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Centre of Latin American Studies



“Agoraphobia No More. Preliminary Notes on the Possibility of the Public”
 Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra, University of Cambridge

In Littré and Robin’s 1865 Dictionnaire de médecine, agoraphobia is defined as a “form of madness consisting in an acute anxiety, with palpitations and fears of all kinds” resulting from the exposure to open spaces. Historically this has been a medical condition more commonly attributed to women and associated with the radical transformations of the city with the onset of modernity. These preliminary notes open the conference by drawing on the feminist writings of Rosalyn Deutsche in order to redefine agoraphobia in the twenty-first century as no longer a fear of open spaces but a technocratic fear of non-marketable and non-rationalized public space, in which a phantom notion of the public becomes a means on the one hand, to maximize profit, and on the other, foster consensus. Thriving on a politics of fear leading to the full reorganization of cities, this characteristically neoliberal view of the public leaves little space for an agonistic model of politics, thus reproducing the silence of the excluded. Commenting on some of the examples that have been discussed in this series of symposia since May 2016, I analyse ways in which aesthetics may contribute both to resist and overcome this rationalized form of neoliberal madness.

“Politics of Enunciation and Affect in an Age of Corporeal Violence: Mónica Mayer’s 'The Clothesline' and Pinto mi Raya’s 'Embraces'”
Karen Cordero, Universidad Iberoamericana

This paper will address the participatory aesthetics, transformation and continued political pertinence of two feminist artworks: Mónica Mayer's The Clothesline and Pinto mi Raya's Embraces. The Clothesline (El Tendedero), originally produced in 1978 and recreated in various contexts since that time, makes visible verbal testimonies of gender-based experiences of violence. Using a structure that alludes to a traditionally feminine everyday activity, Mayer invites the public to share their experiences of the city: violence, insecurity, identity and harassment. In particular, I will analyze the ways in which the documentation and contextualization of the versions of the piece created in Mexico City in 1978 and 2016, and in Culiacán in 2016, constructs a visual archive of cultural memory that links the situation of women, feminism and social activism in the late 1970’s to the current context. Embraces (Abrazos), was originally presented by Pinto mi Raya (Mónica Mayer and Víctor Lerma) in performance festivals in 2008 in Rumania and in 2009 in Israel, and was reactivated in 2016 in Mexico City as part of a retrospective exhibition of Mayer’s work. The piece motivates a collective dynamic based on the recollection and reenactment of significant embraces of a diverse group of individuals, whose testimonies were documented by Mayer and Lerma, inciting a corporeal and affective interaction that suggests a model for countering the urban alienation documented in The Clothesline. I will compare and contrast the diverse strategies conceived by the authors and the participants in these pieces for their activation; the reception and resonance of the works in the context of the museum, public spaces, mass media and social networks; and the poetics of representation encompassed by the works.

“Spaces of Absolution: Immunity and Community in the Films of Carlos Reygadas”
Geoffrey Kantaris, University of Cambridge

Roberto Esposito writes that "if immunization implies a substitution or an opposition of private or individualistic models with a form of communitary organization [… its] structural connection with the processes of modernization is clear" (Bíos). I aim to explore the spatial dimensions of this idea as they play out in selected films by Carlos Reygadas. In the interstices of abstract space, in Lefebvrian terms, Reygadas' films often recover or re-invest the shards of absolute space, and place the (naked) body in those interstices. Yet Lefebvre wrote that "the body, at the very heart of space […] is irreducible and subversive" (The Survival of Capitalism), and the tension between such avant-garde investments in the body's "subversive" relationship to space and the now dominant biopolitical understanding of the body's legibility at the heart of social space, lies at the core of Reygadas' filmmaking. This tension, I argue, is generative of more than neo-avant-garde shock, for it is one way of short-circuiting, and perhaps collapsing, the duality of immunitas and communitas.

