Thursday, March 27, 2008

Timeless Miami Beach

The ocean surf
turquoise water
a rainbow shining
in the horizon

Spray falling
on the sable beach
cool water

Palm trees
swaying at the
of the wind

The warm sun
of shadows

The waves
again and again
rough pebbles

White bird
the crisp air

El oleaje
en el litoral

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In conversation with Marya Kazoun

● How was it for you growing up in Beirut?

It was great except for the war part- maybe not after all. It helped me become what I am now. Experiencing raw fear, giving value to things you would normally take for granted, like the feeling of security, going to school safely, having drinking water and electricity.

● How did you become an artist?

I think there was this need to say something. Words are too direct sometimes… I was more interested in the emotion that an object, a thing, or a person’s behavior could convey…

● How different is for a Lebanese-Canadian woman to become an artist?

When I was young, I have to say I had a relatively open and very modern upbringing. My mom is a chemist, but she doesn’t work, she stopped when the war started in 1975 then she had to look after us, and my dad is a pharmacist and owns a pharmacy. I was expected to become a pharmacist like him- I went to French Protestant school there where I studied French, Arabic, and English and Bible every Thursday although my family is muslim. My parents wanted me to study and know about and of everything-
We had to flee the war several times. Our first move was to Switzerland and the second was to Canada where my family decided to emigrate and stay they there. I think that seeing and experiencing lots of different things made me want to say and do a lot of things and being what I am with a rich baggage made it easier for me, I have a big baggage. I have a lot to say. I believe my background helped a lot in the shape, expression and form of my artwork.

● What made you become a performance artist?

You’re asking me about performance?
I consider myself a novice in the field.
I reflected a lot on that topic. It made a lot of things clearer…
I had organized a photo shoot for an installation I had just ‘finished’. I had made an outfit but wasn’t quite sure why I had done it, what was it purpose? I was wearing it and got in one of the pictures of the installation to show the scale of my work. When I got my slides back and looked carefully at them, it suddenly hit me, it all made sense to see myself in the works…

● In the 51st Biennale di Venezia’s catalogue you talk about the need to inhabit your work. Why is that?

I felt that the work needed me to support it, to help it sustain itself. I first started with embodying the works, becoming part of them, having a similar external shell, in a way to be like them, to be ‘their equal’. I had something more, I was alive and moving I sometimes became the protagonist of the situation to balance their weaknesses. Sometimes there is no story. Sometimes the story/ script comes after the object is made. Sometimes the script comes first and than it gets elaborated and becomes clearer while working on the piece. There’s a lot of theater influence in my performances.

● What is your process when using materials?

I try to let them guide me and tell me what they could become. I ask them, they show me.

● How does identity plays a role in works like Self-portrait for example?

In this work there was a big reflection on self-image, the mirror and questioning my identity. The perception I had of myself.
Who was I? I’m not sure I am a human being. I had no say in the form or presence of myself on this earth. This work is what I am, really.

● Luggage is a fascinating work of yours. What do carry in it?

Different things in the different pouches, I carry my background, my past, memories, we are all travelers and we carry a lot around….

● Many of your works are direct references to body parts like fat, hair, organs and skin. What is this compulsion in deconstructing the body?

It is more a kind of fascination examining things closely- Body parts and organs are very fragile, if you think of it. If any thing gets damaged, it’s handicapping. I perform operations on them to heal them. Sometimes dark little secrets hide in them so stitching them up is a kind of way to protect, hide and burry them.

●Have you set limits when using your body in the performative act?

Not really I just listen to what the piece needs.

● Scatological concerns surface in your series of photographs called Daily Shit. What prompted you into creating such body of work and why?

I first started by taking images of my stool when I started seeing it. I had never really looked at it. When I moved to NYC the toilets were all shallow. I started experimenting with the kind of food I was eating and what kind of shape and color my body was able to make… It’s a kind of guilty pleasure taking all these photographs. Sometimes mixed with some guilt and shame. I slowly started comfortable showing it. I was almost proud of it. I was able to give it an interesting shape and colour… I all the shit of life, I indulged in retaining that I was showing the world.

