March 30, 2011

No more blood!

Yesterday I learned about the death of the children of two friends of mine, last week it was the child of my cousins. The two little kids suffered a natural death, there is a feeling of powerlessness about nature.

But the other guy was a young adult, an emerging writer, who was murdered in a vile way. I didn't know him, but I know his father, Javier Sicilia. There is this feeling of powerlessness about violence.

Mexico really sucks at the moment, it is just impossible to have some peace, what is it about torturing and killing, what is the fun at it?

This is definitely the worst moment of the country in the last 80 years. The political, economical and legal corruption is just overwhelming, some of us need to stop and think about what should we do and where should we start.

Mexican poverty is worse to the one I have seen in Guatemala, Cuba, more similar to the one I saw in South Africa: it is real misery. It is just ridiculous that one out of every three Mexicans lives in this poverty, while 'the system' continues providing more millions to Mr Carlos Slim, whose wealth is bigger than the whole of Ecuador.

I urge the authorities to recognize that the current situation is not bearable without international help and a deal with USA and the EU, since those are the main drug markets.

Finally, I urge the readers who have fun smoking a joint to think twice. Nowadays, there is much concern about 'blood diamonds' and Asian products being assembled by famished children. And that is perfectly fine. But there is still a lack of consciousness about the human costs of a joint.

March 28, 2011

Anthropomorphic houses: Gaudí, Rulfo

Gaudí, Chimneys of La Pedrera, Barcelona (1912)

Juan Rulfo, Ruinas en el campo (1955)

March 26, 2011

Carts of Darkness

"Carts of Darkness" is a Canadian documentary film (57') with an awesome photography telling a very human story. Murray Siple was snow boarding all the time until he had an accident who confined him on a wheel chair. He belongs to a wealthy family of North Vancouver but felt uncomfortable among his peers and found a bunch of new friends with whom he was able to share his passion for freedom and speed: homeless people who are picking up bottles and cans to make a living. They invented an urban x-treme sport: sliding down the hills using a shopping cart. Siple got completely into this group of guys, accompanied them in their problems and struggles for many months and eventually tried to help them to get out of their alcoholic problems. That is the cheesy part. But the rest is about freedom and speed and living according about your own 'rules'.

Hanging Christ: Francesca Woodman, Maurizio Cattelan

Francesca Woodman (1977)

Maurizio Cattelan (2007)

Política nuclear en Alemania

Hace unos días se armó una discusión en FB sobre la rápida reacción de Merkel tras el desastre de Fukushima: Alemania fue el primer país en cerrar para una inspección de seguridad sus reactores nucleares más antiguos. De entrada me pareció una acción loable y muy en el espíritu alemán de tener todo bajo control y asegurarse de que todo está bien. 

Pero en un segundo momento, después de informarme mejor sobre el lobby que hay acá en torno a la energía nuclear, terminé dándole la razón a mis 'contricantes' en el debate: es populismo de Merkel.

Acabo de publicar una nota sobre el tema en Letras Libres.

March 24, 2011

Huasteca: Wingsuit

These are the mountains to which I belong and which I see everyday when I am at home. Wingsuiting in Monterrey, sponsored by Red Bull. Awesome!

Three worst things of Berlin: winter, food and lack of mountains.


Mil maneras nuevas de morirnos

Mi primera contribución en el blog de la revista colombiana Exclama: una nota sobre la exposición Mothering en Berlín.

Foto: Elżbieta Jablońska, Super Woman (2002)

March 21, 2011

Volcanoes: Drtikol, Cartier-Bresson, Velasco

The Czech photographer František Drtikol is well known because of his Art Deco portraits, some of which look like landscapes.

When I saw his Snow wave, from Woman in Light (before 1938), I recalled an image by Henri Cartier-Bresson of Mexican volcano Popocatépetl.