“'Menos Días Aquí' y 'Bordamos por la Paz': Grief, Social Protest and Grassroots Memorialization in Mexico’s War on Drugs”
Adriana Ortega Orozco, Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle

The Mexican Drug War that started in 2006 in Mexico has unleashed a wave of violence that to date has claimed more than 130,000 lives and left 27,000 missing. Since then, both the state and civil society have undertaken several initiatives to commemorate the victims through memorial practices in public spaces. This paper focuses in the analysis of the emergence of non-institutional ritual forms of memorialization in alternative material and virtual contexts. Drawing upon the concept of “grassroots memorials” (Margry and Sánchez-Carretero, 2011), the paper discusses, first, the ways in which these grassroots practices establish a strong link between commemoration and social protest. Second, it analyzes how these grassroots memorials have considered the individual identification of the victims as crucial – not only as a way of remembrance, but also as a political act preventing victims’ voices from being silenced. Moreover, it aims to understand why the government’s involvement in the creation of recent “official” memorials in urban spaces has generally not been accepted by different civil society groups as a satisfactory symbolic reparation. Last, the paper reflects on the fact that beyond being a means to express collective grief, these grassroots memorials also aim to create awareness among their participants and hence an immediate audience. The paper concludes that these new mourning practices cannot be considered as “spontaneous shrines” (Santino 2006) since they respond to organizational and performative rituals that extend over time as new practices evolve from previous initiatives, transcending borders and aiming to prevent denial or repetition in the future.

“Polvo/Polvoriento/Polvareda and Desapropiación: The Poetics of Dust, Discrepancy and Migration in Writing and Visual Culture in Mexico”
Erica Segre, University of Cambridge

From Alfonso Reyes’s Visión de Anáhuac and Palinodia del polvo in which the classical topos is transposed and reconfigured in a contemporary landscape, via Mariano Azuela, Juan Rulfo and Rosario Castellanos to José Emilio Pacheco and Mario Bellatin; from Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Mariana Yampolsky, to Paul Leduc, Helen Escobedo, Felipe Ehrenberg, Gerardo Suter, Francis Alÿs and Teresa Margolles, the epigrammatic mote, the particle of disintegration and endurance, the cumulus of historical and pre-historical deposits, the grain collating trajectories of foundation, loss, decline, desertification and pollution has been correlated to a point of discursive saturation. The conversions effected by drainage, drought, depopulation, violence and agricultural industrialization provide the backdrops, the intermedial imagery and cognitive mappings, but it is the discursive level that has witnessed an atomization of the notion of exodus and displacement itself. No longer a mnemonic device or rim of invasion, polvo has become a measure of mobile indeterminacy. It has given way to a recent descriptive phenomenon, an acceptable nomenclature for the migratory subject: as migratory dust particles these collective shifts seem to neutralize the politicized terrain of the frontera and its identitarian politics in favour of such impersonal material dispersals. This atomization of both the corporeal and the boundaries of material geographies, recognizing the mobilization and diffusion of spatial recognition, may offer an ambivalent revision of the relation between identity and environment which may be construed as negative in its witnessing and affirmative in its recalibration of the units by which disintegration is made manifest as a strategy of revitalization at its grassroots minutiae. So in dust there is both the imprimatur of invisibility, evidenced violation and pauperization; and the premise of a volatilized material engagement. The paper will discuss the significations of dust and the recuperation of dust as a point of mobile inception in the context of contemporary visualizations that socialize dust as a spatial and subjective phenomenon of perceptual diffusion and geographical alteration.

“México hiperbólico. Democracia radical y espacio infrapolítico”
Ángel Octavo Álvarez Solís, Universidad Iberoamericana

Esta ponencia tiene el objetivo de analizar la disputa por los espacios públicos en el México contemporáneo como espacios condicionados por el afecto político. Para reforzar el argumento, la presentación tiene dos fines. Primero, mostrar una cartografía en la que los conceptos de público, espacialidad y afección son problematizados a partir de una teoría espacial de los conceptos políticos. Segundo, emplear la infrapolítica como un modelo teórico que, apoyado con piezas de arte contemporáneo y poéticas audiovisuales, explica la relación entre afecto, disenso y espacio en la crisis democrática mexicana.

“Violencia: La parte del espacio. Tres adaptaciones libres de ‘La Calle’ de Georges Perec”
Arturo Ortiz Struck, Universidad Iberoamericana