● As an artist who has participated in the 51st Biennale di Venezia, what is your advise to an emerging artist?

Be as authentic and real as possible in art making and work hard, I guess…

Please, talk about the art scene situation back home in Lebanon.
I think the art scene in the Middle East is developing very fast, very conceptual, but I feel that it is still more directed towards a more documentary type of work. There’s a lot of direct video and photography works.

This conversation was first published in Futuro Magazine in March 2007

Rachel Hoffman's Vagina Dentata Performance

Rachel Hoffman's Vagina Dentata Performance takes place in a sandy area of Dolores Park in San Francisco. As part of the show Intimate Bodies Public Spaces, Hoffman enacts interventions outside the gallery space. By literally placing her body in public sight, she contrives issues of presence and perception. Clad in a pink and golden custome, with a stuffed oval shape representing the vagina dentata, Hoffman challenges sexual cliches and some our innermost fears- our own sexuality.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Au Naturel

A: I am in a hurry, and I need your help, right now!

B: Yes, how can I help you, ma’am?

A: Well, I have not worn hosiery in a long time, and I need them for work. I will use them for a business trip.

B: What kind would you like? Sheer toe, or reinforced toe, control top or sheer to waist.

A: Yes, control top, I need a lot of control, but I want it with a very sheer hose.

B: Aha, we have the Au Naturel style by Doña Quetall.

A: Let’s see, if I like that style.

B: What color would you like? A, B, H, W, or G?

A: I don’t know! What do you think?

B: I think , W fits your skin tone.

A: Would that be too pale? Would that make my legs look too fat?

B: I think that is the right tone for you, but let’s try the swatches.

A: Let me see. Oh yes, I really like this one. It is very sheer and translucent.

B: Now, what size would you like? small, medium or tall?

A: I am not sure, perhaps a medium.

B: Yes ma’am, How tall are you?

A: I am 5’ 7.

B: And what about your weight?

A: Well, let me see the chart. Well, I can’t see that! Can you help me read these small numbers. Well, I weight about 145 or 155.

B: Uhm, It seems that you are borderline. It would be best to go one size up. Why don’t you try tall?

A: OK, give me twelve pairs, please.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Let her Sing! Shirin Neshat's Turbulent

Turbulent (1998)
Shirin Neshat
10 min. 35 mm

Turbulent is the first film of a trilogy made by Iranian American artist Shirin Neshat. The other two videos are Rapture (1999) and Fervor made in 2000. A dual projection set in opposites sides places the viewer at the center. Shot in black and white, the presentation of separate screens enhances the duality inherent in the work. On the one hand, the films presents us with a dark haired man with a goatee wearing a white shirt who sings on a theater stage. In the background a male audience listens to the man singing. With hands raised at the chest level, and in front of a metal microphone, he sings enraptured by the experience. The love song is from the thirteen century which lyrics were created by the poet Rumi. Both the man and the audience face the viewer.

On the opposite screen, the viewer is presented with the image of a woman. She is a singer facing an empty auditorium. She gives her back to the viewer who is unable to see her face. Veiled in black, she stands immutable between the stark and empty white seats of the theater. The placing of the woman at the center dressed in a black chador gives a gestalt quality to the image. While facing the audience, she sings in a deep male-like voice. She sings to no one, alone in an illuminated theater giving an eerie feeling to the scene. The continuos rows of empty chairs in the theater intensifies the sense of isolation.
Both images are accentuated by the theatrical illumination of space. The use of black and white accentuate the scene. At the center, the image of the man creates a triangular composition giving a sense of depth while, the image of the woman recedes in space. The juxtaposition of her black image against the white space heightens a sense of two dimensionality. Her image looks like a cutout shape creating a sense of flatness. This flatness serves as a metaphor to her absence in society.

The set of images of male and female are evocative of other set of oppositions such as the one and the many, the visible and the invisible, absence and presence. In contrast, the image of the male singer, is full and visible. He can sing and be seen, his side is full and the audience can identify with him. The woman, on the other side, is absent, nobody can see her, nor hear her. This works serves as a commentary on the distinction between man and women in Islamic society.

