My latest for VICE News. In this documentary, I served as both producer and correspondent. Thanks to my crew, Brooke, Phoebe, and Mack.
My latest for VICE News. In this documentary, I served as both producer and correspondent. Thanks to my crew, Brooke, Phoebe, and Mack.
** Originally published at World Now:
MEXICO CITY -- Skull motifs. Dollar bills pasted on a wall. Phrases written in neon lights. Figures cut out of photographs. Or, if you like, a bunch of lines on paper.
It's hardly surprising that the offerings at Zona Maco, the Mexico City contemporary art bazaar that opened its 10th edition Wednesday, tend to look and feel like the art for sale at any other big fair.
Many of the galleries with showcases at the glitzy five-day event are visiting from established art centers like New York or Milan. But the ambition of Zona Maco's longtime director, Zelika Garcia, is to help build a mature art market in Mexico by cultivating domestic galleries and buyers.
Has it worked? Not entirely.
Numbers on Mexico's cagey collectors and what they're spending are hard to come by, and Garcia was not available for an interview. But dedicated fair-goers said that the number of collectors in Mexico City remains small.
By far the biggest local art patron is Eugenio Lopez, heir to Mexico's Jumex juice fortune and owner of the Jumex Collection, said to be the largest private art collection in Latin America. Housed at a juice-making plant in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec, Lopez's collection is reportedly worth at least $80 million.
On the fair's opening day, which was attended by Lopez and other noteworthy buyers, including the former mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon, there was much grumbling by dealers, artists and visitors.
There was no Internet connection in the hall at the Banamex convention center and not a lot being handed out for free. No water for sale, but plenty of tequila cocktails.
"Slow," "pale" and "thin" were some of the words used to describe the scene.
"What bothers me is there's no real thread," said Mario Ballesteros, editor of Domus Mexico magazine. "Even the big-name galleries, it's like they're just pulling out the inventory, like a garage sale."
On the bright side, government cultural agencies are becoming more involved, offering special programs and providing venues for Zona Maco events, said Maria Ortiz, director of volunteers at Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art.
Give the scene more time to grow, Ortiz said. "They have international galleries coming now, and so we can see art from abroad that we couldn't see otherwise."
By the afternoon, works were selling briskly. A government cultural official announced the establishment of an $829,000 fund to buy new work for Mexico's museums.
Prints by the artist and tattooist known as Dr. Lakra, made in his trademark style of embellishing vintage paper nudes, were going for $12,000 apiece at the booth of the local Kurimanzutto gallery. Working musical instruments made out of gun parts from Mexico's violent drug war, by Pedro Reyes for the Labor gallery, were going for $20,000 and up.
But some of the most interesting events are happening away from Zona Maco. Across town, small galleries, art collectives and pop-up curators are offering a host of intriguing indie exhibits throughout the week.
The group Bucareli ACT brought art viewers to a decaying downtown street Tuesday night where largely disused buildings were turned into venues for sound-art and other shows. A new video by artists Ilan Lieberman and Rafael Ortega juxtaposed clips from the classic film "King Kong" with footage of the arrest of the famously smirking U.S.-born drug lord, Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez.
Also away from the fair, art titan Gabriel Orozco is launching a collection of new works at Kurimanzutto on Saturday, a homecoming of sorts after a retrospective of his art traveled through New York, London and Paris in recent years.
Could Zona Maco be the place where a future Orozco makes a first sale? If market-savvy skills are any indicator, why not?
In the young artists section, Monterrey-based gallery Alternativa Once was showing "TwitterDrumSolo," a drum-kit that played itself, by 25-year-old Daniel Perez Rios.
A lanky guy in glasses, Perez explained that he used a computer to program the drumming to match surges in tweets about the presidential candidates on the night of last year's election.
The bass drum, for example, played when tweets mentioned "electoral fraud." Asked how much the piece cost, Perez replied: "You'll have to talk to my dealer."
** Originally published in print edition of the Los Angeles Times:
MEXICO CITY -- There were fewer riders than normal on driver Octavio Diaz's bus early Wednesday, the first day that a transit fare hike raised costs from about 4 pesos to 5 for a short trip, a difference equivalent to a mere 8 cents.
But many commuters, drivers, and officials in Mexico's capital seemed to more or less agree that increases on fares for taxis and buses were to be expected considering inflation and rising gas prices.