El cuestionamiento por la articulación entre la vida y el derecho en el contexto de las políticas de vivienda social en México es un aspecto fundamental para discutir estrategias gubernamentales de producción de suelo urbano. Aquí postulo que el modelo de producción de vivienda impulsado desde las instituciones federales no funciona como un factor que desencadene condiciones de igualdad y el reconocimiento de la diversidad. Asimismo, dada la localización de la vivienda y su conformación urbana, ésta tiene la particularidad de diluir cualquier acción política y velar de la luz pública las opiniones de los habitantes. El gobierno federal impulsa políticas públicas derivadas de leyes y programas de desarrollo que logran un ensamblaje financiero exitoso y utilizan la producción de la vivienda como un motor productivo, pero generan a su vez espacios donde el ejercicio de los derechos y el acceso a los servicios es muy precario. La abstracción técnica que supone el éxito del modelo financiero logra separar la eficiencia de las condiciones de vida y violencia que producen. Parece que la imagen formal y repetitiva de los grandes conjuntos de vivienda se constituye como un velo que nubla la mirada y permite un simulacro de desarrollo. El objetivo de este acercamiento a la situación de la vivienda social en México es narrar los espacios producidos por esta dinámica. Para hacerlo he realizado tres adaptaciones libres del capítulo “La Calle” del libro Especies de espacios, del escritor francés Georges Perec. Aquí, Perec plantea un ejercicio de observación y escritura en el que describe detalladamente una calle. A través de este marco de referencia localicé tres hechos violentos recientes en conjuntos de vivienda dentro de la Ciudad de México, posteriormente los visité con el fin de realizar en cada uno el mismo ejercicio de observación. El resultado devela la esterilidad política de la producción desenfrenada de viviendas que impulsa el gobierno federal desde el año 2000.

“Estética y política: melancolía, delirio y connatus en el arte mexicano contemporáneo”
José Luis Barrios, Universidad Iberoamericana

Las posibles relaciones entre arte, estética y política en el arte contemporáneo en México no se pueden explicar bajo los regímenes de lo simbólico. Dichos regímenes han sido la forma fundamental de la inconocracia, de la relación entre arte y política (Muralismo, Realismo, etc,) al menos en el mundo occidental. Incluso buena parte de las formas de emancipación, subversión o resistencia del arte han fundado sus estrategias estéticas en dicho régimen (gráfica popular, arte revolucionario, activismo artístico). Sin embargo, existen otras prácticas que en su propio registro estético configuran condiciones de posibilidad de lo político; éstas están lejos de apelar a los regímenes simbólicos, antes bien operan por operaciones sustractivas o acciones afirmativas. Dichas prácticas configuran condiciones de posibilidad espacio-temporales (estéticas) que redefinen un registro diferenciado de lo político. Esta ponencia explora las estrategias estéticas en la producción de Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Cráter invertido y Miguel Fernández de Castro donde se definen tres modos de sustracción del arte a la política: la melancolía, el delirio y el connatus. El argumento central de esta ponencia busca mostrar cómo se produce un “intersticio” ontológico, a través del cual se produce el filo esquizo del sentido, para con ello pensar las relaciones entre vida y existencia; en suma, repensar lo político.

“Conceptualizing the Public: Memorialization and Human Rights Law in Mexico”
Robin Greeley, University of Connecticut
Michael Orwicz, University of Connecticut

In conceptualizing the term “public” in Mexico, the Memorial del Campo Algodonero in Ciudad Juarez marks an important precedent at the intersection of international human rights law, state-civil society partnerships and aesthetics in the public realm. Mandated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) as a symbolic reparation in the landmark case González y Otras v México, the monument commemorates three women brutally murdered in Ciudad Juarez in 2001. Yet since its 2012 inauguration, the Campo Algodonero memorial has been a site not of public commemoration, but of vociferous contestation by the very audience for which it was intended: the families of the murdered women. This failure speaks to a series of problems in IACHR practices of aesthetic memorialization. First are failures of political conceptualization, in which memorialization is too often understood as outside the political process, relegated to the “soft” sphere of culture. Second are failures in the aesthetic process itself, evident in the overwhelming tendency to conceive of aesthetic memorialization in terms of a fixed, static object, rather than a dynamic process aimed at transforming social and political conditions. Third are failures to conceptualize as interwoven three primary instances of “public” operative in symbolic reparations and memorialization: the public space of memorialization; the state’s public recognition of responsibility; and a clear assessment of who constitutes the “public” that symbolic reparations address. This paper explores these issues by analyzing the Campo Algodonero memorial in relation to three other memorial practices that put forward contrasting visions of public space and the public sphere: the Memorial a las Víctimas de Violencia (Mexico City, 2012), created on the initiative of the Mexican state, and two “countermonuments”: +43, the “anti-monument” to the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa (Mexico City, 2015); and the Pink Crosses movement against femicide.