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Posted on 22 February, 2016

Fictive Criticism

ALFREDO GURZA

 

In line with Cenidiap’s essential mission to produce and foster research, documentation and information on visual arts in Mexico and the rest of the world, we present this series, where we will be periodically publishing images from the invaluable archives housed in our Center, placing them in conversation with fabulations and inventions, free-form exercises of the imagination, as mirrors in reciprocal reflection, revealing unexpected affinities and contrasts, interweavings beneath the surface, telling resonances.

 

Our aim is to widen the circulation of the rich materials held for preservation at Cenidiap, generating new audiences and strengthening Cenidiap’s position as a reference point for the national and international community of researchers, documentalists and creators.


 

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Brothers Mayo. Diego Rivera speaking at an event organized by the Mexican Communist Party. Xavier Guerrero, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Enrique González Rojo sit at the table. Mexico, 1956. Photographic Archive CENIDIAP/INBA.

“A dialectics that envelops the preceding moments of force, disdainful of any Hegelian gibberish, revealing as much as it conceals, a teller of tall tales out of creative necessity, insufferably apodictic out of a deliberate effort to provoke, crystallized in images offered up to the fiercest of eyes, whose scrupulous sum total shall result in the precise figuration of its substance as a process of jolts and spillways without end(s)”. Zenaida Shaigulidina, Will-o’-the-wisps for this heavy night, Prop-It Magazine, second trimester of 2008.


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Unidentified author. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo heading the delegation of the Painters and Sculptors Union at the May Day demonstration, 1929. Photographic Archive CENIDIAP/INBA.Archivo fotográfico CENIDIAP/INBA.

“We thought a lot about the avant-garde, about what that ought to be like, you know? And I remember this comrade at a meeting, she told us of a passage from Lenin, I don’t remember from which pamphlet, and it went something like this… I’m telling it in my own words, as best as I recall, but I loved that image so much that I think I can tell you about it without going too far away from what Lenin wrote, you know? Lenin is talking to an engineer, a top-notch expert, who’s also a Bolshevik, a very devoted one, right? This is just after the 1905 defeat, the first attempt to carry out the revolution in Russia. There were no objective conditions, the people didn’t take part the way it was anticipated, and so on. So this engineer says: ‘Comrade Lenin, it’s such a pity that the revolution is not like the German railways, where one always knows the time of arrival, the points of arrival and departure, how long the journey will take. With their clean stations, their attentive porters, everything working like clockwork, the engine drivers ever so professional, so focused on their job, very knowledgeable of what the train requires to work perfectly, with the map clearly etched on their heads’. And Lenin just laughs and makes this consideration, give or take a few words: ‘This man wants to take life out of history, and that simply cannot be done. And even if it were possible, we wouldn’t want that. The revolution train runs late or early, it is diverted and derailed, and we must all pull together to set it back on its tracks. We suddenly look back and we are missing some carriages. What must we do? Go back and fetch them or just let them join us later? Or maybe somebody puts the caboose in front of the engine and whatnot… Here we all have to work equally, we cannot have first-class passengers just looking around while the rest find a way to get the train to its destination. And what destination? Nobody knows. We must make the journey singing and working, making jokes, dancing and shovelling coal. That’s how you produce the avant-garde, working all together, right?’ Well, that came out sounding more like me than Lenin, didn’t it? But look up that pamphlet by Lenin and you’ll see I wasn’t that far off (Laughter)”. Testimony by Adalberto García in the documentary film The Sky is Red, Planchuela Films, Mexico, 1991.


 

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Gabriel Fernández Ledesma’s certificate of identity , Federal Personnel Registrar’s Office, Mexico, July 1, 1932. Gabriel Fernández Ledesma Collection, CENIDIAP/INBA.

 

“Is man’s being an elusive,

flirtatious

shadow,

a husk, almost nothing?

Is there any truth

in the fingerprint loops,

in the lines she jots down,

dac-ty-lo-gra-pher,

dac-ty-los-co-per,

poet of my countersign

at the Identity Bureau?

In vain my look,

my gesture,

my moles and molars,

my juicy Adam’s apple.

My Identity Certificate shackles me,

reduces and replaces me;

it pays no heed to my being

and fixes a rate to my essence.

Besieged by seals,

letterheads and stamps,

my tongue barely mumbles:

‘That one on the paper is not me!’”

Diego Luis Marchesi, “Husks”, in Easy Verses by a Difficult Porteño, Campeche, 1947.


