DE ARCHIVOS Y REDES es un proyecto de producción artística a partir de la integración y reactivación de archivos de la artista visual mexicana Mónica Mayer. El objetivo del sitio es documentar el proyecto y establecer un espacio de reflexión y diálogo en torno a temas como arte, archivo, activismo y feminismo. El proyecto consta de las siguientes “visitas” a archivos y/o centros de documentación, a partir de las cuales Mayer ha realizado distintas acciones:
VISITA AL ARCHIVO DE OLIVIER DEBROISE
VISITA AL ARCHIVO DE ANA VICTORIA JIMÉNEZ
VISITA AL ARCHIVO DE PINTO MI RAYA (a su vez subdividido en las acciones El Tour, El Taller y El Archivo Personal de Pinto mi Raya)
VISITA AL ARCHIVO DE EX TERESA
VISITA AL ARCHIVO DEL CHOPO
Cada uno de estos proyectos está documentado en este blog a manera de bitácora o diario de cada una de las visitas. En la columna derecha encontrará la liga a cada visita o, si prefiere seguir cronológicamente el proyecto y sus entrelazamientos, lo puede hacer siguiendo el calendario en la parte superior derecha.
Así mismo, en esta columna encontrará otros tres rubros: RED DE ARTE Y ARCHIVOS, PIEZAS SUELTAS y LA BITÁCORA. El primero documenta el proceso de crear una red de arte y archivos a lo largo del país como parte del proyecto y que se dio a través de diversas conferencias y cursos. En el segundo se documentan una serie de pequeñas piezas sueltas surgidas a partir del proyecto y en el último rubro se incluyen reportes de conferencias, exposiciones o eventos relacionados a los temas de arte y archivo.
Por último, en LINKS encontrará un listado de textos y otro de proyectos afines.
DE ARCHIVOS Y REDES dio inició en la ciudad de México en 2011.
In 2012, I began a project called On Archives and Networks which consisted in visiting a series of archives and reactivating some of their materials through art.
Foto Yuruen Lerma
For example, after visiting the archive of feminist editor and photographer Ana Victoria Jiménez who documented the early woman’s movement in Mexico, including the first prochoice demonstration, I organized a performance/demonstration in collaboration with the Activisim and Art Feminist Workshop (Taller de activismo y arte feminista) that reflected today’s wide variety of concerns on pregnancy and motherhood that range from inadequate sexual education for teenagers, to the death or disappearance of sons and daughters in the drug war. It has all been documented amply in Spanish in my blog. The project received a three year grant from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA) in Mexico.
In 2014 we were invited by Irene Tsatos to participate in a residency and exhibition at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California, USA. The idea was to share with local artists the Pinto mi Raya project which I founded with Victor Lerma in 1989 and whose core is an important archive on contemporary art and to exhibit a selection of documents. Given that one of my On Archives and Networks pieces was to revisit our own archive to reactivate its documents, the invitation came at the perfect timing. The project was sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of LA and it took place between April 27 and September 6, 2015.
The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena is a great place with wonderful exhibition spaces, an intense educational program and a lovely graphics department. When we heard they have the letterpress from the Woman’s Building on which Victor and I printed our wedding invitation back in 1980 as I was finishing their Feminist Studio Workshop two-year program, we decided to show documents from a series of very personal performances that began on the night of our marriage ceremony.
Víctor Lerma and I met at art school in Mexico in 1972. Originally from Tijuana, Victor had just arrived in Mexico from L.A. where he studied high-school and college. We began our relationship in 1975, 40 years ago. This seems to be a long, long time, but is not if you have had as much fun as we have.
The birth of Mrs. Lerma, the first performance in this series, took place during our wedding party in 1980. We have always been great believers in erasing the borders between life and art and vice versa. At the time we had no idea it would become a long term piece or that we would stay together for so many years. I won’t go into details because you can find the documentation of all the project in English here. It includes several performances and projects that deal with the idea of marriage and our personal relationship throughout the years. The exhibition, which was amply documented and can be seen here, included an enlarged version of this documentation, a case with different objects such as the original wedding invitation, the altered wedding invitation used in different performances, other memorabilia, and a video of our new performance in L.A.
Believe it or not, we had never participated in a residency.
They became popular in Mexico in early nineties and by that time we had small children, jobs, our personal art work and the Pinto mi Raya project, which made it very complicated for us to take off for even a couple of weeks.
This residency at the Armory can only be described as a trip down memory lane, which seemed appropriate given the fact that the whole project deals with revisiting the place where we lived so many years ago.
