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Statement for the Exhibition at the Museo Universitario Contemporaneo de Arte, Mexico-City (Aug. - Sept. 1998)

When I came to Mexico D.F. as a young writer and artist for the first time, end oft the sixties, I naturally explored the historical centre like any other tourist, enjoyed the colourful markets, but at the same time I was attracted and fascinated by the inhuman growing of the suburbs on the one side and the big constructions on the other hand. The university centre was the place where I felt strongest the clush between Mexican history and the present. I was, before reaching this place, overhelmed by the destroyed and somehow also by the reconstructed ruins of the past. Memorials of architectural »wonders« and of the political and social power and cruelties. I was confronted with a modern version. This still exists.

As a foreigner and visual artist, I can try to understand Octavio Paz verdict, that a critic in Mexico has to start with a critic of the pyramides. To take the past, and that means at the same time the present, is for me an important part of our activities as artists, as close or as far away we may stay from concrete political activities.
But back to the fascination of the great culture, the deep Mexico: my answer can only be a limited one. But still, I can try to dialogue with the forms and with everdays objects who seem to reflect an overall human »instinct«: symmetry and geometry, and destruction and chaos. Hope and annihilation.

While I attempted, in my earlier works, to evoke persecuted, forgotten and expelled people - both figuratively and non-figuratively - (»Nomads« in the Museum Bochum, 1991; »Letzte" - The Lost Ones« in the Museum Olten, 1992; »Orphaned« in the Gallery Medici, Solothurn, 1996; or image/word Installation in Lubmin, Berlin and Bern, among others (1993, 1995, 1996/7), this planned exhibit takes as its starting point the confrontation with a different continent and the encounter with a different spoken language as well as different language images.

On a trip through Switzerland last winter, it was snowing, clear images suddenly came to me. White, a lot of white, because from there, attempts to approach and to form a bridge to this Mexican liveliness and intensity of colors is possible. And a second element: pieces of a pyramid, segments of a wall. Walls separate, exclude, protect, and they deteriorate, crumble, are destroyed; they signify intact power and as ruins bear witness to powerlessness. Segments of walls place new spaces into a given space. In my head, they bring together such seemingly disparate things as the cloister walls and the medieval fortifications of my home city, or the Berlin wall and Mayan ruins.

Understandable, this desire for the virtual that opens up everything. Everything gliding, surfing? But this recovery doesn't just mean space travel trough orbit (on the screen). Today we can gather virtual experiences, cyberspace experiences, but we are still fixed on spaces that we want to see clearly and to »possess«. Parameters are the wall and the distance beyond it - seen from within: demarcations and openings, doorsand windows. They can produce fear and aggression, but above all curiosity, a longing for discoveries and hope. As frozen life, ruins awaken life in our imagination, they show differences.

Because it is important for me to move into the space, to sound it out, there is now more than one possible outline. Many sketches, experiments on paper, experiments with models. The space within this space: segments of the wall, solid, but because of their simple structure easy to change in your mind, and with the opening in the wall, open for stories, space is open for the ephemeral. In the segments of walls there will be images, niches and figures, non-functional things, abstract things next to bottles, dancing shoes, land mines, pots, masks for example. Cultural signs, abstract and real. In many details, the concept is still not fixed: work in progress. Some things are sure: next to white, there must be red and blue as well. The already existing sketches receive temporary names until the definite title is worked out: White Will- o'-the-Whisp, on Ever Serene Pedestals, Shotgun-Barrel Hope, Young Form of an Old One, Intermediate Animals, Bottle Dance, Fogged-in Star, Oh these Colors, Lying Up Bricks, Between Closer and Further Away, Flowery Outspokenness, Self-Igniting Fruit, Memorandum for Siding With Thing, Maskable Head. Or names that entice me: Tamaulipas, Tepotzotlán, Chilpancingo, Chicomaztoc, Teotenango, Acámbaro, Kalapa, Cacaxtla...
Poetry: Wall, pedestal, bottle, masks... From the furthest reaches of the abstract back to concrete life.

Images, word, sound, dance

If the sculpural, the fixed - calm and clear - naturally shows more stasis, then planned performances (image, sound, word, dance) are movement. Female dancers as cat burglars who mix the horizontal and the vertical anew, word-jugglers and conjurers, sounds which become faster and faster or slower and slower, everthing upside down one last time; what is solid begins to stagger; reeling figures, disguised faces, words, sounds. Or quite the contrary:
silence, motionlessness.

Urs Jaeggi


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