In an interview with London based writer Susan Horsburgh of Time Magazine, Neshat states that her work is a coming to terms to the ideology of the Islamic regime and the Revolution in Iran. According to Neshat, her images raise questions more than answers. Referring to Turbulent, she said that her work was a response to the prohibition of women to perform or record music. She questions the privilege that men have as a way of finding a mystical and spiritual experience through music while women have no access to such experience.

Neshat also states that her works are imbued of a certain naiveté, but her work is well thought out. Although, she incorporates Islamic iconography as visual elements in her works, her native culture is Persian, while her mother tongue is Farsi. In her practice, Neshat appropriates Arabic elements, to make her own critique of Islamic law as she experiences it from a distant exile. Through her practice, Neshat overcomes her own sense of dislocation.

O Zhang interviewed in New York City

January 13, 2005

• What influences in your childhood made you become an artist?

‣ Since seven, I went to the Children’s Palace which it is a place for children to study art. I learned drawing, painting, and printmaking. After, I went to high school at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. So, I did calligraphy and Chinese and mural painting, but mainly I trained in watercolor and oil painting. After, I went to the Central Academy of Art in Beijing. It is difficult to apply, and I was the first person from the South to get into the Academy in ten years. It was very competitive. Also, the Academy’s style in the north is slightly different from the South. Maybe this is why it was so difficult to get in for people from the South. I was very isolated by my classmates and my environment. People were not friendly to me, and Beijing was a harsh environment. I like Beijing, but I did not like my experience in the Central Academy because from 1996 to 2000 the Academy changed location.

From the center in Wang Fujin, they moved faraway to the Northeast side of Beijing. It was a very tough environment. Eight people shared the same room, and forty people shared three bathrooms. Apart from that the art education was traditional. We studied European technique, traditional Chinese and mural painting. Also, the name was prestigious, and we traveled around the country because we had to experience life as a group. We were nine in my class. So, we went to the East by the beach, and we painted local people. We also went to the North to Dung Huang to live in the mountains and study the cave murals. I was trained to be professional, and after I did not want to stay in Beijing. So, I went to Byam Shaw School of Art in London for an MA in Fine Arts. It was a very small school, but I was very comfortable. I mean, It was a cultural shock. I was a one of the few Chinese artists to study abroad because it is hard to afford school fees. Fortunately, I got a scholarship, so I was able to survive. I did not need to work the first year, but the MA was hard and my English was really bad. So, I had to start all over again and nobody taught me anything because nobody teaches you how to learn to live in London. Nobody teaches you that because in my surroundings there were only Westerners. So, I had to find my own way.

• Do you think that isolated experience in Beijing and London shaped your art practice?

‣ Yes, very much. I felt very isolated. In a way that shaped my character and I became stronger. I do not care if other people put me down. I just stop them. I am quite stubborn. I know that it might be difficult, but I still want to try it. So, I wrote my dissertation, and I could barely survive. Fortunately, I got a degree, but I was so hard. I could not do anything else apart from studying. Then, the second year, they gave me for a scholarship at the same school, and I did research in whatever I wanted. This gave me time to understand the city a little bit more. So, that year I did the kind of work I am satisfied with, like the Black Hair series which was the foundation to apply for Royal College.

• What prompted to you to do the kind of work for the Hair Series. Why hair?

‣ First of all, I did the Chinese erotic painting series.

• Let’s talk about the erotic paintings.

‣ When I went to the Louvre in Paris, my first year in Europe, a boy showed me a catalog of Chinese erotic paintings called Rain and Clouds. I was dumbfounded by those images, because as a Chinese living in China we could never see pictures like those. People can search for erotic paintings, but it is very rare to see beautifully made images of people having intercourse. I have never seen anything like that before. I don’t know if you know my process. I took slides out of the erotic paintings catalog. Then, I projected the slides on the model’s body. So, she was asked to pose in the bathtub. I photographed the erotic painting with the body, with bubbles, and water. So, it was quite mysterious.

• Why erotic images, because you found them?

