Conaculta Inba

SPECULAR – second series

Posted on 8 March, 2016 by cenidiap

Fictive Criticism

Alfredo Gurza

Invaluable images from the collections kept by Cenidiap, in dialogue with fabulations and inventions, free-style exercises of the imagination, as mirrors reflecting each other, revealing unexpected affinities and contrasts, interweavings beneath the surface, telling resonances. A proposal to re-circulate this heritage, in order to contribute to generating new audiences and strengthening the Center as a reference point for the national and international community of researchers, documentalists and creators.


Juan O’Gorman, Historia de la aviación, 1937, mural en el antiguo Aeropuerto Nacional de la Ciudad de México, destruido por acuerdo de la Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Obras Públicas, archivo fotográfico Cenidiap/INBA.

“Gazam, Arbeh, Jelek, Chasel! Gazam, Arbeh, Jelek, Chasel! It is the grieving clamor of the tribes of the devastated valley, words spit out in rage, thrown in a jumble of blood and spit and pieces of teeth and sand by the crowd creeping over the dried riverbeds, over the fields gnawed right down to the roots, over the scorched meadows, bawling like one huge beast. The sky over their heads, blackened by the thick cloud of vermin now feasting on the flesh of the defeated, whose rotting sores and scabs cover their skin much more than their rags. Toads and snakes, worms and scorpions, having suddenly sprung wings with the treacherous intent to invade the last corner of the earth, even if this deprives them of their very existence: this blind voracity, this mandibular yearning, is their connatus and therein lies their perdition as well. Gazam, Arbeh, Jelek, Chasel! What the first one does not devour, the second one gulps down; and a third and a fourth never lag behind to swallow those two. The people of the valley now rue their insanity of the first days, when they thought they could come to terms with the hecatomb, putting their trust on two tragically flawed premises: the inexhaustible nature of their own forces, and the boundless riches of the land. Too late they realize the inescapable fate germinating in the seed that has been set apart for the extended reproduction of the poison”. Joel Yaichal, Memorial to the Devastation, Dakar, 2011.


Respuesta de Bertrand Russell a la carta de Diego Rivera para la suspensión de pruebas atómicas. Penrhyndeudraeth, Gales, 9 de julio de 1957. Fondo Diego Rivera, Cenidiap /INBA.

“Alas for you, Sir Gaernarfon!
Alas for you and Penrhyndeudraeth!
Of its breeze and of its mist,
Of your grit and self-respect,
There only remains today miasma and dejection.
After dragons you set forth,
Reckless and childish,
Guided by old-wives’ tales
That fostered your perdition.
Alas for you, Sir Gaernarfon!
Alas for you and Penrhyndeudraeth!
Your tenacity was renowned,
But ‘neath it lurked the curse
That doomed you to strive
To enamour your destruction.
Steal the magic cauldron,
They said;
Destroy the fire-stone,
Throw into the deepest sea
The last drop of cursed blood.
And then you shall unfetter the wheel of time,
And you shall reinstate true measure
To both things and men.
Valiantly you ventured everything on the word
That guided you and made you.
You did not learn, you never saw,
The unhinging lies in art,
Not in its contraptions,
Which it changes and disguises
According to its malice.
Dead you returned on your steed,
The dragon’s head
Oozing bile
Between your doublet and your shield.
Ghastly prey, useless trophy,
Bought at a mindless price.
Will you find confort in not knowing,
In not being alive to see
The same blackened evil,
Full of scorn in its triumph?
Alas for you, Sir Gaernarfon!
Alas for you and Penrhyndeudraeth!”
Alun Ogledd, Caernarfonshire Ayres, 12th century. Modernized version.



Hermanos Mayo, Diego Rivera con obreros frente al mural Pesadilla de guerra, sueño de paz, 1952, archivo fotográfico Cenidiap /INBA.

