The Mexico trip or the “in persuit of Frida and Diego art” trip

MEXICO – ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRIES OF SOUTH AMERICA

You can’t imagine all the (horror) stories I’ve been told since I said I was going to Mexico for my summer vacation with my boyfriend. Usually ending their anecdotes with “… but I’m sure it won’t happen to you.”

The weeks leading up to our flight I had panic sweats and anxiety attacks thinking we’ll be mugged, raped, sliced and diced, sick from the water, sick from the food, kidnapped… all the things you should not be thinking off before heading off to a well deserved vacation.

The thing is, pick where you want to go wisely. Avoid the north part of Mexico, being a tourist. And do enough research!
Well I must say that we loved Mexico! We had a fantastic time, too short a holiday even! Mexico and Mexicans are beautiful. Or we were just that damn lucky.

We went for about 2 weeks (give or take, with respective 11 hours flights to and from Europe, so those are lost days) to Mexico-City and Guanajuato city.  Stayed at such nice B&B’s. And ate delicious Mexican meals.

MEXICO-CITY

Our first day there and we found ourselves immediately in a demonstration. In June the Mexican people had to elect a new president and this brought with it that people took to the streets to voice their concerns. The demonstration itself was a peaceful one with a lot of banners and such. But not at all disruptive, as I’d imagine. The fun part was, that because of this manifestation, many of the main roads were blocked so cars could get through. So you could walk in the middle of the streets and have a look around the city, without being run over. Excellent to visit this huge city. But we heard that the mayor of Mexico-City often had these car-less Sunday, also for pollution reasons. When pollution ratings are too high, this car-less day is put in action. Cool.

One thing I was so grateful for is that we bought the book Lonely Planet Mexico-City. I never was such a fan of Lonely Planet, cause so much text and no pictures. But I have turned into a big fan, because it brought us to such nice places and discoveries, that the other books we had consulted never even mentioned!

Mexico-City, you could say, is divided into boroughs (though it’s even more complex than that). We almost – such a pity – , almost did them all. If only we had more days!

  • Centro Historico – with the Zócalo or Plaza de la Constitución. Aztec Templo Mayor is a museum that is modern, extensive and in no way boring. It’s located just next to an open-air site which shows excavations of an Aztec temple. The Zocalo is the largest square in Latin America and it’s worth to go watch the military parade that puts up or removes the Mexican flag (which is humongous). Our B&B was not far from Colonia San Rafael, about 5 metro stations away. Ideal.
  • Chapultepec – has a park, a zoo, a castle with the anthropological museum in it and several other museums in it. It was actually the place we visited on our last day. We only did the park, cause that day there was a visit at the monument by a delegation from Britain and the security guys made it impossible to get where you wanted to go. So we stuck to the park itself. Its name in Nahuatl means grasshopper hill, and the grasshopper is represented everywhere: on the benches, bins, the market stalls… One tip: squirls look cute, but these guys here might jump you and take whatever you have. So look at them, but best from afar, you know what I mean?
  • Zona Rosa – well as you can guess, it is kind of the gay district, but also the more touristic area with shops, many restaurants and snack bars such as Burger King, Wendy’s…  It’s known as the Reforma district because it’s right along the Paseo de la Reforma Avenue, so you can easily walk from Chaputepec to the Zona Rosa, towards the Centro Historico by just following the Reforma Avenue.
  • Coyoacán – is so worth a visit! When you get there you almost have the feeling you’re in a small town and no longer in Mexico-City. It’s the place for students, art and museums. Here you have the Blue House where Frida Kahlo lived, which is now a museum. Inside you are not allowed to take pictures but in the gardens it’s ok.
  • Condesa and Roma – we did a walking tour from our Lonely Planet guide here, but a short one. The neighborhoods are on opposite sides of Avenida Insurgentes and again another feel to the rest of the city.

Art and archeology have dominated our vacation. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are national treasures and you will bump into their art and murals on many occasions throughout the city. Especially Diego’s work is to be admired in the Palacio Nacional just off the Zócalo. In the Teatro Nacional de Bellas Artes. There is a mural museum and even in the Secretaría de la Educación Publica, which houses the city’s public services: 3 story’s high and all along the court-yard murals, murals, murals.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of the murals.

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Sophie Calle exhibition at BOZAR, Brussels

This weekend we went to the museum: BOZAR (which sounds like Beaux-Arts, and is part of the museum Palais des Beaux-Arts/Paleis voor Schone Kunsten/Centre of Fine Arts in Brussels).The exhibition we went to see was by Sophie Calle. (info: the exhibition runs till 13/09/2009). It is part of the section Contemporary Art @ BOZAR.

I did not know anything of her, so I pretty much did not know what to expect. I went open-minded, ready to be filled with images, impressions and things to digest (intellectually).

