We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. But habit is a great deadener.
The absurd as a poetical metaphor emerged in face of the anguish, brutality and sorrow provoked by an ideologically disturbed world that held war to be its only social and exchange value. A meeting of literary minds contrasted with the nationalist historical narratives of the early twentieth century, and found the performing arts—inspired on the existentialist postulates of Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre—to be a field of reception for its enunciations. As evidence of its confrontation with the modern world, the Theatre
of the Absurd, as it was known, created plots that seemed incongruent articulations because their meanings— disconnected in appearance—were based on a discourse used in its plays that alluded to the non-identification of particular, specific times and places where their stories occurred. This clashed with the writing and storytelling cannons that had been considered models of dramaturgy until then, and, as such, it clashed with some of the reflections on the world.1 In 1952, Samuel Beckett published Waiting for Godot, a play in two acts that underscores tediousness and lack of meaning in modern societies through a plot developed by its characters, who are located in a place and moment that cannot be identified yet invite one to think of the contradictions generated by humanity from the relationships of power. Around that same time, with a state of mind that matched this profound questioning of the values of humanity from the arts, the Museo Experimental el Eco opened its doors. Its first inaugural act was the reading of the Manifesto of Emotional Architecture that Mathias Goeritz had written2 against the oppression of functionalism and of “so much logic and utility in architecture.” At its centre—as the core notion of Goeritz’s assertion—it posited the possibility of once again generating “true emotions” from art. For this purpose, he presented “emotional architecture” as a penetrable sculpture, worthy of being experienced in different ways from those dictated in the world by utilitarian logic. For this very reason, El Eco has from its very origins been a space of inspiration for what we know today as the “living arts.”
Luis Felipe Ortega (Mexico City, 1966) proposes a new reading of the spaces contained by the Museo Experimental el Eco as an inhabitable sculpture. To do this, his point of departure are with sculptural sites that intervene in the building, reaffirming compositional principles related to the shadows and mysteries provoked by natural lighting in the place. Aiming to connect different interests (that span his work throughout his career) with the possibilities allowed by this architectural space, he proposes a program of activations that contemplate his participation with other artists by intervening on space from experimentation with drawing, dance, sound art, and poetry as scenic events. A propósito del borde de las cosas is a site-specific project for Mathias Goertiz’s “emotional architecture”, El Eco. Different ways of dissecting the angles of this singular structure are proposed, in the interest of dramatically extending the vanishing points of possible perspectives in order to create different situations inside the place, thus provoking “horizons” that make the visitor complicit in their visit through the site’s architectural singularities.
Luis Felipe Ortega has developed his artistic practice in constant dialogue with poetry and philosophy, which underpin his interest in the phenomenological intersections of artistic work of his time. Through the visual arts, he confronts the history to which he belongs; and from there, he seeks to “unlearn from art” and generate a language of his own within the field. From the beginning of his career, his work has expressed itself as a critical analysis of the languages of contemporary culture, working from its disciplinary borders; this has engaged him in the exploration of different media, combining poetical productions that are sculptural, photographic, graphic and audio-visual, as can be seen in the projects before this one. In 1995 he created a series of actions in public spaces, known as Los cuerpos dóciles (“Docile Bodies”), which arose from a reflection on political and philosophical assertions in Michael Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. In that series, Ortega reconfigured his movement through urban space with subtle actions in order to make commentaries; he used texts related to Foucault’s notion of discipline, where the distribution of individuals in space, traversed by the education they adhere to, is laid bare. Foucault condemned the way in which we inhabit the world, directed as we are by the disciplinary form that we access through education, our social-political condition and the world’s ways of consuming. In that case, Ortega took on a formal condition from his practice, resulting in the production of situations with his body in a park. This generated images that connect him to a genealogy of conceptual art that precedes him, but added one more reality to the artistic fact: a reflection on adapting to the landscape from a “politics of doing” that does not exclusively refer to art, but to his condition as an individual in a specific context—similar to the time without time that Beckett’s plot proposed as a narrative strategy in 1952. For Ortega, the sole action of sitting on a park bench, of fastening his body to a window box or lying down on a treetop then meant a political action with regards to his disciplinary field: art. Two decades after these acts and an outstanding trajectory in his practice as an artist, teacher and editor, Luis Felipe Ortega presents a project that entails the architectural and scenic expression of many of the literary and political concerns that continue to be a principle in his work, and that from a poetic dimension question the place that individuals occupy in the world, speaking from the cracks and crevices in the art disciplines he practices and executes with others as part of a constant conversation with his surroundings.
1 Through their works, Arthur Adamov, Eugéne Ionesco, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, among other authors, dissented with the moment of history in which they were living. There, they highlighted discordances between the social thinking of their times and the events it unleashed, paving the way for artists and thinkers that followed them in the field of arts and literature and elsewhere.
2 A year later, the Manifesto of Emotional Architecture was published in Cuadernos de Arquitectura de Guadalajara, No. 1, 1954.
Also participating in the activation of Luis Felipe Ortega’s A propósito del borde las cosas are:
José Luis Sánchez Rull