Ridership "does go down, as people get adjusted," the 39-year-old Diaz said, looking back to half-empty rows of seats on his hurtling microbus. "But then they return to their usual routines."
The fare increase was announced by Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera last week during a holiday, when many capital residents were away on vacation.
Mexico City in recent years has aggressively expanded its public transit system, investing millions of dollars in Metrobus, the city's dedicated-lane bus service, and Ecobici, its shared bicycle program. Both systems expanded rapidly under former Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, and Mancera has said he'll push for more growth.
City officials said bus and taxi fares hadn't been adjusted since 2008 and the city's subway fare, which increased in 2010, will remain 3 pesos a trip, or about 25 cents.
"I think people anywhere in the world prefer not having to pay more for services. However, this increase was necessary," Rufino H. Leon Tovar, the city's transit secretary, said in an interview. "People understand."
Although Mexico City's economy is considered healthy, many workers make meager wages, earning barely more than Mexico's minimum wage, about $5 a day. City officials said the transportation services are still a good deal, but a peso a day in two directions, on two or three separate buses, five or six days a week, can add up.
"You have less to spend in the house," said Araceli Graniel, 63, a retired nurse who was leaving a station at the Hidalgo transit hub. "That pesito that looks like just one, well, in a big family, that's a lot of pesos."
Taxi driver Arturo, who declined to give his full name, called the latest fare increase "one big joke," starting with the requirement that cabbies go to a City Hall office to get their meters adjusted.
"Listen, they said they lowered the city car tax, but I still pay other fees, permits, whatever you want to call them," the driver said. "Excuse me, but that's a big scam, my friend."
Diaz, the microbus driver, said he has worked on the same central-city route for 25 years. Fare hike or not, he doesn't expect a major increase in his earnings.
"Diesel just goes up and up and up and up," Diaz said. "When they raised [the fare] the last time, diesel cost about 50 pesos per loop on my route, and now it costs 115 pesos per loop.... There's never enough money."
* Photo: Commuters wait to board at a mass transit stop in Mexico City. Credit: Omar Torres / AFP
** Originally published at World Now:
Maria Guadalupe Garcia usually spends two hours traveling from her home in southeast Mexico City's Tlahuac borough on bus and microbus to reach the city's west side.
On Tuesday, Garcia, 60, was one of the first riders of a new subway line inaugurated by the mayor and Mexico's president. She said she expects that those two hours of commuting will be reduced to 45 minutes.
"It's going to benefit us so much," Garcia said, standing with her husband, Angel Hernandez, on the platform of the Mixcoac station. "Now, we'll go with calm."
The 12th line of this city's moving hive of a subway system -- the loved and loathed el metro -- opened to the public in what leaders called the most significant and complex public-works project in recent Mexican history.
The new Line 12, or Gold Line, cost about $1.8 billion and is a capstone for the administration of outgoing Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. The line also represented an unprecedented test for engineers, planners and politicians who had to fend off vigorous protests and legal challenges from some residents.
For riders, the line makes a crucial alteration to the transit landscape of Mexico City: It adds a lateral connection across the southern end of the metro map, crisscrossing four lines and creating transfer points where previously none existed.
The line also connects Tlahuac, a large, semirural expanse on the southeastern end of the metropolis, to the subway grid. End to end, Mixcoac to Tlahuac, the line stops at 20 stations across 15.5 miles of tunnels and elevated tracks.
More than 380,000 people are initially expected to use Line 12 daily. Overall, nearly 4 million passengers ride Mexico City's subway every day, making it one of the largest such systems in the world.
"This is an immense project for Mexico City," Ebrard said. "It is the longest line and turned out to be most complex. We are very proud of our engineers, our workers."
President Felipe Calderon said he was proud the federal government supplied funds for Line 12, meant to commemorate the 2010 bicentennial of Mexico's independence.
"It was worth it," Calderon said. "This ... is a sustainable solution to the problems of mobility and transport in Mexico City. Moreover, it minimizes the impact of pollution on the city, and that's fundamental."
By noon, smiling, cheering riders were joining the inaugural train on which Calderon and Ebrard briefly rode. An hour later, at Mixcoac station, commuters were already moving about the transfer point as hardy residents of this city do: earphones in, bags held close, eyes alert to the journey ahead.
* Photo: Juana Cisneros, 59, and Jose Hernandez, 52, were among the first riders of the new Mexico City subway line, Line 12, on Tuesday.