“Promiscuating fruitfully, this rejection of the devices that lessen and fragment human potencies incorporates resources ranging from the most passionate romantic anti rationalism, to the sophisticated argument of the indispensabillity of impossibilia, imposible objects banned by the logic of dominant discourse, but indispensable in order to think the onthology of communism, of this multiplicity of ruptures and sightings of the round square, the perpetual mobile, the pear-bearing elm, liberating human relations, fully-realized human beings. Producer-comrades all, with a creative mastering of their means, their processes and their knowledges, in the endless historical process. No longer seen as a hundred thousand movie extras, as the anonymous-represented, the passive ones to be redeemed by the hero, or the invisible mass that is only intuited through its products, which up to now has only been featured in the visual arts, the cinema, the theater and literature -with a few exceptions- as a necessary premise to be deduced from the presence in those works of art of tools, materials, machines, consumables, modes of production, circulation and consumption. As an index of the intuited and desired Other, of the “as it were” of the free play of human faculties, utopia rises against the ignominous tolerance of the necessity of pain, against an everyday capitulation. It is the revolution for life, for the permanence of joy”. Esther Lucena, From the Others to Us. Instituent Pragmatics. Puebla, 2013.


Nombramiento oficial de Francisco Goitia como dibujante de la Dirección de Antropología, México D. F., 1 de noviembre de 1920, Fondo Francisco Goitia, Cenidiap /INBA.

“Once admitted into the service, the passing sensation of relief gave way to a vague discomfort, as unexpected as it was insidious. I looked at my appointment over and over, without reading it anymore, as if wishing to conjure up an emetic against the distressing feeling that having secured it, after so many comings and goings, after having sat insistently in so many antechambers, it did not represent the end of a period of false starts and incipient definitions, nor the beginning of a higher stage in my life, better, more intense and decisive. Neither a finish line, nor a starting shot: just carrying on as before, to see what might come up, living at the whim of the budget and the bureaucrats. Rather than dissipating the uncertainty, the odious precariousness of my new situation strengthened it, with the aggravating circumstance of the commitments attached to my new job, which seemed to force me to postpone indefinitely the genuine determination of my destiny. Projecting avenues, citadels and temples; imagining their former splendor from the remains not yet devoured by the jungle; revealing amidst that vegetable horde a rare trace of humanity, like a moving pentimento in the overwhelming work of time. That was my commission. It had the charm of an adventure and a juvenile dream, but something held me back from surrendering myself completely to it without dreading that once it became a day to day reality my spirit would be bogged down by the tediousness of the useless and routine. And suddenly, en route, lulled by the train as it sank into the jungle, I had the impression of my former life peeling off from my skin. At last it was time to sow; the fallow years were over.” Inés Fernández Quiroz, Consilium abeundi… México, D.F., 1942.


Tarjeta de navidad y año nuevo de Nelson A. Rockefeller con nota manuscrita de Gabriel Fernández Ledesma, s/f, Fondo Gabriel Fernández Ledesma, Cenidiap /INBA.

