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MAINSDREAM: A REALITY THAT OVERWHELMS DREAMS

by Frida Cano Dom铆nguez* *Fundaci贸n / Colecci贸n Jumex scholar and Recipient of the Program Beca para Estudios en el Extranjero 2010-2011 del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes


Introducción en el marco de Arttextum

El proyecto de titulación Mainsdream –A Reality that Overwhelms Dreams nació originalmente como una respuesta a la constante búsqueda por alcanzar el reconocimiento inmediato del medio artístico, en términos de fama y fortuna, por parte de varios compañeros de la Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado “La Esmeralda”, México. Este aspecto, que en aquel entonces me llamó mucho la atención, tuvo una mención breve en mi proyecto de titulación de la Licenciatura de Artes Plásticas de la misma institución. Una vez terminado este proyecto, continué mis investigaciones durante mis estudios de Maestría en Artes en el San Francisco Art Institute, California, Estados Unidos. Estas investigaciones consolidaron mi tesis de titulación de posgrado, la cual fue apoyada en gran medida por Fundación / Colección Jumex y por la Beca para Estudios en el Extranjero 2010-2011 del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, CONACULTA. El término mainsdream es un concepto que desarrollé para denominar las tendencias de arte generadas que más tarde se convierten en productos consumibles por el mercado del arte. En el mainsdream, artistas novatos o aspirantes a artistas son guiados por una ilusión de fama y fortuna como consecuencia de un mundo globalizado y dominado por los medios masivos de comunicación. Este concepto nace como una crítica al anglicismo “mainstream” tras la conjunción de las palabras “main” como lo principal, y “dream” entendido como sueño o anhelo. A pesar de que mainstream y mainsdream tienen una pronunciación muy similar, su significado es distinto. Esto podría entenderse como una ejemplificación del modo en que se malinterpreta el término mainstream y de cómo en él se funden los dos conceptos. Se utiliza el término mainsdream para separar estas ideas y referir a su asimilación cultural al momento en que el agente de arte desea pertenecer a la cultura hegemónica. En términos de Arttextum, el mainsdream alude sólo a los efectos de contaminación cultural generada. Esta noción es una herramienta de análisis para determinar el Clima Cultural de Arttextum. Las implicaciones de esta palabra no deben confundirse con una generalización para denominar a los artistas participantes del proyecto. Por el contrario, mainsdream y el estudio que a continuación se presenta, brindan un marco de referencia para entender la contraparte que los artistas de Arttextum representan. Si bien, lo artistas del mainsdream anhelan y trabajan para salir de su realidad inmediata – de un país del llamado “Tercer Mundo”–, los artistas de Arttextum trabajan desde el contexto latinoamericano y se inspiran en él para poder insertarse aún más en esa realidad y potenciar cambios desde el sector cultural y artístico. Este texto es el proyecto original de tesis, y se ilustra con imágenes del libro Terry Painter L’Artiste de los artistas Miguel Calderón y Nick Waplington. Espero con este trabajo de investigación poder abrir un campo para el mejor entendimiento de la escena de arte global desde el contexto latinoamericano.

FRIDA CANO, enero de 2015 arttextum.net


The San Francisco Art Institute MAINSDREAM –A REALITY THAT OVERWHELMS DREAMS A thesis submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF ARTS In EXHIBITION AND MUSEUM STUDIES by Frida Cano Domínguez* *Fundación Colección Jumex scholar and Recipient of the Program Beca para Estudios en el Extranjero 2010-2011 del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes

May 2011

The thesis of Frida Cano Domínguez is approved:

Hou Hanru

Julio Morales

Glen Helfand

Claire Daigle Director of MA Programs


Copyright

by

Frida Cano DomĂ­nguez 2011


Table of Content

Table of Illustrations…………………………………………………………………………………………………iv Abstract……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………v Acknowledgements…………………………………………………………………………………………………..vi Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………………1 Chapter 1: My life is a joke………………………………………………………………………………………...10 Situating Mexico through the history of a colonized mind……………………………....11 Chapter 2: In the Museum of Modern Art is the Youngest Artists Ever to Be Given a Retrospective…………………………………………………………………………………….................21 Mainsdream, a cultural common dream………………….……………………………………...23 Chapter 3: Meet Terry Painter…………………………………………………………………………………...40 Terry, generalized inspiration and common aspirations................................................45 Mainsdream, the (un)achievable utopia………………………................................................49 Icarus, the fall and fail of mainsdream…………………...........................................................51 Conclusion: A History of Failure and Its Counterpart: Irony…...…………………………………54 Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………………………………………59

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Table of Illustrations

Figures from 1 to 21, corresponding to pages 23 to 58 in the text, are extracts from Miguel Calderón and Nick Waplington, Terry Painter L’Artiste, Mexico, 2005

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Abstract Frida Cano Domínguez* *Fundación Colección Jumex scholar and Recipient of the Program Beca para Estudios en el Extranjero 2010-2011 del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes

MAINSDREAM –A REALITY THAT OVERWHELMS DREAMS

What are the consequences of globalization within Mexico City’s art scene? The implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 brought to Mexico the broken promise of economic growth, social stability, and an open and free market under the name of globalization. An illusion of success came after that, reflecting it a decade after in the country’s arts and culture. Taking the philosophical theories of Mexican philosopher Samuel Ramos and French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, the thesis analyzes critically the pieces of the broken promise by introducing a new term to art theory (mainsdream) to describe the way in which many Mexico City’s artists desire to be consumed within a mainstream market. For this analysis, the thesis focuses on the graphic novel Terry Painter L’Artiste as a way to illustrate how aspiring Mexican artists shifted the tide of art within the City. The thesis provides a historical background that is particular to the Mexican context that lays the ground for a discussion of the mainsdream; however, this investigation of the mainsdream in Mexico addresses current facts that are also occurring worldwide. The thesis provides an alternative solution to the history of failures that precedes the emergence of the contemporary Mexican art scene. Irony appears as a key element to understand the consequences of globalization in a place where different eras and cultures amalgamate within one place: Mexico City.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to give a special recognition to Fundación/Colección Jumex for supporting my Master of Arts studies; to Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes / Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes in Mexico for their funding during the last year of my studies through the program Beca para Estudios en el Extranajero; to the San Francisco Art Institute, its professors and staff that welcomed and supported me with a smile that always made me feel at home. Thanks to my friends Ana Belén, David, Paulina, Claudia, Brooke, Stefanie, and the rest of the “Latino gang” who taught me how to smile and dance regardless languages or rhythms. My gratitude to Mary Ellyn Johnson, a great mentor and boss who saved me in many occasions; and to Shannon Plath, Megann Sept, Jose de los Reyes, Helen Vradelis, and Colleen Mulvey for making my entrance and staying at SFAI possible and extremely satisfying. A special thanks to Benjamín Juárez Echenique and Chris Bratton for believing in me and helping me make it to San Francisco; many thanks to my thesis committee Julio Morales, Glen Helfand, and of course Hou Hanru, for pushing me forward during the process of writing and imagining better possibilities; my gratitude to Miguel Calderón, who cleared the fog from my mainsdream ideas. Thanks to my family and friends, in Mexico and abroad, who had been my life pillar. My most sincere appreciation to Mick Lorusso, the light and love of my life. (Without you life would have never started.)

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Introduction

I was born in Mexico City in January 1982. In August of that same year, Mexico declared bankruptcy and a huge crisis followed1. It was the second major economic crisis the country faced2 after the 1972 crisis in which the price of the dollar rose from 12.50 to almost double3. I remember each time a new president took power, our currency was immediately replaced with new coins that were “worth” more; this resulted in cyclical devaluations that occurred every six years. At that point, if people did not spend the money, the coins of previous years would be worth nothing. Overpopulation was another problem that the City has faced. Like the majority of people living in Mexico City, I lived in an apartment of the so-called condominios [condominiums] that rapidly invaded the city beginning in the 1980s. As a consequence of the overpopulation, my generation and the later generations grew up with a fear of running out of water in the near future. Today, this fear seems to become a reality. I recall being absent from school on several occasions to avoid the pollution that killed birds and other animals that inhabited the city’s streets. Due to this, the government made a decree to stop classes in the city, and implemented a

The crisis began during the 1970’s with the global economic crisis. The price of the Mexican oil slumped and the foreign debt increased leading to a devaluation of the peso. The nationalization of the banks did not worked as expected, and a few months later after President Miguel de la Madrid assumed the charge, the 1982 economic crisis strongly whipped. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: University Press, 2005) 98-99 2 Eric Harshberg and Fred Rosen, ed., Latin America After Neoliberalism: Turning the Tide of the 21st Century? (New York and London: The New Press, NACLA, 2006) 6 3 José G. Fernández, “Dos Grandes Crísis en México, 1972-1980: La crísis del petróleo y de la deuda externa en México”, Suite101.net Colaboraciones y Contenidos de Calidad (June 26, 2009) under “Economía Latina,” http://www.suite101.net/content/mexico-19721980-dos-crisisfuertes-a443 (accessed March 5, 2011) Jessica Claudi Díaz de León Gómez, “Economía mexicana 1970-1986”, GestioPolis, (October 2001) under “Comercio internacional,” http://www.gestiopolis.com/recursos/documentos/fulldocs/eco/ecomexico.htm (accessed March 5, 2011) 1

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car plan called Hoy no circula4 [Today the car does not circulates] that only made the city transit worse over the course of the years. In 1985, a historically severe earthquake destroyed a great part of Mexico City. One of the many reasons why the city collapsed was not only because of the intensity of the earthquake, but also because of the city’s infrastructure that was erected on false foundations of the previous regimes. The crime wave that followed in 1985 turned Mexico City from a somewhat tranquil metropolis into one of the most dangerous of Latin American cities within a decade5. Economic collapse contributed to the increase in crime, notable increases in drug use, kidnapping, rapes, and theft. The increasing lawlessness led parents to restrict their children’s activities in the city. The majority of these kids found their playgrounds moved indoors, to the more imagined and safety reality of the television. Like many children, I used to entertain myself with television shows and for years, I was educated within the borders of the mass media. The economic crisis also made many parents virtually absent because they had to work longer hours to pay the bills. However, the “latchkey child” was not totally fixture in Mexican society because extended family typically shared housing. In the mid 1980s, Mexican television was monopolized by telenovelas [Mexican soap operas], tacky Mexican comedy programs, and cartoons. I remember that the majority of children’s cartoons came from Asia and depicted kids who lived in Europe or in the U.S.; a good example for this is the Japanese melodrama anime Candy Candy that pictured an orphan girl whose tragic adventures occurred between the U.S. and Europe. Most of these cartoons were

Hoy No Circula, http://www.hoynocircula.com.mx/ (accessed March 5, 2011) Centro de Estudios Económicos del Sector Privado, “La inseguridad pública en México”, Coparmex, no. 168 (September 2002) under “Publicaciones”, http://www.coparmex.org.mx/contenidos/publicaciones/entorno/2002/sep02/b.htm (accessed March 5, 2011) Harvey, 100 4 5

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based on kids’ adventures and tragedies in the path of finding the main character’s mother6, or depicted mechanical, feline, or outer space heroes7; in both cases, the cartoons depicted “realities” foreign to Mexico City’s context at that time. In the late eighties and early nineties, both TV and cable started to broadcast a different kind of programming in which comedies with laugh tracks were the core of the shows. American sit-coms suddenly invaded the majority of the Mexican TV programming and rapidly enchanted viewers with the perfect lives of the characters. A great example for that is the internationally broadcasted family comedy Full House that depicted a safe, fun, and simple life in San Francisco. Like the majority of these kinds of sitcoms, this show presented blond and attractive actors/actresses who faced dilemmas that seemed notably foreign to the Mexican context. An interesting fact to notice is that the programs coming from the U.S. were targeting the middle and upper classes, specifically the young people who felt very proximity –geographically- to such T.V. depictions. Young generations started to become more interested in this foreign reality because it could speak about light problems (as opposed to the problems that Mexico has to face as a country) that could be solved in a humorous way (contrasting with the telenovelas). What was happening? As stated by Mexican scholar Ruben Gallo “the changes began in the summer of 1988, when Carlos Salinas de Gortari was elected president after a bitterly contested election. […] Salinas took office on December 1, 1988, amid widespread allegations of fraud and electoral irregularities.”8 President Salinas was a Harvard-trained economist, who instituted a series of neoliberal reforms that were designed to modernize the Mexican economy9. Salinas’ reform

