Monday, April 27, 2009

Reading Artaud in Mexico-City

In the context of the first "Mexico Scholarship for German Media Artists" (Werkleitz Centre for Media Arts, Goethe Institut Mexiko) i arrived on Monday evening, 20th of April 2009, in Mexico-City, where i will work 2 months at the Centro Multimedia del Centro Nacional de las Artes, developing the audiovisual installation "The Conquest of Mexico" after a text by French theatre avantgardist Antonin Artaud. After the first three days of basic orientation, where I was introduced to the different workshops of the Centro Multimedia - a wonderful institution dedicated to the development and reflection of New Media Arts -, and where I became an rough and impressive overview of prespanic Mexican culture in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the Mexican government announced on Thursday evening the national outbreak of a swine flu epidemic in Mexico-City, that soonly became described as a "public health emergency of international concern" by the World Health Organization. Official institutions, schools and universities in Mexico City became closed, Masses were canceled, and soccer plays had to be performed without audience in the stadiums. People in the streets and public transport systems try to avoid physical contact as well as huge gatherings, while police and members of the mexican army are instructed to identify and isolate possible infected people at the stations and the airport of the City. Locally you get the impression that the Mexican government does the best it can do in such a situation, but you can feel a certain helplessness in the city, since the people have no experience with a situation like this and do not know how to behave in these days. The shops, restaurants and bars are still open, sometimes you hear music from different corners, but the public spaces are said to be much more quiet than usually. Very often you see people with dropped masks in the streets, and you ask yourself if these cheap accessoires really have any other sense than appeasement.
For the last two days I decided to spent as much time as possible in my small appartment in the old cultural center of Mexico-City, that I share with Mexican artist and curator Eusebio Bañuelos, and from where i wait and see how things are developing further. We discussed a lot about the political situation in Mexico, and also about how paranoia and invisible menaces become major issues in the globalized world. Earlier this year I was supposed to be right now in Sana'a / Yemen, where we had been asked by the German embassy after the very good experiences in 2007 to realize again a site-specific installation in public space, this time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of German-Yemeni history and the 20th anniversary of the reunification in both countries. However, due to security reasons in February 2009 the German Federal Foreign Office canceled all outdoor projects in the area, and so I am right now sitting in Mexico-City, facing a completly different threat and paranoid situation, that also makes future developments quite unpredictable at the moment. At the moment I only go out to get some food in the supermarkets near the corner or for short evening walks, sitting most of the time on the roof-deck, reading, conceptualizing and planning about my proposed installation. I brought two books by Antonin Artaud with me, the Mexico-Volume edited by Luis Cardoza y Aragón, and his "The Theatre and Its Double" writings, and by closely reading them I try to make the best out of the actual situation...

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