This is the mercado in Tizimin, a stop between Valladolid and the port of Chiquilá. The mercado is easily one of the coolest structures I think I've ever seen in Mexico. It is circular; concentric rows of stalls are separated in meats, produce, produce, and meats again. Tizimin is known for its meats. But not for this building, unbelievably.
The design makes the market feel airy, inviting, even logical; those are qualities that would rarely be used to describe a mercado in Mexico, where stalls are usually crammed into a dense maze system. The circular design also permits the room to be flooded with natural light all day. Noise bounces around soothingly.
I found a circular market online in Coventry, Britain, and one Givry, France. Any others? In Tizimin's case, it feels like one of those rare "perfect" buildings, in terms of its properties of harmony, and I'm glad I got to see it.
It was a Saturday. We asked vendors when the market was built, or who designed it. The most we got was that it was about 50 years old. If so, the mercado would have been built during the boom of spirited Modern architecture in Mexico, chronicled by enthusiasts such as Mario Ballesteros.
What brilliant young Maya architect snagged this PRI era contract and came up with harmony? Is the form a reference to prehispanic Maya design? Or is it by the architect who did TAPO? Serious Investigations.
The Spanish-language translation of my book, "El bajón y el delirio," is going on sale in Mexico. I'm excited and nervous. Starting in January, I'm going to have to re-live the book all over again, this time in chilango Spanish, which automatically takes the intimacy and immediacy of the book to other levels.
I'm also super happy with it y espero que los lectores lo disfruten. The design is beautiful, a worthy match to the terrific design of the original edition. For the Spanish edition, the celebrated Alejandro Magallanes devised a double-flap sketch for the cover, with the title in relief, as if the words were tagged with a scriber. He has more on his design at his blog, here.
(I love it. Gracias, Alejandro!)
The translation of "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" to Spanish is by Elizabeth Flores (an old friend from the Survival Brigade). Liz and I worked closely all summer on the translation, meeting in person to review each chapter line-by-line, discussing every possible outcome for a translation we both wanted to ring as true as possible for D.F. readers, yet while also retaining some of my native pochismos.
The editor of the translation is Guillermo Osorno, an associate editor at Editorial Oceano, my publisher in Spanish. Osorno is also editor of Gatopardo magazine, where one of two early sneaks of the book is published, in the December issue. Here is the chapter titled "Originales del punk," in its entirety, a journey through Mexico City punk, to the other side of Santa Fe, and back.
I hope you like it. I re-read it in the magazine with lots of trepidation, then found myself moved by it in a totally new way. You'll see.
Of course, there will be another big-ass party. Thank you. Y saludos a la banda de la caseta a Cuernavaca, a Reyes y su familia, y a los Agudos Crónicos y Vegetales.
* Elsewhere, "Gringo, chicano, chilango, y delirante."
And here is some of the cool shit we got around to publishing in six lil issues of 8-pages each!
This was the best part of the entire Estrella Cercana operation, I think. We turned into a platform for fresh and interesting work, intersecting on the printed page across text and image, and often in interaction with pieces in the "Distant Star" show at the gallery.
We had no editorial guidelines from our publisher, the Kuris. The sky was the limit.
And as things came in, we went with the most Newsy stuff possible. Inevitably, this led to some criticisms about whether there was too much death, exploitation, violence, abuse, loathing, shock-value, guns, fascism, skin, dirty sex, and politics in our pages.
Our response, inevitably, was, 'Duh.' This is a NEWSpaper. (But with pseudonyms at work, yes.) We published, and please stay with me, the following ...
** ... Continued from previous post.
The launch of a project without an immediate precedent -- in this case, an experimental newspaper with a six-week life-span -- is never smooth. The team had to establish a working schedule that could form around our already-busy lives. We had to communicate to our collaborators what we wanted but didn't have a model to show them yet. And we had to settle on a printer.
From a year of service leading the campus paper at Berkeley (props to anyone who does it; the Daily Cal is a 15,000-circ., city-serving, five-days-a-week, totally independent operation), I knew we had to establish a solid working relationship with the imprenta Homero found and eventually hired.
One evening early on, we went to visit and personally introduce ourselves at Litografía HEVA, near Tlatelolco. We arrived on a bad footing from the get-go.
The first issue was delayed by several days due to a serious printing error in the first-run of the first issue. We couldn't introduce Estrella Cercana to our readers with huge black marks over some of the images, as the first-run turned out, and we had to convince Señor Felipe, our man at HEVA, that the printer needed to make a second-run for us. For free.