‣ Yes, because I found them. The meaning is water and moon, as they both represent the female. Also, poets wrote many Asian fairy tales about moon, and water. So, in the image the body is firm like a mountain, because it is a very close up. I cropped the slide as round image. So, it is like the moon projected on a mountain. Basically, it is about the romantic, and water is a thing that relates to those stories. I always imagine what happened in the past about females, about sex, about love, and I think it is very mysterious. So, I moved on to the Black Hair. One day, I was running the slide projector and I clicked. Suddenly there was no slide, so it was very bright. That was a powerful light source. So, I took a photograph of that, and that was the beginning of the Black Hair series. In Black Hair 1 you can see the neck and the hair. The light is very strong. So, that leaves the female body very fragile and vulnerable. This was the beginning of my second project, I began to photograph the female body, hair, and water.

• I would like to have more feedback on the erotic work.

‣ Well, in my early work most of the colors are dark. The color used is black because it is mysterious, and I want to translate old masterpieces into a contemporary version. I used a flash light for very little light. So, the bubbles, the water, and the body made a scene that is mysterious. A feeling that I wanted to express is going back to the mother’s womb. So, you only see parts of a wet body floating on the water, and then you see these erotic paintings. Vaguely you see a male and a female having intercourse. So, it is also about a very vivid spirit, it is about human beings. It is about life, regeneration, and birth.

• You mentioned mysteriousness. Why mysteriousness?

‣ I want to try to understand my past because the images are from China. So, I want to understand how Asians understood women, because birth it is also a woman’s function. It is also about sex, and intercourse. So, I use water as a link because for thousands of years water has always been the same thing. I literally put the painting inside the water to find out those mysterious stories. So, the water is a link, and I can go to back in time when people made those paintings. It is composed of this curiosity about the meaning of femaleness, love, and sex. By putting those images in water, with the body, I try to figure out what is the link between now and then. It is time and it is in the dark.

•What is the meaning of hair for you?

‣ Hair is female beauty, and it can also give an ominous feeling -- especially black hair. I do black hair because Asian women have black hair. It is not like blonde hair : that means excellent beauty. Black can be very mysterious. It is good and bad at the same time. I link black hair to sex. Sex is mysterious, beautiful and exciting, but it can be ominous too. Wet hair on the body is suggesting of something beautiful, but many people might think of it as ugly and disgusting. Also, wet hair on the naked skin relates to sex. In the second stage of the work I use wigs, so the hair is detached from the body.

• What about Hair City for example, is that a wig?

‣ Hair City was done around 9.11. I did not do it on purpose, but when I saw my photograph it is actually two towers with a detached wig flying above the city sky. So, it gives an ominous feeling about uncertainty of life. In my first two series it was always about death and sex. In the erotic paintings is about death too. For example, the womb feeling : it is also about birth, death, and intercourse. It is like a “little death” -- that is French though.

• What is the significance on the characters being an Asian girl and a Western male?

‣ That is a rebellion of Asian girls because they are described as soft and obedient, while the white male is seen as member of the most powerful group in the world. So, this girl is getting her ride and she is hitting the man. She is liberating herself from authority. It is about how weak people get their own position. Of course, I do it in a very playful way, so it is not a very critical statement, although I do make reference to the Cultural Revolution. Rebellion is the rule. So, all my work is under that concept. I always use young female, Chinese or Japanese girls as the weak group that challenges authority.

• You grew up during post-revolutionary China and the opening to the West, can you talk how the politics and the social changes has influenced your work?

‣ As a young girl growing up in this society there was no voice for young people. That is why you see in my work that I always want to rebel. After so many wars and the cultural revolution, the society was oppressed, and it is still oppressed. In my work I want to make my own rule from the young generation. I have that from the Cultural Revolution, to make my own revolution and use my art as a tool.

• How was it for you being a Chinese woman artist in China?

‣ I was depressed, and oppressed as well. That is why I went abroad because Beijing, I don’t know who is going to read your article, was a bad place for young female artists four years ago. There were almost no young female artists, most of the artists were middle age males. The few female artists were above thirty five. I was in my early twenties, so no young voices could be heard. There were no opportunities at all, but now suddenly there are more opportunities in the past four years. Now, China starts to develop quickly.

• What do you think now that you have left that moment, time and place, and you are a diaspora Chinese woman artist, who lived in London, and lives in New York city?

