“Construct a monument him to the monument”,
it was saying one of the front pages of the magazine of critique of Caín art. I joust almost at the same time as this publication was going out, one was presenting officially the last work of the Mexican artist Sebastián: the Warrior Chimalli, an enormous sculpture of red color of 60 meters of height, 870 tons of weight and 35 million weight of budget, located in Chimalhuacán and that, in words of the governor Eruviel Ávila,
“It will protect the inhabitants of Chimalhuacán of the poverty”.
The monuments, symbols of pride identitario, they are raised, lift and raise towards the sky in different circumstances along the history in order to report and to construct concerning them the notions of mother land, culture, religion and company. His function is it of petrifying the speeches of power, issues which loudspeaker a message of past glories but also her of denying other histories, to cover them and to conceal them to allow only one, normally triumphant, destined for the exaltation of some few ones. Because of it they are so interesting, polemic and troubled. The monuments smooth the public space and avoid the possible symbolic appropriation of other unwanted narratives. To construct a monument in favour of certain ideal means always to squash others. For it, and even without claiming it, Warrior Chimalli is so much a shield opposite to the poverty as a clear and aberrant demonstration of the functioning of the public policies in Mexico, more interested in the construction of powerful symbols that in an authentic solution of the problems that exceed them.
And at the time that one was presenting Sebastián’s last work, his name was appearing also as part of the collective sample that develops in the Museum of Contemporary Art of the UNAM: The precipice of the statue. Towards a critique of the public art (1952-2014), treated by José Luis Barrios and that elaborates a rereading of the collection MUAC and his associate collections. Neighborhoods it exposes the work of the sculptor chihuahuense and of other artists who developed part of his practice during the second half of century xx – between that names are included as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Helen Escobedo, Diego Rivera, Francis Alÿs, Damián Ortega, Teresa Margolles or Eduardo Abaroa Hidalgo– as sample of the way in which the concept of public art has transformed in the last 60 years.
Mexico is one of the best examples where an art with social will was transformed into political instrument. The sculpture, the painting and the architecture, by means of the phenomenon of the plastic integration, produced spaces decorated with murals that were loaded with epic messages of that mitifican tell the history and they produce “spaces sanctified”, separated from the reality, from where it is possible to exalt and to orientate the imaginary native towards certain interests. Opposite to this, Neighborhoods it defends that
“the art of the second half of the century xx in Mexico has wanted to subvert these practices of the art that seek to carry out the persons, the past and the important events for a company”.
The artistic offers of the exhibition load against the monument, with interventions and offers that
“they take the interaction as a purpose between the individuals with his spaces and not the distant contemplation of the monuments”.
The symbolic precipice that was proposing the Mexican sample was resounding to another side of the Atlantic one, in Barcelona, where there developed in the MACBA, until February, 2015, the exhibition Nonument. In a context as that of the current Catalonia, so needy, according to his politicians, of new native symbols, the sample appears as a necessary critique to the nationalistic pretensions of last years. In what measure does statue construct identity? Of what form is it this one capable of representing the longings of the set of the community?
“The monuments hide certain appropriation of the collective space, certain kidnapping of the social memory. […] the one who does sustain a monument? The one who does legitimize it? How does it emerge? Of what way does it take root in the community and in the public space?”.
The exhibition invites architects, designers and artists to thinking how it is possible to affect today, from the practices of the art, in the problematic links between event, commemoration and city.
The city, they question both exhibitions, it is the result of a set entangled of factors. The monument organizes, reduces the urban contingency and denies, eventually, the possibilities of dissent. At least until, as there takes again the Catalan artist Domènec in the MACBA, a social group decides to attack and to demolish it for the force it.
His offer, an empty pedestal, is at the same time, image of a change, of an end of cycle, but also a place for filling, as if a monument fallen out in yes another monument, another political manifestation, which traverses the risk of finishing so petrified as the statue that before was raising there.
Pedro Hernández · architect
Ciudad de México. september 2015