Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Laureana Toledo, Delusion, 2011, acrylic on found newspaper posters, (Who is to name our dream- no river, not the rain). Special commission for the exhibition.

Laureana Toledo, Untitled, 2009, two photo collages

Melanie Smith, Pink Tianguis, 2002, C-Print photograph

Melanie Smith, Spiral City 13, 2003, Acrylic on acrylic

Francis Alys, Sunpath, Mexico City, 1999
Four photographs and sunpaths: 01.11.98, 11:10am; 12.11.98, 11:45am; 20.05.99, 5:45pm; 21.05.99, 1:15pm

Francis Alys, Untitled (dog and railings), 2004, Diptych, Oil and encaustic on canvas on wood

Catherine Petitgas, Catherine Lampert and Pablo Leon de la Barra in conversation.

I was invited by the Mexican Embassy in London (for the first time after being here for 14 years), to organize an exhibition and conversation regarding the artistic relationship existing between London and Mexico. I decided to invite curator Catherine Lampert and art patron Catherine Petitgas to participate in a conversation around the topic, and to curate a small informal exhibition within the spaces of the Embassy with some works from the Petitgas collection that could illustrate this ideas. For the conversation I traced a prehistory of exhibition of Mexican arts in London (see previous posts), and presented the work of the artists in the exhibition, while also creating echos with the work of Mexican artists Helen Escobedo in England in the 50s and 2000s and Felipe Ehrenberg in London in the 1970s. Catherine Lampert talked about her work as director of the Whitechapel Gallery from 1988 to 2001, where she was a pioneer of exhibiting non American and non European contemporary art, including the work of Francis Alys, Francisco Toledo and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Catherine Petitgas talked about her exemplary labour as a patron of Latin American art, and about how she began to collect art from Mexico. Afterwards artist Laureana Toledo discussed the work she has been developing during the last three years in England, while demanding the need of friendly artists visas for artists visiting the UK. We also discussed the urgent need to create an independent and bilateral programme for the support of residencies for artists and the visits of curators from London to Mexico and from Mexico to London.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Mexican Art: from 1500 BC to the Present Day
Tate Gallery
4 March – 26 April 1953

Mexican art, throughout history, and in all its forms, has sprung from the same creative force. From the archaic Indian civilisations to modern times, it was always closely related to the life and spirit of the people. This exhibition has been arranged in chronological order, and special emphasis has been laid on the important aspects of each period. It is divided into four major sections: pre-Columbian, colonial, modern and contemporary, and popular. Each of these sections contains works of the greatest artistic importance, as well as examples of what are known as the ‘minor arts’.

Under the general term, Pre-Columbian art, is collected the art of all those peoples who inhabited Mexico before the arrival of European culture. All over the country are to be found buildings by great architects, cities with magnificent religious monuments, such as the pyramids, temples, palaces and tombs, containing sculpture and mural painting.The finely wrought gold objects, the engraved and carved jade, obsidian and rock crystal, the turquoise jewellery and the magnificent plumed ornaments, are proofs of the richness of Mexican personal attire.

Colonial art is the art of New Spain, as Mexico was called during the three centuries of Spanish domination. It should not be confused with Spanish art, as it resulted rather from the combination of the two cultures, the native and the European.

Baroque, sober and restrained in its inception, reached its apogee in the eighteenth century in a grandiose art of extraordinary wealth and splendour, exemplified in hundreds of churches, exuberantly carved stone façades and altarpieces (retablos).

The gilded altar shown in this exhibition comes from the disused convent of Tepotzotlán in the State of Mexico, and is one of the finest examples of Mexican baroque; it is, however, only the smallest of the ten possessed by the convent. It has been moved for the first time from its site, so as to give some idea of the unique wealth of this art.

Modern Mexican art started with the neo-classical movement, which came at the end of the colonial period and during the struggle for national independence.

The finest work of this period are the paintings of the great landscape artist, José Maria Velasco, some of which are included here. Though his technique was in the European tradition, his very personal conception of nature helped to rediscover our land and our valleys, which he depicted with poetic feeling and a panoramic sense of great spaces.