Some examples are Bell y Sebastian, directed by Kenji Hayakawa, 1981-1982; Candy Candy, created by Kyōko Mizuki and Yumiko Igarashi, 1975-1982; Remi, el niño de nadie, directed by Osamy Dezaki, 1977-1978; Heidi, la niña de los Alpes, directed by Isao Takahata, 1974, Gigi, Lula Belle, among many others. 7 Some examples are Mazinger Z, created by Gō Nagai, 1972-1973; ThunderCats (Los felinos cósmicos), 198-1987; Silverhawks (Los alcones galácticos), created by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, cartoon from America, 1986; He-Man, created by Mattel, cartoon from America, 1983-1984, and many more. 8 Ruben Gallo, New Tendencies in Mexican Art: The 1990’s (McMillan Palgrave, 2004) 2 9 Gallo, 2 6

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program was achieved through the implementation of a series of treaties and agreements between his government and the U.S. The Maquiladora Program10, the privatization of the banks, the encouragement of foreign ownership in many sectors, and the Program Solidaridad [Solidarity], were among a series of negotiations that set the ground for NAFTA.11 In 1991 the Salinas government passed a reform law that allowed privatization of the ejidos lands.12 The people mainly affected by this law were the indigenous groups, who later supported the civil war led by the Ejécito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) on the first day (January 1, 1994) the North American Free Trade Agreement officially began. By 1994 Mexican history changed drastically because the ground was set during the previous years, not only for an economic shift, but also, and more importantly, for political brain wash. In that year, NAFTA, which among other things was purported to be a means of changing the failed economic system in Mexico. American scholar David Harvey in his book A Brief History of Neoliberalism explains that “Mexico had to swallow, mainly voluntarily as it turned out, the International Monetary Fund’s poison pill of deeper neoliberalization. The result was the ‘tequila crisis’ of 1995, sparked, as had happened in 1982, by the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates.”13 As a consequence, new currency once again entered into the economic realm, only this time, since the devaluation was major, the authorities decided to take out three zeros of the actual value. For instance, the dollar was valued

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The Maquila programs are the practices of manufacturing in a country that is not that of the business owner. Maquila operations involve the importation of foreign merchandise into Mexico, where it is assembled, manufactured or repaired and then exported, either to the country of origin or to a third country. Mexico is a prime location for U.S. assembly activities abroad due to lower wages, utilities and overhead and the proximity to the U.S. Transportation costs from practically any location in continental U.S. to the Mexican border are lower than to almost any point overseas. As of June 1994, 2032 maquila plants employing in excess of 468,000 workers were operating in Mexico. The great majority of them are U.S. owned. Gerard Morales, Benjamin Aguilera, David K. Armstrong, “An Overview of the Maquiladora Program”, United States Department of Labor (1994) under (Bureau of International Labor Affairs) http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/nao/maquilad.htm#N_1_ (accessed March 27, 2011) 11 Harvey, 101 12 Harvey, 101 13 Harvey, 103

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at 3,600 pesos in December 1994 and by March 1995 the dollar was worth 7.5014 pesos. As many people believed, the “new peso” was “better” than the old one because mathematically, it showed a lower value; however, in reality, the dollar in the example above was actually worth 7,500 of the original pesos. This current system was a mind trick that cheated the people of Mexico. Homicides and suicides began to increase mainly within the middle class started to occur. Parents who could not pay their debts committed suicide, leaving their families in desperate situations15. Political assassinations and imprisonments occupied the first pages of the main newspapers. Yet since its introduction, NAFTA changed nothing economically. In fact, Mexico’s general scenario seems to get worse in cyclical waves. Along with the economic crash and its many consequences, the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement opened a window by which Mexicans could observe their northern neighbors, specifically the United States of America. A generation of Mexicans became particularly fascinated by the American “Other”, accessible through mass media such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers, movies, and the early stages of the Internet. These mass media tools led to self-taught lessons by which Mexicans imagined how great and attractive it would be to live the so-called American dream. The repercussion of this dream which people seem to have been force-fed through the media, created generalized aspirations of success. It is interesting to notice the ironic scenario that NAFTA created for the generations that were raised under the influence of the mass media, that due to the country’s economic failure, these people could not reach what the mass media inspired them to achieve. For instance, if TV

Josué Emmanuel Fernández Torres, “La crisis financiera de 1994-1995 y el TLCAN a diez años”, Biblioteca Virtual EURNED (2005) http://www.eumed.net/libros/2005/jeft/1f.htm (accessed March 5, 2011) 15 As an accurate reference, the Mexican movie Elisa antes del fin del mundo [Elisa Before the End of the World], depicts a middle class family that faced the consequences of the 1994 bankruptcy and that led to the dead of one of the family members. Elisa antes del fin del mundo, film directed Juan Antonio de la Riva, by Televicine, S.A. de C.V., Mexico, 1997 14

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was showing characters travelling all over the world, many of the Mexican viewers could only dream about that because they did not have the money to travel in real life. This dream was visible through a window that NAFTA opened, that remains open today, but that is hard to enter through since it is not a door. An American monopolization invaded the market economically, politically, socially, and over the years, culturally. By the late nineties, I started seeing the consequences of NAFTA, particularly within the artistic sector. Museums I remember having featured mainly nationalist Mexican art began to show another kind of art influenced from the outside. Arts and culture in Mexico City changed dramatically during those years, and a shift towards a spectacle of the imported, non-vernacular kind of art arose a decade after NAFTA. The country rapidly became a center for internationalization and globalization. A so-called boom in contemporary Mexican art emerged with great momentum, situating the country, especially Mexico City, as one of the emergent art capitals. Not only were Mexican artists vigorously recognized, but also, the notion of what was “Mexican” was called into question through the recognition of non-Mexican artists (such as Francis Alÿs and Melanie Smith) that were working in the City16. Another consequence of NAFTA was an excess of money from Mexican entrepreneurs, whose fortunes were bolstered by the treaty, which allowed private institutions to buy artworks in massive quantities. For the first time in Mexico’s history, an important influx of private money gave a different dynamic to artists and art agents to experiment outside of the non-political and folkloric type of art that the government traditionally encouraged. A great example is Fundación/Colección Jumex, a Mexican juice company that became wealthy especially after NAFTA, and that currently has the biggest and most important contemporary art collection in Latin America.17 Another great example is the

It is interesting to notice that expatriate artists living in Mexico is not a new thing. For instance, from the Ruptura [Rupture] generation, foreign artists like Roger von Gunten and Mathias Goeritz. However, the mass media focused the attention on the current expat artists living specifically in Mexico City, calling them “Mexicans” regardless their nationalities. 17 Gallo, 10-11 16

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private and ambitious art gallery Kurimanzutto that was founded in 199918; the same year that Jumex opened a permanent museum featuring high brow art shows inside of its juice factory. Kurimanzutto started as a nomadic gallery in Mexico City, and is now one of the main commercial galleries that represents international and national artists in major art museums, biennials, and art fairs all over the world. At that time, contemporary Mexican art, mostly produced within the City of Mexico, put itself forward as a major participant in the international art scene. However, this scenario created an illusion for the following generation of Mexican artists who learned to interpret success in terms of legitimization, recognition, fame, and fortune, terms that are closely linked to the spectacle of the mainstream. I identify this phenomenon as mainsdream. Mainsdream is a term I developed to refer to generalized aspirations and to the interpretations of what one can see from the mainstream culture within the arts. Mainsdream is a combination of the words “main”, meaning major or common, and “dream”, which refers to hope or aspirations. In the contemporary visual arts, the phenomenon of the mainsdream became especially visible internationally through publications of specialized magazines such as ArtForum, Sculpture; exhibition catalogues from Biennials in New York; and full colored books with a composite of works organized by themes. Some examples of these amalgamated books include Art Now (in its many volumes), Masterpieces of Western Art, and Collecting Contemporary Art published by Taschen or The 20th Century Art Book, Vitamin PH, D & P, Art Today, Ice Cream, and titles in the Contemporary Artists series by Phaidon Press19. By consuming the multitude of mainstream media, this generation of Mexican artists grew into maturity believing in this mirage, this mainsdream, drastically changing the tide of Mexican culture in only a few years.

Gallo, 10-11 Despite the fact that Taschen and Phaidon Press are European publishers, many people thought at first that both were coming from the USA due to the fact that the articles and texts were written in English. 18 19

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The title of this thesis, Mainsdream –A Reality that Overwhelms Dreams, reflects upon the imagery that acts as a source of aspiration to the individuals in the Mexico City art scene. I am interested in focusing on the generation that was born in the late 70s and early 80s (people who lived the described scenario of Mexican failures) and who currently represent the contemporary emergent Mexican art world, in order to delve into the mainsdream Mexican art malady. Because the majority of the art agents (artists, curators, art critics, etc.), especially in the early stages of their careers, have a set of common aspirations that come from the mainstream media, they believe that gaining recognition and wealth is the main goal to reach in order to become a successful and professional artist or art agent. Examining Mexican philosopher Samuel Ramos’ notion of the inferiority complex and French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s theory of simulation, this thesis will analyze the mainsdream phenomenon within the Mexican emergent art sector. In order to examine the singularity of the Mexican mainsdream in more concrete terms, the thesis will also focus on the graphic novel Terry Painter L’Artiste by artists Miguel Calderon and Nick Waplington. This novel has been chosen because of its accurate depiction art scenarios and highly ironical sense of tragedy/drama within the art world. Taking the main character of the graphic novel Terry as an alias to name the young mainsdream artists, this investigation of the mainsdream within the 1990s and 2000s in Mexico allows us to look more deeply into an important phenomenon that is happening in many other places around the world. The thesis is divided in three chapters which are influenced by the theories of Ramos, Baudrillard, and the ironic commentary of the graphic novel Terry Painter. Utilizing Ramos’ theories, the first chapter examines Mexican history in terms of a failed story. The notion of a colonized mind is a key element that can reveal the main reasons why aspiring Mexican artists adopt foreign values to produce and to measure their art. The second chapter addresses Baudrillard’s simulacrum with the aim of connecting the significance of his notion to artistic

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terms, that is, as mainsdream. This chapter provides the reader with a better understanding of the art scene in Mexico in order to make plausible the mainsdream scenario. The third chapter follows the logic of Calderon and Waplington’s graphic novel in the three different states in which the main character is involved. Finally, the conclusion attempts to compile all the elements of the young Mexican mainsdream in order to reformulate the perception of failures as a means to improve cultural health. My aim with this thesis is to contribute to previous investigations from various scholars around the world that critically engage the reader with a different perspective of Mexico’s art scene. I believe that by having a clear view of “the other side of the coin” (even if it is a devaluated coin), Mexico’s history of failures actually makes it a place with great potential for creation and production beyond its local and harsh context. This potential is what makes my topic worthwhile, and it is also a reason to believe that despite the mainsdream symptom, people and specifically cultural producers, can move forward to achieve –true and- personal life goals. I was born in Mexico, a bankrupt State with a wealthy state of mind and healthy sense of humor.

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Chapter 1

My life is a joke…

Mexico’s art and culture has developed from oscillations between apogees and perigees, but the lived experience tends to exist in a space is not described or recorded in official history. Mexican art history only recognizes very few periods, as peak moments, in which a notion of success is part of the accompanying historic writing. In every period of domination, a new art emerges that is tied to the current power structure. Under what conditions does the contemporary art world arise? How are old power structures at work in the present one, as though each new regime simply passes along the baton to the next? What kind of disconnect occurs between what is taught/believed and what is lived in today’s situation? The topic of domination in Latin American history is not new. It is well known that after the arrival of the Spaniards and the Portuguese to the Americas in the fifteenth century, the domination, the cruelty, the tyranny, and the repression created a harsh scenario for the indigenous living in the former colonies20. However, history has been taught mainly through the eyes of the status quo, especially in terms of the ferocity and the painfulness of the colonized body. Many scholars, intellectuals, and cultural producers around the world have demonstrated

For more information, go to In Defense of the Indians, Sepúlveda-Las Casas Debate (Illinois: Northen Illinois University Press) 20

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the sting of colonial expansion and physical decolonization. But after the grief of a war that achieves freedom from the colonizer, is the mind of the decolonized free as well? Is it possible to talk about a colonized mind? Are Mexicans still suffering from that “state of mind”? The history of humanity tells many stories about power and domination between cultures. It is particularly interesting to find telling examples that illustrate the way in which the hegemonic power expands and dominates people. In this thesis, I focus on the Mexican mind. The reason why I am focusing on this particular relation has to do with an obvious yoke that the U.S. and Europe imposes upon Mexico, which, throughout time, also affects the production, distribution and consumption of today’s art. Using a historical framework I will try to respond to not only my initial questions, but also to the ones that emerge in relation to the originals.