The funny thing is that next to it there is another volcano called Iztaccíhuatl, which means White woman, but is usually dubbed as Lying woman, since according to the Aztec legend, Iztaccíhuatl is a dead woman covered with snow. In facto, the volcanic formation resembles the body of a lying woman.

The composition, in fact, looks rather similar to José María Velasco's Camino a Chalco (1891) and to a random image found on the internet.

March 20, 2011

Mauerpark is our park

There is this park in Berlin which I like very much to visit on Sundays: Mauerpark. Although it has become very popular among tourists, Berliners also enjoy their time there. I went there to the karaoke, the atmosphere was nice as always, but the participants I saw where not the hit.

So we went for a walk and a bit further we bumped into the most incredible thing: a real club in the middle of the park with two djs. It had started short before, it was around 3.30pm, the sun was shinning and perhaps a dozen of people were dancing. I started dancing immediately. The djs were extremely good, people started gathering, and soon it was an amazing party with maybe 450-500 people dancing the best electronic music ever.

In fact, it didn't make sense at all: it was chilly, open air, the sun was shining, nobody new anybody else, and still everybody was really enjoying the party. There was not a concrete motive to celebrate or, rather, we all were celebrating the first sunlight of the year, because when you live up in the North then you learn to treasure every single gram of sun.
Berlin is an amazing city, offering you always some hidden surprise to curious people. I can just imagine something similar (plus beach) in Tel Aviv...

March 19, 2011

Associative memory and coincidences

The main thesis here is that associative recollections are fired up by coincidences.

My friend S called me last night and we met for a drink in his favorite bar within the hour. We hadn't seen each other since November, but coincidentally I had met the night before a person who knew him. My friend RC wanted to meet me, so we had agreed to meet in my favorite bar, but at the end she changed the plan and I went to her place for dinner, since she also wanted to introduce me to her friend RZ.

As S, RZ is also from Chile, but he flew the Dictadura and came to Berlin, where he settled down, married a German girl, had children, got divorced and moved to some island in the Atlantic. Somehow he met many years ago my friend RC, and now he was sitting there, in the kitchen, doing the pasta when I arrived.

During the dinner, he reacted when I mentioned an article on the New York Times. "I know somebody who works for the New York Times", he interrupted me. And a second later: "Wait, no, it was the BBC, never mind". My mind went off: Chile, BBC, Berlin... "Is it S?", I asked him. "Yes". I learned that he had met S some years ago and also one of his friends, M, who is also my friend.

So, last night, I told S this story, and he told me how good the films of RZ (a former painter who became film director) are.

Then we remembered a trip we did together one year ago, and he mentioned a girl we met there at the Book Fair. The memory of the booth made him recall an interview he had done during the Book Fair to a Chilean author, Carlos Franz. The name sounded familiar to me, but I did not know him. "Ah, yes, he just published some piece in Letras Libres, right?". "Exactly". But the truth is, I hadn't read his text.

"Well, it is a review of a new novel", S explained to me, "written also by a Chilean author, Arturo Fontaine". No idea, I had never heard that name before. S had had earlier that day an interview with Fontaine: "And he came to the studio with a young philosopher as crazy as you, doing a Ph.D. on Aristotle", he told me.

My mind went off again: Philosopher, Aristotle, Chile, Berlin. "Wait!", I yelled at him, "is it P?".

Yes, it was my friend P.

The world is so small!

Photo: Vivian Maier (1967)

Leó Szilárd dixit

The physicist Leó Szilárd once announced to his friend Hans Bethe that he was thinking of keeping a diary:

- "I don't intend to publish. I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God".

- Don't you think God knows the facts?", Bethe asked. 

-Yes", said Szilard. "He knows the facts, but He does not know this version of the facts".

Hans Christian von Baeyer, Taming the Atom (1994)

March 18, 2011

Greek feet

I know somebody whose mother has always laughed at him, because he has Greek feet (the so called Morton's toe). 

