Monday, February 20, 2012

Les bancs publics*

What would you do if you were stuck in Mexico City on a Monday?

Few weeks ago, I was stuck in Mexico City for one day, on a Monday.

On the plane, the night before, I had read attentively my guide and was truly excited by the perspective of visiting the many museums that the city possesses.  Unfortunately, I did not pay attention to a small but essential detail: almost all the museums of Mexico City are closed on Mondays.

Goodbye Templo Mayor. 

Adios Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Au revoir Museo Mural Diego Rivera and Museo Nacional de Antropologia.

Luckily, the Catedral Metropolitana was opened. So was the Torre Latinoamericana (a small version of the Empire State Building).  My day was not completely wasted although at that point I was pissed off.

At the hotel desk, I asked for the best way to get to the Catedral Metropolitana.

“Can I hail a cab?”
“I don’t recommend because of the abductions.”
“Can I take the subway then?”
“I don’t recommend it either.”
“So, can I walk?”
“It’s too far.”
“What do you suggest then?”
“You can use the services of the hotel cab.”

I felt trapped but since I had heard so many things about this city I did not take any chance and resolved myself on the last solution.

I am not fond of cathedrals and churches and my visit of the Catedral Metropolitana was expeditious.  So was my visit of the Torre Latinoamericana.  By the way, I still don’t understand the interest of the latter.

As I was growing more and more upset I decided that I needed a good walk.  I first headed to the Monumento de la Revolucion.  Snap, snap.  Done.  Then I made up my mind to try the Museo Ripley, which was opened to my greatest surprise.  Of course, it does not compare to the Museo Mural Diego Rivera but I had fun seeing a Mona Lisa made from 60 pieces of toast and walking in the tunnel that imitates the physical effects of an earthquake (avoid any Starbucks before).

My biggest surprise was yet to come.  I walked to the Paseo de la Reforma and there, I could not believe my eyes: a playing cards bench.  This was not on the guide!  I ran and sat there for a while just enjoying this crazy arty bench.

Who would expect to assist to such a street art exhibition in Mexico City, all the more for free and physically accessible?

Walking along the Paseo de la Reforma I discovered that the playing cards bench was one amongst many other arty benches (70 benches total) representing either a couple or a sofa set made of steel and bronze. 

I was eventually happy that the museums were closed because otherwise I doubt that I had had the time to enjoy all the benches of Paseo de la Reforma. 

Intrigued, I made some research and learnt that this incredible art exhibition is part of a project initiated in 2007 by Isaac Masri, called “Dialogo de bancas” (Benches Dialogue).  The idea behind this atypical exhibition was to favor the dialogue between Mexicans.  As Masri said, it has no other claim but to “offer seats for people to sit down and talk”.

Amongst the artists who participated in this project there was Leonora Carrington, who died last year.

So if you ask me what I would do if I were stuck in Mexico City on a Monday I would answer to you that I would enjoy a Bench Dialogue.

Alda Mori

* Les amoureux des bancs publics - G. Brassens

Sunday, February 12, 2012

200 Pesos Art

La Novia del Viejo by Ricardo Tames

Mexico.  Playa del Carmen.
5th Avenue.  The Habana Cafe.  One night.
Half laying on a red stained couch, I am smoking a hookah.
Slowly, really slowly, I am savoring every scented puff.  The sweat smell of the apple smoke blown out of the pipe softly invades my delighted nostrils.  I feel calm and alone despite the surrounding tourists’ mayhem.
It’s the power of the hookah.
Salsa rhythms from everywhere no longer reach my ears.  It’s a moment of self-awareness.  I think about nothing.  I just feel each beat of my heart and enjoy every pulse of my dying life.  Pure bliss.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man’s voice breaks off my trance.  Fuck!  It must be one of those guys who wants to sell me one of those horrible colorful bracelets. Worst, a mariachi.
But no, this time it’s not a street dealer.  This time, it’s a young guy. 
He says he’s a photographer. 
He says he’s selling pictures.
He says he has a portfolio.
He asks me where do I come from.
Oh!  What a coincidence!  One of his pictures represents a roaster.  He tells me that French tourists love this picture, that they buy it.
I tell him that I don’t and that I won’t.
I want to peruse the book.  With my own eye. At my own pace.  Like a hookah.  My eyes melt.  This mofo is talented.
One of the pictures called “La novia del Viejo” catches my eye. There is something of a Diane Arbus’ picture, the one representing a transvestite at a drag ball***.  Same weirdness. Same humanity.
He says he also takes conceptual photographs.
Let’s see. Hum.  Yes, he is gifted.
How much?  200 pesos.  3 pictures, 200 pesos*.
Shit!  The price of my hookah. I really want them not only because I like his work but also because I find it inspiring to see this artist working hard to promote his art knowing that most of the time the people he will meet do not give a damn about his conceptual shots.
I must also say that I am angry. Mad.  Because today it’s about money and network.  Not about pure talent. Not about art and the love of it.
Ricardo gives me the three pictures I want. I tell him that I will leave an envelope containing 200 pesos at the desk of La Tortuga.  He trusts me. 
Ricardo Tames**. It’s his name.

Alda Mori

*200 pesos = approx. 18$ / 15 euros

***Transvestite at a drag ball, N.Y.C, 1970 by Diane Arbus