This chapter focuses on the history of Mexico since the arrival of the Spaniards until today. Its aim is to situate the country in an unofficial history, one that runs counter to the more common accounts of glorious history and success, instead, the history of a colonized mind. Mexican philosopher Samuel Ramos’ theory complejo de inferioridad [inferiority complex] will serve as a key influence to understand the predominant aspects of a colonized mind among many Mexicans. The relationship between Mexico and the U.S. / Europe will be taken as an example to illustrate how the inferiority complex has affected Mexico throughout its post independent history, specifically the current art scene.

Situating Mexico through a history of a colonized mind In 1934, Mexican philosopher Samuel Ramos was among the first to address a particular aspect that characterizes Mexican people. The inferiority complex among Mexicans is the core of Ramos’ philosophical theory that responds to the inquiries of who are we? and why Mexicans are

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the way they are?21: relevant questions in the post-revolutionary era when Mexico was trying to reflect about its emergent national identity. In his book El perfil del hombre y la cultura en México [The profile of man and the culture of Mexico], Ramos argues that Mexican people have suffered from this complex since the Conquest of the Americas. Ramos explains this complex in the following terms: The inferiority complex translates organic or psychic deficiencies, in the majority of Mexicans it is a collective illusion that results from measuring oneself using very high scales of values that correspond to historically old countries.22

According to the author, the complex that many Mexicans suffer comes from valuating and validating oneself through foreign standards, a deficiency that originates in the lack of attention to ones local history. Throughout the book, Ramos elucidates how indigenous people during La Conquista reached the highest feeling of inferiority when the castas system began23. This complex was, and still is, based on a continuous process of comparison of natives to Spaniards, or to a foreign value, especially in terms of the way people look (dark skin versus white skin). Ramos says that the conquest and colonization began with a colonization of indigenous’ spirituality (indoctrination), education (for instance, learning Spanish rather than local languages), and division of labor in favor of Spaniards. These three elements resulted in a

“El nacionalismo filosófico de Samuel Ramos”, under se piensa, http://sepiensa.org.mx/contenidos/h_mexicanas/s.xx/samuelramos/samuel_1.htm (accessed December 3, 2009) 22 Samuel Ramos, El perfil del hombre y la cultura en México (Mexico: Espasa-Calpe, 1951) 52, translated by Frida Cano 23 The word casta comes from the latin word castus, meaning “pure”. It was typically applied to different animal breeds, and when referring to human kind it was seen as a yoke. The Portuguese started using the word to refer to the local people in India and their social status. The term commonly refers to social groups that, based on heritage or lineage, based their social behavior in relation to their status. Luis Barjau, El concepto casta y la guerra de Yucatán, Jurídicas Unam, Mexico http://www.juridicas.unam.mx/publica/librev/rev/nuant/cont/1/cnt/cnt3.pdf (accessed February 23, 2011) For a clear reference, see W.B. Stevenson’s chart of different “castas” and their mixtures, in Ania Loomba, Colonialism / Postcolonialism, article “Colonil and Postcolonial Identities” (London and New York: Routledge,1998) 104 21

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reduction of the value of indigenous people and their culture. The colonizers’ descriptions of the colonized are another link directly tied to the process of colonization. Indian scholar Ania Loomba in her book Colonialism / Postcolonialism recalls some of the categories that were utilized to refer to colonized people: Despite the enormous differences between the colonial enterprises of various European nations, they seem to generate fairly similar stereotypes of ‘outsiders’ […]Thus laziness, aggression, violence, greed, sexual promiscuity, bestiality, primitivism, innocence and irrationality are attributed (often contradictorily and inconsistently) by the English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese colonists to Turks, Africans, Native Americans, Jews, Indians, the Irish, and others.24

Loomba claims that no matter where nor to whom the colonizer refers, in the eyes of the latter the “outsider” is lazy, bestial, primitive, and irrational, exactly the opposite of the colonizer. The system of colonization is apparent in the descriptions of the indigenous. This was one way Spaniards justified their mistreatment of Indians especially in regard to labor. The contemptuous names not only sowed the seeds for an inferiority complex, but also helped along with the castas system to maintain law and power in the Americas. According to the accounts of Spanish historian, social reformer, and Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas, Spaniards forbade Indians from commanding positions, even for the criollos25, treating them with disdain and denying their capacity for culture26. Under the umbrella of such mistreatment, the inferiority complex among the majority of the indigenous arose in an evident way and has in many ways been perpetuated until this day. For instance, a common saying among Mexicans is como te, ven te tratan [the way in which people see you, is the way they will treat you] and refers to this particular feeling of being in the scope of the Other. The Other is typically believed to be in a

Loomba, 93 The Criollos (singular: Criollo) were a social class in the caste system of the overseas colonies established by Spain in the 16th century, especially in Latin America, comprising the locally born people of pure or mostly Spanish ancestry. Tulio Halperín Donghi, The Contemporary History of Latin America (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993) 49 26 In Defense of the Indians, 32-33 24

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higher position and a person who could potentially mistreat the Mexican depending on the way in which the Mexican behaves, dresses, or even, depending on their ethnic characteristics. Another popular saying and legacy of the Conquista is to call indio [as indigenous] someone uneducated, who seems to belong to a non-urban place, and whose skin color is darker than the already typical brown Mexican skin. Calling someone indio is one of the worst and pejorative insults among Mexicans. The image of the colonized occupies an important place in the dialectics of power and domination. According to Tunisian scholar Albert Memmi, the often-cited portrait of laziness from the colonized has a meaning in history, not because of the importance within the economics regarding the labor to the colonizer, but rather because it touches on the terms of the colonized liberty. Memmi states “the colonized is not free to choose between being colonized or not being colonized”27. Along these lines, Ramos affirms that “we [the Mexicans] were burdened with the destiny of being conquered”28. But the conquest that the Mexican philosopher refers to is not the one that is imposed on the body, rather, it is in the form of a “spiritual conquest” through language (Spanish) and religion (Catholicism). These facts, among others, ingrained the complex of inferiority in Mexican people. It is worth noting that Mexican history is marked by cycles29 of injustices, revolutions, apparent winners, and injustices again. A history of failures that began in the nineteen century when Mexico became an independent country reflects the legacy that Spanish colonization spawned in Mexicans hearts and minds for almost 300 years (Spanish colonization began in 1521, and from 1810 until 1821 Mexico fought for its independence).

Albert Memmi, The Colonized and The Colonized (Boston: Beacon Press) 86 Ramos, 29-30 29 Mexican writer and curator Ana Elena Mallet says, “the crisis in Mexico is, if not constant, then most definitely cyclical” defining Mexico’s history in cyclical eras through which Mexicans seem to keep making the same mistakes. Ana Elena Mallet, Documentary Project, Mexico City: From Constant Crisis to Failed Modernity: The Nonoalco Tlatelolco Housing Project, Farsite Sitios Distantes, 05, p. 176 27 28

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At this point, it should be noted that the term “Mexicans” in this text is referring not only to the majority of the country’s population, but also to the people who command the nation, the authorities who also carry the inferiority complex. For this reason, the country is very malleable. The majority of its people including the authorities lack a sense of value for their local culture and seem to look for validation through a foreign gaze. For instance, in the nineteen century and as an independent nation, Mexico tried to get rid of the Spanish yoke by shifting its reliance on foreign values to the French culture. The political passion from the current commanders at the time acted in favor of the assimilation of French culture, along the same lines in which the religious passion acted previously in favor of the Spanish culture30. A key figure that impelled the fascination of France was Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, who governed the country from 1877 to 1880, and later from 1884 to 1911. During his long dictatorship, Díaz, who was enthralled by French culture, encouraged Mexicans to follow this trend. Architecture historian Patricia Martínez Gutiérrez in her book El Palacio de Hierro: Arranque de la modernidad arquitectónica en la ciudad de México [The Palacio de Hierro: The Starting Mechanism of the Architectonical Modernity in Mexico City] points out the flowering of interest in French culture by looking at the treaties between Mexico and France. Martínez Gutiérrez states: One of the many factors that encouraged the flowering of French commerce, and perhaps one of the least known, was that of the government of Porfirio Díaz, who went along the lines of international fascination of France, and signed in 1888 a Treat of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, making France the most favorable within Mexican territory.31

Martínez Gutiérrez rightly asserts that the enchantment of French culture was not a random situation, but a conscious and legal decision from President Díaz. A similar conquest to Ramos, 41 Patricia Martínez Gutiérrez, El Palacio de Hierro: Arranque de la modernidad arquitectónica en la ciudad de México (Mexico: Facultad de Arquitectura, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, 2005) 37, translated by Frida Cano Please note, the author quoted the Decreto de la Secretaria de Estado y del despacho de Relaciones Exteriores, Tratado de amistad, comercio y navegación entre los Estados Unidos Mexicanos y la República Francesa, Sección de Europa, Asia y África, AGN, Mexico, 20 de abril de 1888 30 31

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that of the Spaniards took place in the guise of treaties between countries. The treaty was a spawn of the inherited inferiority from the Conquista era that later resulted in an irremediable attraction to French culture. Throughout the years, and even in the early twentieth century, Mexican cultural class dressed according to Paris fashion trends, taking the good and bad, and getting educated within the lines of French schooling; all of these elements were the condition sine qua non of an educated person32. Why did France capture the Mexican interest even if it was not the most politically advanced country in the nineteenth century? According to Ramos, Mexicans took France as a model because the latter entailed a revolutionary spirit typical of youth33. As a new nation, Mexico was eager to establish itself next to foreign powers, countries with a long history, such as France and its ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Along these lines, many scholars from that period and even recent ones, described the country, particularly Paris, as “the capital of the nineteen century”34 creating a myth that went along with Romanticism35. At this point, and in an attempt to respond to the question of a colonized mind, I wonder if Díaz’s fascination with French culture also has to do with resentment towards another type of domination coming from the United States: the 1846-1848 Mexican-American war in which Mexico lost the Northern California territories and the Monroe Doctrine speech. Regardless of the reason, Díaz’s lack of interest toward American culture created a liminal space between the old Spanish yoke and the “new” French attraction. This in-between gap could be one of the many places in which many people could potentially achieve freedom away from the main and imposed French culture. This liminal space also led slowly into the stage of sowing the “American fascination” that arose later in the nineteenth century within the Mexican society.