Don Felipe was cool. Chilango to the core, but cool. About fifteen years ago, he told us, he lost half of his left-hand index finger in an accident on a large cutting machine in the workshop. (See Don Felipe standing with that machine here, and his half-finger here.) We checked out machines and techniques that now only exist in analog-era journalists' nostalgic memories: off-set, movable types, plates, inks!, etc.
During the visit, Don Felipe made a weird and slightly offensive comment that ended becoming something of a calling card for us, "Este periódico no es para familias ni para gente honesta." ("This newspaper isn't for families or for honest people.")
Our work schedule also proved challenging. Everyone on board was good for the project because we're the sort of people who are constantly juggling several projects at once. (I work as a news assistant in the Mexico City bureau of the L.A. Times, contributing regularly to the World Now blog.) We decided we would work whenever possible at the Kurimanzutto space, an environment which I ended up developing a strong admiration for, it's so well-done, or at our home offices.
Yet over the six hectic and crazied weeks, the design and editorial team never quite pinned down a reliable schedule. We worked together a few nights a week whenever we could, and rushed through galley edits at the last minute in order to meet our weekly Thursday (... or Friday...) printing deadline.
This kind of pace meant we had limited time to engage with collaborators. We needed pieces to come in clean and sharp, as ready for publication as possible. A couple things we commissioned, especially for the most "relevant" and up-to-date news reports we carried (Beyonce's baby-bump, for example, or Justin Bieber's visit to DF).
We also, you might've noticed, permitted writers to submit pieces under psuedonyms, making for a lot of unusual fun fun fun.
** Part 4, next.
(* Photo above, inside Litografía HEVA, by @demomilton.)
** ... Continued from previous post.
And here's how the team came together.
Homero would be in charge of the production process -- lining up the budgets, locating and contracting the printer, developing an advertising plan, handling all the transactions with advertisers and payments with collaborators, and building a distribution map. It's a huge task over-all. See this recent piece Homer wrote for Tomo.
Alberto, designer behind the Soma site, among others, would be in charge of devising a design scheme and laying out each issue. We looked at Mexican tabloids and Cuban party newspapers he acquired on a visit there. We picked fonts. Alberto subcontracted an assistant design editor, Adiranne Montemayor, also an architect. Then we brought on Javier "Coco" Rivero, the brain behind Writers & Kitties, as copy editor. (It sounds way better as corrector de estilo.)
Coco's job was to review pitches as they came in to a general email address, recommend them to me to read and edit, line-edit stuff we'd want in the paper, and handle any big edits directly with the writers. A key point for me, after the traumas suffered freelancing through la crisis, was insisting early on that contributed pieces to the paper had to be paid, like in "real life." It's the principle. Kuri agreed.
Things started rolling. We bought the Web domains, opened a Twitter, found a printer (a testy old man in the Col. Guerrero, but that's another post), hired a web manager with Rodrigo Escandon, and hired Jeromino Jimenez (aka Ñaka Ñaka) to design a unique banner background for each issue's nameplate. Online, these would be .gifs. Yay.
The gallery gave us a budget for six issues at eight pages, with four pages in color. The core editorial team decided we would reserve the centerfold, known in the old-school as a double-truck, for a strong visual display, like a poster readers might want to keep. The back page would be called FUN FUN FUN, and would be jammed with random newspaper diversion bits, like horoscopes, gossip and such. The back-page would also include the print announcement for our carefully curated audio downloads. (More on that later.)
Then, we put out the call for pitches. Here's my Intersections post announcing the launch of the project.
This was to become the hardest part while getting started, establishing and nurturing the paper's editorial voice and character -- fast. We wanted Estrella Cercana to operate as a refraction, an interpretation, or a decoding of a "traditional" newspaper. We wanted stories and works to have a degree of intimacy or relevancy, no matter the genre or format. News for you and me.
Thankfully, weeks before, the Monterrey journalist Diego Enrique Osorno had published on a Gatopardo blog a "manifesto for infrarrealist journalism." This piece, re-published with Osorno's permission in the first issue of Estrella Cercana, became our anchor text, our baseline.
One part says:
Hagamos un encuentro nacional de jóvenes escritores militarizados o de jóvenes escritores zetas. Si algún imbécil menciona
los treinta mil,
o cuarenta mil,
o cincuenta mil,
o sesenta mil,
o setenta mil,
o noventa mil,
o cien mil muertos,
entonces hagamos algo extra: escribamos una columna de opinión defendiendo a las instituciones o leamos un haikú de guerra en el Zócalo al final de la marcha; cantemos el himno nacional o un narcocorrido antes de que comience la próxima sesión de nuestro taller literario.
