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Film Programme

Sergej Eisenstein. Mexikanskaja Fantasija

Friday, 5. October 2012 - 22:00

In December 1930, Sergej Eisenstein went to Mexico to create an epic film on the past and future of the country: Pre-Columbian Mexico with its ancient mysteries, Mexico with its villages hidden in virgin forests, its mores und customs, the exalted “Spanish” Mexico shaped by the culture of the conquerors, the tragic Mexico of the Díaz dictatorship, Mexico in revolt and Mexico marching into the 21st century. This large-scale project was never to reach fruition. Eisenstein stopped shooting and returned to Moscow without going through the mountains of material, which were left behind in America and remained there for years.

Oleg Kovalov‘s film Sergej Eisenstein. Mexikanskaja Fantasija (RU 1998), although it works primarily with Eisenstein’s material, is not an attempt to reconstruct this cinematic fresco but rather a free reflection on the theme of the unfinished film.

Sergej Eisenstein. Mexikanskaja Fantasija, Oleg Kovalov, RU 1998, 100 min

México Afuera (Mexico from the outside)

Saturday, 6. October 2012 - 19:30

by Peter Zorn  

Mexico fascinates. The initial impression on visitors is dominated on the one side by its exuberance, joie de vivre and hospitality, the colours and aromas of its markets, the magical natural landscape and its surreal capital. On the other side the brutal legacy of the conquistadores seems to blaze a brutal trail of blood across the country’s collective memory. This trail threatens to drag on. While the view from outside was conditioned by images of the conflict in Chiapas up to the turn of the millennium, it has been dominated since 2006 by the constant massacres and power struggles amongst the cartels, triggered by the so-called war against drugs.

The first cinematic view from outside is that of the Mexican migrants, a perspective by the way, that some EMARE MEX grant holders may have adopted during their stay. Victor Orozco completed his masters in 2012 with the documentary film maker Pepe Danquart at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg with an animated documentary based on Orozco’s own study sojourn casting a pained look at his homeland via computer screen. A bleeding bull fleeing the arena with painted-on wings, the shooting of a member of the drug cartel Zeta and scattered corpses of victims of a narco-terrorist attack. The reality of 2.0 internet stream and YouTube videos from Mexico is heightened to a schizophrenic mix of emotion and distance. Orozco concludes: “In Mexico the sun still shines more beautifully, but that just means the corpses rot more quickly.”

We could write a potentially endless list of artists inspired by Mexico. The three following films and videos are current examples, placing in view various facets of Mexican culture.

Bjørn Melhus’ films oscillate between homage and denunciation of American pop culture, especially Hollywood. This versatility has propelled the Berlin-based video artist, protagonist of his own films, to the status of rising star in the art scene. The result of his residency, timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence, is the film Hecho en México. The film references the increasing militarisation, violence and tension in Mexico today. With uniforms and toys from military and paramilitary units bought in the historical centre of Mexico City, Melhus plays a heavily armed warrior riding horseback through a Mexican forest accompanied by dramatic music. The first scene, which could have come straight out of Rambo 5, instead of concluding in the usual ejaculatory machine gun noise flows into a five minute loop, the typical video installation format. Just as Mexico seems to be trapped in a continuing cycle of violence, the poses and gestures of the warrior repeat endlessly as he gazes through his telescope at the remains of the deserted city on the day of judgement.

Skull and skeleton motifs frequently recur in the work of the Dutch master of punk animation collage, Martha Colburn. She collages found footage, employs the puppet animation style stop-motion, paints on glass and scratches and perforates the 16mm film to create distortions reminiscent of pop art. She likes to collaborate with punk as well as jazz musicians. Secrets of Mexuality, a fast paced animation collage of pictures of luchadores (wrestlers) and kitsch paintings, is overlaid with music by the Mexican avant-garde composer Felipe Waller. Sex, violence and death appear as the pillars of Mexican culture, quoted, cut up, scratched and painted over in rapid sequences. As archetypes of machismo, the luchadores are alternately inscribed with gender attributes like breasts and erect penises, and, like in Reality 2.0, the bullfight occurs as a central element of Latin American masculine culture.

In Soy mi madre, the British video, photo and performance artist Phil Collins (not the singer, but just as famous in the scene) heightens motifs from Mexican telenovelas into a humorous compound of all manner of relationship turns among a bourgeois Mexican family and their servants. The richly furnished chamber piece on 16mm film is full to bursting with melodramatic surprises and plot twists. Patricia Reyes Spíndola, Gina Morett, Verónica Langer and Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez, all well known faces from the daily telenovelas, play with aplomb every intrigue and scandal, stretching their native genre to breaking point. As Phil Collins says, this demonstrates “how gender and class identities are constructed in Mexican soaps, but also how replaceable the actors are in this genre”.