‣ No identity, I think it is a contemporary trend. In the future nobody will settle in one country. You will always travel and be international with no identity. In the beginning, I thought maybe I should say I am Chinese, then I said, maybe I belong to England, maybe here. I don’t really care anymore. I think wherever you are you need to keep your mind fresh to make art and be able to rebel to whatever you feel like. I can rebel here, it does not have to be China.

• So, rebelling against the art establishment, the political, and economical establishment?

‣ Actually, the political and economical because while living in the West I am making work like the China girls series. I set little girls against Western old men. That is a challenge to Western authority both economical and politically, because China is booming economically. It is growing fast, so the China girls represent China. They are fresh, young and have so much energy. It is like the impression China gives to Westerners. They say “Chinese are everywhere” or “China is so fast”. The girls are cute, a little naive, but their gaze is very powerful, penetrating if you look at them carefully. Some critics and curators in England wrote about my Chinese girls work, and they said that they their gaze is monstrous and they are like little ghosts. So, they awaken fear in Westerners. I placed together Chinese girls with Western men. So, he is naked and lying down. If you put these images together you can understand why this girl is powerful and this man is passive. He is like a dead god like the West and capitalism. A curator from the Tate Modern said “I don’t feel comfortable when I see those works”.

A version of this interview was published in Futuro Magazine in 2006.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Market Street

Market Street

Live your life
American Eagle
Sixty percent off
Smell of pot

The F train
A homeless man
Rides for free
The stench

A crowd disperses
Now- Chipotle
US Bank
Women in Black


See the Beauty
Touch the magic
Two for one

2 for 25
Live sex show
5:30, 10:30, 2:00
Swingers Saturdays

Half off admission
Non stop lives
Nude dancing


To the right
To the left
Use the front door
Exit only

You want to stop
Pull the cord
Stand by
One pull will do

I will pull all
The way into the island
Stand by
Mucho dinero

Try again

Trench coat
Long, curly hair
Bearded face
Velvet black collar

Sticks in hand
In trash can
Nothing to find
Keeps on walking


A look
A turn
A look again
A turn of the head

Looking back
A time
A moment


Asian girl
Long hair
Cell phone

Hey Patrick!
How are you?
I am at Market
And New Montgomery

Should I
Just meet you there?
I will be
Probably late

El Entretejer del Tiempo

“La poesia vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.”
Jorge Luis Borges

El Entretejer del Tiempo es una exposición que explora la idea de la Fenomenologia, la repetición y la imagen corporal. Esta muestra esta creada por el colectivo llamado Distill formado por siete artistas radicados en diferentes ciudades del globo terráqueo. Ellos presentan trabajos de dos dimensiones, escultura e instalaciones.

La idea de la repetición hace echo con un verso del poema Arte Poética de Jorge Luís Borges. Según el verso, “La poesía vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.” En este verso, el poeta enfatiza que la poesía es un interminable proceso retroactivo. Así, la idea del habito de Maurice Merleau-Ponty puede ser comparada a la idea de la repetición. Merleau-Ponty habla del habito como sinónimo de habilidad. Merleau-Ponty en La Fenomenologia de la Percepción promueve la conexión entre la mente y el cuerpo. Pare el, la mente depende del cuerpo. Un ejemplo de esto ocurre al aprender a bailar: la repetición de los pasos eventualmente se vuelve automática. El cuerpo repite los pasos con la posibilidad de una improvisación. Como en la poesía, los artistas de Distill recrean el esfuerzo creativo repitiendo imágenes y emociones similares. Como un ciclo de la repetición, el tiempo de la creación surge en el momento de la revelación cuando los artistas improvisan.

En Sin Titulo, Amy Barillaro Visockis creo unos cuadros concéntricos de colores naranja y rosa formados por pequeñas pajillas. La construcción de la pirámide hace recordar el laberinto Borgesiano – una trayectoria que puede llevar a cualquier fin. En Cuadros Verdes y Rosas, los conjuntos de pajillas creados en múltiplos de nueve están hechos como arreglos florales. En Tela a Rayas, un estrato de pajillas verdes y color turquesa enfatiza la forma serpentina. La artista expande la repetición a través de la multiplicidad de formas laberíntica, infinitamente repetitiva.

