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Helena Chávez Mac Gregor

Mexico City, 1979.


Bernard Vienat – I completely understand that you think that art does not need to have an ethical aim or objective, but when you speak about Dada or Situationism you do speak of political objectives. How do you perceive now the activist character in the field of arts?

Helena Chávez Mac Gregor – I believe politics are an important part of the trajectory of art history. A very visible part of the job done by many generations or artist incorporates activism to this history. I follow the same path, meaning that to me it is just as important as it was to them to carry out certain “aesthetic practices of political praxis” ─ a term I really like, coined by the Argentine historian Roberto Amigo which allows me to avoid using the term “artwork” because to me it is irrelevant whether they are artworks or not. However they do belong to our historiography and to certain genealogies of art. Several activist groups such as “Act Up!” and “El Siluetazo” in Argentina, amongst many others, bring back that kind of visual production and add it to their artistic activism. I believe it’s very important, especially in times of social turmoil, to look back at these genealogies I mention. I don’t make a clear distinction between art and activism and I don’t really care which one is “really art” and which one “just activism” or the other way around. What I am most interested in is the process, in the specific actions carried out by these groups or individuals. Rather than evaluating whether certain actions which took place in response to what happened in Ayotzinapa are works of art, what matters to me is that these are aesthetic practices transfused with a deep political praxis, that is: they are very specific processes which appear during this social confusion. Many of those involved are artists, or belong to the artistic community and they place their own bodies at that specific place where art operates differently, within the tension existing between autonomy and intervention. This is a very contradictory place, but it is precisely because of its contradictions that such place offers the vastest potential for both politic exploration and artistic experimentation and radicalism.

In Mexico’s case, the work fulfilled by collective groups such as Cráter Invertido (Inverted Crater) has had much impact in the field of activism, which has proven very interesting in the local scene. But it is still left to see if its impact in the artistic sphere is just as powerful. So far I believe they are much more powerful in the field of activism and at that at the same time they advocate for certain work strategies that so far they haven’t managed to turn into works of arts as such. But how the relationship between art and politics works remains to be seen in this as well as other cases: what kind of things it reveals, it makes visible, what languages is it concerned with, what operations it allows and follows, what sort of imaginaries it awakens, which new processes it invents, etc.

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