THE SMOKED MIRROR

The idea for The Smoked Mirror takes both from a long tradition of founded and unfounded parallelism drawn between India and Mexico by a number of artists and intellectuals, and from my personal experience in navigating cities and crowds that seems both strangely familiar to the senses and utterly cryptic in their motivations and inner workings.
 
 
 

In between one can find a buffer zone of possible interpretation: taking advantage of the part of the mind that is still halfway down the road to Delhi (and which will probably never make it here) one can picture oneself in front of it all in a tongue-in-cheek yogic exercise This döppelganger in India, being simultaneously here and thousands of miles away depending on the perspective one takes, embodies the unreal status of the distance traveled, together with the human need to be actually there, regardless of the possibilities of dematerialized presence trumpeted by satellite communications, telepresence gurus and other IT fads. 

The fact that one can be invited for an art show and land 20,000 kilometers away from home and behave so casually about it, just tackling the new images and materials as one more fact of life, runs counter to the part of the mind that keeps trying to convince itself that it is actually there. It is quite crazy that artists are expected to work like this, and to place themselves in this situations shrugging off the possibility of actually not being wholly in the place, and using this incomplete presence to their advantage. This is the mirror I am referring to, a mirror that reflects not the whole image, but a fragment being observed by another fragment. It is said that people change while traveling, and in this light it is because there is a certain bliss or anguish at finding themselves missing something, or at finding the part of themselves they thought was missing.

For all practical purposes the world is still run according to national boundaries, however weary and skeptical one may be about labeling identities, cultures and individuals according to nationality. Bringing a show of contemporary art from Mexico to India does not mean anything particularly important about Mexico, but it does mean something about a group of people living and working there. All those deep or shallow similarities between both countries can be put to work to put individuals in touch, to weave relationships and images upon solid ground, upon mirages or pure ether. What is that people going to one place or another bring with themselves but an image? To navigate any mode of encounter, in order to enjoy the actual experience, one must learn to shed the expectations and simplifications the image provides; the paradox lies in the fact that it was the image that brought us there in the first place. 

The lure for an artist to come here lies therein, in this territory that lies beyond the usual ladder-rungs of the global art circuit and the boundaries of our tried regional allegiances. One might be rightly expected to do away with the image, and to address the place in its reality, but the audience should also be asked to take into account the situation in which the artists find themselves, so often being asked to respond to a specific environment with an immediacy more fit for some experimental monkey. As much as I am talking about the conscience of the artists being somehow fragmented, catching up late with the gross physical movement (what is conscience if not the most subtle and inexplicable form of the physical world?), and being able in this fragmentation to see itself, one might request that the audience look at themselves looking, asking themselves about their expectations and what they actually see. Some of the work will be produced in India, some other pieces will be produced in Mexico specially for the show, still some others will be chosen from the artists' previous production. The whole gradation will be there… 

The mirror of the title is not a mirror between countries but between and within individuals; a hazy view of oneself realizing no presence is pure, no fantasy totally false, no image whole. But in that other view, a fragment of fabric, a gesture of the hand, a tone of the voice might be so familiar as to be transfixed into a whole new image of yourself.


Special note on Artists
The media represented in this exhibition gives an idea of a shift that has taken place in the production of art in Mexico since the mid-1990's. The gravitational pull of a strong painting tradition has waned considerably, while the availability of video cameras, computers, ever more sophisticated programs and an eager and growing audience has contributed to render the traditional practice of painting as one more possibility among many in an increasingly leveled playing field. One where installation, performance, photography and media art no longer play a marginal role. This doesn't mean that more traditional practices have been totally abandoned or that these artists rely on their media's actuality to provide meaningfulness to their work. If one characteristic is common in all these works it is the way in which they refer us from one media to another: from sculpture to music, from video to drawing, from programming to writing; they make us realize how short is the distance between the digital and the handmade, and in this same movement they address a whole cultural context. In this way, their work's flexibility counterweights the natural coldness of the digital, its rigid formats and standards of presentation, avoiding the usual languages of the documentary and mass media.