En El Blanco II, Ann Chuchvara creo unas pequeñas formas redondas que se pueden asociar con orificios y senos. El plástico con reflexiones color rosa parece flotar como la espuma del mar. Según la artista, “Es a través del uso de los materiales que soy capaz de conjurar las sensaciones corporales.” Hecho de mylar y ojales, La Caída es un follaje floreciente. Las tres lianas que penden del cielo raso proyectan sombras en la pared adyacente. Como ardua tarea, los cortes sirven como testigos del divagar del tiempo.

Tsehai Johnson en Ejemplo # 5, los soportes de porcelana contrastan con la bola de pelusa naranja. Como flores de mimosas parecen a las trompas de Falopio. Un enrejado en Ejemplo # 6 se parece a las extremidades de una muñeca. En el Campo # 4, las formas intestinales abrazan sus tentáculos a las paredes contiguas. Las lianas parecen grandes estamenes. Johnson combina lo visceral con las formas antropomórficas de la flora.

Como parte de la serie Memoria de la Cuerda, Julie Poitras Santos crea en Bordón una cuerda en papel y hule. La cuerda colgante provoca un sentimiento extraño – una meditación sobre la muerte. Las formas negras, superimpuestas. están enredadas. La acción repetitiva de poner capas enfatiza un método sistemático ad infinitum. En Retorno, ella hace una red de goma que da vueltas como las autopistas de Los Angeles.

Con la acumulación diaria de papel periódico cortado en tiras en Tiempo y Espacio, Hrafnhildur Sugyrdardottir trata el continuum del espacio y el tiempo. En Teta de Bruja, una pieza tejida en forma de circulo con un pezón caído, se refiere al prototipico seno. Margaritas blancas, asemejando senos, pululan en la alfombra verde. Juntando los temas del cuerpo y la flora, ellas evocan a los senos. En esta obra, Sugyrdardottir se refiere a la canción de Pete Seeger llamada A donde se han ido todas las flores? Este es un homenaje a todos los muertos de la actual guerra en Iraq.

En Súbete a la Onda, Patricia Tinajero-Baker tejió círculos giratorios con el material interior de los cassettes de VHS uniéndolos por hilos blancos. Según Tinajero-Baker, esta obra esta inspirada en la sempiterna onda acuática, y sirve como metáfora a la interconexión humana. De la serie Cosas que Caen entre el Cielo y el Suelo, la Carrera de las Estacas es una instalación hecha de estacas de madera con banderines coloridos tejidos al crochet. Adheridos a la parte superior, tazas y sombreritos pululan la pared. Como una cerca definiendo linderos, este es un comentario a la usurpación de la tierra en el Viejo Oeste.

La obra Sin Titulo, Jacha Yoo utiliza representaciones de peluches como Winnie the Poo y el Gato Félix. Estos despiertan un sentimiento extraño. La caja rectilínea contrasta con el vacío de los peluches, pero lo que acrecienta un raro sentimiento son las orejas cortadas pegadas al fondo de la caja. Las orejas cortadas aluden a un sentimiento de alineación. La obra de Yoo indica como los recuerdos de los sueños de la niñez resurgen.

El Entretejer del Tiempo nos demuestra un comentario sofisticado de la repetición y el tiempo. Aunque, los artistas están trabajando como un colectivo en lo concerniente a lo fenomenológico el resultado es ecléctico, e inspirador. Una colaboración de esta clase solo podría ser posible hoy gracias a los avances en comunicación en esta era global. Esta exposición refleja un tratamiento Borgesiano en el cual las diferentes avenidas tomadas han hecho posible otra realidad artística.