But observing classic Greek art, the index toe is mostly represented being larger than the hallux (big toe). And so, other artists have followed this pattern, which succeed in the Renaissance, for instance. 

Venus of Milo (my pic)

Collosus of Constantine (Jeremy Thorpe)

Botticelli, Birth of Venus (Google Art Project crop pic)

 Statue of Liberty (unknown photographer)
If you are interested, check a more complete little text about it regarding Statue of Liberty's feet.

Barbie parodies

Besides the Lego parodies, there are a few Barbie parodies as well. My favorite one was made by Kerstin Schuhbaum and Uwe Göbel for an exhibition in Munich back in 1994, which I just hanged on my flat (besides here, you won't find it online).

Don't miss the waist (and neck) at Man Ray's Violin d'Ingres!

March 17, 2011

Muses: Botticelli, Ghirlandaio

The most beautiful and inspiring women of the Italian Quattrocento!

Botticelli, Simonetta Vespucci (1476-1480)

Ghirlandaio, Giovanna Tuornabuoni (1488)

March 16, 2011

Eyeshade: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, John Gutmann

Muchacha mirando pájaros (1931)

Czechoslovakian gymnasts (1939)


Everything comes from the Old Greeks. I recalled that recently, while I was studying the work of American photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895-1989), and I bumped into this beautiful picture of a veiled woman.

It reminded me of a Jorge's favorite statue in the Louvre, to which he draw our attention few months ago, when we visited together the Parisian museum.

Femme voilée (La Foi?)

It was done by Antonio Corradini (1668-1752), a rococo artist from Venice who mastered this veil technique. In Napoli there is a chapel with two similar statues by Corradini, although the Christ statue was finished by Giuseppe Sanmartino.

La pudizia

Christ veiled under a shroud

There are more similar works by Corradini.


La puritá

One hundred years later, Rafaelle Monti gained recognition in London thanks to a sculpture in this technique.

Veiled vestal virgin

So, he was clever and did a few more works.


Sleep of sorrow and dream of joy

But in fact, the technique is as old as the Greeks, as this sculpture from the IV Century a.C. shows (Metropolitan Museum).

March 15, 2011

Crown: Ben Scherer, Willy Ronis

Liberty Statue in Seattle


March 14, 2011

Life - and heart - mis(t)eries

Today was one of the strangest days ever!

I took a train early in the morning in Marseille and headed to Nice. I wanted to work, and thus I turned on my computer. At some point I realized that I was not progressing, I closed it and looked through the window.

This was my second time in the Côte d'Azur. The previous time I went there to visit the girl whom I thought was the real love of my life. Met her family, walked around in their vineyards, had a wicked time...

And today, after hearing that we had left Toulon, I looked distracted through the window and... voici! Her house, her vineyard! I had in mind that they were close to the new highway, but I had completely forgotten the railway. And of course, of all places, I had to have a look to the outside world exactly at that very moment.

Now, she is happily (for me, and her and him) married. Period.

A few hours later, I am sitting in the airplane. And suddenly my heart crashes miserably, as I recalled flying exactly with this very airline to meet whom I thought was the real-real love of my life.

Somehow, I got incredibly close to the two big loves of my life, who yelled extremely loud at me. Today, of all days.

C'est la vie!

Eye scratching: Buñuel & Dalí, Marilyn

March 13, 2011

Ugly Christ

I was recently talking to my friend Martín Hadis, who wrote an excellent book about the ancestors of Jorge Luis Borges, when he reminded me of the theory of the "Ugly Christ". It was made by Borges' grandmother, Frances Haslam, who was an English Methodist. She recalled a prophecy by Isaiah 53:

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him / nothing in his appearance that we should desire him"

If you go to the museum Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, you will find some ugly Christs, like these:

Domenico di Pace Beccafumi, Mary with Child, St. John and St. Geronimo (1523-1525)

Albrecht Dürer, The Young Jesus among the doctors (1506)

Bramantino, Resurrection of Christ (1490)