Another art, which flourished in the nineteenth century, grew up at the same time as, but independently from, the academic movement. Local artists in various parts of Mexico expressed themselves naively, but with charm and surprising vigour.The work of artists such as José Maria Estrada and Hermenegildo Bustos, with many other anonymous painters, confirms the artistic value of this movement, which reveals intimate aspects of Mexican life, and has its roots deeply embedded in an old popular tradition.

Mention should also be made of the exquisite fantasies of Frida Kahlo, and the poetically expressive work of Manuel Rodriguez Lozano. The paintings of Guillermo Meza are characterised by imagination, and those of Guerrero Galván by human tenderness. Maria Izquierdo’s pictures have an immediate appeal.

The section devoted to popular art is a magical explosion of shapes and colours.

Mexican folk art expresses the essence of Mexican people: great variety of objects can be found here from many parts of the country, each with its own technique, and each disclosing the personality of the craftsman, but all expressive of the same spirit and knowledge of form which give a unity to the collection.

Fernando Gamboa

Monday, 28 March 2011


a "Quetzalcoatl' plummed serpent invented sculpture, a copy of the Aztec Calendar and the Coatlicue

also at the Egyptian Hall: African Animals

and Napoleons funeral carriage

building where the Egyptian Hall used to stand in Picadilly

The first exhibition of 'Ancient and Modern Mexico' in London took place in 1824 at the Egyptian Hall in London, three years after Mexico's independence from Spain. The exhibition was organized by William Bullock, the owner of the Egyptian Hall, who in 1823 traveled to Mexico with his son, where they collected the contents of the exhibition. On display were antiquities, plants, animals, minerals, handicrafts, and complete with what was said to be the first Mexican Indian to be seen in England, all set against a panoramic view of the Valley of Mexico painted by William Bullock Jr. The exhibition was visited by nearly fifty thousand people. Plaster copies of sculptures like that of Coatlicue and the Aztec Calendar were also exhibited.

In 1825 Bullock sold the Egyptian Hall to book seller George Lackington, and took his family to live to Mexico where he had acquired a silver mine during his first visit. In 1827 Bullock bought land on the bank of the Ohio River where he attempted to build a utopian community called Hygeia...

more on the Egyptian Hall here.

Friday, 25 March 2011


special guests from Paris, Federico and Philippe cutting the ribbon

Host of the night HRH Princess Julia

Dale Cornish, who did a special abstract sound set for the night

Madame Esther Planas

Dame Ximena Garrido Lecca

visitor from Peru, gallerist from Revolver, Renzo Gianella

MARQUEE 2, at Le Cubicule Blanc an installation by Sico Carlier
White Cubicle Toilet Gallery
George and Dragon, 2 Hackney Road, London E2
Thursday 24 of March 2011, 8PM to 11 PM
Host of the night: HRH Princess Julia
DJ of the night: Laurent Chaumet
Special sound set by Dale Cornish

Old Compton street is, was and has been a recognised meeting place for exiles, noteworthy being those from France. After the suppression in Paris of the Paris Commune, the poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud often frequented drinking haunts there. The Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton street was the target of the most devastating homophobic attack in London’s history when on April 30, 1999 a nail bomb went off on what was a busy Bank Holiday evening. It was one of three nail bomb attacks that took place that day. In The Admiral Duncan three people were killed, while 86 were injured. The explosions were set off by David Copeland, then 22, whose objective it was to wage a war against ethnic minorities and gay people in Britain.

In the summer of 1999 Sico Carlier was asked to make a piece for the now disappeared Soho space the ‘Pineal Eye’ on Broadwick Street, a street parallel to Old Compton, a few blocks away from the bomb site. “I felt I could not do anything than and there without that horror in mind, and made a piece for them entitled “MARQUE(E)”, consisting of a lot of rusty nails and the remaining tissue of a shopfront marquee. At the time my reasoning behind the work, or why I made it, was not emphasized, it seemed not appropriate to do so. The actual object, which surely must have shown up fierce on X-ray, travelled unnoticed as hand luggage through security on my trip to London. In general it can be said people visiting Pineal Eye took a liking to my piece and it was often referred to as a 'Bijou', suspended as it was in a floor-less room with mirrored walls.”