Next, it came time to make to the first issue and get it out there. This initial process, as satisfying as it was, came with some ... setbacks.
** ... Part 3, next.
(* Click on the image for a larger view of one of Carolyn Castaño's Narcovenus works. * Post slightly edited)
It's been nearly a month since the final edition of the "periódico con fin de vida," Estrella Cercana at kurimanzutto, and I've barely had time to regroup, review, and evaluate the project.
This week's series of posts is an attempt to do that.
So, from the beginning, Estrella Cercana emerged as a response to an invitation from Jose Kuri to propose some kind of intervention at the gallery. He had read "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" and liked it. The invitation was open and I tossed around ideas here and there with friends, but nothing concrete ever settled. Time passed.
One evening in early September after work, I met up with two architects for drinks at a cantina in San Miguel Chapultepec. I told them about Kuri's invite. Alberto Bustamante and Homero Fernandez and I came up with the idea for a "literary newspaper" that would accompany the gallery's show "Distant Star." The group show, co-produced with Regen Projects in Los Angeles, was titled after Roberto Bolaño's novella "Estrella Distante."
The name of the newspaper came almost instantly: Estrella Cercana. We thought the image of a nearing star was futuristic, apocalyptic, semi-cultish, and very "newsworthy"; or in other words, evoking cultural codes weighing heavily on the zeitgeist as we approach 2012.
Kuri immediately said Yes.
What did we get ourselves into, though? Activating a newspaper -- a newsroom, with different writers in different places, a design operation, an advertising operation, a publishing operation, a printer, a budget, a team -- was not going to be easy. And, crucially, we all had normal day jobs.
It also sounded like an opportunity not to be missed.
We settled on a weekly. We met with the gallery to discuss logistics and consider what ended up being a totally generous budget, a deep sign of trust, I'd say. Kuri wanted the intervention to be good. We were in agreement.
Who isn't down to work with a new, fresh group of people on a wild creative project? Thus, the team started coming together.
** ... Part 2, next.
Remember Mexico City in the 1940s? Here's another good one.
Via LAObserved, this is an L.A. Public Library photograph showing the intersection of 1st Street and Broadway in downtown L.A., with a view of the corner where the gloomy Times Mirror corporate building now stands.
That's on the block that is sometimes gallantly known as Times Mirror Square, the headquarters of the once-storied L.A. Times company, where I went to work between 2002 and 2006 (and work now again, from farther away). In 1954, it looked like this. Look closely. There's a sign for a "Mexico City Cafe" in the mid-right, near the woman's head.
Come again? A place called Mexico City Cafe in downtown Los Angeles in the 1950s? Boggles the mind. A quick search turned up zero, and I'm left wondering and imagining ... Who founded it? How long was it there? What did this place look like inside? What was on the menu?
How did regular downtown Angelenos in the period respond to and interact with this cipher from its future "sister city"? Did LAT staffers or City Hall workers take lunch there? Did they like it? And, what are the cafe's ghosts?
This calls for a Serious Investigation. Mike Davis?
** EXTRA: Zocalo Public Square, another of my writing homes, asked this week, "What Movie (Besides Chinatown) Best Captures L.A.?" I thought of this one.
** Originally published at World Now:
There are 13,000 surveillance cameras dispersed across this megalopolis, capturing everything in view, in real time and around the clock.
The cameras peek at streets and people from the tops of light poles, inside buses and over subway platforms, watching in the name of public safety.
The local government, headed by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, this week unveiled an intelligence center where all these video feeds are monitored. It is a state-of-the-art "integrated" hub with a name that sounds like a futuristic space vessel: the C4I4.
Speaking inside the building's circular nerve center -- where 600 video screens carried scenes of residential streets and choked intersections -- Ebrard told reporters that the C4I4 is one of the largest and most advanced public-safety command centers in the world.
It would serve as a hub in case of a major earthquake, an eruption of one of the nearby volcanos or an outbreak of the kind of intense drug-war street violence that has been seen in other parts of the country.
And every image captured by the center's cameras -- movement in the city's prison yards, commuters on the jam-packed Metrobus lines -- is stored for up to a week, making for a gigantic ongoing intelligence operation blanketing the urban obstacle course that is Mexico's capital. Hence the center's name, signifying four Cs (command, control, communications, computing) and four I's (intelligence, integration, information, investigation).
