I visited Museo Experimental El Eco in the summer of 2017. Guillermo Santamarina guided me through the visual history of the space through their pamphlets and posters, exhibition paratexts like El Chinche, and their Revistas. Much like Sector 2337’s exhibition catalogue/performance documentation/collected essays, El Eco’s Revistas become a curated, paratextual object around and within the exhibition events.
This translation would not be possible without Adriana Miramontes’ diligent proofreading, and more importantly, her and her mother Yolanda Olivas’s company around Mexico City and occasional–to be more honest, frequent–translation.
Who has the power here?
It lasted one night. Juan Francisco and I were at opposite, adjacent walls. A different video was projected on each of these walls. It was a lecture-performance that Ericka wrote and a stage version we worked on together. It had to do with the body as dialectic. Above Juan Fran’s head was an English translation of what I was saying, and above my head were the visual materials. Salsa and cumbia became political exercises. To use the body to learn things that are usually learned from reasoning.
The dance, as a strategy of subversive pedagogy, to reflect on ethical and philosophical questions. Dance and power. An image stayed with me: a very narrow gorge through which an indigenous man walks, carrying on his shoulders a Spanish man. Ericka quoted an anthropologist–whose name I don’t remember–who after this image, wondered: Who has the power here? The situation is complex: one could argue the Spanish man because he is on top of the other, but they are in a gorge and the Indigenous man also has the ability to throw the Spanish man into the abyss. These points or Gordian knots of dialectical power, in which it is not that easy to determine who is subdued, or which is the right and which one the left, are part of the reflections in the text. It was very nice: his idea of the three-dimensionality of dance, of rhythms in dialectical terms; I would have never thought about it that way.
In the center of the room, between Felipe Mujica’s, the choreography was put together and we ended up dancing with the whole audience. First was salsa, and then there was a sort of party with ten songs of all kinds. I remember the faces of all the people moving. I felt that there was a joyful spirit to be dancing in the museum, that was at least my impression. They were happy. The public assembled into rows and danced to the choreography, and they were all laughing so much. Toward the end, no one could tell the difference between the piece and the party. The perfect synthesis of the dialectic triangle.
There was so much euphoria and we stayed long past what was allowed. I do not know if there was a little or a lot of alcohol, but I know that the next day, the guards made a complaint about something. For them, it was a big problem, but I don’t know if that was due to the schedule or the alcohol.
Toward the end, no one could tell the difference between the piece and the party. The perfect synthesis of the dialectic triangle.
“My intention has been to say frequently what I had to say in a way that exemplifies it; this would allow the listener to experiment with what I had to say, more simply than to listen.” The recurring formula of the lecture makes it explicit: I have nothing to say and I am saying it, and that is poetry as I need it. The lecture is not destined for mere aesthetic ideas. It is in and of itself a poem. Lecture on Nothing is the first of John Cage’s lectures in which he adopts an unusual format that demands a certain performative interpretation. The lecture transforms into a piece of music, that uses the same structure and the same methods of a musical composition. Written in this manner, the lecture is not a vehicle for information, but rather a demonstration of concrete ideas. Art, more than the creation of new things, should please itself with becoming a noise, an altered format. “Masterpiece as aggression.”
To deinstrumentalize the lecture, to abandon its conception as a transparent receptor for communicating content, and used it like a medium, to explore its boundaries. John Cage did not have his lectures to astonish the public, but like he says, because he sought poetry in them.
Perhaps that is why he constructed geometries that removed the point, geometries that were not inhabitable, but were distributable.
Mathias Goeritz, artist and architect who founded El Eco, was one of the pioneers of concrete poetry in Mexico. He made typographic experiments as if they were games of space and volume. In other words, as if the writing were more sculpture than message, more form than content, more space than time, or more visual than verbal–texts that were not written solely to be read.
The inaugural day at El Eco, Goeritz read the Manifesto of Emotional Architecture. His goal was to criticize the style of modern architecture. Those cubes that instrumentalized space were called “International Style.” That is an example of the use of geometry eschewing functionality, of excessive rationality. After this, Goeritz proposed a nonfunctional relation with the space, based on the emotion that architecture could generate. Perhaps that is why he constructed geometries that removed the point, geometries that were uninhabitable, but were distributable. Monuments without a subject to commemorate. Cage’s lectures, indistinguishable to concrete poetry, sought to deinstrumentalize language as emotional architecture sought to deinstrumentalize space.
If typography is sculpture
If writing is architecture and music
Can one choreograph a lecture?
“Maybe the point of my work FUNK LESSONS is to overcome my own sense of alienation, both alienation from white culture and alienation from black culture. I am a black woman that “passes” for white, and this creates a moral dilemma in me. The work of FUNK LESSONS allowed me to affirm and explore the cultural dimensions of my black identity, some things that illuminated my personal and political connections with other people of this race and, in the way, celebrate the inheritance that we had in common.” At the same time, the work of FUNK LESSONS allowed me to affirm and use the forms and conventions of communication that I have learned in my process of acculturation within the white race: the analytical method, formal and structural analysis, rational dialogue, the lecture and pseudoacademic demonstrations, and all other things.”
To use the body to learn other things that we usually learn from rational dissection is perhaps the most subversive pedagogy that is known. The Escuela Experimental de Arquitectura de Valparaíso in Chile taught its students lessons on weight and aerodynamics by way of games that involved the body of future architects. To study the phenomena from the body and not from above, from the body and not from visual aesthetics and satellite [satelital] of the classic researcher. To think of the object of study not as objects, as proposed by the Colombian artist Bernando Ortiz, but as jungles that we overcome and that affect us mutually. Therefore, we replace the word object for the word territory.
We replace the word object for the word territory.
It demands much effort to be the one who listens.
Through dance, complex ethical and philosophical reflections can be made. For example, to learn to listen, to learn to receive others, or how the body subverts or transcends binary or dual thinking. Let us think of who is active and who is passive in this dance, and let us think if the passive role is actually passive or if to have a passive role, or the ‘weak’ to put it this way, does not actually require sophisticated training, a bodily training equivalent to a “floating sound” that places in crisis certainties at each moment and only floats attempting to weave in the air a discourse that the other attempts to display. The passive role implies to learn to receive the other with an alert, attentive, and available body. In this dance, the passive is active. Even though the impression is that of a woman doing nothing, of only receiving, she has training in this reception. The ability of not doing anything and only listening is confused with fragility, but in reality it demands much effort to be the one who listens. This involves learning and being present and not waiting for what one wants to say, rather it’s being an attentive receiver of what is coming from the other to reinterpret, mold and propose subtle turns. To let oneself rise, to let oneself permeate and be penetrated by the other, is not a passive act, it an ability, it has a power, an acquired capacity, and not necessarily an immutable, natural disposition.