Peter Zorn

Director Movie

Phil Collins

(*1970)
Phil Collins

Phil Collins was born in Runcorn, UK, and is currently based in Berlin and Glasgow. His films, videos and photographic works have been shown in the museums, galleries and at film festivals around the world. He was one of the recipients of a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Visual Arts in 2001, and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2006.

 

soy mi madre

Relating to conceptual approaches to film and photography, Phil Collins investigates the nuances of social relations in various locations and global communities. In soy mi madre he works with telenovela, one of the most popular products of Latin America. It is a format that exploits the world market through the articulation and preservation of cultural difference, while at the same time serving as a powerful tool of self-representation and the re-signification of the continent’s colonial legacy. Shot in México City, soy mi madre is structured as a standard telenovela episode. The film is a tale of love, betrayal and family intrigue that explores the intricate power dynamics between unequals. A cast of leading Mexican television stars take turns at playing a spoilt mistress of the house and her resentful servants, with a dark family secret boiling under the surface and leading to an inevitably dramatic finale. Revolving around the ideas of role-playing and performance, masks and mirrors, symbols and rituals, soy mi madre posits social roles as volatile and unbalanced, defined by their inherent potential for theatricality and violence.

 

Victor Orozco Ramirez

(*1974, Mexico)
Victor Orozco Ramirez

Victor Orozco Ramirez was born in Mexico in 1974 and completed studies in industrial design at the University of Guadalajara.  In Guadalajara his installations and photography were shown for the first time in the artists’ studio "Gremioproarte" and in the Museum for Contemporary Art.

Ramirez has been living in Germany since 2003. He studied documentary film at the HfbK in Hamburg. Reality 2.0 is his post-graduate work. Since 2005, he has organised the short film festival "ambulart" in Mexico and Germany.

Reality 2.0

It was Autumn as I came to Germany. At this for me exotic place I thought I could distance myself a little from Mexico, but I was wrong. The narcos caught up with me in a brutal way.

A doc-animation about the endless spiral of drug-related violence in Mexico.

 

Martha Colburn

(*1971, Baltimore)
Martha Colburn

Martha Colburn (Baltimore, 1971) started out scratching and re-editing found footage 16mm educational films. She studied at the Institute College of Art in Baltimore and from 2000, she attended the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Colburn has worked on Super8 since 1995. Although Ms. Colburn's style is unmistakably her own, the scope of her work is broad and difficult to encapsulate; her expertise (especially in stop-motion animation) have led to teaching, speaking, and lectures at film forums and universities worldwide.

 

Secrets of Mexuality

In a dense and highly detailed way the film explores the specific realms of Mexican wrestling and kitsch paintings.

The film shows an animation of treated photo images and elementary forms (circles, lines and planes) which are edited along with driving and hectic jazz. The imagery is a collage of devils and skeletons, cocks and mother's milk, bare chests and breasts and touches the issues of sex, death and violence. Fast and jerky, the images undergo one treatment after another, giving rise to an associative vortex of kitschy Mexican sexuality.

Bjørn Melhus

(*1966, Germany)
Bjørn Melhus

Bjørn Melhus, born 1966, is a German-Norwegian media artist. His practice of fragmentation, destruction, and reconstitution of well-known figures, topics, and strategies of the mass media opens up not only a network of new interpretations and critical commentaries, but also defines the relationship of mass media and viewer anew. Originally rooted in an experimental film context, Bjørn Melhus's work has been shown and awarded at numerous international film festivals. 

Hecho En Mexico

Bjørn Melhus is one of Germany’s best-known short-film makers and media artists. In Hecho en México (Made in Mexico) he plays the role of a heavily armed deputy sheriff – a character inspired by traditional charros (cowboys) – who is trying to restore order in an increasingly militarised country. Regular police and official army troops are challenged by a range of paramilitary groups, militia and private security firms, while the distinctions between the various actors on the field become progressively blurred. Melhus’s work deals with the possibilities of a critical analysis of topics, figures and perceptive patterns that are invested and dictated by the media. The video Hecho en México was produced in the framework of the The Art of Independence: Contemporary Echoes (2010), a regional project organised by the Goethe Institute, which aims to initiate a dialogue between intellectuals and artists from Latin America and Germany.
Author: Inke Arns

 

México Adentro (Mexico from the inside)