Ramos, 48-49 Ramos, 42 34 Walter Benajmin, Paris, Capital of the Nineteen Century, in the Arcade Project (USA: Harvard College, 1999), 3-26 35 Jos de Mul, Radical Romanticism: Art in the Age of the Technological Sublime, 167-175 32 33

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As I mentioned before, another story of domination took place parallel to this Mexican fascination with French culture. In 1845, American president James Monroe articulated the Monroe Doctrine during a speech to Americans in early December. The Monroe Doctrine stated that With the [independence] movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. […] We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.36

The Monroe Doctrine states that in order to assure the power in the former independent nations, the United States declared itself to be the protector of this newly acquired freedom. In this way, the Monroe Doctrine served as a tool to justify the U.S. involvement in Latin American affairs by a non-tolerant policy of foreign intervention in the Western Hemisphere. In other words, the doctrine vouched for the U.S. to exercise its hegemonic dominion over the newly independent countries. American scholar David W. Dent, in his book The Legacy of the Monroe Doctrine: A Reference Guide to U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean, states that the doctrine “became a central guideline in how the United States dealt with other nations in the Western Hemisphere and the encroachment of foreign powers after Latin America independence.”37 Despite the denial from several European countries, the Monroe Doctrine’s core remains even today through various means. One, which matters to the aim of this investigation, is the way in which this doctrine has become palpable throughout Mexico/U.S. history. For instance, the many corollaries and interpretations of the Monroe Doctrine by subsequent presidents (1845 by President James K. Polk; 1904-1905 by President Theodore

David W. Dent, The Legacy of the Monroe Doctrine: A Reference Guide to U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean (USA: Greenwood, 1999) 379-380 37 Dent, viii 36

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Roosevelt; 1912, Lodge Corollary)38 perpetuated the essence of this doctrine. A sense of ownership instilled in the U.S. over the rest of the continent is evident in the Roosevelt Corollary based on the doctrine. An excerpt of Roosevelt’s policy is detailed below: In treating of our foreign policy and of the attitude that this great Nation should assume in the world at large, it is absolutely necessary to consider the Army and the Navy, and the Congress, through which the thought of the Nation finds its expression, should keep ever vividly in mind the fundamental fact that it is impossible to treat our foreign policy, whether this policy takes shape in the effort to secure justice for others or justice for ourselves, save as conditioned upon the attitude we are willing to take toward our Army, and especially toward our Navy…39

The Roosevelt Corollary states that the U.S. would pursue this sense of safety and ownership by various means. Throughout history, several treaties marked the U.S. position regarding its relationship with the rest of the American continent. The Good Neighbor policy for example, refers not only to a phrase that carries a meaning of “friendship”, but also to a set of treaties, rules, doctrines, and policies that have to do with the U.S. foreign affairs40. A disguise of friendship is that of the treaties, making legal a mental rather than a physical colonization. One of the most recent treaties was the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The so-called North American block would join forces in order to reach economic growth through free trade and free market. The promise of this agreement touched on sensitive fibers in Mexicans because NAFTA implied that Mexico, as a nation, could finally be seen as a hegemonic power, at the same level as those First World Dent, viii “1905: Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine”, All Americans Patriots, Dispatches fromt he dephts of American government, under “Historical Documents” http://www.allamericanpatriots.com/american_historical_documents_1905_theodore_roosevelt s_corollary_monroe_doctrine (accessed November 2009) 39 Excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s Annual Message to Congress, December 6th, 1904. 40 Just to mention a few: the Clark Memorandum in 1930 in response to the Monroe’s Doctrine; the Hawley-Smoot Tariff of 1930 concerning the low tariffs for exportation of Latin American products; the Platt Amendment –which replaced the Teller Amendment- that ensured U.S. involvement in Cuban affairs from 1901 to 1934; the Alliance for the Progress initiated by President J. F. Kennedy in 1961; the Panama Canal Treaty signed in 1977; and more recently the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. 38

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countries. However, NAFTA’s commitment to achieve a more integrated and efficient North American economy was only an unrealized utopia when in fact the agreement set the terrain for a U.S. expansion and mind intervention around Mexico. Polices and treaties between the U.S. and Mexico do not only affect economic or foreign affairs: they are part of a colonization of people’s minds in terms of imposed ideas and forced dreams. In particular, through NAFTA, people’s aspirations changed dramatically due to an artificial and foreign reality disseminated through the mass media. Despite the social impact, Mexican presidents at that time took this agreement as a chance to insert the country into the global society. The U.S. imposition on Mexico is not new, and every time that a new agreement is signed, every Mexican president states that it is for the “well being” of the people. According to the report of one Mexican citizen, on one occasion, President López Portillo (1976-1982) ironically stated: “Mexicanos, váyanse acostumbrando a la idea de vivir como ricos” [“People of Mexico, begin getting used to the idea of living like rich people”]. Reading between the lines, Portillo’s statement is not only reflective of the Mexican’s inferiority complex, but also shows a need from Mexican authorities to reach higher and foreign standards. Not taking into account the local reality, but, focusing instead on foreign realities, seems to be one of the biggest challenges for Mexican people. After NAFTA, many Mexicans focused their attention on the culture that was produced by the United States of America. The generation that grew up with NAFTA no longer aspires towards Mexican values and goals (which are a mixture of pre-colonial traditions and Spanish education and religion), but instead focuses on the U.S. imposed dream. For this reason, many people of this generation think of the U.S. as their main goal, and try to achieve success through American parameters. Especially for middle and lower classes the tsunami of images from the mass media, along with other factors, made them create an interpretation of the socalled American dream (See Chapter 2 for further analysis). The reason why these lessons enthrall people’s mind is because they depict a sense of perfection that is only reached through

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non-existent mirages. In La fábrica de sueños [The Dream Factory] Italian writer and philosopher Franco Berardi writes: A promise of happiness runs the mass culture, the publicity, and the economic ideology. In the common speech, happiness is no longer an option, but an obligation, a “must”; it is the core value of the merchandise that we produce, buy, and consume. […] the economic system which bases its dynamic in the production of signs, is a factory of unhappiness.41

The author states the importance that the mass culture, the publicity, and the economic ideology have in daily life, this, because the three components are means to rule happiness. Berardi’s happiness, which the American dream embodies particularly well, resulted in a misinterpretation by Mexican people. After NAFTA many Mexicans made the American dream their personal dream – even if they did not say it out loud or understand it well. It seems that the promise of happiness was located in the north, and particularly for the middle-class, the American dream turns into an image of crossing the frontier in a first class airplane. It became then a matter of a center and its periphery, a question of inclusion and exclusion, and a topic of a mainstream and its mainsdream. When looking at the path to freedom and happiness, it seems that Mexican history is full of failures. Because of these failures and a lack of interest in living their own history along with a need for validation and historical recognition (inferiority complex), Mexicans have lived simulations of foreign histories42. Due to this situation, the yoke that was once imposed over the body has mutated into a joke that reads throughout Mexican history, that is, a set of collapses, disappointments, bankruptcies, and constant breakdowns that make Mexico’s history a distortion of other histories, a fake and failed one, which permit Mexicans to cry either of shame or the absurdity of one’s life.

Franco Berardi, La fábrica de sueños, 29 http://biblioweb.sindominio.net/pensamiento/fabrica_infelicidad.pdf (accessed November 2009) , translated by Frida Cano 42 Ramos, 28 41

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Chapter 2

In The Museum of Modern Art is the youngest artist ever to be given a retrospective.

What are the current repercussion of globalization within Mexico City’s arts and culture? A powerful dream about inserting oneself into the mainstream of art appears to be a significant symptom that imposes itself on the mind of the subaltern as if he/she were re-colonized. Domination appears as colonization of the mind through mass media images, affecting –within the course of the years- the direction of local culture and arts. Domination emerges as a muted power that seems to force people forward broadly into the same direction. How is the inferiority complex (as described by Ramos) addressed in artistic terms? What is the result of imitating or simulating the hegemonic aesthetic coming from abroad? Could we talk about a misconstruction of local history –or even worse, about the construction of cultural vacuity- through a simulation of foreign cultures? In 1983, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard described a situation in which our understanding of reality comes to be based on empty or non-existent notions. He described this as simulation¸ a situation that bears no relation to any reality43. He explains:

[Representation] starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent. Conversely, simulation starts from the utopia of this principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference44.

43 44

Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, Semiotext[e], 1983, p. 11-12 Baudrillard, 11-12

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Baudrillard names a contemporary condition that seems to be present ever since mass media started to gain value in everyday life. In the realm of arts, the simulation can be most clearly seen in what I call the mainsdream, which is an inversion of the representation of the mainstream. The mainsdream could be described as a utopia for aspiring Mexican artists because it presents an unachievable notion of success that comes from a consumption of mainstream media, principally imported from the United States. This cultural symptom can be traced in many different places around the globe, and their local particularities are means for the mainsdream to later become a main issue in each specific location. For instance, in Mexican contexts the complex of inferiority, the weak economic structure, and the neoliberal philosophy imposed over the years, are three of the many factors that contribute to concrete development of a mainsdream scenario there.

This chapter analyses the conditions under which many aspiring and young artists attempt to reach the skewed goals I began to discuss in the last chapter. Inspired by Baudrillard’s notion of simulation, I will apply some of the features of his formulation into the contemporary Mexican art scene re-naming it mainsdream. The mainsdream, you will recall, is a cultural condition that arises in the context of colonization and in the aftermath of globalization and the influx of mass media imagery originated in and aimed primarily at foreign audiences. By consuming the same images, and thus dreaming with alienated ambitions, artists are lead into a characteristic falsification and homogenization of local arts and culture.

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Figure 1, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 108

Mainsdream –a cultural common dream The formation of the mainsdream in the Mexican cultural sector can be traced to 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement among Canada, Mexico, and the US opened doors to trade and the exchange of merchandise between all three countries. It was with the NAFTA that the mainsdream achieved its climax about a decade after the treaty was signed. In reality, what happened with this treaty was an enrichment of the U.S., and a dead end for local

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Mexican entrepreneurs45, but also an opening window through which American mass media imagery –such as Hollywood films, sit-coms, food chains commercials, and much more- could be seen and consumed from Mexican houses. NAFTA, as many other treaties, illustrates a recent way to re-colonize the subaltern, and this circumstance appears to be imposed not only on the body but on the mind. For instance, in Mexico a non-geographical invasion stormed the ground of the mind, the imagination, the aspirations, and the dreams of Mexicans with access to television and to the mass media. An interesting shift for this re-colonization was from that of imposing a power structure by violence, such as the torture used to interrogate political prisoners46, to that of using a method of pleasing and appealing images easily enchanting the eyes and the imagination; a method that was welcomed by the majority of Mexicans. Over the years, cyclical and hard-to-define aspirations seem to inhabit Mexicans’ hearts and minds as a consequence of consuming such enchanting mirages. Baudrillard’s simulacra seems to be present in the way the majority of people understand reality, but especially and more importantly, in the way cultural producers not only produce but reproduce a simulated reality. This effect has modified the production, consumption and distribution of a sector of Mexican art, a cultural symptom that I call the mainsdream. It is important to recall that this analysis is focusing on the consequences that globalization brought to Mexico City’s arts. The reason why this place is so important when examining the arts is due to the fact that the Federal District / Mexico City is the heart of the country. Mexico has functioned even before the arrival of the Spaniards within a centralized system, having the City as a place where most of the economical, political, cultural and artistic

“One example” explains Gallo, “from the late 1950s to the late 1980s, the Guadalajara-based Fábricas del Calzado Canadá, owned by the López Rocha family, was one of the country’s largest show manufacturers, with hundreds of stores in every city. Aurelio López Rocha, one of the company’s officials, was one of the richest men in Mexico, and the owner of one of the country’s most important contemporary art collections. After NAFTA went in effect, the local marked was flooded with imported shoes; Calzado Canadá could not compete against the bargain-priced, mass-produced imports, and the company, along with hundreds of smaller show manufacturers, declared bankruptcy in 1995 and was eventually bought by a foreign investor. Gallo, 2-3 46 Elaine Scarry, The Body In Pain –The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985) 3-59 45

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events take place. Hence, the effects of neoliberalism and globalization, of mass media invasion and mainsdreaming ambitions can be more clearly seen there.

The importance of talking about this current situation is also related to cultural encounters and their assimilations between the First and the Second/Third Worlds, in other words, between hegemonic power and multi-cultures induced into submission and the effects that such clashes have in the arts and culture of a specific place, even years after such encounters first take place. Italian writer, politician, and philosopher Antonio Gramsci, in his Prision Notebooks, describes a notion that refers to the relationship between culture and power under the age of capitalism. Gramsci describes the notion of hegemony as

the ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’ caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because if its position and function in the world of production. 47

Gramsci purports to describe how certain ideas reinforce or undermine existing social structures. Hegemony manages provisionally to reconcile the apparent contradictions between the power wielded by dominant groups and the relative cultural autonomy of subordinate groups whom they victimize. It is interesting to notice how the concept of domination as hegemony contains connotations of being non-aggressive but instead subtle and effective. In history, there are moments in which the hegemonic power becomes blindingly obvious due to its enchanted disguise.

