Puño de Tierra

  • La Cresta, La Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey
  • January 30, 2019 — February 1, 2019
  • Abril Zales
  • Secretary of Culture, National Fund for the Arts (FONCA), La Escuela Superior of Music and Dance Monterrey (ESMDM), Trébol Park, Contemporary Art Board (PAC), Nuevo Leon Arts Council (CONARTE), Monterrey Arts, Lagersita, Tequila 1800

We went straight to the Escuela Superior of Music and Dance Monterrey (ESMDM) from the airport because our flight was late. Mexico City’s airport is at nearly 100% capacity and the slightest mixup can cause massive delays. The airport has been overfull since the early 2000s. A new airport was proposed in 2002 by then-President Vicente Fox. Villagers of Atenco, who were to be evicted in order to make way for the airport, blocked the proposal. In 2006, Enrique Peña Nieto, then governor of the State of Mexico, presided over a brutally violent and obviously unnecessary police crackdown on some flower vendors in Atenco. In 2014, after probably murdering his wife and becoming president, Peña Nieto announced a new airport in more or less the same spot.

At the ESMDM, a gorgeous colonial building restored, according to a plaque I noticed, with generous assistance from Vicente Fox, were several photo and video installations by artist Calixto Ramírez. The work had been developed over some 22 on site through La Cresta, an iterant organization dedicated to long-term, site-based work that receives funding from PAC, among other organizations. Ramírez’s exhibition, “Puño de Tierra,” which I would love to translate as “Fistful of Earth,” was produced as part of an ongoing program, “Desde el cuerpo, la tangente” — which I can’t really translate, but try to imagine the line of your trajectory extending out in front of you as you turn your body sharply to double-check if you really just saw what you think you just saw — curated by Abril Zales.

Students milled about, studiously ignoring the art and all of us there who were there to look at it. In one video series, similarly apathetic students ran through bits and pieces of their practice routines as Calixto lithely maneuvered his body to block the sound coming out of their instruments. In one such video, Calixto bows his head into the bell of a trumpet student practicing the opening solo to “Promenade,” from Modest Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. I wondered if the student was playing this excerpt as a sort of ironic gesture or if he had played it automatically because it was something he had been practicing earlier that day. I wondered if Calixto had asked the students what they would play beforehand or if he had asked what they played afterwards or if he had asked them anything at all.