Disassembled Horizon by Francesca Du Brock + Daniel Monroy Cuevas
with a talk by the curator Fabiola Iza at 4.30pm
Mexican Artists’ Publishing is indicative of the many beliefs that are often associated with the country: it is diverse, chaotic, and profuse; a complex topic to be explored. To ignore these assumptions could be unproductive as the publishing scene is reflective of many positive aspects of the Mexican artworld – bustling and energetic, often collaborative in nature, and incredibly dynamic – with long-standing and systematic flaws – mostly that emerge from an unstable institutionality that causes a precarity to any longterm Artists’ Publishing endeavours.
The production of artists’ publications in Mexico is complex, spanning many different formats (from the traditional idea of an artist book to fanzines, self-published catalogues, experimental writing, attempts to create platforms for art criticism, etc., as well as hybrids resulting from the combination of these formats) and little effort has been made to map out or study it in it’s entirety. The public diffusion achieved by these cultural productions is limited in most cases, as they are usually the result of self-organised initiatives with small and overworked staff who do not have the means to distribute or to publicise their work on a larger scale.
That said, Artists’ Publishing evokes the existence of a loose community of artists, graphic designers, editors, critics, publishers, writers, researchers, curators, art students, and so on, at all stages of their careers, working mostly out of a personal interest or the conviction to fill in a gap in the publishing activity in Mexico. Together they have organised fairs, created archives, and worked on other public platforms which have helped to articulate the particular conditions under which their activity is realised.
The second issue at stake is the difficulties associated with developing long-term projects of any kind. As such, any initiative is often limited to the goal of publishing one or two books given the lack of financial resources. Most artists and independent publishing houses rely on funds allocated from either public or private institutions, and these are granted on a project basis, not for the development of long-term programmes. In addition to this, directors of museums, foundations, and other institutions in Mexico change constantly, and, in turn, so do the mission statements, interests, and support of the organisations they lead (as well as their members of staff).
In broad terms, these are the conditions under which artists publish in Mexico. However, for instance, economic limitations have not necessarily meant that production has decreased and interestingly, even appears to have increased. Condemned to live in the margins of the art institutions, publishing has become a space of opportunity, and as such marginality poses a number of advantages. Artistic freedom, flexible print runs, a targeted distribution, and the possibility to collaborate with anyone one chooses, are the most noticeable ones. However, it would be irreflective to fall into the trap of idealising this publishing activity. These self-organised initiatives are often deployed as a strategy to achieve visibility, on the one hand, and, on the other, their producers often lack the basic skills and knowledge required for publishing in traditional terms.
Throughout the following few months, at Banner Repeater we will be asking questions that relate to scale: should this kind of under recognised production scale up or should it remain in the margins? Would the diverse and lively nature of this production be jeopardized by such change in scale and the growing interest in it? Or, conversely, will it continue being diverse, chaotic, and confusing, but just more of it? My purpose is not to conduct a study on the current production of artists’ books, but more of an attempt to enable an ‘un-mapping’, that is, of looking at this profuse production with no intention to make sense of it, but to deal with its complexity and contradictions as they exist.
Cráter Invertido, Miguel Ángel Camacho Velázquez, Poema: Segundo sábado de cada mes [Poem: Second Saturday of Each Month], 2010-13. Self-published, Antonio Medina, Bienestar animal. Breves apuntes contra la aparente soledad de la condición humana [Animal Welfare: Brief notes against the apparent loneliness of the human condition], Editorial Cráneo Invertido, 2014, Ramiro Chaves (ed.), Pabellón Ramires [Ramires Pavillion], Neter Proyectos, 2012. Project supported by PAC-Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo, Javier Toscano, Contra el arte contemporáneo [Against contemporary art], Tumbona Ediciones (Colección Versus), 2014, Ariella Azoulay, Historia potencial y otros ensayos [Potential History and other essays], Taller de Ediciones Económicas (Colección TEEORÍA), 2014.