluca de mi fallecida madre en un peinado que evoca a la Frida fotografiada por Cunningham. La fotografía de Witkin me parece molesta no solo por las evocaciones personales sino porque me parece simple y sensacionalista. Al presentarnos esta imagen de una Frida con falo (y un perro chihuahueño) reduce a la obviedad literal y al fenómeno la complejidad de la pulsión y del rol sexual y cultural de este seductor personaje que identifica a la mujer mexicana y artista ante el mundo. El video de Lourdes funciona de manera diferente. En este la ambigüedad sexual no tiene como finalidad subvertir, escandalizar o seducir. Finalmente el Prometeo/a no es una mujer con pene o un hombre con senos, es un símbolo. Es tal vez la versión adulta del embrión espacial con el que finaliza 2001 Odisea del Espacio de Stanley Kubrick.
El Prometeo Unisex nace y lucha contra los artificios de la humanidad en una narrativa simbólica. Los valores de producción son impecables y la estética recuerda mas a los comics y las películas de ciencia ficción que el en su mayoría sobrio mundo del arte. Al igual que la película de Conner construye su propia lógica y espacio. Sin embargo esta obra es un viaje y una pachequés única en su género si es que realmente existe tal género.
Actualmente el "conceptualismo" se ha convertido en un estilo favorecido por las galerías, la academia, el mercado y la corriente principal del arte contemporaneo. Este se ha transformado en un formalismo conformista que realmente no busca cuestionar los sistemas lingüisticos ni de validación sino que al contrario depende absolutamente de ellos. No debemos olvidar los orígenes rebeldes del arte no objetual y su respuesta contra un mercado y una sociedad en crisis (desde los antecedentes dadaistas y su respuesta a la primera guerra mundial hasta el conceptualismo norteamericano de los años sesentas que respondió a la guerra de Vietnam y el conceptualismo latinoamericano que respondió al movimiento estudiantil de 1968, la revolución cubana y las dictaduras latinoamericanas). Es en este contexto que es importante revaluar y reconsiderar la producción y la trayectoria de Lourdes Grobet como artista y fotógrafa independiente.
Su obra no siempre ha sido seleccionada, editada y producida con el rigor técnico y los valores que son el standard de un mercado del cual ella no depende y al cual no le debe concesiones. Desde luego esto implica y le permite el constante riesgo y la apertura a todo tipo de consecuencias. En este sentido hay un espacio importante tanto para los éxitos y los fracasos que finalmente no pueden ser separables. Proyectos como las fotografías del teatro campesino tienen una finalidad y un funcionamiento mas que fotográfico, son un modelo de trabajo y abordan complejos temas sin resolver para la fotografía o la sociedad. Desde luego hay trabajos de Lourdes que pueden gustar mucho pero no por eso son mas importantes que aquellos difíciles de juzgar que dejan cabos sueltos y rutas abiertas. Es tal vez ahora el momento de reconsiderar y analizar los frutos (y las semillas regadas) a lo mejor caóticos de este ejercicio de libertad sin limitaciones formales pero con otro tipo de responsabilidades. El trabajo de Lourdes no cabe dentro de una pura y restringida perspectiva fotográfica como tampoco cabe ni funciona en un circuito estrictamente "artístico". Navega dentro de la alta cultura y la cultura popular sin negar un compromiso social y sin depender de el tampoco. Tomando fotografías con las patas literalmente y exponiendo en elevadores cruza las fronteras que engrapa de divisiones limitantes arbitrarias (ya sean estas geográficas, de género, de medio, etc.). El movimiento y la dislocación son constantes de su trabajo. Se anticipa a discursos posmodernos y al arte que hacemos muchos hoy en dia. Es no solo un ejemplo de placer incondicional en la búsqueda artística, lo es también de dignidad y libertad (conceptos finalmente inseparables).