Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
HaCkeD by MuhmadEmad
KurDish HaCk3rS WaS Here
FUCK ISIS !
Saturday, April 11th, 2009
The everyday in Tokyo, I loved it all: its handsome men, beautiful women, the androgyny of some, their sense of respect and modesty, but also their conspicuous consumerism. The city’s old places. New architecture. Sparkling metro. Cherry Blossoms. The weight of history, sight of futures and melancholy peeking felt at once. Much enjoyed. Flavors with tamed exoticism, constant rituals, the expansive urban ‘scape and population density. That intensity. And more than anything, the cultural opacity yet indeterminate lightness.
Visits to what became preferred sites felt like village secrets. The largest city in the world suddenly shrunk, more personable in its less popular spaces, in places of exquisite taste and intimate surroundings. Memorable: lunch of soba noodles at Keyaki Kurosawa, one of four restaurants in Tokyo inspired by the family recipes of the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Known not only for his legendary films like Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1954), Kurosawa, I learned then, was famous for his deep interest and practice of native culinary art. I realized, though, that I probably better understand Kurosawa films than Japanese food, and that my eyes are better trained than my paladar. Memorable, too: late-night drinks at a private bar, allegedly, Nagisa Yoko’s, sited in small alley in Shinjuku Sanchōme neighboring various petite membeship clubs of the kind.
Another delight: Center for Cosmic Wonder, a space founded by Osaka-based artist Yukinori Maeda. Since the mid-1990s, Maeda has been creating artworks all the while making a fashion line that goes by the name Cosmic Wonder Light Source. The space combines his practice with collaborative productions, such as Cosmic Wonder Free Press, of which three issues have been published by Nieves in Switzerland. The first space opened in Osaka, and a couple of years ago another one was established in Tokyo’s Aoyama, in one of the many alley streets behind the avenue where Issey Miyaki, Prada and Comme des Garçons and other high-end boutiques are sited.
The Center for Cosmic Wonder is neither an art gallery nor boutique, nor is it Light Source’s signature shop or a concept store by Maeda. But it seems to function like all of them at one point or the other. In its minimal white-cube garage area is a video projection of a Cosmic Wonder performance in Paris. Trough the back door, a garden trail connects that gallery with a high-ceiling, bright-but-soft-lit space that has rotating perimeter walls hiding closets; a large mirror cube placed on the ground that like a vault carries jewelry; a rack made of a rock sculpture with bended steel holds a handful of clothing items. The space has occult references no doubt, and is openly theatrical. Its air brings to mind a de-saturated Kenneth Anger sky, and arrangements an adaption set in Scharder’s Mishima—but, in any case, in movement by a play of light, conceptual transparency and willful opacity.
Thanks to the people who introduced me to these sites, Andrew Maerkle, Mami Kataoka, Elisa Uematsu and Jeffrey Rosen, and to Doryun Chong for helping me find places in town.
Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
The year of our visit must have been 1983. Maybe ‘86. At some eight years of age, the sight of the Mennonites was simply incomprehensible. Our arrival to their settlement in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua was preceded by a longer trip that had taken us to colonial towns and cities in central Mexico. The northern part of Mexico, however, is pretty vast and desolate, and the drive to Cuauhtémoc had been a calm visual experience of arid deserts, somewhat later fertile flatlands with impending mountain regions as the backdrop. It was a cloudy day when we visited. The sky was gray and the few trees and wide grass sparkled against that and its shaded humid soil. Had we crossed a sea to arrive at a different country or made a trip to a century of yore?
Memories of my first travels within Mexico still linger. These were weeks-long family road trips on winter and summer vacations to discover the landscape and culture of our nation. The journeys were organized according to regions, and involved stopping at historic sites, natural reservoirs, museums of all types and any other weird place that had been for one reason or another important to the history of Mexico. It was the eighties, with a widespread sense of rescue and melancholy in both high and popular culture. I take that we were unknowingly experiencing the new appreciation of regionalisms and micro-histories welcomed by postmodernism. During these travels, it wasn’t hard to notice that from state to state the landscape was so radically distinct and varied; the architecture of buildings and physiognomy of people none the least. Ahh, difference, always triggering moments of culture shock, and only sometimes in subtle ways. One significant at that time was our encounter with the Mennonites in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico.
The first group of Mennonites had settled in Cuauhtémoc during the 1920s. It was a group of a couple thousands coming primarily from Canada, where most families had spent less than a century after having emigrated from Russia in the late-1800s, and Prussia beforehand. Since their settlement in Mexico and up until the 1970s, Cuauhtémoc and its population was a time capsule. The Mennonites had chosen to base their communities on the teachings of religion, and their economy on the principles of a strong work ethic and a self-sustainable agricultural model. There was a resistance to adapt languages other than its own (now considered a German dialect) or use basic technology like electricity. The closure of the community led to the perpetuation of a single race, as well as the use of traditional if common dress. The look: white skinned, blue-eyed and blonde haired; men wearing overalls and woman long-dresses. Things have been slowly changing since the 1970s, when the interpretation of the original concession of the Mennonites in Mexico was legally questioned and amended. What had seemed to be a state within a state began opening and transforming.