We had returned to L.A. a couple of times since the seventies, but only for short periods. Our intention during this visit was to search for documents to extend our archive, which actually includes many files from the time we both spent in L.A. such my journal from the first feminist art workshop I took in 1976 with Judy Chicago, Arlene Raven and Sheila De Brettville, or documents from Suzanne Lacy’s Making it Safe piece in which I participated. It was also the perfect time to meet up with friends and relatives we hadn’t seen in decades and to feel the space again. Documents and memories would go hand in hand. And last, but not the least, we would meet with other people interested in art and archives.
We arrived in L.A. on April 26, 2015 and the very next day we visited our schools.
Our first stop was the Woman’s Building, a place which revolutionized contemporary art both because of what it meant to feminist art and as one of the origins of what today we call relational art, social practice and artivism. I remembered it as a vibrant space, full of art and activism. Today the building houses artists’ studios and it looks dirty and abandoned. Maybe we went there at the wrong time. Probably some memories are best not confronted with the present.
On the other hand, we were impressed by the improvements at Roosevelt High School, where Victor studied. He hadn’t been there since the 60’s. As we walked through the facilities, he was surprised by everything that was new to him, such as the swimming pool. It was interesting to walk through the halls and see the display cabinets for every decade the institution has existed. I love it when institutions take their own history seriously. We ended at the library where we consulted old yearbooks. In the 90’s Victor lost his copies during a flood in Tijuana which affected his parent’s house. We were unable to buy copies, but we did take a lot of pictures.
Our next stop was inevitable. We went to Philippe’s which is the same as always. It looks and tastes the same. Some things never change.
I was surprised by how many of our memories from L.A. relate to food and/or with the experience of sharing it. We wanted to go to the little vietnamese place near our apartment, but its gone. However, we did visit Canters Deli (where we used to eat a whole corned beef sandwich each but today had more than enough with one for both of us) and to a wonderful place in Little Tokyo we found when we came to the openning of the WACK: ART AND THE FEMINIST REVOLUTION show in 2007, whose name I don´t recall, but whose noodles I love. We clearly don’t have this type of images in our archive from the 70’s.
We did, of course, return to the places where we once lived. We went to Tamarind Av. and saw our small one bedroom apartment from the outside. It was the first place where we ever lived together. All of our furniture came from the things Víctor brought from the insurance salvage company where he worked when we first moved to L.A. Later on he worked at a store on Rodeo Drive where he upholstered closets for rich people and as an interpreter for legal and medical cases. His could write a book on his experiences. His notes are in our archive.
We also drove to the house in Boyle Heights where Victor lived with his grandmother in the 60’s. An old lady was sitting in the patio, enjoying the warm afternoon under a huge loquat tree. We got out of the car to talk to her. She was friendly and told us she had lived there many years, but couldn’t remember Virginia, Victor’s grandmother. I felt photographing her would be an intrusion, so I only got the house from afar.
That same day we had our first meeting at the Armory to finish seeing details of the exhibition and the performance we were doing the next day, which was one of the project’s main elements.
The idea for the piece we wanted to do in LA was simple. Both Victor and I are now officially “old” and hopefully wise. We both have our Mexican senior citizens ID, so we figured we wanted to hear the experiences of other couples who had also shared many years together. We decided to dress as we have in other performances: I wore his clothes and he wore mine. The only ornament in the apartment was the small table in the living room, which had an assortment of wedding cake figures and fake flowers and candles which we brought from Mexico which clearly represented the traditional, limited, image of what a couple is in terms of class, race, religious and sexual diversity.
Our guests were Cheri Gaulke & Sue Maberry, Joey Forsyte & Alex Kritselis, and Dino Dinco & Rafa Esparza, who shared their feelings and ideas generously. We knew Cheri and Sue from the Woman’s Building in the 70’ and we met Rafa a couple of years ago when he came to Mexico with Rubén Martínez and Raquel Esparza with the project La Guerra de los dos lados in 2013 on which I wrote about in this blog back then. Joey, Alex and Dino were kind enough to participate without even knowing us. Irene Tsatsos and Sinead Finnerty-Pyne from the Armory were also present during the dinner and gracefully helped us with the production and documentation.
We began by telling them a bit about ourselves, our work and this particular project, underlining that we are not interested in promoting marathonic relationships, but in discussing their characteristics. For us, for example, the fact that we have been present during most of each other’s life is very important, even in terms of our memories. Victor remembers things about my life I have forgotten. We joke around saying we are each other’s external drive. We mentioned that although by now we are supposed to have answers, we actually have more questions which we would like to discuss with them. These are some of them:
What constitutes a long-term relationship for you? Does it have to do with time or with the proportion of your life?
Did you start out thinking of having a long-term relationship or when did you realize it was?
What are the advantages and the disadvantages of long-term relationships?