Ebrard said the center would help "guarantee safety in our city."
Los contenidos del primer num. de Estrella Cercana ya estan en línea. Checkanlo! El periódico se puede conseguir imprentos en kurimanzutto, y varios otros locaciones entre el Centro, la Condesa, Roma, y por los alrededores.
Follow @StrellaCercana for the details.
Here's the site for Estrella Cercana, our experimental newspaper underway now at kurimanzutto. At the site, the main editorial crew and I are posting images and links to stuff we're thinking about, talking about, laughing about, cringing at, all through the production process for the weekly periódico con fin de vida.
We'll also be posting the issue's content on the day we publish, planned now for Saturdays through Nov. 5, as well as .pdf files of how the paper looks in print once distributed here in Mexico City.
What is Estrella Cercana, you ask?
It's a publishing project built around Distant Star, the show currently up at kuri, inspired by the literature of Roberto Bolaño. (See Intersections posts on Bolaño from 2007 here and from 2009 here). We're building a weekly newspaper, primarily in Spanish, partly in spirit of the Infrarrealists, but sort-of-actually-really-not-all.
("I haven't even read 2666, and that's so infrarrealista!")
Our newsroom is roaming between the gallery space and various points in the city, and so far always jussied up with the proper editorial bottles and snacks. The first issue of EC drops this Saturday, Sept. 24, and we haven't quite yet figured out how we're going to get it into people's hands. But it's definitely coming. Each issue will feature a beautiful full-color visual piece as a centerfold, and will also come with a link to a special audio track from one of our many beat-oriented comrades and collaborators.
We're all super excited, super nervous, and super busy (everyone on the small team has regular gigs or is juggling various other projects). So let's report it out, be nosy, read, not read, burn books, have a dance party, start a reality TV propaganda show, I dunno!
* NOTE: We are accepting pitches for your Highly Newsworthy stories, photography, cartoons, comics, info-graphics or maps, anything! Write us at prensaestrellacercana at gmail. Or to advertise in our pages, to reach our very classy would-be readers, please write publicidadestrellacercana at gmail.
** ABOVE: A Polaroid shot I've been holding onto for years. West Temple Street, Los Angeles, Calif., circa 2004. It lasted only a day, if not hours.
It's not the anniversary itself that irks me. The 10-year mark is -- or should be -- worthy of our solemn respects and a national timeout. But commemorating the attacks would feel a lot more meaningful if, in fact, we had ever stopped commemorating them. Our healing process has been never-ending -- occasionally introspective and edifying, but all too often maudlin and suffocating.
Yes, exactly. Where we going with all this? What happens to America on Monday? And every Monday thereafter? More of the same, seems to me. That's the truly sad part.
This one stuck with me. From the daily story in Friday's La Jornada rounding up the drug-war deaths of the day:
En Tepic, Nayarit, hombres armados irrumpieron en el hotel Colonial en busca de un grupo de personas que se hospedaba ahí; la mayoría alcanzó a huir mientras una corrió a la azotea y al verse cercada se lanzó al vacío y falleció.
In Tepic, Nayarit, gunmen burst into the Colonial Hotel in search of a group of people staying there; the majority of them managed to escape while one ran to the roof, and upon realizing he was surrounded, he threw himself into the void and died.
A local news source identifies the victim as a young man, and has photos. What image could this guy have had of his death had he been caught up by the assassins who were hunting him? What was going through his head?
In all, 46 people died in suspected drug-related violence in Mexico in 10 states on Friday, La Jornada reported. Just on Friday. And that's more or less a daily tally. Day after day, day after day, if you can make it through the daily carnage story back in the 12th or 13th page of the paper or whatever.
This leaves me ... nodding in agreement with Debra Saunders?
* Previously, "In Mexico, more deaths than we can imagine."
** IMAGE: 'More than numbers,' a pic via Yfrog from the Sicilia caravan.
Here are two fliers for dual events in New York this Thursday, April 14. Extra details at bottom. Hello, Nueba Yorr!
Both citas promise to be bad-ass: First at the Columbia history department, with scholars I admire and respect, including Claudio Lomnitz; then at a new D.F.-style cantina in Williamsburg, with three great DJs: Jawnita of East Village Radio, Marcelo Cunning of Nacotheque, and Discoyoacan, aka Felipe Mendez, a partner at Cantina Royal and La Superior.