As noted before, in 1994, NAFTA carried an important subtext along with its fake promises and disastrous consequences. Thanks to this treaty, the American dream became all the more visible and falsely tangible to a number of Mexicans. Over the years, people adapted this notion according to their local context and personal needs. However, it is not only its portrayal of Antonio Gramsci, Selections frm the Prision Notebooks, ed. And trans Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York, 1971), 12 47

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stability and happiness that motivates people to pursue such a dream, rather, it is the enchanted way this can be reached that clearly stimulates people to follow that path. For instance, for many people, especially Latin American people, the state of California uniquely and poignantly embodies the American Dream. This belief started during the California Gold Rush (from 1849), after seizure of the Northern California territories (with the 1846-1848 Mexican-American war), and it was perpetuated in the images exported to the world thanks to the American film and television industry (from the early twentieth century until today). During these three moments in which the histories of Mexico and the U.S. had shared geographies, it is interesting to notice the myth behind those three moments that perpetuated the fable of an enchanted land located in the North. The American Dream has its origin in the California Dream, in the notion of the land in which one could gain fast wealth and fame. It has become by now an internalized motivation for Latino people who seek to achieve instant fortune and long-lasting recognition, all of it in a land of luck.48 Today, the inner motivation that makes individuals embrace collective dreams roots in a lack of the means that might allow one truly to live the American Dream. (Could anybody ever have the means? Isn’t the dream unrealizable for all and in principle?) In the realm of arts and culture in developing countries, such appreciation and interpretation of that dream meets a dead end called mainsdream, a concept translated from the American dream applied to a local context outside the U.S.

To understand the way in which the mainsdream appears, it is worth discussing further the term from which it takes its name: mainstream. The word mainstream refers to a common culture and mindset of the majority, typically disseminated by popular and mass media. It is used to talk about the thoughts, tastes and preferences that delineate the sphere of the socially acceptable. In film, for example, mainstream would typically refer to Hollywood blockbuster movies with large budgets and conventional plots distributed worldwide. Likewise, pop music is

Starr, Americans and the California Dream 1850-1915 (1986), and Starr, Inventing the Dream (1985) 48

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the most well known genre for the masses, and regardless of language, the songs become identifiable through their continual reiteration within mainstream culture around the world. Encountering the mainstream in daily conversations is effortless since the mass media, or mainstream media, is extensively disseminating this common knowledge through various means. Unlike localisms that could be located as mainstream49, the mainstream actually comes from countries of the First World. One of the most important influences is the United States of America, which tends to monopolize the course of what the majority of people come into contact with in movies, television, music, Internet, and printed media. In art, the term mainstream encounters numerous definitions and elements from popular culture. On one hand, it could be used to designate works that are held by major productions and marketing structures; these artworks have the ability to reach a large scale of people. Under this umbrella, artworks such as Mathew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle (19942002) or Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God (2007) can be considered as mainstream artworks because both needed a huge amount of money and assistants for their realization and because of the mass media controversies (between art and consumerist values) involved in which art agents focused their attention on them. On the other hand, and especially pertaining to the connoisseur art sector, mainstream artworks are those that are primarily referenced, especially in art education settings. Art pieces such as Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse) (1818-1819), Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas (1656), and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1502-1505/1507) are just a few examples in which Western art history is usually recognized and taught as the Art History, a story of lineal success. Another categorization, less important for the purpose of this thesis but significant enough to be named, includes images from artists whose self-portraits and landscapes, through their massive dissemination, become iconic for the culture they represent. The paintings of Frida Kahlo, A good example for this is the Bollywood Hindi-language film industry, which is very well known in its local site –India- but has little significance to the majority of people outside this localism. 49

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Leonardo da Vinci, and Vincent Van Gogh are direct representations of this propagation of cultural stereotypes50.

Of particular concern when using the word mainstream is its ambivalence, which leads towards a misunderstanding of the term. Whether it is due to the professional art sector versus the amateur community, or even inside the so-called cultural sphere, the usage of the term mainstream within the art world seems to always be problematic. The word is rarely used in highbrow conversations, such as academic lectures and international conferences. If used, the term mainstream carries derogatory implications within the cultural sector because it is related to its supposed nemesis –the fashion industry and the popular media51. An opposition of values between popular culture and the elite fine art sector is what restricts its usage. This hazy and confusing definition of the term mainstream in the ground of the arts has its effect especially on people that aspire toward a definition of this particular mainstream: one that belongs to the commercial production industry, loaded with fame and fortune, and that also takes place in books and magazines that form the history of art as an extension of the highbrow-fine art sector. The double-leg theory, a term coined by Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, refers to this particular situation. Obrist describes it as “an exhibition that is highly regarded by specialists but also makes the cover of [The New York] Times [Magazine] –in other words, having one leg in a popular field and one in a specialized field.”52 Whether it is an exhibition, an artwork, or an artist, Obrist’s double-leg theory describes a scenario where, ideally, contemporary art happens: an extremely well reviewed art show, a milestone work of art, or a new mythical-living artist. All of these refer to a picture of success, which leads to a misunderstanding, or, within the primary terms of this thesis, to a mainsdream, that is, to a discussion about the reality of the image versus the reality of the imagined. These examples can also be known as no-brow artworks For further information, see Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch”, (1939) Clement Greenberg, under “Table of Contents” http://www.sharecom.ca/greenberg/kitsch.html (accessed February 4, 2010) 52 Hans Obrist, A Brief History of Curating (Switzerland: JRP|Ringier, 2008) 24 50 51

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Figure 2, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 2

I use the term mainsdream not as an opposite of mainstream, but to explain the consequences that affect people who are not part of the common culture. This concept is a combination of the words main, as a primary way to be, think, or live, and dream, as hope, or aspiration. Even though the terms mainstream and mainsdream have very similar pronunciation, their meaning is quite different. This could be taken as an exemplification of how people often misunderstand the concept mainstream and actually merge two concepts into one. I am utilizing the term mainsdream in order to separate these ideas and speak about their assimilation. This process joins the idea of mainstream as culture and as a desire to become part of it.

Along the lines of Baudrillard, the mainsdream touches on the third-order simulation53 because it shows no relation with reality. It originates from a second-order simulacra, which is to say, the mainsdream is based on the mainstream, an already alienated reality. Mainsdream bears no connection with the actual and local reality. Mainsdream appears as mental images that create collective desires through time and can be taken as a cultural symptom by which a sector of the contemporary art world articulates its production. How is the mainsdream shifting the tide of the arts and culture today?

53

Baudrillard, 25

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For the particular case of Mexico, the people to be analyzed will be the art agents who were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This generation of artists, curators, and others began to represent the country internationally in recent years, however, their works and personalities had not been investigated enough because of the emergent position in which their careers are at the moment. It is interesting to notice that, for these people, believing in the mainsdream has to do with similar contexts. Lack of economic means, the need to become a celebrity, and the urge to be legitimized within the artistic sector are some of the main characteristic that can

be

identified

among

the

mainsdreamers. What is interesting about these specific art producers is their lack of self-questioning, regarding their art and concerning their Mexican-local context within their artistic practice. What does it mean to be a Mexican artist? is a question that the mainsdreamers don’t usually ask themselves because they tend to focus their attention only on the culture that is imported from abroad, disregarding the

Figure 3, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 40

country’s art history. In an attempt to follow the stream of globalization, art education mainly in undergraduate levels focuses only on the global art history, assuming that students already have a background of Mexican art. However, elementary and high school education suffer from budget cuts leaving aside artistic teaching. In reality, the majority of Mexican students never really receive an education in national art.

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Cultures that carry the yoke of the mainsdream no longer create or produce; rather their art agents reproduce secondhand variation on an already existing art. The mainsdream comes into effect when people who do not belong to the hegemonic culture, imitate some characteristics of the mainstream but without fully understanding the conditions and situations out of which the originals took place. Mainsdreamers now re-enact properly emerged and in which they are meaningful to history. In the realm of visual arts, a game of seduction coming from a dualism between mainstream and its mainsdream form plays out as a dialectic oscillation between hegemonic ideas and uncomprehending imitative behaviors. For instance, in many art schools in Mexico City during the late nineties and early twentieth century professors in Art History classes typically taught the 1993 Whitney Biennial as part of the key to understanding the contemporary art scene. The problem lies in the lack of proper contextualization from professors teaching a watershed exhibition that touched on American vulnerability. American curator Elisabeth Sussman explained the intention of the show as “something about what the museum called such ‘dominant current issues as class, race, gender, sexuality, and the family’ ”. Even though these topics come into effect in almost every society around the world, they occur in many different ways. For instance, Mexico does not share the same racial concerns that the U.S. because Mexico’s history of mixture of races throughout centuries is largely different that the one existing in the U.S. As a result, Mexican students easily fail to grasp the real meaning of this Biennial, and learnt it just as a scattering of names, places, and signs of recognition in history conceived as a bland celebrity spectacle54. Later on, students would chase such a mythical story in those locations where the History of Art once took place. A skewed education is taught and learnt mainly in Mexico City art schools, especially regarding the history that occurs outside the Mexican context. As a result of this misunderstanding, many will dream about having solo exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Art, in the Whitney Museum, and of course in having

The example I gave comes from my personal experience attending two major art institutions in Mexico City in the years 2000 to 2005, having both schools similar issues regarding teaching Art History lessons that did not happened in the context of Mexico. 54

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representation from galleries located in the SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan, despite the fact that a great number of these dreamers have not visited these locations or grasped their situated significances. The aim for these people is therefore reduced drastically, and becoming part of the History of Success, a story that is mainly written by those in power, imagined as a kind of pageant turns to be their main goal.

Russian-American artist Ilya Kabakov nicely describes the tense game of seduction played between the First and the Second/Third Worlds as follows:

The Western art world is like a fast train that travels through different countries. In these remote places, people stand on the platforms and hope that they will be able to catch the train. However, the train rarely stops and, even if it does, there are no places on the train. Some people nonetheless succeed in climbing aboard the train and then desperately look for empty seats. When a seat by chance turns up and the person sits down, fellow passengers look at the newcomer with disdain and comment: ‘Why did you not sit down earlier? And why did you look so desperate –you should have a smile on your face! We are always happy to get new people on board.’55

Within the global game, the seduction of the mainstream –the train- stimulates people to get on board. It is interesting to notice in Kabakov’s metaphor that artists are always looking for just one particular train, the Western train. Slovenian philosopher Renata Salecl explains that the symbolical implication of Kabakov’s trains have to do with the fact that many post-socialist countries very much wanted to be perceived as the passengers on the right train, and thus, a desire or need to be favorably treated by the drivers of the train (this is, global capital) arouses within the newcomers.56 Despite the fact that Mexico was never a socialist country, it carries a particular post-colonial history that makes the country aspire after an outside force that could potentially take the people there somewhere else. This condition is part of the legacy of several hundreds of years of being governed by a foreign power –the inferiority complex yet again. Particularly interesting is the reaction that Mexico City’s artists have when trying to get on the

55 56

Renata Salecl, On Anxiety, Thinking in Action (London: Routledge, 2004) 7-8 Salecl, 7-8

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train. Since the City houses the largest number of museums and galleries in the country, the dream apparently becomes somehow accessible. However, being in the City does not necessarily mean being on the train., but for the mainsdreamers at least being in the train station –Mexico City- is one step closer to what they believe is the mainstream. Whether they aspire to get into the Western train, or falsely believe they are properly passengers on the train already, the mainsdreamers suppose that the train will take them somewhere else out from Mexico. “Becoming international” is a term that for the mainsdreamers represents a life outside Mexico, particularly in an art capital (where money issues are rendered basically inexistent in an imaginary utopia of plenitude), and gain the recognition that in Mexico this would never have happened. Despite the naïve and ironic load of the described scenarios, for the mainsdreamers this picture is nonetheless functionally an ambition to fulfill in perpetuity.

For instance, the many Mexican mainsdreamers seek to join the Western train exercising a number of strategies to achieve this particular aim. It is common to see that, particularly in the academic sector, students imitate their professors (many of whom also mimic mainstream artists) by changing their look, their declared favorite authors and visual artists, the way they speak when talking about Art, starting to smoke or consuming caffeine in large amounts, but especially and more importantly, in the way these young artists produce their art as such. A replica of the –already- failed replica is what we can observe among the mainsdreamers. The Mexican mainsdreamers –artists and art agents- tend to follow a set of common aspirations and needs created by the mainstream, this is, from what they see and learn in specialized magazines, art books, and from all kinds of mass media and all to become a passenger of the train at last.

In order to have a better understanding of what I mean to capture with the term mainsdream, it is useful to remark the way in which Mexican mainsdreamers tend to “read” mainstream art. We must bear in mind that the majority of Mexican population does not have access to a second language, such as English, and that a great number of aspiring artists belong to

33


low-income sectors. Due to this, it can be extremely difficult to read English articles from ArtForum, for example. Luckily (and perhaps ironically), many mainstream art magazines contain after all very little text, basing the content on its visual substance attached to a name. Due to language limitations, mainstream learning is mostly image-based rather than text-based, and it is in just those terms, that at least a great number of Mexican artists consume and digest information from abroad. Thus, a misunderstanding or interpretation follows this mainstreamvisual-learning.