Saturday, 6. October 2012 - 21:15

by Eva Sangiorgi

The programme opens with La pintura contrataca: Colección Primavera / Verano 2012 by Adriana Lara, a video clip for the new ad campaign of the brand that conquered the clothes market, the new season’s catchy vintage-style foulard which set the trend for this spring. We fell for it. For Adriana Lara, the creative act is inevitably linked to subtle irony. The title that inspired this work comes from an article published in a major Mexican newspaper. It refers to the attempt by some   Mexican art dealers to have painting reconquer the central place it once had as the official, institutional art; a role it lost when new forms of expression emerged, such as the art of the aforementioned artist. Self-irony. The article, however, implies another important aspect of it, translated in Adriana’s film into a shared critique: The art market imposes trends that move away from the theoretical or ideological discourse, provoking effects on a global scale. The result is an inevitable homologation and loss of local identity – in art as in the world of fashion. The film is the second part of a project begun in November 2011 with a fashion show/performance in a Mexico City gallery. On both occasions, the music was by Emilio Acevedo, who partnered Adriana Lara several years ago in an irreverent project of hers many of you will most likely remember: Lasser Moderna.

Nuevo Dragón City focuses on identity from an entirely different and surprisingly unique point of view. Who would expect to find a Chinese community in a Mexican video? However, it does refer to a local news event, in which a group of Mexican-Chinese teenagers barricaded themselves up in an abandoned building in Tijuana. It reflects a more diversified society than the folkloric, homogenous image this country has abroad. It is a hybrid world, like so many other parts of the world. The event itself, what these young people accomplished, is duplicated in the work of Sergio de la Torre. It portrays a reaction to the outside world from which they voluntarily isolate themselves because, somehow, they feel rejected. The film portrays an isolated group of people, incapable of adapting their identity to changes in social and historical circumstances. This group symbolizes border areas in general, typified by Tijuana on the US border; a place where Mexico’s relationship with its powerful northern neighbour is a constant matter of debate that simultaneously and paradoxically ignores another force already emerging within its own borders.

Fernando Palma Rodriguez comes from a Nahua community which became marginalised in the Mexican capital very early on. His work speaks of a reaction to ever-growing, homogenizing capitalism, a reaction whose goal is to encourage the original voices of native culture. In its artistic discourse, political and ideological critics use folklore to transcend localism and merge into global and technological culture (the artist studied engineering), to create a new mysticism imbued with a strong ironic charge. In Si no fuera por estos momentos, the coyote, a symbol of indigenous culture, turns into a new fetish, a symbol of this aggressive post-modern evolution and of a yet to be defined subculture. The video, filmed in 2000, has a nineties’-style aesthetics and an odd narrative structure built up of brief episodes and ritual dances. The coyote and strange robotic idols that move through the city and in sacred places of pre-Columbian culture are symbolic elements of a culture rooted in the past, in contact with people, yet willing – or forced – to wash windshields at intersections.

Therefore, the new mutant idol walks the streets of the city, the same streets we find in Sarah Minter's video, a visual symphony of Mexico City’s downtown area, from street vendors setting up shop to the interaction of the people there. The singsong voices and repetitive calling to prospective customers merge with the sound of the film to create the experience of this great city. Street Symphony emphasizes the noises and sounds that accompany daily activities, making them especially characteristic. The video, filmed a few years back, foresaw the extinction of this type of street life, already precarious. Though constantly scaled down, street vending represents the only “legal” alternative to unemployment for the lower class, and in a way, the video demands the right of the cities inhabitants to frequent their own streets. Images are repeated and fragmented in an attempt to portray the frenzy and density that characterize the megalopolis, as well as the energy and intensity of its historical downtown area.

Edgardo Aragón, who closes this part of the programme, is a young artist from Oaxaca. His film work deals with contemporary politics, the drug wars that devastate the country, and the social phenomena that affect Mexico. The gravity of the subject notwithstanding, the artist succeeds in placing distance between the events and the viewer, translating the former into theatre plays and mise-en-scène revealing the almost comical aspect of the situations depicted. Matamoros is the story of an old drug runner. The lead, Pedro Vázquez Reyes, gives a detailed account of encounters, exchanges and armed confrontations, giving each character their own voice with warmth and hilarity. Edgardo Aragón decides to re-enact on film the events as told, but the images don’t match the words exactly, creating between the story and us viewers a space capable of transposing the truculent, terrible anecdotes into a distant, absurd world. The surprise is that the story is based on an actual journey made by the artist’s father, who once carried drugs from Oaxaca to Tamaulipas by way of the US. Nonetheless, no moral judgment is made, and the images that go with the words are able to create a journey running parallel to that of the story, where the majesty of the landscape contrasts with the resignation of its inhabitants and with the commitments they are willing to take on in order to survive.

