RESISTING FOR LIFE
Posted on 26 May, 2017
Alberto Híjar Serrano
If Felipe Ehrenberg (1943-2017) were still here, we would have discussed the gatherong resistance against the State’s so-called “historical truth” about Ayotzinapa, through slogans, texts, and graphic art, constantly moving not only in Mexico and the United States, but in Europe and other far-off places. The rural and popular roots of the Ayotzinapa relatives meet libertarian intelectual lucidity, bringing about a high-impact knowledge all over the world, against the systemic corruption of late capitalism.
But we failed in the arts, trying to emulate what Felipe did from the 60’s onwards, his invaluable address book and his networking which built such projects as Beau Gest Press, the publishing house manufacturing handcrafted books, which received a tribute a few months ago in Bordeaux, where the survivors of that enterprise came together one last time. Felipe brought to his exile in London this effort which had begun in Xico, Veracruz, to produce editions salvaging pre capitalist handicraft techniques and turning it all into an anti capitalist endeavor, disdaining trademarks and brands in opposition to the publishing industry. All of this, my dear Felipe, should contribute to turn every rural teacher-training school into a wide community production center.
The Mexican Cultural Workers Front would have been impossible without Felipe’s address books and archives. The Mexican representation at the Tenth Paris Youth Biennial, won by “the groups”, turned out to be the most important at that event. Our works were exhibited following his. “América en la Mira” became the first famous international mail art project. Araceli Zúñiga can’t stop weeping, alongside César Espinosa, for not having delivered on time and in hand the luxurious 700 page catalogue-book of the ten mail art biennials, published by Museo del Chopo. In the acknowledgement section it is stated that none of that would have existed without Felipe. But we haven’t been able to update this.
Now, self-styled teachers and pupils spring up everywhere. Goeritz would have been thrilled to have a pupil such as Felipe, because his true pupil is quite his opposite and signs his works “Sebastián”. It is best to highlight his self-taught character and his gift for languages, which enabled him to join in a wide variety of cultures, always guided by his libertarian drive, developed in Tepito; in Xico; in London during the garbage strike; in 68, in the Salón Independiente, where he exhibited his work “Gunned Down Student”, made of wood and metal plate, with shiny tacks as bullets, which on the backside says “fucking Salón”, as an expression of his intimate outrage at his colleagues who were so frightened by the idea of being independent. For the second Salón, he mailed 40 postcards which arrived on time, thus proving that censorship is not invincible; they were arranged to form the image of a woman offering a breast and a soccer ball, alluding to the Mexico 70 World Cup. A couple of good-looking art students helped with the installation, while I narrated the event live unannounced; this was celebrated as the enthusiast participation of a cool priest.
It’s more pertinent to recall here Max Kerlow, a practical researcher and a an actor famous for having played a dead man in a movie, who fostered artisans and artists, as Felipe’s emblematic teacher in so far as he was a libertarian promoter of culture, interested in handicrafts as a mode of production, whose stall in Callejón de la Amargura, near the Saturday Bazaar in San Ángel, in Mexico City, was a treasure trove of amazing objects which led Felipe to Pahuatlán to get to know the handcrafted San Pablito amate paper.
(Alfredo Arcos phones me from Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Nezayork. He’s the man behind ENTE -The North Exists Too-, and he made me write the Manifiesto Postculero [Post Asshole Manifesto] which will be presented on June 15 at Pulquería Los Insurgentes, thanks to the constant toil of Carlos Martínez Rentería, a hero of the counterculture who has edited two books about this important cultural site located in the transnational brand-infested Insurgentes Avenue. Felipe poses for pictures in those books, taking part in the good life, which is the whole point of doing fertile, creative work).
Felipe lasted quite a while as Mexico’s Cultural Attaché in Brazil, and he really made the most of his time there. It is fitting to end this article with a quote being circulated these days by a comrade who knew him in the 70’s, in the gatherings organized in the garage of Felipe’s parents’ house in San Ángel. Here’s Felipe from Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2014, if anyone should want a piece of him:
“They say I’m always badmouthing Mexico? That’s a lie. Everywhere I’ve lived throughout my life I’ve seen myself as a spokesman for the country in which I was born and raised. As such, I have never lied. I celebrate everything that’s good and sometimes I criticize. I criticize my middle class, riddled with an internal conflict, petty and greedy, which trifurcates into PRI/PAN/PRD, rivals juggling power among themselves… That’s the people who destroy our country. I criticize bad middle class citizens, who ignore and dismiss the profound and eternal Mexico, who barricade themselves in their urban ghettos to shamelessly emulate the american way of life. Amnesic, ignorant, racist people, floundering in their identiterian perplexity, dragging us towards the reefs of fucking ruin. That’s the people who destroy our country. I criticize bad middle class citizens, who celebrate their Guadaloupean mexicanness only when it suits them, while they exploit their servants and employees. That’s the people who destroy our country. I criticize bad middle class citizens, who profit from making up spurious universities where they deform their own children to turn them into bad parents, immature bosses, hoarders, voracious investors, opportunistic speculators, irresponsible and inefficient public servants, immoral politicians, senseless consumers, partners and accomplices in the transnational narcotics industry. That’s the people who destroy our country. It is them I criticize”.