The market comes very much to be confused, or even used as a straightforward synonym with the term mainstream by the mainsdreamers. This is partly because the art market, as well as globalization more generally, entered Mexico’s life as a foreign force that nobody understood or yet fully understands to this day. Using notions from Australian scholar Terry Smith, the market could be seen as a chalice57 that gathers art and money together. In this sense, when referring to the market in arts, it is possible to notice the concatenation of practices through which art works are created and exchanged, as if one could share its faith by receiving and taking the communion with that specific art chalice. But the market of art seems to operate in a simpler way than faith does. It is through legitimization that both the artist and the artwork receives the communion by the market, as if being at the “top of the market” would mean being at the top of the art world. As a clear example, the huge sale of British artist Damien Hirst of his For the Love of God became for many a Mexican mainsdreamer a key to keep following the mainsdream path, a “key” to keep “unlocking the mainstream door”. Because of this mirage of success, mainsdreamers would want to follow the path that leads to that specific place, and for this reason, it is somehow easy to see why many artists migrate to art capitals such as New York City, Berlin, Amsterdam, and more recently Shanghai. It is where the money is that the mirage of the mainsdream operates, because it gives the illusion that the grass is greener just because the bills at that place are so often green too. The market and the mainstream appear to be very 57

Terry Smith, What is Contemporary Art? (USA: University of Chicago Press, 2009) 119

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similar because of their link through money, but the equation leads to a confusion bigger than just a confusion of terms. Along with that, a cocktail of visual information coming from the mass media fuses with the dream, creating a fantasy that relates to the life of celebrity in which drugs and sex enter as part of the game of seduction in which art operates.

Figures 4 & 5, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 28, 29

Regarding the ground of the market and globalization, it is important to recall that in certain places these two concepts found their roots in the economics of cultures that urges first of all the need for proper subjects of becoming themselves a commodity in order to be consumed by the market or by the mainstream media and hence become worthy or even intelligible. British academic Jaime Stapleton describes this situation as follows:

Globalization has also deeply affected the way we think about culture, and […] the way we support culture. […] Markets sometimes had a role in economies, but they were merely accessories to systems of resource distribution that were buried deep inside local rules and customs. […] Localised customs and ways of being must be progressively replaced with exchange values –values that express the technical-financial interactions of a theoretical market. In order to get people to view themselves as exchangeable commodities, alternative visions of the self and community must be destroyed.58

Stapleton explains the effects of globalization as a transformation of local societies, a moment in which people have to adapt themselves and their habits to what the ruling regime Jaime Stapleton, Support for Culture, in Céline Condorelli, Support Structures (Berlin and New York: Sternberg Press, 2009) 133 and 135 58

35


assumes and promulgates. This results in a selective empowering of the art market and, over time, quietly forces art agents and art institutions to replace old values with new ones, reshaping local tastes and preferences, and thus, integrating art into a single market mechanism. Because the art and its market function within the economic system it influences artists’ expectations and art institutions behaviors, resulting in a mainsdream idea of what art is supposed to be: spectacular, brilliant, monumental, important, reviewed, mainstream. With this context in mind, it is clear to see that culture in mainsdream sites move from production to reproduction of the given art world, this, as a consequence that forces them into a becoming visible, recognizable, and marketable on already available terms, as if the work of art and the person behind it should follow the rules of marketing mistaken as creating.59 In the case of Mexico, neoliberalism60 appears as a key element to understand the current economic situation that later led to the mainsdream. Due to the lack of economic means, the mainsdreamers in Mexico suffer the consequences and limitations of the restrictive group of private art collectors in the country. For them, the art market for emergent and young artists is comparatively nonexistent, and if such markets do happen, they take place outside the country as if it was an exported item. For instance, many aspiring artists from Mexico City get the wrong idea about the definition of the local art market due to the lack of exposure to it; therefore, mainsdreamers have the ambition to achieve this absence, and dream therefore about “making it” within the commercial art sector in profoundly idealistic terms. Here again, the double-leg theory appears as

Sven Lutticken, Idols of the Market, Modern Iconoclasm and the Fundamentalist Spectacle (Berlin nd New York: Sternberg Press, 2009) 109 60 Neo-liberalism is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer… Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank… the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Dandelion Salad, Neoliberalism: Origins, Theory, Definition, Web Inter, under “The ethics of free market” http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/neoliberalism.html (accessed October 2009) 59

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a main element to bear in mind when recalling the mainsdreamers. Over time, this results in a loss of direction and local artistic values.

Figure 6, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 19

Did Mexico lose its cultural and artistic direction because of the mainsdream? Did Mexico ever have a clear and authentic direction before the mainsdream? Luis Camnitzer, a German-born Uruguayan artist and academic, noticed this circumstance back in 1987 among Latin American artists. He refers to this phenomenon in a way similar to my use of the term mainsdream to address the recent change of behaviors and aspirations from Latino artists. He explains:

To address “access to the mainstream” in the arts is to address the topic of success in the market. For this reason the subject has always elicited contradictory emotions –primarily desire and resentment- and these emotions have been particularly strong among artists who do not belong to the social group that produces and supports what is considered “mainstream” art. Although the term “mainstream” carries democratic reverberations […] it is a name for a power structure that promotes a self-appointed hegemonic culture […] A clear symptom of colonization is the tendency to see the shift from subordinate to hegemonic culture as a sign of progress and success.61

Camnitzer touches on an important aspect of how most Latino artists see mainstream art. It is through the idea of progress and success depicted in art publications, television, Internet, and movies (crucially, an already digested reality, a second-order prompt to selfexpression) that mainsdreamers employ these tools as a starting point for art creation and art production. As Camnitzer highlight and philosopher Ramos states, imitation of the hegemonic

61

Luis Camnitzer, Access to the Mainstream, 1987, p. 37-38

37


culture is a symptom that consists in measuring oneself with foreign values. This symptom of approaching a foreign reality could be less painful for the mainsdreamers than finding their individual faults and concerns within a failed Mexican context. Hence, assimilating the current flow of information from the globe through mainstream images seems to be one of the most effective and safest ways to approach the hegemonic world and its attractive mirages. Also, this type of education gives the impression that Mexican art agents, by talking about contemporary art from abroad, are inserting themselves into the global art scene. However, this fast assimilation of information could easily evolve into a kind of imagery cannibalization. For this reason, the mainsdream appears for many people from non-hegemonic countries as an interpretation of the mainstream culture. Today, domination appears in several ways and takes various forms. One of the many ways that preoccupies this paper is through a colonization of the mind by mediated images. French theorist Guy Debord explains this phenomenon in the following terms:

The society which carries the spectacle does not dominate the underdeveloped regions by its economic hegemony alone. It dominates them as the society of the spectacle. Even where the material base is still absent, modern society has already invaded the social surface of each continent by means of the spectacle. It defines the program of the ruling class and presides over its formation. Just as it presents pseudo-goods to be coveted, it offers false models of revolution to local revolutionaries.62

Domination is what Debord explains through the hegemonic force of media images. It is not only economics that rules society at large, it is not only the basic instincts of survival by which society maintain the mode of existence, it is also the way domination operates within people, and in the particular case of Mexico, runs through secondhand images of an aspirational but inaccessible American dream. Thus, for artists and cultural producers from non-hegemonic cultures it is particularly hard to create culture from a polluted and invaded context if they do

62

Debord, #57

38


not realize how domination is imposed over them after all. The history of mainsdream takes on the aspect of a simulacrum of foreign histories63, an imitation that leads into cultural vacuity. A diffuse but ubiquitous power seems to force people forward in broadly the same direction –the mainstream- but even worse, always making people believe that it is exactly what will make them happy and therefore successful –a mainsdream. Due to the inferiority complex (which is not particular to Latino American people even of it is central to their story as I am telling it), the imitation, the simulation, and therefore the mainsdream appear as an effect of consuming the same culture and aspiring towards the same goals. For culture and arts, it is a regression of creation itself because the latter originates from a reality based on emptiness, from what Baudrillard calls the hyperreal, this is, from the illusion that the mainstream allows one to see and achieve a needed life. Since the mainstream is a reflection of reality primarily through images, and the mainsdream emerges from such a mainstream imagery, then the images created in the name of arts and culture that come from the mainsdream are mainly coming from an image of an image of the reality at hand. If this situation occurs, how can art be called creation when it originated from the replica of an already derivative image? In many cases, mainsdream seems to be a major stream of contemporary art, at least, in a sector of the Mexican contemporary art scene.

63.

Ramos, 25

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Chapter 3

Meet Terry Painter

Let me introduce you to Terry Painter. I am sure you already know him, but even if you do not remember his name you are sure to recognize his personality. Terry is a contemporary young artist living in New York City. He lives and works in his studio, a spacey loft in an abandoned building. His aim in life is to become rich and famous, of course, and he does everything he can in order to achieve his dream. I am sure you remember him now, don’t you?

Figure 7, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 24

Terry Painter is the main character of the graphic novel Terry Painter L’Artiste by Mexican artist Miguel Calderón and British artist Nick Waplington. The story follows the life of

40


Terry Painter, a figure at once memorable but also typical of the contemporary emergent artist in a certain characteristic construal, and tell the tale of the rise and fall of his mainsdream career. According to Calderón, the story started as an interpretation of the life of one of Waplington’s friend, who originally was a model and decided to become a contemporary artist.64 One of the main goals for both artists in the production of the story was to portray in an ironic way the manner in which a sector of the contemporary art world with which they

are

intimately

familiar

functions. In the work, the artists wanted to depict the lack of

Figure 8, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 3

boundaries of this art world (for instance, the permeability between the norms and forms of the fashion world and the art world today), the painful ignorance of so many people who play important roles within this art sector, the game of power and seduction that sometimes plays out in the art world, and most importantly, the common aspirations that so many artists seem to have regarding a notion of facile success, all represented through their main character’s tragicomic conduct. Calderón and Waplington sought to critique and even help to reverse the effects that these kinds of artists have within the art world. To accomplish that, Calderón and Waplington decided to invert almost every element that makes Terry Painter a typical mainsdreamer. Irony is a key element to understand the life of Terry Painter; without irony his life, his successes and his failures, seem only to follow the lines of tragedy. (What is life without an ironic view?) I would point out first of all that Terry Painter, the graphic novel, was made in Mexico and was published in 2005, almost a decade after NAFTA entered onto the scene; however, the 64

Miguel Calderon interview, Fall 2010, San Francisco, CA. By Frida Cano

41


comic book did not have a great effect in the Mexican art scene due to many factors (minimal distribution, high price, etc). Miguel Calderón (1971) was a full time student in the U.S. and returned to Mexico City in the same year that NAFTA entered in Mexico’s life. It is interesting to notice that Calderón’s art production carries an ironic tendency that allows him and his audience to approach certain topics through laughter coming from a keen sense of black humor. For instance, in the video entitled Mexico vs Brasil (2004), the artist addresses Samuel Ramos’ inferiority complex theory through the Mexican football players’ common attitudes (attitudes that Ramos harshly criticizes)65. For that video, Miguel ironically recreated the fantasy of success against the “Other”, in other words, a mainsdream within the football field. Miguel belongs to the generation of the so-called boom of contemporary Mexican art, he is represented in Mexico by Kurimanzutto gallery, has artwork in many private institutions around the globe, including Jumex, and has had solo exhibitions in major art museums in Mexico City. Because of his exposure to the “mainstream” of art, he was able to address the mainsdream so accurately and sarcastically, revealing some of the many aspects that the Mexican art scene carries as a yoke. During one of my many conversations with Calderón, he recalled being captivated by the changing behaviors among many “artists” he knows; something clearly linked to his personal art production in which he becomes a keen observer of the human condition66. A critic eye must be aware of the mainsdream effects of a specific place or of a particular group of people, and for Terry Painter, Nick and Miguel decided to mock the system by compounding the many harsh experiences they had into a melodramatic and sarcastic depiction of the art world in decay. For the generation of young artists that I am analyzing as mainsdreamers, it is uncomfortable to be depicted in their aspirations and failures by way of the misadventures of Terry Painter.