First let’s sketch who this woman is:

Sophie Calle is French, born in 1953. She’s an artist who uses various means to express herself: writes, photographs, uses installations and conceptual art.

Photo left: Sophie CALLE – Le Nez 2000
© Jean-Baptiste Mondino.
Sabam Belgique 2009.
Courtesy Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Arndt & Partner, Paula Cooper Gallery.

 

As you might read elsewhere if you search information on her, she tries to explore the lines of intimacy (contrast between public and private). She does this by using art to express very intimate things about her: vulnerability, her anxieties, loss of her mother, loneliness…

But it also seems she uses art to explore the subject of identity. Here she does not only explore her own identity, but almost as a voyeur follows other people. He did this several times when returning to Paris, especially after years of travelling the world, to rediscover Paris and to meet people. She could spend the day randomly picking people and following them everywhere, taking pictures.

On several occasions, she asked her mother to contact a detective agency to follow her during the day and report on her movements. I found that interesting to see, because in the exhibition, they showed her report on what she did that day: detailed, informative. And juxtaposition to that you got the photographs and very dry, clear-cut and professional report by the detective of all of her movements, without really knowing who she met or why she was at a certain place. Sophie knew a detective would follow her. The detective, however, was not aware that she, in fact, had commissioned the job.

Photo right: Sophie CALLE “Où et quand? Lourdes” 2005/2008 (détail)
Photographies, textes, encadrements, néon, marbre 141 cm x 15 m de long
© SABAM Belgium 2009
Courtesy Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris / Miami ;
Arndt & Partner, Berlin / Zurich Ph
 

This gives her a vulnerable side as well. As she lays herself bare to the world through her art, you get invited into very private corners of her live. This I felt when she talked about her mother, about her youth, about lost loves. If you can, please also check out http://www.josh-greene.com/2008/06/sophie-calles-bed/greene.com/2008/06/sophie-calles-bed/ .

Josh Greene wrote to Sophie after his breakup, asking to mourn for his broken relationship in her bed in Paris. Sophie, instead, packed up her bed, matres, linen and pillows to send them from Paris to California for him to borrow during his mourning process. When he got over his heart-break, he send back the bed to her.

The exhibition took 16 halls in total (small ones). It wasn’t always clear where you had to start and there were a lot of texts to read (but now that I know she’s a writer as well, it seems logical now).

I’m glad to have seen Sophie Calle. Glad to get some culture in as well.

In the realm of the uncontrolable dreams

picture: The Dream, Henri Rousseau, 1910.

Do you dream?

What a silly question. Everybody dreams.

Do you remember your dreams? Are they nothing but a vague memory in the morning? Sometimes lingering throughout the day? Images, sensations?

Or are you one of the lucky ones that isn’t much bothered by what happens in your sleep. That a dream is nothing more than a figment of the imagination, what the unconscious conjures up either to process whatever you experienced through the day. Or a manifestation of stress, and nothing more nor less.

Books have been written trying to explain and comprehend. Symbolism in images, why one dreams what they dream. Trying desperately to arrange and organise the chaotic dream to fit into comprehensible and logical reality.

I write about this now, because I have these vivid dreams. Last night again, it felt so lifelike to me that in the morning it made me upset. Silly, really. Getting upset about a dream. Something unreal and gone when you wake up. It’s just strange that it can get so lifelike. The emotions it wakes inside. The smells and touches. Not all dreams have that, but some.

I don’t believe in analyzing dreams. To necessarily try to find a logic in it. The brain works in mysterious ways, well, at least to me. I try so much being organized in my day-to-day life; maybe my brain loves a little chaos to distract itself. (Oh my, am I referring to my brain as a person? That’s the beginning of the end!).

I just wish to have a good nights’ sleep. And maybe dream about lovely things like, bunnies and fluffy things with happy endings… I’ll give it another try tonight…

It’s not only rock ‘n’ roll baby!

Some time ago I visited this exhibition in our Museum of Modern Arts (BOZAR – Musée des Beaux Arts).

It’s an exhibition shows the works of several musicians from 1970 till now and how they voiced the spirit of rock and their inspirations in visual arts.

The artists shown are: Alan Vega, Antony, Bent van Looy (Das Pop), Bianca Casady (Cocorosie), Brian Eno, Chicks on Speed, David Byrne, Devendra Banhart, Fischerspooner, Jonsi Birgisson (Riceboy Sleeps), Kembra Pfahler, Kyle Field, Laurie Anderson, Miss Kittin, Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s), Patti Smith, Pete Doherty, The Kills, The Residents and Yoko Ono.

I only knew 8 from the artists mentioned and I had no idea so many of them had a background in art or studied at art schools. It’s almost as if the two are not to be left out without the other: art and music.