“Virgil Marsden was another of the regulars every Thursday at Carmine’s diner. He was 82 when I met him, and he kept himself in great shape in body and mind. It was easy to recognize in him the lanky young man with round spectacles, boater hat, and a thin moustache that seemed pencil-drawn, smiling in one of the photographs hanging on the far wall, next to the toilets. It was also fairly easy to cajole him into telling anecdotes of his singular career ‘under the shadow of the shadow of the shadow’ of Nelson A. Rockefeller – as he pointed out every time he got around to unweave his memory. For Virgil, the almost perennial Governor of New York –‘with whom I never spoke a word, nor was ever closer to than a 5 mil radius’- was always ‘Nelson A. Rockefeller’: he never omitted the ‘A’ for ‘Aldrich’ . A neighborhood acquaintance introduced him to the tentacular machinery of the multimillionaire, and the ambition-free availability that was such a feature of his allowed him to make himself useful in an almost unbelievable array of tasks for 50 years. The table would get cluttered with beers and sandwiches and our conversation dwindled while we proceeded to feast ourselves. It was then that Virgil, who invariably had just a bourbon and four deviled eggs, would expand on one of his adventures. What caught my attention even then was precisely the fact that he was far from being the protagonist: he was an accidental eavesdropper, a tiny cog, but perfectly aware of the colosal dimensions of the device and its effects. Thus it was that he told us of the unforseen events surrounding Rivera’s Rockefeller Center mural: the boss wanted to commission it to Picasso or Matisse, but these declined the offer, so he asked the Mexican communist because ‘Nelson A.’s mother loved Rivera’s exoticism’. Painting Lenin on the mural turned out to be too jjuicy an opportunity for the plutocrat’s political rivals to pass on, and Virgil was ordered to compile an album of press clippings regarding the scandal (from the first articles denouncing the oil baron’s ‘crypto communism’, up to those that appeared after the destruction of the mural, in which the liberals exhibited him as a ‘feudal-fascist obscurantist’), at an office on 116 Street which was normally used to produce reports on Manhattan’s public gardens. At that time, Virgil would also draw up lists of artists and intellectuals from several continents, in which he included a résumé; some assessments of their work, published locally or internationally; addresses and family information, so that another department could select those deemed worthy of receiving a greeting card for Christmas and the New Year. Other times he told us, with the same mixture of discretion regarding his personal role and an amazing wealth of details, about political and financial matters of major transcendence. Funnily enough, these became even more dramatic when dished out like this, from his insignificant clerk’s perspective. I especially recall how he made us laugh with his survey of the things he got to live through from afar in the year 1953: the coûp against Mossadegh in Iran, a geopolitical watershed in the Cold War and a source of fairy-tale fortunes for good old Aldrich’s Standard Oil and Chase Manhattan Bank, who celebrated in his own unique fashion by buying Monte Sacro, Simón Bolívar’s old estate in Venezuela -almost 3 thousand acres for his family vacations-, and readying his Museum of Primitive Art to exhibit his vast collection, which he donated to the Metropolitan Museum some years later. Virgil was instructed to file in cardboard boxes some estimates of Iran’s oil production, some maps of Carabobo and piles of museum labels prepared by an army of experts on aboriginal art from Africa, Asia and the Americas. The last time I saw Virgil, shortly before the bowel obstruction that took him from us, he cleared his throat the way he used to just before embarking on a story, and said: ‘A very funny thing, which I don’t believe I’ve told you before, is how I transcribed for te files the résumé of a professor whom Nelson A. Rockefeller would unleash on an unexpecting world just a few months later. This Kissinger business went down like this…’ He couldn’t go on with the story. It’s a shame. It sounded promising.” Robert D. Castrovince, Best Served Cold, New York, 1993.


Recibo de pago de contribución de Diego Rivera al Partido Comunista Mexicano, México D. F., 3 de septiembre de 1952, Fondo Diego Rivera, Cenidiap/INBA.

“Therefore, this will take a long and hard struggle. No place here for the morosity of those who await the catastrophic crisis that will clear all questions in one fell swoop, nor for the indifference of the unengaged who adjust to the prevailing ‘state of things’, opting to draw apart from the common task, turning a blind eye, not taking a hint, while horror lords it over us, abstaining from praxis, i.e. the hard-faught transformation of the world. This isn’t about awaiting with elegant unattachment the dramatic revelation in the final act that clears everything up and makes sense of this reign of puzzlement, this empire of chaos. Lenin warned of the futility of wanting to ‘solve everything through exorcisms’, and it is not for nothing that Engels wrote ironically about those who pin their hopes on ‘the wondrous fairy of love’ or on ‘the sleight-of-hand art of violence’. This isn’t magic.
Signifiers decay, erode and become empty. Ideological terrorism deploys a shock-and-awe tactic to preempt thought, crushing words and dumping them into the wastebasket of dicredit, thus boarding up sense inside the device. Words like ‘class struggle’, ‘revolution’, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, ‘people’, ‘avant-garde’, ‘dialectics’, ‘historical materialism’, are cast aside as obsolete. The process of subsumtion to the law of value on a world scale subjects them to cognitive lumpenization. This arbitrary decree of obsolescence deliberatively hides the fact that giving up those words means giving up as well the stance and tendency they signify. But those sophisticates, with their affected qualms, just can’t see this. If they are reluctant to provide material support, how can we expect a higher level of committment? No, they want the party to be a pleasant gathering of beautiful souls and like-minded hearts, without clashes or dislikes. That is not how this thing goes.” Brother Bernabé, “Once again on petty bourgeois cant and the principles of our organization”, in Combat!, Insurgent Bulletin for Tomorrow’s Revolutionaries. Ciclostil, without place or date of publication.

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