Since our trip to Chihuahua, I had not encountered Mennonites until some weeks ago when I saw Silent Light (2007) a new film written and directed by Mexican Carlos Reygadas. His films are unique in Mexico’s contemporary movie industry for his inclusion of non-actors and the quality of his contemplative and paused images. Even when there is much action, still frame or slow zooms dominate in his scenes, setting a tension between admiration and voyeaurism, invisibility and intrusion. Silent Light takes these characteristics to extremes. The film is written in the language practiced by Mennonites, a German dialect known as Plautdietsch, and shot in Chihuahua, Mexico. It deals with the difficult subject of tolerance and hopes surrounding the story of an extra-marital love affair in a Mennonite family, and addresses the despair there is in the belief and pursuit of purity. With a key citational reference to a resurrection Silent Light elegantly rubs on magic realism, but keeps it away from the genre and concerned with contemporary narrative structures by cinematically reenacting a scene of Ordet (1955) by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Uncannily passionate, awkwardly quiet and yet filled with emotion, Silent Light is beautiful.
Image above from the film Silent Light (2007) by Carlos Reygadas.
Monday, March 10th, 2008
I flew direct from Buenos Aires to Mexico City on Friday, and spent a busy weekend attending family commitments and social events. Of course, there were other activities, too: on Saturday, visits to Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky and La Casa Azul of Frida Khalo, both house-museums in Coyoacan. On Sunday, the afternoon was devoted to exhibitions. At the Museo Rufino Tamayo, most of the museum was dedicated to a solo exhibition of Wolfgang Tilmans, guest-curated and organized by Domenic Molon and Douglas Fogle. There was also an exhibition of a new installation of Thomas Hirschhorn; one of the museum curators, Tatiana Cuevas, organized this project. I was also tempted to visit the formerly-sleepy Museum of Modern Art (MAM), across the street from the Tamayo, as it is now directed by Osvaldo Sanchez, former artistic director of inSITE. There were numerous exhibitions at the MAM, two particularly memorable. One of them was a small but beautiful exhibition of Spanish-born painter Remedios Varo (1908-1963). Varo emigrated to Mexico in 1941 as a political exile and lived there for most of her life. Her exhibition included a series of beautifully illustrated drawings and paintings, filled with ghosts, doubles and other fantasmagorical references of the otherworldly. The works were collected by Varo’s late husband, Walter Gruen, who donated them to MAM. The other excellent exhibition was of the MAM’s collection guest-curated by the art historian James Oles. His curatorial address privileged “realism,” and the selection of works emphasized the cultural concern and ultimately paradigm of shaping modern Mexico, with the protagonist many times representing a community, the worker, and the common man and woman. While it was a collection exhibition, it was complemented by artworks on loan from other collections.
In the evening, I attended Anselm Franke’s program for unitednationsplaza, “an exhibition as school” that originated in Berlin and is sited for a month at Casa Refugio in Mexico City. unitednationsplaza is created by Anton Vidokle, and this new, month-long iteration of the project in Mexico is organized by the Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo (PAC). (Concurrently, Night School, a year-long version of unitednationsplaza, is taking place at the New Museum in New York.) Franke’s seminar was titled From Animism to Animation: Moving Image in Modern Culture, and focused on the work of Sergie Eisenstein. The evening was briefly introduced by Franke, followed by a lecture by Oksana Bulgakowa. As part of her presentation, Bulgakowa screened excerpts of a biopic on Eisenstein that she co-directed with Dietmar Hochmuth. The documentary was informative and provided much biographical depth on Eisenstein, from his family background to his incursions in theatre and eventually cinema. Sadly, the DVD jammed during the run and little did we get to learn about the makings of Eisenstein’s unfinished film Qué Viva Mexico!
Esentstein’s Qué Viva Mexico! has been the subject of numerous research-based works in Mexico. So much that even at James Oles’ exhibition, La colección: el peso del realismo at MAM, for example, an excerpt of the Eisenstein’s footage was included in the exhibition. Mexico City-based curator Olivier Debroise wrote and directed Un banquete en Tetlapayac (2000). A kind of film reenactment to address historical aspects of the original, Olivier’s film was staged at Tetlapayac, the hacienda that served as location of Eisenstein’s film. (Art historian James Oles was an actor in Debrois’ film, as were curator Cuauhtémoc Medina, and artists Andrea Fraser and Silvia Gruner, among others active in the art field today.)