As always, in the spirit of the book, a pachanga and a space for collaboration. (With thanks to the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center at Stony Brook, and Mex-and-the-City.) Ponganse a bailar! Corre la voz con tus paisas, far and wide! Let's bring out that capirucha energy here in NYC. Would love to see you there. FB invite here.
Tonight, Monday, April 11, I will be in-studio with Jace Clayton aka DJ Rupture for his weekly program Mudd Up! on WFMU (90.1-FM in the New York area), at 7p. We'll be working through tracks, sounds, questions. Rupture's announcement.
Here all week. What's good?
* Previously, "How the 'Down & Delirious' book cover came about." * Post edited.
This is what D.F. feels and looks like right now, "Mordor." The smog and altitude and dryness of the spring is the source of the Mexico City mutation.
Last night on a roof-top we couldn't decide what color the sky was: a red-purple-orange nighttime gray? I look across the way on a street and I can't see the tops of the mountains. It's just ... blank. An idea: think it's time local fashion designers maybe start considering making ready-to-wear street masks? A future-is-now kinda thing?
But we still love living here, right? Without question. Addicted to the impossible city, infected by it. Oh yessss.
* Source uncertain for photo. Please alert me if it's yours.
Above, a "moodboard" used by designer Jennifer Heuer during her process for the book-cover design for "Down & Delirious." The image appears in a fascinating interview Heuer did with Faceout Books about how she approached creating the book's central selling-pitch, its cover.
I loved reading this, as I've never met Heuer and had no idea what Scribner would offer as potential covers, or from whom, until I saw the designer's options. Here's what Jennifer had to say about the process (love that she started doing research at the New York Public Library):
What is Down and Delirious in Mexico City about?
The author is a journalist living in Mexico City taking a look at the new urban youth cultures and the people who love them or sometimes violently hate them. This was directed at a young fresh audience interested in how certain, and sometimes similar subcultures can form and clash in different areas. The author introduces us to the new hyper-emo crowd, a fashion-forward crew, artists and musicians. It's in no way a tour book for the city, so the general direction was to aim in a fresh, modern and somewhat fashion-minded direction. Mexico City is set in a volcanic bowl which means the city can't physically grow outside it's borders. So the density within the city is intense, hot, polluted, and grounds for subcultural strife ready to boil over.
Were there any steps taken before starting, and was there a clear working process that led to the final? Any known influences?
I began by heading to the library (NYPL has a wonderful picture library and I'm lucky enough to have the Pratt library at my fingertips). I researched mainly Aztec art, Latin American Catholic art, Day of the Dead ephemera and so on. I also began setting up an online moodboard through Imgspark.com!
I tend to spend at least half of my time writing and sketching. I start by listing out categories within the book, then lists within those categories and see if there's anything interesting that pops out or crosses over (I find this works for fiction and nonfiction alike). It's also just good to get bad ideas and buzz words flushed out of the system so I can ignore their nagging.
For this cover, the final piece uses a cutout Aztec-inspired pattern and beneath is an image of a volcano erupting.
Super interesting, and also intrigued by Image Spark. In Heuer's moodboard above, I see the sun stone, pyschedelic pyramid forms, the skull-influenced cover of "El Monstruo" by the late John Ross, feathered serpents, Aztec glyphs, and a thrilling find because I've considered these a personal visual influence since I first saw them: old Slash magazine covers.
I love that the eventual design is a mix of stylish and superflat, pre-Hispanic symmetry and volcanic tension, almost radioactive. It's interesting that Heuer describes listing and cross-referencing categories, which is a method I used in writing and visually mapping the book's themes and eventual chapters. See this image and post.
She adds: "I basically learned what I always knew; which is to get away from my desk, go to the library, museums, read through fashion magazines and the newspaper, listen to the radio, watch documentaries and observe closely."
Friends and readers consistently tell me that the cover for "Down & Delirious in Mexico City" is eyecatching and inviting, so this discovery is a real treat. Congratulations, Jennifer! Hope to one day meet and shake your hand with gratitude.
Masumi has a strange effect on people. I know; I've seen it in action. Hang out a little and you'll wind up dazed, invigorated, shaken up. The nature of chemistry, I guess.
I have this suspicion that recent American Apparel window displays have also been inspired by Masumi. Mannequins I've seen in L.A. and D.F. have been fixed with long black locks and lips colored deep red. Precisely Masumi's everyday look.