65 66

Personal conversation with Miguel Calderon, March 23, 2011 Personal conversation by e-mail, March 23th, 2011

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An interesting feature about the comic book is its uncanny accuracy regarding the many artists who follow the lines of the mainsdream. For instance, the full title of the graphic novel, Terry Painter L’Artiste, addresses the romantic notion of an artist by having the subtitle (L’Artiste) in French. France is a great location in which commonly one can depict the notion of romanticism within the arts. Ironically, the story of the book occurs in Manhattan, a place that also embodies this notion of success and romanticism within an artistic life for so many of the art agents with which I am preoccupied here. The origin of this New York City-fantasy has its roots during the era after the Second World War in which many immigrants, including intellectuals from all parts of Europe, arrived to a land that promised freedom. Today, Manhattan is the ultimate mainsdream land, a place that recalls the 1849 California Gold Rush and the California Dream, a mythical destination that has been affecting artists to pursue a mirage. Regardless of the pretentions of the city, it is true enough that during the 1960s and 1970s, a series of artistic movements took place, swept, and elevated the culture at an unexpected speed, positioning the American art scene as one of the most avid and vibrant of that time67. On the subject of Terry Painter L’Artiste, Calderón and Waplington decided to situate the story of the comic book in this city because by the time they had their artistic adventures in the Manhattan art scene, the latter was already in conspicuous decline: an ironic scenario

when

compared

with

its

mythical

overloadedness. As Australian-born and New York citybased art critic Robert Huges states “that shift is all about money, it’s the story that I have watched unfold over the Figure 9, Terry Painter L’Artiste, front cover

67

The Mona Lisa Curse, film by Robert Huges, 2008

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last fifty years. I’ve seen with growing disgust the fetishization of art, the vast inflation of prices, and the effect of this upon artists and museums.”68 What Huges describes is mainly what the mainsdreamers seek: to succeed in the art world by becoming into a celebrity icon available for mass consumption. In the following text, I describe how this transubstantiation presumably occurs in the unfolding dream logic of the mainsdream. By following the story of Terry Painter L’Artiste, the three main phases that the comic book presents of the protagonist’s life (the painful commonplace aspirations, the paradoxical climax within and of the mainsdream, and inevitably then the fallen artist) will serve as a structure and guide to the three moments in which the mainsdream does occur. Under the name of Terry, I will describe several cases that the Mexican mainsdreamers live in order to clarify the peculiarities of the mainsdream as it is expressed in one specific group and place. As a reminder for the reader, my mainsdreamers here are the generations of young artists who were born during the late 1970s and early 1980s in Mexico, and who suffered from the many serial socioeconomic failures that the country faced in that epoch. These people were mainly educated by the American mainstream media, and were caught up in the treacherous currents of the neoliberal development policies and philosophical assumptions. In this way, Terry will depict more than a part of everyone who aspires for fame and fortune: he is a portrayal of an artist living a high-speed lifestyle that travels between common dreams and dead ends especially indicative of a moment and a place I know myself all too well. Let me introduce you to Terry, our protagonist of the mainsdream in the Mexican contemporary art scene.

68

idem

44


Terry, generalized inspiration and common aspirations Regardless the nationality of the main character69, the persona of Terry gathers up many of the elements by which it is clear to notice the generalized modes of inspiration that later mutate into common aspirations for mainsdreamer artists in particular. The means of inspiration oscillate between mainstream media imagery and skewed personal needs. For the Mexican Terry, these means are related to the modes of desire that the American mainstream media has presented and to the context of Mexico that is full of absence of economic growth and as well as full of injustices in almost every sector of the country’s life. Mexican Terry would aspire to achieve a successful life in the terms in which he sees it happen in television programs (as a mixture between Art21 and VH1) and Hollywood movies especially because his own context –the Mexican context- lacks of that specific kind of success. A prefabricated reality is imposed over Terry, and as a response, he will superimpose this knowledge over the harsh Mexican reality, an act that will develop into a mainsdream. Many Terries state “if I would not have devoted my life

Figure 10, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 17

to the visual arts, I would love to be a rock star instead.”70

What

does

this

curious

interchangeability between celebrity and culture and, no doubt, porn finally mean within the contemporary Mexican art scene?

Figure 10, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 17

Regarding the inspiration that Terry gets, specialized art magazines such as ArtForum, Sculpture Magazine, Frieze, ArtNews, Art in America, Arts Journal, Flash Art, October, the New Yorker, among others are mainly the means to dream about being depicted in the full-colored

Terry Painter, the main character, is depicted only as an emergent artist living in Manhattan. The comic book never really states the nationality or origin of Terry. However, the latter seems to be irrelevant since the focus of the novel is on the empty desires that an artist could have, having Terry as a depiction of that. 70 Personal talk with Terry, October, 2004 69

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pages of precisely such magazines71. Regardless of the origin of these magazines, the mainsdreamers tend to reduce them all to one language –English- and to a single place –the U.S. In other words, mainsdreamers locate these magazines as if all of them were coming from the United States. This fact is related to the tendency of many generations of Mexicans immediately to associate any foreign item –especially if it contains text other than Spanish- to a gringo origin. Since the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. is intimate and so longstanding, the majority of non-educated Mexicans will make such an association by now. A great number of these English-text magazines contain visual information connected to galleries and art works across the global mainstream art scene. This is one of the many factors explaining why the mainsdream type of art will be based on images that appear in specialized printed media. No longer are the history books a reference for the creation and inspiration of artworks, it is from the current flow of visual information from art magazines that mainsdreamers derive their inspiration to create art. “We were just expecting to get the new edition of ArtForum [magazine]; once we got it, sharing the content was our group dynamic, borrowing books as well to later start Figure11, Terry Painter L’Artiste,, p. 98

Please note that, despite the major influence that foreign art magazines have in the Mexican art scene, it is true that there are also other local art magazines that circulate within this circuit. A great amount of these Mexican art magazines follows the lines of the foreign art magazines, having full-colored pages with little text, and portraying commercial and appealing images on them. A clear connection with the fashion world and the artistic scene is what these magazines tend to show. There are other kinds of magazines that base their content on the text; these are mainly based on critical point of view from art critics, curators, and artists who help to creating a balance of the Mexican art world. Another type of “resistant magazines” is the ones that individuals –mainly by artists and curators- produce along with the activities that they produce, such as exhibitions. These are not catalogues of art shows, rather, the content of these publications tend to present a critical view about not only the production of the artwork shown in the exhibitions, but also a significant perspective opened to the context in which the show was produced. Blogs dedicated to review and analyze the Mexican art scene tend to also function within the lines of a critical and open sight. 71

46


working in our art”72 During the mid nineties, the “open window” also launched a free exchange of products from the North, including, art magazines and books. The generation that grew up with those items, such as the group of artists from Temístocles 4473, were among the fist generations to encounter and exemplify mainsdream symptoms. Their circumstance is understandable since NAFTA and its encompassing storm-churn soaked the artists with a sweeping and new range of inspirational tools. However, this situation has by now extended over a decade and current mainsdreamers still keep mimicking the processes that their professors (the Temístocles’ generation of artists and curators) were doing themselves during the 90s. Why is it that the current mainsdreamers keep following the well-worn lines of admiration, imitation, and creation of art in those terms? An interesting aspect to notice here is that, for the generation that followed, the mainsdreamers, the dream becomes more reachable because they not only see foreign artists in those magazines, rather, they can now find their compatriots from the generation of the boom depicted in those glossy pages. The dream becomes somehow closer and therefore more real. The thirst for information among mainsdreamers, the voracious need for the most recent books and news about the hegemonic art scene are some of the main symptoms of such a hegemonic power. Subsequently, it at practice takes on the character of a race visual imagery unmoored from context circulates endlessly through mainstream media as the main tool to

Interview with Terry, Spring, 2004 Temístocles 44 is the name of a group of artists who worked in an abandoned house in Mexico City before it was demolished. The house, located in Temístocles street number 44, served as a site for experimentation outside the lines of the academia. The artists who were part of these collective had mentioned in different occasions that they were eager of getting the latest information from abroad, since it served as modes of inspirations for later production. As these artists became professionals, many moved from the mainsdream kind of lines to encounter personal expression. Among these artists one can mentioned well-known names such as Abraham Cruzvillegas, Eduardo Abaroa, Sofía Taboas, Daniel Guzman, and others as part of the group who used to meet at the Temístocles house during the 1990s. For further information see Abraham Cruzvillegas, “T44” in Round de Sombra (Mexico: CONACULTA, 2001) 150-151 72 73

47


inspire the produce of new art. Mexican art scholar Jorge Alberto Manrique explains this issue as follows: The “sighers” shake; they stuff themselves with magazines and short biographies of big artists from today. The rush of being updated takes away their time to think about their issues, do their things, and think about their own artwork. Unluckily, they run but (and God forgive them) they are always late. The curse of Sisyphus that they embody confirms the complex of inferiority which is typical of today’s “outside gaze” that runs cyclical in our culture. The moment that the friend arrives with the latest news from the outside, the second in which those appear in the magazines, the instant of purchase them, and the time it takes to produce those things: the fact is that when finally they are proudly presented to the public, they are old-fashioned74

Manrique describes a rat race among so many young artists, one that is especially palpable among outsider artists. These artists race to achieve what they fancy will ensure a better life, what they expect will yield a better condition of art production. These people aspire for recognition on terms they scarcely understand and for the sale of their artworks on a scale which will connect them to that celebrity fantastic; they want to become rock stars by any means, even by producing low quality art.

Figure 12, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 42

Jorge Alberto Manrique, Una vision del arte y de la historia (Mexico: Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, UNAM, 2000) 49, translated by Frida Cano 74

48


Mainsdream, the (un)achievable utopia American scholar Stephen Duncombe, in his essay Art of the Impossible, writes that “people are rarely moved to action, support, or even consent by realistic proposals, they are motivated by dreams of what could be.”75 Impossible dreams are what Duncombe describes when referring to the motivation that could encourage people to move forward. But what happens when this motivation seems to be the same one for many people? Is this circumstance part of what we call globalization? Is globalization a utopia for Third World countries?

Figure 13, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 31

As depicted in the graphic novel, Terry Painter races breathlessly to achieve his goals through a set of actions that, in the end, lead him to become a literal commodity of the art system. By encountering a network of power that operates within the art world, Terry Painter learns how to play such a game in what seems to be his favor. A portrayal of a successful career in which travels, money, drugs, celebrity encounters, and of course, the prostitution of the main character is what the comic book recounts when describing a rising artist in the pick of his career. An interesting and parallel situation is what the Mexican Terry seems to find when following the mainsdream path. For instance, many stories and gossips surround the lives of the mainsdreamers created by talking about their experiences to peers. On one occasion, Terry mentioned that “after my trip to this art capital, I had a count who was willing to marry me, an art collector that was interested in purchasing my work, and a studio loft bigger than my apartment in Mexico City. What the f#&* am I doing here? I need to go back there, I belong to that

Stephen Duncombre, Art of the Impossible in Wish You Were Here, Postcards from Our Awesome Future (San Francisco Arts Commission: Art On Market St. Program, 2008) 75

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place!”76 Indeed, mainsdreamers belong to mainsdream places; this is, in motion toward a mythical place that replaces personal fantasies and common expectations. Believing in a utopia, this is an ideal sociopolitical and artistic system, it is part of the motivation that mainsdreamers have when finding elements that provisionally link their dreams with actual facts. For how long do these facts last in the mind and heart of the mainsdreamers? Is the utopia a long-lasting motivation? What is mainsdream but a Frankenstein collection of assembled aspirations that arises from a mix of prescribed needs and evacuated desires? Aspiring towards a life full of excess, jammed with glamour, saturated with beauty, leads to a dangerous self-defeating illusion that manipulates the quest for human happiness into the ugliest forms.

