If one were to look beyond the superficial similarities between India and Mexico, beyond the obvious love for spicy gastronomical treats, vibrant street life, and passion for colours, these two countries are comparable as nations steeped in history, with indigenous civilizations dating back thousands of years, long periods under colonial rule, distinct social stratifications, multiple languages and faiths, and in contemporary times, as rapidly developing powers in the global scenario. Despite being on opposite sides of the globe, there is a strong shared semblance in the social and political forces that are shaping these developing economies in the postmodern, globalized era.
Antipodes, the diametrically opposite points of any given place on earth, have inspired human imagination to create new ways of thinking of the other. This other is different yet familiar, oddly not quite foreign with so many shared experiences. Despite separated by continents and oceans, these antipodes have common worldviews and perceptions. An Antipode So Close
is the first step in exploring these invisible connections, and brings to India the works of some of the most interesting artists from the Mexican art scene today. The title takes inspiration from Octavio Pazs essay The Antipodes of Coming and Going from his book In Light of India, which brings forth some of these considerations that bridges these two countries which are on opposite sides of the world.
The Mexican art scene is socially intense and politically charged. The works emerging from this scene are edgy and playful, yet profound and extremely poetic. The artists are engaged in social and artistic movements continuously rethinking Mexican identity while addressing global issues. Many of their works propose analternative vision of Mexico that is removed from the dilapidated image of the country transmitted by the popular media. Moving beyond the question of borders, they have been active in reinventing the vocabulary of globalised contemporary art when addressing issues concerning developing nations and their paths to modernization.
Coming from a century old tradition of socially engaged art, Mexican artists critical voice is stimulating in its sharpness. The critical stance that several artists have taken since the Muralist movement of the post-revolution 1920s has been that of denouncing the harsh social conditions that has plagued the nation; from violence, inequality, corruption and injustice to the newer forms disruptions caused by rapid globalization, migration, liberalization and economic crisis. Of course, these conditions continue to prevail till today and are not endemic to Mexico alone. We can trace surprising similarities with a country such as India, which too is caught up in its race for modernization and free economies, forgetting to look at the more important and disrupting social issues that stagnate its development. Much of the work by the Mexican artists, in this context, finds a certain local resonance in India.
While Mexicans are tired of the association with savagery/violence as depicted by mainstream media, in the visual arts it is this very depiction of violence that has been integral to its critical potential. Through their depictions the artists denounce, protest, satire and reveal the larger social/psychological impact of violence which often goes unseen. However violence is not characteristic of just modern Mexico, but runs through all periods of the countrys history: from a bloody colonization by the Spanish to the 10-year-long social revolution in the early 1900s. The year 1968 was particularly brutal to the student movements and uprisings, with the tragic massacre ending the protests, an incident that is yet unresolved. Today, violence and death tolls continue to escalate with alarming numbers of weapons pouring down from the American border in exchange for drugs. The works in this exhibition thus attempt to raise important questions about the Mexican context of today: How do we speak about the difficult conditions of Mexican society? What are the spaces of catharsis? How do we grieve the dead and heal the wounded collective memory? How do we denounce our rage? What is the place of the poetic and the aesthetic?
The exhibition mainly includes artists born in the 1960s and 1970s, whose works have traveled around the world but in essence remain in synchronicity with the context they emerge from. They have explored different materials and used technology and social interventions to develop their practices. This very small selection of artists tries to show how the creative context in Mexico has allowed the artist to experiment in very diverse media. It is rare in Mexico to find an artist who only paints or uses installation; the practice in general is that of diversity, excelling in quality and conceptual content.
Finally, as a cultural experience, this exhibition brings to India a great opportunity to get acquainted with a tradition that is in so many ways similar to that of India. However, the geographical distance of these two nations has for long made it difficult to directly set up a direct cultural dialogue, uninterrupted and interpreted by western media. In a sense this exhibition presents an chance to engage with and understand the other west; one that is older, historically richer, and strikingly similar to that of India.
Benefitting from the support of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations (SRE), the Embassy of Mexico in India, the Ministry of Culture (CONACULTA) through the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) and the kind support of UPL Ltd. this project aims to attract an all new curiosity to a new capital of art: Mexico.
The exhibition is on view at Vadehra Art Gallery
until 11 January, 2014.