Gallery Weekend Mexico City (#GWCDMX) happened last weekend. I think activities began on Thursday, maybe on Wednesday, but I didn’t go anywhere until Friday. I arrived before my friends did, so I hid in a bush, not ready to socialize yet. Salón Silicón had two concurrent shows, one that was a gift store—maybe a kind of tongue-in-cheek version of Stephanie Syjuco’s Shadowshop, but probably not, called “Merch is the New Art”—and a solo exhibition by Turkish artist Pinar Marul, “Paramístico.” Olga Rodríguez, one of the directors of Salón Silicón, explained to me that the solo show was the “serious” show, the gift shop not so much: “it’s a gift shop.” Eighty percent of the proceeds went to the artists selling work, a broad selection of people from across the more independent-minded Mexico City art scene. I almost bought a work by Romeo Gómez López, another of the directors of Salón Silicón, a tiny magnet of Justin Bieber’s penis, attached to a sticker of the Bieb in his birthday suit. I was—I still am—worried about money, though, so I didn’t buy it. Olga gave me a sticker, which was a nice gesture. I put it on my fridge. I asked a friend outside, who I hadn’t seen in a while, how she was doing. “I don’t know,” she said, pursing her lips. “It’s hard to be happy.”
In a recent essay for the New Yorker, a publication I try to avoid reading, Jonathan Franzen, an author I frankly find boring, writes with refreshing clarity: “If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.” In the last month, maybe six weeks, the news that forests in Siberia, the Amazon, central Africa, and more are burning at unheard-of catastrophic rates; the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record destroyed two islands in the Bahamas; Iceland held a funeral for its first fully-melted glacier; and so on. We all know this is happening, we all know why, and we all know that there is little, probably nothing, that we can do about it. Events like Gallery Weekend remind us, or at least me, that even the things we love play an integral role in the continued annihilation of the planet. For instance, contemporary art, driven by an unregulated and exclusive market that valorizes and validates the luxury European culture that has brought despair, devastation, exhaustion of natural resources, human trafficking, and so on to the world over the last, oh I don’t know, five hundred years. So we go to Gallery Weekend and drink whatever’s free and stand outside, paralyzed by indecision, trying to find the perfect afterparty that will let us have the catharsis we need.
Saturday was bleak. It was cloudy all day, sometimes raining. As I was watching Instagram stories in the morning I saw a painting by Ana Segovia, probably my favorite painter in Mexico City, or maybe anywhere. I asked my friend who had posted it where the painting was. He didn’t respond. I finally remembered where it probably was, so I took I took the metro to Popotla, the station named after the tree that apparently Cortez wept under as he watched Tenochtitlán burn. Maybe he saw the future and understood what havoc his culture, his contemporary savage European marauders, would bring upon the world. He probably didn’t. He probably didn’t cry against that tree, either. I walked down the path that has been created out of/next to the old railroad line to Cuernavaca to Lagos, a gallery and residency in the Anáhuac neighborhood. Outside of Lagos was a blue plinth looking for all the world like a forlorn Emily Dickinson plinth by Roni Horn. Instead of, say, “Soft as the massacre of Suns,” it said “#GWCDMX.” The building was silent, despite a marking at the bottom of the stairwell that said “Party” with an arrow up. I walked into Segovia’s open studio and stood there for a while, shocked by the beauty of the Western landscapes she had painted. They are vertical instead of the usual horizontal landscape, small instead of imposing and enormous. They are about the size of a slate you might shoot an arrow through if you were guarding a medieval castle, or maybe the size of a paddle you would spank somebody with at a frat hazing. About a third of the way down one of them, the paint had dripped into a lifted ridge. I have a nasty habit of dismissing artist bios as marketing copy usually unrelated to their actual work, but Segovia really does work with conceptions of masculinity—a cultural infrastructure if there ever was one, perhaps the most crucial cultural infrastructure to explore right now, as the world crumbles into its abyss—and these slight interventions—a change of perspective from ‘landscape’ to ‘portrait,’ a brief glimpse instead of an anxiety-provoking stare, a gentle ripple—come from a point of humble curiosity that feels heartbreakingly vital right now. When I boarded the metro to head to Condesa for another show, I saw on Twitter that somebody had jumped in the tracks of line 1, delaying service. It’s hard to be happy.