Figure 14 & 15, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 41, 59

What happens when mainsdreamers pretend (do they?) to have found their mainsdream? Does this mean that they have found happiness as well? Could this fortuitous encounter be considered the climax of the mainsdream? What happens when mainsdreamers take the form not of the artist but of a cultural institution? Mexican art historian Guillermina Guadarrama Peña, in her essay ¡Cuidado… pintura fresca! [Caution… Wet Paint!], describes the Mexican art scene regarding painting in the era of post-neoconceptualism. She states:

76

Personal talk with Terry, Spring, 2005

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These conceptualisms have co-opted several art venues, and even new exhibition venues have been officially created deliberately. In the era of globalization that invade us, this could not be differently [Author mentions the name of three art venues in Mexico City]. Museums also became receptacles of the so-called emergent arts [Author mentions the name of five art venues in Mexico City], these venues are way to alternative now to hung paintings. It took a lot of effort to conquest them, but thanks to globalization we accessed to the international mainstream art.77

Guadarrama describes the current art scene that rules Mexico City. A shift in the mission by several major art museums and art venues in Mexico City within the bounds of the mainstream resulted in a rapid shift of the tide of arts and culture, aligning both into what the hegemonic culture demanded of them. Did that mean that museums in Mexico City became mainsdreamers? Did they follow an artistic mirage? Do they still operate within those hegemonic terms? Suddenly, the museums that used to feature official and legitimized artwork began to show living and contemporary artists, following the international art scene during the 2002 Mexican art boom. Having Gabriel Orozco as its main character, this boom brought Mexico City as a new and emergent art capital in the international art scene, at least for a few years. A fever for showing and consuming Mexican art rose higher and higher from one day to the next. The consequences for the generation of mainsdreamers, the Terry Painters that did not belong to the boom but saw this shift from Mexico, are visible when they tried thereupon to become part of this boom, of the mirage depicted in terms of the mainsdream. The conditions that generated the 2002 boom began with NAFTA and took several years to develop into what it is today. An art scene from the past decade is what mainsdreamers seem to pursue.

Figure 16, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 63

Guillermina Guadarrama Peña, ¡Cuidado… pintura fresca! (Mexico: CENIDIAP, July-Sept 2004) http://discursovisual.cenart.gob.mx/anteriores/dvwebne01/confrontacion/conguadarrama.ht m (accessed December 2008) , translated by Frida Cano 77

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Figure 17, Terry Painter L’Artiste, back cover

Icarus, the fall and fail of mainsdream For the mainsdreamer, what does it mean to reach the sun and fall? A third moment of the comic book describes the shift that Terry Painter undergoes when he encounters

the truth at last behind his mainsdream. At this point, the illusion becomes a harsh reality, and the mirages in which he settled a mode of living result in a temporary form of existing otherwise instead. For Terry Painter, everything vanishes through time, and the only way to surpass such a transient situation, is to end with that life. For many people, the encountering with the mainsdream and the mirage of success that accompanies it creates a false or fake life based on a non-reality. It is important to highlight that the mainsdream is a time-based situation, and it is destined to fall and fail through time.

Figure 18, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 123

The fall and fail of the mainsdream keep profoundly in play elements that are related to faith. Believing in the mainsdream could be a phase that the majority of aspiring and young artists, curators, and many more deal with during a period of time in their lives. It seems to be a normal process that one should experience in order eventually to encounter the demands of

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historical reality in a more authentic way. For Mexican art agents, reality is closely linked with failures and falls within many moments and facets of the country’s history. It is more likely that Mexican mainsdreamers would rather extend the life of their mainsdream in order to avoid facing a double failure: one that relates to the fallen mainsdream, and a second one, that connects with Mexico’s history of failures. On one occasion, Terry asked me “what is your definition of success?”78 For the first time, I saw Terry wondering about a notion that in the past he would have taken for granted. Terry hesitated about articulating a clear idea that presumably was guiding his life until that time. What is art without doubt? How is art without failures? When I met Terry, he believed that he was achieving success because he started to partner with the socialite of Mexican art, creating a myth around his life, playing with the strategies that made successful art and a well-known artist, in brief, living the mainsdream. Timed passed and the dream expired for Terry. Following his artistic career after a few years, I found that he decided to keep moving forward within the lines of the mainsdream. Why? Perhaps the reason is not that important as it is the fact that he began to get recognition as he won artistic residencies and art grants from Mexican sponsors. For how long can the mainsdream be extended after all and into what can it be extended? A life? Is believing in the mainsdream better than believing in nothing? Even when it is a belief in a noting as well? If the mainsdream is vacuous, then is the faith in it necessarily empty too? If emptiness conquers creation, what course do arts and culture take over the years? What happens when the dream exceeds reality?

Figure 19, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 122

78

Personal talk with Terry, April 2005

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Living according to mainstream parameters and basing lives on pre-articulated culture-colonized commonplace standards, but more importantly, creating and producing culture within the constraints of such permanent possibilities, yields a condition that I named mainsdream, a reality that overwhelms dreams.

Figure 20, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 141

Conclusion A History of Failure and Its Counterpart: Irony Why is it important to talk about failure in Mexican art? Breakdown, malfunction, crash, collapse, disappointment, fiasco, bankruptcy, not a success‌ The list can keep adding on names to call something that constantly appears in the socalled developing countries. Can culture be constructed through failures? What is to fail in history? Through the eye of the cultural power, the non-Western, non-First World countries carry a history that is closely linked to a malfunctioning because the standards to value success are determined by order (not chaos), economic growth (not bankruptcies), and social content (as if happiness could be measureable and stable). What if a history is written by those in a nonpower position, constructed organically through failures and falls, in which happiness can be found in the midst of this scenario? Could this kind of history be more significant to humanity? To culture? To arts? Argentinean-born and Mexico City-based philosopher Enrique Dussel explains the phenomenon of a dis-covery of the Americas from a different perspective. He writes:

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The notions of invention and dis-covery, as well as those of conquest and evangelisation are centered on Europeans as constituent egos. But if we take a Copernican leap and abandon our accepted world view of the European ego to look around and try to understand things from the perspective of the primitive American native where the American Indian ego becomes the core of this new solar system, everything takes on a new significance (from below).79

Dussel touches on an ironic way to look at the failed history that for instance Mexico and the rest of the Americas hold within; looking from below could be a key to approaching our own perspective as Mexicans, inhabitants of the Americas, cultural producers, and individuals in a globalized world. The history that recalls and tells the linear stories of success, in which wars and major disasters are seen through the system of profitable outcomes and not through a personal perspective, is the history that recounts a myth of sustained stardom and an utopia accessible to the masses. A countercurrent to the history of success seems to be a viable and already present vision from below, which sporadically bursts out in social movements that unite people in difficult times. As I mentioned before, the 1985 earthquake that devastated Mexico City and stirred up social unrest, but along with the increase in crime came the unification of people in the rebuilding of communities and a self-sufficiency that continues to surpass governmental authority80. For instance, artists gathered in the insecure zones of Roma and Condesa neighborhoods –these were two of the most devastated areas in the City. Throughout the years, these groups disseminated in the City and created a vibrant artistic scenario outside the sanctioned aesthetics of the government. How can the great artistic scenario emerge from a harsh context? This is an example of how the artistic realm within Mexico City can keep on moving forward, in which the local history is written by the participants themselves, through their own perspective and personal experience.

Dussel, Enrique, Was America Discovered or Invaded? In Concilium (1988) 220, 128 A good example for that situation is the community of Tepito, one of many neighborhoods with a strong identity in Mexico City. Tepito stands as a closed, strong, and a long-lasting community that after the 1985 earthquake, has survived the many devastations, laws, and the recent waves of American colonization. 79

8080

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How do the generations of Mexican artists under the yoke of the mainsdream begin to loosen its hold on them? Orgies of consumption, a need to achieve imposed modes of happiness, are the circles of interaction in which the mainstream attracts the circle of the mainsdream. What if we shift this homogenizing art style into what it really is? What is it? Vacuity, which thrives through the interaction of creating and believing, removed from personal truths. Beliefs in an imposed meaning, in a mainsdream, drive artists to empty out their minds to (re)produce from a pre-digested imaginary. As I elaborated throughout the text, the use of appealing images and ideals to direct and manipulate the pursuit of human happiness takes a heavy toll on cultural producers in Mexico. This involuntary invasion of dreams can be considered one of many difficult scenarios in which artistic creation may truly occur. In such a scenario, cultural producers fall under a yoke that they pull toward a promised happiness. What happens to the creative urge when it no longer comes from a personal stance but instead under an oppressive fantasy? Under the yoke of the mainsdream, do these Mexican artists truly believe in such an externalized and vacuous form of art production? What if the yoke is only a joke? Irony can be a key to unlock the story behind the history of failure. For Mexicans, perhaps the cultural capital81 lies not on artworks as a result, but also in the content behind being content: irony, a nervous laugh that makes us understand beyond mirages. Irony is part of Mexican culture; it has been inherited, collected, and distributed over the years as if it was a cultural heritage, a national wealth that leads to social health. Do we have enough irony to understand the world? How much irony do we need to go beyond the world of mainsdream? Can cynicism take us beyond ingenuousness, and satire Cultural capital is a term by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. The term refers to nonfinancial social assets, rather, educational or intellectual are the means by which cultural capital is constructed and achieved. For further information see Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, (USA: Harvard College and Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1984) 81

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surpass our ignorance? What if we allow irony to enliven our errors? In a place where one must dig into the ground to find things beyond false myths and superficial beliefs, artistic creation surpasses boundaries if art agents are willing to take risks. Mexico is a place where the impossible can be reached in ironic manners, in which the notion of mainstream success does not necessarily apply. Mexico City is a space in which oscillations between extremes intensify a critical mindflow; it is mainly through a construction of failed stories that this place moves forward. From the outside, mainsdreamers can serve as indicators of uselessness, so that we can locate vacuity and develop a keen eye to act as its counterbalance, not only in Mexico but also in a globalized arena. The Estheticist, a free online publication dedicated to the contemporary arts conducted by Mexican-born and New York City-based artist Pablo Helguera, recently responded to a mainsdreamer when asking about a mainsdream decision: Dear Estheticist, I want to be famous, and I am open about it. What do you think I should do: Which of these is the best way to get fast recognition, wealth, and fame? And if possible, to feel good about myself and what I do. a. contemporary art (Star) b. pop singer c. actor d. (super)model my skills are very limited but I have good ideas. I have no previous experience in any of these fields thanks, Anonymous (I havent decided on my stage name yet) Dear Anonymous, You are amongst the minority. Who wants to be famous anymore? Be chased by paparazzi and tabloids, die of an overdose while still young, be immersed in legal battles with the many ex-spouses who will fight to take over your estate, being debated publicly over the kind of Liposuction or plastic surgery you have conducted on yourself. In any case, your avenues depend, as you may have guessed, on your abilities: if you have a great body, supermodel is the solution; if you know how to fake feelings, you are an actor, if you can sing and move at least decently onstage, you are a pop singer. If you can’t do any of these things, – that is, if you are not that attractive, you can’t really act, sing or move- then you are stuck with trying to become a contemporary artist, as that is the field where all the fame-starved and slightly untalented people go. The bad news: fame in the art world is so easy to get that it hardly counts as true fame. Like Maurizio Cattelan

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said, being famous in the art world is too easy for everyone because the art world is like, 2000 people. The good part: because art stars are second-rate celebrities, they are not so famous that are pestered with paparazzi, tabloids, ex-spouses, etc. Sincerely, The Estheticist.82

Laughing, as well as bleeding and crying, operates as a healing process83. Humor allows us to take a position as observers of subjectivity, taking us outside of the closed cycle of creating and believing. Perhaps irony and its laugh could, if not free our minds, at least make us happier within our harsh reality.

Figure 21, Terry Painter L’Artiste, p. 182

Pablo Helguera, The Estheticist, issue 1 (July 22, 2010) under “Blog, Book Excerpts, Books, Miscellany, http://pablohelguera.net/2010/07/the-estheticist-issue-1-july-2010/ (accessed November 1, 2010) 83 As an example, the Day of the Dead incites people to enjoy death, to celebrate it because there is nothing to do about it. In the same lines, cartones politicos [political cartoons] take great delight in make fun of the President and authorities. Irony is what characterizes these cartoons, because despite the mistakes and their disastrous consequences, the country seems to go worse, and laughing makes the path much easier. 82

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MAINSDREAM –A REALITY THAT OVERWHELMS DREAMS by Frida Cano Domínguez* *Fundación / Colección Jumex scholar and Recipient of the Program Beca para Estudios en el Extranjero 2010-2011 del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes

San Francisco Art Institute, May 2011

Frida Cano, "Mainsdream, A Reality that Overwhelms Dreams"  

A thesis project that focuses on the idealization of the art world by aspiring and young artists. Fed by the mass media, the mainsdream take...

Frida Cano, "Mainsdream, A Reality that Overwhelms Dreams"  

A thesis project that focuses on the idealization of the art world by aspiring and young artists. Fed by the mass media, the mainsdream take...

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