The following film, Efemérides, is also by Edgardo Aragón. The term refers to anniversary celebrations of historical events with patriotic significance. Three people read a text in front of the camera at the same time, rendering the words meaningless. The histrionics are emphasized by the frontal presentation and by the soldier who opens and closes the event by playing a trumpet. The few words we are able to grasp reveal that the text, written in an informal, vulgar language, is a public protest against the abuse of power by certain citizens. The irony is stated in the title itself: The people’s claim will not be heard by anyone and the government will do nothing in response to it. The result is rather funny and absurd.

This is merely an essay on work by contemporary artists in Mexico. The different films present a changing country and the political undertones are strong in every aspect. While aware of its limitations, this selection of works aims to represent such diversity. The claims and points the films have in common are varied, independent of the paths followed by their authors. The artists reflect upon their own country with great respect for the traditions that created it, not always hiding a sharp sense of irony.

Eva Sangiorgi

Director Movie

Edgardo Aragón

(*1985, Mexico)
Edgardo Aragón

Matamoros

Matamoros is the story of an old drug runner. The lead, Pedro Vázquez Reyes, gives a detailed account of encounters, exchanges and armed confrontations, giving each character their own voice with warmth and hilarity. Edgardo Aragón decides to re-enact on film the events as told, but the images don’t match the words exactly, creating between the story and us viewers a space capable of transposing the truculent, terrible anecdotes into a distant, absurd world. The surprise is that the story is based on an actual journey made by the artist’s father, who once carried drugs from Oaxaca to Tamaulipas by way of the US. Nonetheless, no moral judgment is made, and the images that go with the words are able to create a journey running parallel to that of the story, where the majesty of the landscape contrasts with the resignation of its inhabitants and with the commitments they are willing to take on in order to survive.
Author: Eva Sangiorgi

Fernando Palma Rodríguez

(*1957, Atocpan-San Pedro, Mexico)
Fernando Palma Rodríguez
Fernando Palma Rodríguez was born in Atocpan-San Pedro, Mexico and currently lives in London. After completing engineering studies in Mexico he studied among other things art, art history and sculpture in London and received a stipend to the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
These diverse areas of study are reflected in his artistic work, which revolves around questions of technology, economy, art and themes from Mexican mythology.

Si no fuera por estos momentos

Fernando Palma Rodríguez comes from a Nahua community which became marginalised in the Mexican capital very early on. His work speaks of a reaction to ever-growing, homogenizing capitalism, a reaction whose goal is to encourage the original voices of native culture. In its artistic discourse, political and ideological critics use folklore to transcend localism and merge into global and technological culture (the artist studied engineering), to create a new mysticism imbued with a strong ironic charge. In Si no fuera por estos momentos, the coyote, a symbol of indigenous culture, turns into a new fetish, a symbol of this aggressive post-modern evolution and of a yet to be defined subculture. The video, filmed in 2000, has a nineties’-style aesthetics and an odd narrative structure built up of brief episodes and ritual dances. The coyote and strange robotic idols that move through the city and in sacred places of pre-Columbian culture are symbolic elements of a culture rooted in the past, in contact with people, yet willing – or forced – to wash windshields at intersections.
Author: Eva Sangiorgi

 

Edgardo Aragón

(*1985, Mexico)
Edgardo Aragón

Efemérides

The term Efemérides refers to anniversary celebrations of historical events with patriotic significance. Three people read a text in front of the camera at the same time, rendering the words meaningless. The histrionics are emphasized by the frontal presentation and by the soldier who opens and closes the event by playing a trumpet. The few words we are able to grasp reveal that the text, written in an informal, vulgar language, is a public protest against the abuse of power by certain citizens. The irony is stated in the title itself: The people’s claim will not be heard by anyone and the government will do nothing in response to it. The result is rather funny and absurd.
Author: Eva Sangiorgi

Adriana Lara

(*1978, Mexico)
Adriana Lara

Adriana Lara was born in Mexico in 1978 and lives in Mexico City. In her artistic work she examines the conditions and character of the art system and critically reflects various approaches and formats that have become established in art. Together with Fernando Mesta and Agustina Ferreyra she founded in 2003 the curatorial collective Perros Negros. She is the editor of Pazmaker, an art quarterly and a member of the band Lasser Moderna. Her works have been shown among others in solo exhibitions in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, in Air de Paris and in Gaga Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico-Stadt. She has participated in group exhibitions in the Kunsthalle Basel, the New Museum, New York and in the Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

 