Mention practical and/or emotional things you like/dislike of long-term relationships?
Do you have other long-term relationships, for example with family members, your work, your community or a place? Is it your modus operandi in life or an exception?
What would be some of the things that help have this kind of relationships? Do your neurosis clinch? Respect? Fun? A feeling of being family?
What advice would you give others who want to have long-term relationships?
If you also work together, what is it like?
Do you have a name as a couple?
The conversation flowed, and so did the laughter. We had a great time. The whole session was taped and shown during the exhibition, but the real archive is in our memories and hearts.
In the end we enjoyed a wedding cake, intervened with the figures.
And, to keep up with the times, we took some selfies.
And yes, we know this piece may seem corny and uncool in terms of art world standards in Mexico and the US, but fortunately we are old enough not to care.
We had set the dates of our stay in LA to coincide with the two-day conference LA / LA. Place and Practice which would bring together many Chicano, Latino and Mexican artists to discuss the participation of these different communities within the art world in the region. We wanted to hear what they had to say and we knew many of our friends would be participating, so we signed up immediately.
The day before we left for LA I received a mail from Bill Kelley Jr. inviting me to participate in a panel called “Naming: Criticism and Case Studies” at the conference because one of their panelists was unable to attend. I was terrified. Obsessive as I am, I usually prepare my participations well in advance, but I accepted because I really wanted to be part of this conversation. Since I am completely ignorant about how criticism and the press have dealt with Latino artists in the region, I decided to talk about something I do know about: inSite as seen by art writers in Mexico City. 1992 – 2005. Lucky for me, installation biennials is one of the themes we have compiled and separated into a category in our ample Pinto mi Raya newspaper article collections, so it was very easy to find the material, take it with me to LA and work on the talk in the spare time between performing, visiting archives and places, doing research and meeting friends and colleagues.
You can see the material I used to illustrate the talk here, but I will summarize my participation: although it was surprising that so many critics from Mexico City wrote about the inSite because newspapers usually don’t cover their travel expenses and they pay so little there is no way critics can afford it, it was more surprising how touristy many of their remarks were, both in terms of how impressed they seemed by things like the traffic in the border and how unaware or indifferent they were about the absence of Chicano and Latino artists.
It was wonderful to attend this conference and learn more about different past and present projects in the region. We listened to many people we know and respect, such as Sandra de la Loza, Raquel Gutiérrez, Nao Bustamante, Ricardo Dominguez, Rubén Ortiz-Torres, Rafa Esparza, Mariana Botey, Lucía Sanromán, Teddy Cruz, Carribean Fragoza and Romeo Guzmán and others we had heard of but only met, such as Sharon Mizota, Luis C. Garza, Ondine Chavoya, Patricia Valencia, David Avalos and Carmen Argote, among others. You can read a review by Selene Preciado here.
The part of our visit to L.A. to review and extend the materials of our archive was full of visits to friends, family and colleagues.
We met Amelia Jones because she kindly accepted to write for the catalogue of my upcoming exhibition at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City on February 2016. In the publication we will be sharing a series of letters we have since been writing to each other about documentation, art, archives, feminism, class and context.
We saw Victor’s cousins Olivia, Marta y Lourdes, as well as Alicia, their mother, whom he had not seen in 40 years. We also saw my cousin Daniel and his wife Vicky in San Diego, whose conversations are always amazing. I wonder if there is anyone in Mexico who doesn’t have a cousin in the U.S.
We had dinner with our dear friends Father Vincent Schwahn and his husband Juan José Colin and talked “largo y tendido” about communities in LA, about social change, about family, about Mexico and about life. It was a wonderful evening.
We were also had the pleasure of enjoying the hospitality and meeting with friends and colleagues such as Ken Ehrlich, Janet Sarbanes, Sandra de la Loza, William Acedo, Jerri Alyn, Cheri Gauke, Sue Maberry, Cindy Kahn, Carmen Cebreros. It was really quite wonderful.
The visit was also full of museums and galleries: LACE, MOCA, 17th Street Art Center, LACMA, the Hammer and the Norton Simon. Professional adictions.
One of our most interesting activities during the residency was attending the final review sessions at OTIS. It was like meddling into someone else’s conversation. The student’s presented their master's projects, but not as they would to someone who had not seen their work before which is what happens at professional exams in Mexico, but, as it was, to their teachers who had followed their process for a long time. In this kind of situation I would usually keep quiet and try to understand what was going on, but we were there to participate, so we awkwardly jumped into it. It was great to see the work of our young colleagues, particularly the pieces that were more politicized, dealing with issues of violence against women (Carol Zou) or what seems to be a really complicated situation: student’s university loans (Noé Gaytan).
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