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Unidentified author. Gabriel Fernández Ledesma with his wife Isabel Villaseñor and their daughter Olinca. Undated. Gabriel Fernández Ledesma Collection, CENIDIAP/INBA.

“It is now a commonplace, and one of the more overused by profligates of the corny-beautiful conceit, to allude to the psychological uncanny when expanding on the subject of family portraits. The desire to shock in order to generate an effect of ironic distance, to stoke up metaphysical mists and tremors, seems to go had in hand with this sentimental mania of our critics to wax lyrical about these things, striving to suffocate the products of art under their mothballed dawn pillows. They cannot but summarily decree that these images of fathers, mothers and children are more or less doctored, more or less deliberate lies, since their acute eye and their clinical sensibility detect a certain hint of unease, of existential malaise, behind the conventional poses, the amused or inhibited looks, the severe gesture or the smiles. I have not the least doubt that after having perused this album, the readers will share my intimate conviction that what those critics avoid and hide, is nothing else than that universal and animal melancholy, that unstanchable nostalgia of being happy and one in loving company, which leaves us spent when looking at these photographs”. Armida Vázquez-Crowley, from the prelimiary note to Mexican Photo-Studios: A Striving Against Apathy. 1929-1947, Mexico City, 1982.


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Rubén Poblano Cordero. Portrait of Francisco Goitia, March 26, 1960. Pencil drawing. Francisco Goitia Collection, CENIDIAP/INBA.

“Here it would behoove me to address a key question, since we are dealing with a knot of intentions and executions aspiring to transcendence in immanence, the crossing of a threshold opening up only unto itself. Such is the strictness of the truculency of the funerary exhortation, the mortuary mask, the pencil sketch desperately striving to capture that which the moment of death briefly preserves as living. Gripped by the defencelessness that this instant brutally reveals to us, we stare at our friend subjected to the ineluctable process of becoming absent, having ‘purged off the grossness and feculency of their earthly being’, as Dryden puts it with the most human of majesties. We close our eyes to the ineptitude of our arts and persist in our aim of seizing that which we are losing forever. Dryden himself -a poet-king among translators, whom my father loved so dearly- warns us against this temptation: ‘And now, with the usual vanity of Dutch Prefacers, I could load our author with the praises and commemorations of writers (…) But to cumber pages with this kind of stuff were to raise a distrust in common readers that Plutarch wants them’. I think my father would smile at my decision to turn to Ovid to close this entry on the day of his passing: ‘Lingua, sile; non est ultra narrabile quidqua’.” Evangelina Guerra, A Diary of Little Joys and Fleeting Sorrows, San Luis Río Colorado, 1896.


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Héctor Farías Arias. Preliminary plan for Maestro Francisco Goitia’s cript at Xochimilco’s Municipal Cemetery, April 5, 1960. Pencil, ink and watercolor on paper. Francisco Goitia Collection, CENIDIAP/INBA.

“Dear friend, I have thought long and hard about your attentive proposal, and now, partly out of superstitious dread and partly out of my desire to finally cut this thread of uneasiness, I dare to share with you some of the considerations that have haunted me after reading your most kind letter dated on February 20. Our long-standing conversation on the subject of what a mind more gifted than ours has called the problem of a possible phenomenology of disciplehood, has led us in more than one memorable occasion to the scabrous issue of the end of an individual trajectory. Seen from the amiable side, this would entail -with regard to the matters at hand- a sweet transit, having fulfilled one’s task; a swift relay, placing in the devoted disciple’s hands the baton which has been polished by the master’s vigils. But it would be ruinous to ignore, through an excess of scruple or a lack of grit, that the deceased leaves behind not only his books and papers, but his flesh turned into spoils (‘wings, gizzard, feet, neck and head’, as an old dictionary would have it), a fearful Nachlass that demands an executor that will not pass the buck. Just as the pupil must find suitable lodgings for the former, so too must he provide dignified residence for the latter. Therefore, at the master’s passing, the disciple shall become his successor (by default, if I’m allowed this Gallicism) by the very act of disposing of his remains; and from the manner in which he dispatches (Galia again!) this task, his incipient teaching ministry shall be judged. This being the case, I urge to be more precise and to tell me every detail of your project to build a grand pyramidal mausoleum for my last abode. Send sketches of the sculptures and the gardens that shall surround it. Do not delay, as one never knows with these things. In the meantime, let me make a few suggestions…” From a letter by Ramiro Unzueta Ph.D. to Xavier Plá M.A., Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, April 1, 1964.

 

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