Modos de Oír

  • Ex Teresa Arte Actual & Laboratorio Arte Alameda (Mexico City, CDMX)
  • November 29, 2019 — March 31, 2019
  • Curator(s): Susana González Aktories, Cynthia García-Leyva, Rossana Lara, Bárbara Perea, Carlos Prieto Acevedo, Tito Rivas, and Tania Aedo
  • Funding: Movistar / Telefonica Foundation, INBA, Secretary of Culture

Modos de oír: prácticas de arte y sonido en México is a wide-ranging survey of Mexican sound art from the 20th and 21st centuries, spread across two locations—Ex Teresa Arte Actual and Laboratorio Arte Alameda—and funded by the National Institute of Fine Arts; and Telefónica, the foundation operated by Movistar, a Spanish mobile phone company that also operates across Latin America. Movistar calls me at least once a week, sometimes several times a day. Once I asked them to remove me from their call list. They replied: “there is no list.”

The show opened a week before Andres Manual López Obrador, a candidate promising to end the corruption that structures Mexican daily life, took office—a week before the president of INBA, like all functionaries of the previous administration, would be expected to resign and all federal budgets would be reset. I walked into Ex-Teresa, forgetting about that spot where the floor dips, where I almost always lose my balance, where the former convent sinks into the Aztec ruins beneath it and the soft lakebed beneath them. I fell up the steps of the raised dais on which sat Jeronimo García Naranjo’s KotoŌkī, a deeply optimistic piece that assumes the inherent curiosity and self-confidence of people to play, like children, on an exaggerated version of an instrument, the koto, that they have probably never encountered. Jeronimo rolled his eyes at me and said, “they forgot to put up the technical notes.” I looked across the vacant main hall, marveling at the bold curatorial decision to leave it empty, like the eye of a hurricane, around which swirls the varied and incongruent histories of Mexican sound art, and wondered where Bárbara Lázara’s piece was.

I found it in a narrow corridor on a small screen, between a room describing Mexican sound poetry and a room showing an extended loop of audiovisual works. It sits next to an equally small screen from which plays a piece by Carmina Escobar. Both Lázara and Escobar are astonishing vocalists and performers animating the tired corpse of abject art with morbid determination. To watch these videos, the spectator must stand precisely in the middle of the corridor, blocking passage between one room and the other. In a way, it makes sense: I can imagine either of them, crouched in the middle of the hallway, grimacing, winking, growling, blocking the cock-waggling strut of history.