La Pintura Contrataca: Colección Primavera/Verano 2012

La pintura contrataca: Colección Primavera / Verano 2012 by Adriana Lara is a video clip for the new ad campaign of the brand that conquered the clothes market, the new season’s catchy vintage-style foulard which set the trend for this spring. We fell for it. For Adriana Lara, the creative act is inevitably linked to subtle irony. The title that inspired this work comes from an article published in a major Mexican newspaper. It refers to the attempt by some Mexican art dealers to have painting reconquer the central place it once had as the official, institutional art; a role it lost when new forms of expression emerged, such as the art of the aforementioned artist. Self-irony. The article, however, implies another important aspect of it, translated in Adriana’s film into a shared critique: The art market imposes trends that move away from the theoretical or ideological discourse, provoking effects on a global scale. The result is an inevitable homologation and loss of local identity – in art as in the world of fashion. The film is the second part of a project begun in November 2011 with a fashion show/performance in a Mexico City gallery. On both occasions, the music was by Emilio Acevedo, who partnered Adriana Lara several years ago in an irreverent project of hers many of you will most likely remember: Lasser Moderna.
Author: Eva Sangiorgi

 

Sarah Minter

(*1953, Mexico)
Sarah Minter

Sarah Minter has made films and moving image installations since the early 1980s. Her work has been exhibited in Mexico and internationally, and has won numerous awards, including a Coral Award at the Havana Film Festival and First Prize at the Muestra de Cine Mexicano. In addition to producing her own work, she has taught courses at the Universidad Iberoamericana and at the Centro Nacional de las Artes (CENART) in Mexico City. Minter has participated as a juror and curator for festivals and arts foundations in Mexico and abroad.

 

Street Symphony

Sarah Minter's video is a visual symphony of Mexico City’s downtown area, from street vendors setting up shop to the interaction of the people there. The singsong voices and repetitive calling to prospective customers merge with the sound of the film to create the experience of this great city. Street Symphony emphasizes the noises and sounds that accompany daily activities, making them especially characteristic. The video, filmed a few years back, foresaw the extinction of this type of street life, already precarious. Though constantly scaled down, street vending represents the only “legal” alternative to unemployment for the lower class, and in a way, the video demands the right of the cities inhabitants to frequent their own streets. Images are repeated and fragmented in an attempt to portray the frenzy and density that characterize the megalopolis, as well as the energy and intensity of its historical downtown area.
Author: Eva Sangiorgi

 

Sergio de la Torre

(*1967, Mexico)
Sergio de la Torre
Sergio De La Torre is a photographer, performance and installation artist. De La Torre grew up in the Tijuana, San Diego border area and migrated to San Francisco. His photographic, performance and installation works have focused on issues regarding diaspora/tourism and identity politics. In 1995, de la Torre co-founded the performance/installation group Los Tricksters.
These performance/installations have taken place in a variety of venues including street fairs, academic conferences, art galleries, film festivals and non-profit art spaces.

 

Nuevo Dragón City

Nuevo Dragón City focuses on identity from an entirely different and surprisingly unique point of view. Who would expect to find a Chinese community in a Mexican video? However, it does refer to a local news event, in which a group of Mexican-Chinese teenagers barricaded themselves up in an abandoned building in Tijuana. It reflects a more diversified society than the folkloric, homogenous image this country has abroad. It is a hybrid world, like so many other parts of the world. The event itself, what these young people accomplished, is duplicated in the work of Sergio de la Torre. It portrays a reaction to the outside world from which they voluntarily isolate themselves because, somehow, they feel rejected. The film portrays an isolated group of people, incapable of adapting their identity to changes in social and historical circumstances. This group symbolizes border areas in general, typified by Tijuana on the US border; a place where Mexico’s relationship with its powerful northern neighbour is a constant matter of debate that simultaneously and paradoxically ignores another force already emerging within its own borders.
Author: Eva Sangiorgi

 

El Topo

Saturday, 20. October 2012 - 23:59

El Topo (The Mole) attained cult status as Midnight Movie in the USA around 1970.

The hero El Topo rides revolver-armed with his son through the desert and finds a village whose inhabitants have been massacred. He goes in search of the murderers, finds them and exacts vengeance. The leader’s woman implores him to take her with him. He takes her, leaving his son behind. As proof of his love to his new companion he takes on the four invincible masters of the desert. His triumph fails to bring him the hoped for satisfaction. The woman shoots him and rides off with a gun-toting woman. El Topo’s body is brought to a cave by a group of deformed humans and worshipped by them as a deity. After many years he comes back to life and resolves to build a tunnel through which the pariahs can leave the cave in which they have been imprisoned for so many years.

El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky, MX 1970, 125 min