Kembra Pfahler and The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Performance at “It’s Not Only R’n’R Baby” exhibition at Bozar, Brussels. Picture taken from site: here.

So hence the title It’s not only rock ‘n’ roll baby! , cause while you might think that this exhibition is automatically linked with music, you are mistaken. There is more to these artists then that. Though Fischerspooner do combine music and audiovisual elements in their exhibited art. And yes, there are videos to be seen at the end of the tour, in a special room with comfortable sitting bags, a bit bean bag style but not quite… but the focus lies in the art and less in the music. Though one did inspire the other.

In the videos shown, I did like the music by Liquid Architecture, but then not the visuals provided in that clip. A pity. And Cocorosie, of which I had never heard, had a great track and video as well…

The exhibition is till 14 September 2008 here in Brussels. At the end, when you leave the exhibition, you can even receive a festival bracelet proving you went to the exhibition, all in rock and festival style. (But the fabric of the bracelet is not that comfortable, I tell you!)

My man, Anton Corbijn

I don’t know what it is, but I seem to have a fascination for whatever the man produces.

I already posted on him, just to inform you who he is, what he does and why I like his photography: mybloglink.

As said – repeatedly – I wish to watch his movie “Control” on the final years of Ian Curtis’ life (from Joy Division). And the praise and the awards seem to be stacking up.

Now this is a sword that cuts too ways, cause I have noticed that things that get too much praise and attention end up disappointing me. Not that I’m that difficult to please. As you might have noticed, I try to find at least something likeable in anything – not always possible. And there are things you have to appreciate after several viewings…. but I’m getting off track here. The other hand is, that it could really be a gem this “Control”.

Today I read on the news website of the Flemish tv channel VRT (http://www.vrtnieuws.net/) that Corbijn won 5 prizes at the British Independent Film Awards in London. Where it already had nominations in 10 categories.

Anyway – I should take some action and get myself to the theatre before it is no longer played and I have to watch it on a small screen (the horror!).

I just find it great he stuck to his style of black and white, Corbijn I mean. People today are too much against it – don’t know why – but some things are powerful and edgy-er when colour is taken away, when distraction is taken away…

I do hope to catch another exhibition of Corbijn, but hope he’ll show more than what he offered in Antwerp last time.

Anton Corbijn: photographer extraordinaire

I was cleaning out my wallet and getting rid of the excess in pieces of paper, when I suddenly found a ticket to the museum of photography of Antwerp. I forgot I had it. A year or so ago I went to an exhibition of the photographer Anton Corbijn with my sister.

Anton Corbijn is from The Netherlands and is known for directing videos for Depeche Mode (Devotional / Exiter tour) and U2 and the artwork involved. He has photographed a lot of musicians and actors, but instead of choosing a stylized look, his photographs tend to be raw and put the subject often in an a-typical setting. I like his style a lot.

He has photographed Metallica, Anthony Kiedis, Johnny Cash, Danny De Vito, Madness, Joy Division, Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen, Bauhaus, Nicolas Cage, David Bowie, Massive Attack, Therapy?, The Killers, Kraftwerk, Kylie Minogue … the list is too long.

I enjoyed the exhibition in Antwerp, but was a bit disappointed that it was so small. A name like his deserved more than just two halls. Besides, most of the exhibited pictures I already knew from the photo book we have. I was hoping for different work to be exhibited.

You can check out his official website and click on the images to get info on the shot.

art culture: Vermeer and his Pearl Girl

2 days ago I saw a movie that really struck me: Girl with a Pearl Earring. It stars Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth (what’s not to like about Colin! Mister Darcy!). http://www.girlwithapearlearringmovie.com/
Once you’ve entered the site, you can hear the lovely and mysterious music/soundtrack.

It is about Johannes (Jan) Vermeer, painter in the 17th century in Delft in the Low Countries (now The Netherlands and the northern part of Belgium). Not much is known about Vermeer. He had about 11 children, died at 43 and painted about 36 master pieces (we know of).
One of them was this one (the Dutch Mona Lisa):

Girl with a Pearl Earring

(in Dutch: Meisje met de tulband or Meisje met de Parel) is exhibited in The Hague (Den Haag) in Mauritshuis.

Last year it was elected the most beautiful painting of The Netherlands. This painting was the inspiration for a novel by the same title by Tracy Chevalier. http://www.tchevalier.com/gwape/story/index.html

Now, I understand that many storylines got lost to make a good and coherent movie, but I adored the cinematography of the thing. It is so beautifully shot and it shows the hard life in the 17th century. I love the paintings of the Flemish primitives (Early Netherlandish paintings) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flemish_primitives .

If you ever get the chance to go to Bruges, go and see them up close. The eye for detail and the playing with light and shadow is remarkable. The paintings are almost photographic!