On Renewal: Yagul by Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta
Imagen de Yagul (Image from Yagul), 1973
Lifetime color photograph
20 x 13 1/4” (50.8 x 33.7 cm)
Collection Hans Breder
Original documentation: 35 mm color slide

Cuban American artists Ana Mendieta (1948 - 1985) created the photograph Imagen de Yagul (Image from Yagul) in 1973. She lies naked at the bottom of a shallow, rocky grave. Her face and torso are covered by stalks of delicate, white flowers that seem as if they are stemming out her body. she is placed perpendicularly with her arms set along her body while her hands slightly touch her thighs. She has her legs extended and close to each other. The skin’s fleshy tones contrast with the rough surface of the ground and freshness of the flowers. Colors are used sparingly. Whites, grays and blacks in the work are subdued, except for the vivid green vegetation. On the dirt floor, small weeds, twigs and pebbles surround her body. Angular and irregular stones built the tomb. The surface is rough, dark gray like volcanic material and whitish like calcareous limestone. The tomb is in the ancient site of Yagul from the Zapotec culture. Yagul is one of the smaller archeological sites in the Oaxaca area.

Imagen de Yagul is the first of Mendieta’s Siluetas photograph series. Using her body to create this work, she increasively began to trace it as the series built up. Allusions to life, death and regeneration are conveyed through the composed visual elements. The artist’s body represents life, and the promise of regeneration is signified by the blossoming plant. By choosing this tomb as the site of her work , Mendieta made a direct allusion to death. Nearby Yagul is Mitla, the City of the Dead, where the cult to death springs from. Life and death are aspects of the same process. The belief that death is a regenerative process was pervasive in ancient Mesoamerican tradition and is still part of the Mexican cultural legacy. In reference to this philosophical view understood as a concept of Duality, Mexican writer Octavio Paz expresses, “The opposition between life and death was not so absolute to the ancient Mexicans as it is to us. Life extended into death, and vice versa. Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of the infinite cycle.
Life, death and resurrection were stages of a cosmic process which repeated itself continuously.” Mendieta would have been also inspired by the work Roots of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo where themes of life, death and renewal are addressed as the subject matter. In Roots, Kahlo’s body in depicted as a transformed tree with roots deep into the earth. According to Olga Viso in Ana Mendieta; Earth Body, referring to Mendieta’s works” The Arbol de la Vida (Tree of Life) became a theme she would explored throughout her career as she adopted the theme of rebirth to her own interpretive ends (51).” By working in Mexico, Mendieta was searching to come to terms with her own Cuban cultural heritage.
Lucy Lippard in “Quite Contrary: Body, Nature, Ritual in Women’s Art” says that Mendieta’s body tracings are driven by a desire to reconnect with her ancestral origins through direct contact with the earth,” By choosing Yagul as a working site, Mendieta made a direct connection to the past of the ancient people of Mesoamerica. For Mendieta, Mexico became her surrogate country. By staying in Mexico, she felt closer to her own land, Cuba, and by working in ancient Mesoamerican archeological sites it was her way of connecting and paying homage the Tainos, the ancestral people of the Caribbean. Lippard also refers to Santeria , the Catholic and Yoruba syncretic religious practice that “holds the belief that the earth is a living thing from which one gains power.”Mendieta understood this belief as a source of empowerment, and she consciously tried to convey it through her works.

In the book Ana Mendieta: a book of works, a posthumous compilation of Mendieta’s notes and works created in Cuba, she talks about her vision in relation to her own art practice by saying, “Art must have begun as nature itself, in a dialectical relationship between humans and the natural world from which we cannot be separated.” For Mendieta, the creation of her works was an intellectual pursuit, and yet it was at once a synthesis produced by her cultural heritage. She created works of deep sensibility to materiality and to what its intangible. In this manner, Mendieta synthesized nature, culture, belief and art. Coming from Cuba, she was informed by her own cultural background; however, she was influenced not only by Kahlo’s artistic production, but also she was imbued by Mesoamerican cultural beliefs of life and death and renewal.

Conozca Mexico by Jonathan Hernandez

Jonathan Hernandez
based in Mexico City.

Jonathan Hernandez’s art practice has been an ongoing exploration of the urban space in the streets of Mexico City. From postcards to photography, installation to video-performance, Hernandez investigates the impact and repercussions of living in contemporary society. He makes a direct critique by presenting the viewer with images in which the artist himself serves as a witness to a quasi touristic experience. Through his works, he represents the social, economic and political factors that put in motion the machinery one of the biggest cities in a globalized society.