Have you noticed? The self-proclaimed Xochimilca strikes.
Tonight, the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, inaugurates the new home for his private art collection, the Museo Soumaya.
President Felipe Calderon, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and just about every art-world figurehead or related hemispheric dignitary should be in attendance for the event at Plaza Carso, in the Polanco-Irrigación region on the westside of Mexico City. The museum is certain to shift the cultural axis in Mexico, a country where state-run institutions have long dominated the art establishment and the art elite's sense of self.
That's changing. As I reported two years ago in The New York Times (link), the new Soumaya belongs to a boom of private art spaces opening in D.F. since the start of the 2000s, including leading contemporary art galleries such as Kurimanzutto, the SOMA school founded by Yoshua Okon, and the upcoming new home of the Jumex Collection, to be located just across from the street from the new Soumaya.
Slim's museum is designed by Mexican "starchitect" Fernando Romero, a Rem Koolhaas protegé. It is a shimmering "sea-sponge"-looking thing where Slim's many Rodins, Riveras, and Cezannes will be available to the general public for free, meaning no admission charges. Romero is also Slim's son-in-law. But don't get it twisted. He's really good.
* Above, the Soumaya in construction, via Arquine.
The Tacubaya transfer was just as empty late on a Sunday night. My flash made a visual trick on the escalators heading up to Line 1, a simple amusement. I used to live above this joint. Sad as ever.
* Previously, "Literary anagram of the Mexico City metro."
One word on the "espectaculo de luces" happening every night on the Zocalo this past week: Wow. There is no other way to describe watching the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace and the whole night sky above light up in the trippiest illuminations imaginable.
The "Yo Mexico" show is up on the plaza at 9 p.m. nightly until Nov. 23, in honor of the centennial of the Revolution. It's an off-the-charts huge production, with lights, audio, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and a whole chorus of live dancers. I'm wondering why more people haven't caught it.
Again, let me emphasize, it's trippy. And quite historically dubious in some parts. ... But that's a future post.
One of my favorite oddities of contemporary architecture, the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach, on 7 November 2010. The pyramid gym, built in 1994, is essentially hollow on the inside, up to the apex. The general fuction of the gym's pyramidal structure is hidden behind the mere statement of its existence; it's a pyramid for the sake of being a pyramid.
Ruben Ortiz-Torres is nodding right now.
We were here checking out the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation world tournament, where my brother Sergio Hernandez became the 2010 purple belt featherweight champion. Above, my sister-in-law and nephews.
Above, a shot of an installation by artist Pia Camil, who recently held a residency in an emtpy office space on the 12th floor of the Edificio Miguel E. Abed, on Eje Central in downtown Mexico City. She hung out a window an enormously long red banner covered in the phrase 'PIA CAMIL FOR SALE.'
A few weeks ago, Camil invited guests up to the studio for a showing of new work and a live performance, with gallerist and musician Brett Schultz. During the set, as Camil pounded on a drum and wailed into a mic, she was connected to the banner hanging outside, tied to it like it was her cape. The sun was setting, it was a windy afternoon, and the banner floated and flapped into the sky over the traffic on Eje Central.
Needless to say, everyone in attendance sighed at some point and thought to themselves, 'Gosh, I love Mexico City.'
Listen to a sample of the performance here. Camil also plays in the local new-noise (or art-rock, or art-noise, or noise Mexicana?) band El Resplandor, which I've seen play a bunch now. Learn more about them here. It's a whole scene in D.F. suddenly, this sound. Who's next?
Here's an interview with Pia in Tomo. She's into "primitive futurism."
Above, two portraits from a new series by photographer Carlos Alvarez Montero, "Scars." These guys are Orestes and Miguel. From the statement at Alvarez's website:
This series is composed of 20 portraits of residents of Mexico City that decided to engrave ink marks on their neck/faces as a statement of their life experiences. This allows them to step out of the crowd, define themselves as unique, and by no means look back. Just forward.
See more there. They're eye-catching images, with lots of concurrent facial piercings, and different tribal aesthetics at play that I'm able to read, including punk, cholo, rockabilly, mod, and neo-indigenismo.
It's a reminder that tattoo is not only a culture to itself but a vital tool of expression for many subcultures that are seemingly unrelated to one another. A love of tatuaje, which I also share, is the binding glue.
* Previously, "Intersections at Postopolis: Punks, cholos, and your rights."