The invitation to Sico Carlier to do an exhibition at the White Cubicle Toilet Gallery made him rediscover and re-invent Marquee as a new piece: MARQUEE 2. The issues that informed the piece still present in 2011 East End London, which has recently been subject to a series of homophobic attacks, including the appearance of posters and stickers carrying de-contextualised quotes from the Qur’an with text and a logo calling for a “Gay Free Zone”. See and

In a sad postscript to the The Admiral Duncan tragedy, John Morley, the former manager of the pub who survived the bomb attack, was attacked by a group of youths on London’s South Bank on the night of October 30, 2004. John suffered multiple injuries in the attack and died later in hospital. On 14 December 2005 the aggressors, aged 21, 18, 17 and 15, were convicted at the Old Bailey of manslaughter.

Sico Carlier is an artist of Dutch origin, among many things he is also the publisher of cult Currency Magazine!/sicocarlier

THE WHITE CUBICLE TOILET GALLERY measures 1.40 by 1.40 metres, is located within the Ladies Toilet of the George and Dragon, and works with no budget, staff or boundaries. White Cubicle presents a discerning programme of local and international manifestations as an antidote to London’s sometimes extremely commercial art scene. Past exhibitions have included the work of Deborah Castillo, Gregorio Magnani, Butt Magazine, Federico Herrero, Terence Koh, i-Cabin, Steven Gontarski, Pixis Fanzine/Princess Julia and Hanah, General Idea and avaf, Basso Magazin, Carl Hopgood, Giles Round, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Superm, (Brian Kenny and Slava Mogutin), Elkin Calderon, Wolfgang Tillmans, Calvin Holbrook/Hate Magazine, Husam el Odeh, Simon Popper, Fur, Dik Fagazine, Rick Castro/Abravanation, Jean Michel Wicker, Noki, Ellen Cantor, Karl Holmqvist, Julie Verhoeven, Aldo Chaparro, Esther Planas, Nikos Pantazopoulos, Luis Venegas, Twinklife, Rocky Alvarez, Benedetto Chirco, STH Magazine, Elmgreen & Dragset, Francesc Ruiz...
Facebook group:

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


el instituto, currently headquartered in Mexico City, is a not-for-profit organization that generates exhibitions, conferences, workshops, courses and platforms for other events. el instituto is committed to the exploration of the overlap between art, culture, politics, activism and human rights theory and practice, both locally and internationally. Having no physical site of its own, el instituto functions symbiotically, hosted by cultural or academic institutions, while also operating in less official spaces and capacities.

Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject
The research project Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject takes a look at the conditions - the who, why and where - in which one can speak and be heard. Not I proposes an analysis of different forms of speech acts and an exploration of the possibility of breaking with the inherent power relations, the "contextually bound formulas" and the conventions surrounding the right to successfully issue performative utterances.

The research project Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject takes a look at the conditions - the who, why and where - in which one can speak and be heard. Not I proposes an analysis of different forms of speech acts and an exploration of the possibility of breaking with the inherent power relations, the "contextually bound formulas" and the conventions surrounding the right to successfully issue performative utterances.

The project deals with human rights issues specifically through the lens of the politics of performativity and the performative speech act. Emerging from research on dissident political art practice in Latin America - specifically the contentious and heavily censored period of visual art practice in Argentina in and around 1968 and the response to the 1968 massacre of student activists at Tlatelolco in Mexico City - the project will involve extensive study of the work of international human rights activists and theorists and of cultural practitioners deeply committed to the political uses of social space and the complexity of enunciation within those spaces.

The project freely crosses disciplines and historical periods in an attempt to draw out the discourse of human rights activists around the construction and deconstruction of the 'subject' (the modern subject), and the subsequent study of the complex contemporary political subject, (looking critically at theoretical constructions around the notions of sovereignty, displacement, exile and nomadism, among others) and taking into account work in visual art, film and other cultural, spatial and political practices that attempt to complicate notions of performativity and human rights discourse and action.
The project is conceived of as an extended platform for research around these sets of issues and is comprised of conferences, workshops, performances, an exhibition and other events.

Programmed public events include a conference on March 25th hosted by UNAM's Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco in Mexico City; a series of workshops led by international human rights theorists, activists, architects and artists in the autumn of 2011; and a large scale exhibition, also hosted by Tlatelolco, in March of 2012.

