Mexico City, MexicoAugust 11, 2014
In your city, how can we tell that we are in the year 2014?
In everything! Today, we live in a city with familiar remnants of the city we were born in, but at the same time, it is a megalopolis where one could find the most advanced things, from the legalization of marriage between people of the same sex to skyscrapers and electric taxis.
In your city, what reminds you of the past?
The old neighborhoods like Centro Histórico contain vestiges of the Aztec empire of the fourteenth century; the colonial city of the sixteenth century; the capital of an independent Mexico of the nineteenth century; and the modern Mexico of the twentieth century. Tacubaya, the neighborhood where we live, is another great example where architecture from different centuries coexists as well as a mix of the past with the present, the traditional and the modern.
Where in your city would be the best place to lose track of time; to freeze time; and to gain time?
The Sculptural Space in Ciudad Universitaria, constructed in 1979 by Federico Silva, Manuel Felguérez, Helen Escobedo, Hersúa, Sebastián, Mathias Goeritz and Roberto Acuña. It is formed by a circle marked off by pyramidal cement structures with a walkway that contains volcanic stone, a type of petrified magma from the ocean. It is a portrait of the past that is the future, that is past.
Which museum or cultural space is generally omitted from a typical cultural excursion, but is definitely worth visiting?
Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli and Casa Luis Barragán. The Anahuacalli museum was conceived by Diego Rivera as a home for his pre-Columbian art collection, a space for the arts and the final residence for his remains after his death, which ultimately did not happen. Co-designed and constructed with Juan O’Gorman, it is the greatest example of the modern pyramid. La Casa Luis Barragán is a very special space within architecture on the most intimate level. It is the house of the most significant and renowned architect of the twentieth century, kept intact the way he left it, after his death. To walk through it is to enter into the architect’s history and life.
In which bookstore can you find new or second-hand publications on art history, exhibition catalogs, or artist monographs?
Exit, Rosa Olivares’ bookstore on Rio Panuco #168 in Colonia Cuauhtémoc. In addition to the bookstore’s splendid selection, Rosa is incredible in recommending and searching for special things for each and every client.
What would be an “autochthonous” dish, and where would one be a taster?
Quesadillas! While everything that is rolled in a tortilla is a taco, everything that is folded into a tortilla is a quesadilla. It is common to see on the streets stands with round grills, multicolored plastic containers or buckets with sodas, and women with hands stained blue from corn dough with which they make the tortillas that they cook right there. Quesadillas can be filled with vegetables like squash blossoms; mushrooms and huitlacoche; or sesos and chicken. The cheese is optional, as is the salsa. The ingredients are a perfect combination of what was eaten during the time of the Aztecs and the stews brought over by the Spanish. The quality of the stand is directly proportional to the amount of people that frequent it.
Where can you find the best coffee (or tea)?
At the La Habana café in the center, founded in 1952, where Octavio Paz and “Gabo” liked to go to. It is also the meeting place for the characters from Roberto Bolaño’s novel Los Detectives Salvajes [The Savage Detectives]. Today, you can find politicians, journalists and intellectuals there. The coffee is traditional, strong and powerful.
What is a monument that reveals a hidden past?
El Sol Rojo by Alexander Calder from 1968, which is found inside the corridor of public sculptures in the Ruta de la Amistad, part of the Olympic games of the same year. More than a secret past, it reveals a constant present.
Outdoor or public artwork worth visiting:
The torres de Satélite [Satellite Towers] by Luis Barragán, Mathias Goeritz and Chucho Reyes. Conceived as an icon of modernity in 1958, it continues to surprise because of its dimensions and aesthetic impact.
Where would be the best place to view the sunset in your city?
On a clear day, the best place is the revolving bar Bellini on the top floor of the World Trade Center in the neighborhood Nápoles. The 360 degree revolution takes less than an hour and you can see the architectural landmarks and understand the position of the city in the middle of the valley. Another splendid place is the overlook or restaurant of the Torre Latinoamericana in Centro Histórico. From here, you can see the boundaries of the colonial city, el Centro, la Alameda, planes landing in the distance, and the new buildings on Reforma. Perfect option if you’re visiting el Centro!
Which book transports me to your city?
For a modern vision of the ideal city of the 50s, La región más transparente [Where the Air is Clear] by Carlos Fuentes. For a contemporary version, the book Down and Delirious in Mexico City by Daniel Hernández paints a crude version of what the city is.
What aspect of your city most inspires you?
The color and customization of everything. In Mexico City, and especially in the popular neighborhoods, we are in a state of constant surprise in the presence of color and order of things. Surprises in light and color everywhere.
Where would one probably get lost: geographically, emotionally or historically speaking?
In the Centro Histórico [Historic Center]: walking to get lost and to discover. Everything there is fascinating. We used to say, “If you can’t find it in the Centro, it doesn’t exist.” And it’s true.
If you were to be commissioned today to create an artwork “about” this city, briefly describe your proposal.
In 2006, we did Oasis Sonoro, a sound-based project where we invited twelve artists to create site and time-specific multi-channel compositions. The work took place in a public space, an esplanade, activating the environment, integrating the ambient sounds with the compositions by the Mexican and international artists who took as inspiration the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, its esplanade and the active life that the site has 24 hours a day. If commissioned, the dream would be to do a new version of the project, inviting twenty-four artists to reactivate the space with new compositions.