Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Decides What Is Art? Zona Maco 2014

A couple of weeks ago while I was sitting in a student’s office and caught glimpse of this image:

Zona Maco 2014

"What is that?" I asked my student. To which he replied, "You want one? Here, it is yours". It was an VIP invitation, with two tickets and passes to the VIP section of an event called Zona Maco.

Several days past when texting with a designer friend  I wrote “I have tickets to something called Zona Maco” Her reply “Are you inviting me or are you just being poshy?” "What do you mean by poshy?" I asked. "If we go, you'll see." she answered.

As we walked into Zona Maco on Feb. 8th, the very first stand was one by Hermès followed by one by BMW with a supermodel stading in front, I understood why Zona Maco had the very poshy reputation. 
Hermès Zona Maco 2014
Photo Credit: Yao Keng

Touted as Latin American’s largest event for contemporary art and design, this year Zona Maco celebrated its 11th anniversary. It is a space where galleries, designers and the like come to sell their wares. For four days, hipsters, buyers, artists, writers, the media, designers and those curious about the event milled through Hall D at Centro Banamex.

And of course since this is a poshy event, there were also overpriced things for sale. Like hand woven, wool yoga mats for $2000MXN or brightly painted wooden stools selling for $1800 to2,200MXN. So, basically, Zona Maco has capitivatingly gorgeous people walking about looking at art and each other.

As far as the artwork went, I enjoyed works from several gallaries like Gladstone, Mayoral Galeria d'Art, and and the there were some pieces that puzzled me. For example, a piece by artist Johann Koeng. The grey carcass of a giant squid laying in its own ink. I felt sad. I felt sorry for the animal that I supposed the artist used to cast the mold for the latex reproduction. Other pieces left me agein wondering, "why is this art?" like the instalation piece shown bellow with a obese person laying on a table at McDonald's looking on as what appears to be an employee wipes down the window. There were other pieces that seemed to me to be along the lines of practical art. Like the piece entitled "A Wolf, an Olive Tree and Circumstances" by Siobhan Hapaska. The fur covered, vibrating jungle gym with a uprooted tree dangling in the center was the perfect spot for me to put my tired feet for an imprompetou foot masage. It also would have been a great group vibrator. I know that art historians and philosphers ask and answer this question all the time but seriously, after seeing things like this, I still ask: who decides what art is and why do those people get to decide? 

Photo source:

A Requiem to Theater of Creativity:
Self-portrait as Marcel Duchamp ,
2010, by Yasumasa Mori

Photo credit:@klarf

A Wolf, an Olive Tree and Cirumstanes.

@klarf in hipster paradise
I should have guessed what this event was about when I opened the invitation to find a VIP pass. Of course I could have done some research before going. If I had, I would have found sites that poke fun at Zona Maco as well as criticize the event. The website has a post tittled "Dejen de Hacer Arte, Hagan Publicidad" (stop making art, make publicity) where writer Jose Luis explains "last year I wrote a review of Zona Maco: there were tears, laughs and a lot of people who demanded that instead of just criticizing, I propose new things." On Miguel Angel Morales' blog there are re-posted tweets about Zona Maco 2014. One tweet asks "is Zona Maco just for taking pictures for Instagram or does have another purpose?" I did find another purpose for Zona Maco when I realized Jose was there. Which Jose you ask? Why a Jose Cuervo 1800 bar offering tamarind and limon cucumber margaritas. 

Limon Cucumber Jose Cuervo Margarita
Photo credit:@klarf

Friday, February 14, 2014

Be My Mexican Valentine

El Gran Panteon Amoroso (The Incredible Loving Cemetery) by Jose Guadalupe Posada

I am not a cynic when it comes to love. Well, maybe I am a little. Let's say I am a hybrid: an cynically optimistic romantic. I do know that if you want to fall in love with a culture, you have to interact with its art. Why not let Mexico's "universal artist" be your Valentine this year? Check out my article on  El about Jose Guadalupe Posada and if you can, visit the show at Morelia's Palacio Clavijero that runs until February16th, 2014. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Teacher Wears Prada

Elba Esther Gordillo Photo Credit:  Marcelo A. Salinas/MCT

Read more here:
Education in Mexico is guaranteed as a constitutional right. According to law, it should be public, free of tuition and of bias. However, in reality, education in Mexico is a big business. 

From public school officials asking parents to pay fees (herehere and here) for different things when it is expressedily illegal to do so, to the former teacher's union leader arrested on charges of money laundering, education as it turns out, is not that free after all. The union leader was, until her arrest, the lifelong leader, who said on the day of her SNTE inaguration that "we shall not let our union be anyone's treasure chest, there will be no re-election". Yet when Elba Esther Gordillo was detained on charges of illicit activities and embezellment and  named one of Mexico's most corrupt officials, people just shrugged their shoulders. No one seemed that suprised. So whether it is public or private education, schools mean money. The treasure chest, as it turned out, was meant for Elba Esther Gordillo and her associates.

Photo credit
Several years ago, we enrolled one of our children in a public school. While at the school, we were asked to pay a fee of $500 pesos (about $45.00 USD). Imagine how many families have paid these fees only to see Elba Esther Gordillo using some of the most expensive clothing. It is like a smack in the face. Which is why those with the money pay for private school while those who don't have the money, deal with the reality of corruption and economic inequalities in the public school system.

Photo credit:

Which brings me to an image has been making the rounds on social media lately comparing Finland's education system to that of the the US education system. As it turns out, when you compare education systems in both countries, the differences have everything to do with context. And contextualizing this Mexico only shows that the gap between the haves and have nots widens. It isn't fair that teachers and teacher unions take the blame when it comes to deficiencies in education but when people like Elba Esther Gordillo are allowed to stay in power, corruption becomes institutionalized. Which only really ruins it for everyone in the end. 

The teacher's union provided the perfect environment for breeding corruption. Let a person lead a powerful group of people for life and yes, you will get a monster. It was only a matter of time.