Research towards this project has been made possible by a Curatorial Research Fellowship awarded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

"Untethering the speech act from the sovereign subject founds an alternative notion of agency and, ultimately, of responsibility..."
- Judith Butler: Excitable Speech Acts, 1997

Not I: un encuentro sobre arte y politica
Not I: a conference on art and politics
March 25, 2011
10am - 1pm, 4pm - 7pm
Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco
Ricardo Flores Magon 1, col. Nonoalco-Tlatelolco

To be held at UNAM's Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco in Mexico City is the first element of el instituto's Not I project.
Invited speakers include Maria Berrios, Avery Gordon, Pablo Lafuente and Javier Toscano.

Conference topics include:
Maria Berrios:
How to make a straight line invisible. On conceptual humour and the politics of vanishing;

Avery Gordon:
"Running Away.": Some brief thoughts on disobedience, running away and other promising conduits to abolishing the disposition to war.

Pablo Lafuente:
Can Emancipation Not Be Abstract?

Javier Toscano:
Resistance and Enunciation. The Drive to Anonymity

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Shelagh Wakely

Shelagh Wakely, Curcuma Sul Travertino, 1991, turmeric on travertine marble floor, 17 x 4.5 m, at the British School of Rome

Shelagh Wakely, dustculturenobodyfloorpreciousfalseone, 1993, golden powder on wood floor, 5.50m x 3m

Shelagh Wakely, Golden Cloth, 2008, cut silk drawing golden leafed, 4.5m x 6.5m

Shelagh Wakely, rainsquare, aluminium leaf on glass patterned by falling rian, 6 x 6 meters, 1994, at South London Gallery

Shelagh Wakely, Fuente Imaginaria (Imaginary Fountain), 2000, aluminium leaf between glass, at Ex-Teresa, Mexico City,

Shelagh Wakely, Fruit Ghosts, 1999-2009, ripe fruits enlaced in fine metals and allowed to dry out

Shelagh Wakely, A Space For Dreaming, 2000, feathers & steel wire, 2.2m high x 3m x 1.40m

Shelagh Wakely, Pleached Hornbeam Arch, Bristol Temple Quay, 2008, corten steel, 3.5m high x 2m x 2.9m

Shelagh Wakely passed away in London today.

An artist of British origin, born sometime in the late 30s/early 40s, Shelagh was a pioneer of installation art in this country. Her work was delicate and ephemeral: floors covered with coloured golden dust or spices recreating vegetation patterns, glass covered with fragments of aluminium leaf patterned by falling rain, a floating tent under which to dream made of feathers, fruits covered with golden leaf and allowed to ripe and rot, gold threads covering fruits which were then dried - the wire structure becoming the ghost of the dead fruit...

Shelagh was my first landlady when I moved to London in 1997, when together with Kenneth Bostock we rented the ground floor flat of the house where she lived (and where she had her studio) in Falkland Road in Kentish Town. There I discovered her savage garden, which was at the same time her work and source of inspiration. From there I went for walks and swims to Hampstead Heath, and began my discovery of English culture.

Contrary to many British who suffer of insularity , Shelagh was curious of other cultures and countries. With her then husband urban consultant Patrick Wakely she traveled through the then called "developing world" during the 60s and 70s, going to Asia, Africa and Latin America. Shelagh also transmitted me with her passion for Brazil, a country which had become one of her sources of inspiration. It was through Shelagh that I met Brasilian artist Tatiana Grinberg, now a dear friend. It was also through her, at parties and dinners at her house, that I met Brasilian artists Tunga, Ana Holck, and Thiago Rocha Pitta, as well as art critics/curators Guy Brett, Micheal Asbury, Frances Horn and even Cuauhtemoc Medina. It was through Shelagh, in those early days in London, that I had my first contact with London's local and international art scene.

In the last ten years she had done mainly public art commissions, her talent being under-recognised by the British art world. Her works do not form part of the collection of any British museum. I hope that this omission will soon be corrected, and that history will make her justice. Sadly the importance of her work and her influence will be rediscovered now that she is absent.

I last saw her last summer, when she gave me a copy of a small catalogue of the work she had done between 1991 to 2009. Like with many other friends that have left, I wish I had spent more time with her learning from her wisdom.

Shelagh, thank you. We will miss you.