In Tainted, Guadalajara-based artist Eduardo Sarabia manipulates reality through a combination of paint and photography. Tapped to curate the Huevos Revueltos series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Sarabia has invited invites artists, spiritual and legislative experts, and writers to discuss the cross-pollinating of contemporary art, politics and culture in Mexico over the next three Thursdays.
In advance of tonight's program, Sarabia spoke with Westword about how he chose the topics for Huevos Revueltos, what he hopes to bring out in conversations about marijuana legislation and shamanism, and how each ties into the contemporary art of Mexico.
Westword: You currently have an exhibition, Tainted, hanging at the MCA through June 9. Is that what led you to curate the Huevos Revueltos lecture series?
Eduardo Sarabia: I think when we first talked about doing an exhibition -- we were organizing that for the last year -- we thought it would be cool to have parallel activities with it; doing a lecture and event series kind of made sense. The idea was to introduce themes that I'm kind of interested in that go with my work, but not in a direct way -- things that I think about and wanted to share.
What will you be talking about with the first topic, contemporary art in Mexico?
I think we wanted to do something really focused -- there are certain things that are happening in Mexico that are important right now. We're bringing in other artists who can co-speak with me about those things, who share the same ideas about certain artists and spaces in Mexico who are doing interesting things. For a long time, Mexico City has been the center of contemporary art in Mexico -- but there are things happening in other cities all over Mexico. That's important.
Can you talk a little about the lecture on May 23, Magic and Reality: Shamanism and Marijuana Legislation?
When I was thinking about organizing this lecture series, I was thinking about how drugs and drug violence in Mexico is just, like, totally blown out by the media outside of Mexico. It's a real thing that's happening there -- and it's a really negative thing. And that's what people think when they think about Mexico a lot.
It's affected tourism and a huge part of Mexico's economy because of it. Legalizing marijuana in Colorado is a new thing that happened,and I think a lot of people in Mexico sort of see that as a solution. Since we're in Colorado and we're talking about Mexico -- talking about the violence, the drugs, the drug trade and the drug economy in Mexico -- I wanted someone to come speak about the legislation. What it means to legalize marijuana and how in a weird way, it kind of effects Mexico and (it can be seen as) some kind of utopian idea and solution for the violence and the drugs in Mexico.
I thought it could be a really indirect way to talk about that kind of stuff? But having somebody who could really speak about what it means -- I don't even know exactly what it means. Do you?
No, I don't. I mean, clearly just from watching the legislation in Colorado change as it tries to follow the results or repercussions of legalization -- it is complicated.
I think there are also issues that need to be dealt with, like children, preventative drug programs -- there is a lot of stuff to think about. But a huge part is the economy -- even just paying taxes on something like that. At the end of the day, the United States is, I think, the largest consumer of drugs and marijuana in the world. So it does fuel these gangs and cartels to get into the United States.
I haven't met with the person (Jeff London) who is speaking on marijuana legislation, but I wanted him to just give a full-on introduction of what it is, what it means, how it got started, what's the ultimate goal. And to talk a little bit about how he thinks or to discuss how that could ultimately affect what's going on in Mexico. You make a great point about the media's role, too -- the coverage of "the Mexican drug war" is definitely scare tactic coverage; "narco violence" is always the focus. It seems to be the only angle.
I think it's interesting -- I was talking to a friend of mine in Mexico, and he was saying how when really looking at a model like Colorado, they are trying to make something that will ultimately work in Mexico. But there is so much with morality, the Catholic Church, really old school anti-devil, anti-marijuana (advocates) that don't see past that. They don't realize that drug cartels do have way too much power in Mexico -- it is something that really evident in the last twelve years.
Now there's a new party in charge, so we will see how they handle it and where they take it. It's an issue -- without talking about the violence -- that can talked about in this sort of utopian model sense that could be good for a whole country, really.
On the other side of this lecture, shamanism -- for my work, I travel a lot. My work happens outside of my studio; I do a lot of investigation. I just like talking to people and that leads me into weird places. I've really been into meeting with shamans and witches in Mexico. It is a really long tradition and a kind of lifestyle. The woman who's speaking (Monyca Bouras), she does ceremonies with peyote and ayahuasca and more of the mystical, alternative way of seeing things.
I'm kind of really curious about what she's going to talk about -- she's a practicing shaman and she does healings for people. She just has an interesting life -- every time I talk to her, she is in some jungle taking mushrooms or something. (Laughs.) She is amazing.
I kind of got really curious about this culture in the last couple of years. I don't know if there is like a project brewing -- I've been making some drawings about it, documenting things. I felt like she would be a good person to come and talk about something really different and I think it is very serious to her and very serious to a lot of people. It is this very serious and different way of seeing things -- a way of viewing nature and the universe.
It seems like every time I speak to someone in this world, they always have these really amazing ecological messages about saving the planet. Really basic things that are really incredible. I think it is an important thing -- but I know that every time I look at a lecture series that says "environmental talk" it seems kind of like, eh. I'm just going to get yelled at. (Laughs.) But with the way she kind of looks at things and the way she lives her life and sees the world and the universe and energy, it is a really interesting perspective.
I think these two kind of different worlds aren't completely black and white -- and they don't completely go together, but I think it would be great to think about the two together. The last lecture, Tlaquepaque Style: Tacos and Answers -- what will that entail
Tlaquepaque is a small town outside Guadalajara and it's an Octavian town -- it dates back to pre-Spanish. They do a lot of earth ware and clay pots. It's actually famous because Tonalá, the neighboring city, is really famous -- when the Spanish came and they saw these clay pots, like for drinking water, it gave the water this taste of earth and mud and sand. A really earthy, fresh taste. They were bringing them back as gifts to Spanish royalty and aristocrats. Some of them (appear) in these beautiful, huge Velazquez paintings, where it's like a painting of a duchess and on the nightstand on the side will be a clay pot from Tonalá.
They still produce the stuff there, and this is where my friend José Noe Suro has a ceramics factory. Fifteen years ago, he started inviting artists to produce stuff in his family's ceramics factory, Ceramica Suro. This is sort of what got me to Guadalajara.
He's been working with a lot of really great artists -- it's turned the shop from being like this mom-and-pop ceramics, making trinkets for tourists kind of place to this incredible, not too modern, but kind of modern factory. They produce for hotels, they work with designers, they work with top international artists that he personally likes and wants to invite to make work.
Now he's branched out from only doing ceramic work to producing whatever artists need. Someone introduced us ten or twelve years ago, and he invited me to work. I went there and kind of stayed. I thought it would be great for the lecture series, as we'll be kind of talking about my work and my work with him, and he'll be talking about what he makes and the projects he's done with other artists.
He loves to cook and he's an amazing cook, so I convinced him to make tacos while we give a lecture. He also loves art -- he's one of those people that when you meet, you're happy to know him. He's a really generous guy who is just happy to be alive, happy to eat really good food and talk to interesting people and help them fulfill their projects.
Tlaquepaque is one of those places where, maybe a few people have heard of it, but it is becoming an art-production center -- everyone wants to go to Tlaquepaque and make something with José Noe. We've gotten really great people to come through, and then get them to do a lecture while they are there -- there is a contemporary art scene in Guadalajara and it is nice to have a place that brings great artists there to do work.
Even though he can probably get everything here, he's bringing tortillas. (Laughs.) You can't really get good tortillas here.
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The Huevos Revueltos series begins tonight at the MCA Denver with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and the lecture at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $25. The lecture series runs every Thursday through May; Eduardo Sarabia's exhibition will be on view at the museum through June 9. For more information, visit the MCA Denver's website.