In Conozca Mexico Hernandez confronts the viewer with four vistas of Mexico City which the artist presents as a series of postcards and four C- prints. These views that he portrays are not the characteristic touristic sites which an ordinary visitor can visit. With the project Conozca Mexico, Hernandez instigates visitors to learn aspects of the city that would not be included in their leisurely activity. In fact, these postcards point to dysfunctional details of Mexico City. Like blind spots these sites mark interstitial spaces that indicate the failure of economic progress. It is also a comment on the clash between developed nations and so called developing countries. These images are indicative of the historical layered construction of Mexico City from which outbursts of the absurd act as disruptive devices of a hybrid culture.

Hernandez has presented his work in solo exhibitions, Bon Voyage at Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain; 2002. Traveling Without Moving at Galeria del Aeropuerto de la Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico in 2002, and The World Is Yours at Galerie im Parkhaus in Berlin, 2001. He has participated in numerous group shows in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, like Universal Experience: Art, Life; The Tourist’s Eye in 2005

What does a Woman Want?

Highlights of the exhibition

”The great question that has never been answered and which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul is “What does a woman want?”
Sigmund Freud

This exhibit explores issues of desire a postmodern woman encounters in this global era. Through the artworks presented, this show also attempts to find out what is it a woman really wants. Taking Sigmund Freud’s question What does a Woman Wants? as a point of departure, this exhibit attempts to define desire from a woman’s perspective. Merriam-Webster defines desire as “a strong sexual feeling or appetite.” Further, to want means “wanting something or wishing something to happen,” intrinsic to it is the idea of something missing. This points to a woman’s lack to which Freud gave his phallic interpretation.

In Para besarte mejor (The Better to Kiss You With), a video-performance, Jessica Lagunas puts lipstick on her lips for an hour. The work’s title is inspired in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The artist deals with issues of desire, and seduction. Lagunas’ exercise becomes futile turning masquerade and seduction into a parody.

Lina Puerta’s Frustraciones y deseos (Desires and Frustrations) is an installation of stoneware clay, ink, and found objects. Placed in a bucket, vulva shapes filled with small dolls and cowry shells allude to the concepts of fertility and women as the bearers of children.

My Gestalt by Maria Díaz is a scan rendition of her own vagina. A lithography printed on wall paper, and red ink is flipped 180 degrees. Once digitalized, this organic image turns into geometric forms. Based on Gestalt psychology, it reveals female genitalia images for public display.

Patricia Tinajero in This is What I Really Want! shows a scale covered with spotted skin of a feline animal. The image depicts part of a woman’s feet standing on the scale. In this artwork, Tinajero deals with issues of body image and today’s obsession with body weight.

Camilla Newhagen’s Flowers of Iraq is an installation of white daisies spread on the wall like a patch of flowers. As a homage, Newhagen dedicates each petal to a child killed in the Iraqi war. Made of Venetian lace, this work alludes to war, death, and destruction, but it also refers to nature, renewal and hope.

In Fabricated Dreams, Paz de la Calzada presents a digital print of a woman’s arm holding a hair dryer. Made of fabric, the hair dryer is symbolic of the phallus. The artist with wry humor appropriates a beauty object which stands for male power to call attention to gender issues.

Hrafnhildur Sigurðardóttir in Time Out displays three sleeveless shirts hanging on a string. Made of Japanese, rice paper, these intricate, diaphanous cutout shapes refer to absent female bodies. This point to art historical underpinnings where the absent women are reminiscent of the Three Graces in classical art. They are taking a break as if they just want to be left alone.

The objects presented in What does a Woman Wants? offer complex responses to the issue of desire. The artists above in sophisticated ways not only address desire, but they also convey their preoccupations with social, and political aspects. Revealing a feminist sensibility, these contemporary artworks appeal to a global audience demonstrating that they lack nothing at all.

Cecilia Nuín --curator

Participating Artists: Blanka Amezkua Susu Attar Paz del la Calzada Maria Díaz Gina Jacupke Jessica Lagunas Camilla Newhagen Lina Puerta Hrafnhildur Sigurðardóttir Anna Simson Patricia Tinajero Cristina Velázquez