Cortes and the ‘Angel of History’ with Dartmouth Associate Professor Mary Coffey

Cortes and the ‘Angel of History’ with Dartmouth Associate Professor Mary Coffey


>>My name is Michael Taylor. I’m the new director of
the Hood Museum of Art. I think I can only say that
for about another two weeks but I’m going to still
say new for a while. It’s great to be here. Please turn off your
cell phones. I myself need to remind when I
get back to my seat to do that. And welcome to the
first inaugural Manton Foundation Lecture. We would like to
express our deep thanks to the Manton Foundation which has generously
funded an endowment that support scholarship
of the Orozco Mural as well its care
and conservation. The foundation has also,
through a separate ground, made possible a new
lighting scheme for the mural that is currently
in development. And this is very exciting. I think that the murals
will be lit in a way that they never have been before and you’ll see them
with fresh eyes. I cannot think of
anyone more appropriate to deliver this inaugural
lecture than Mary Coffey, associate professor of Art
History at Dartmouth College and to my mind, the
leading scholar on the work of Jose Clemente Orozco. Professor Coffey received
her PhD in Art History from the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to teaching courses
on American art and culture, Mexican and Latin American
art and Mexican Muralism, professor Coffey has also
taught specialized courses on public art, Fluxus, and
Museum practice as well as the introductory survey
of Western Art History. Before joining the
faculty at Dartmouth, she taught at Pomona
College from 1999 to 2001 and was a Faculty Fellow
and Internship Coordinator at New York University’s
Graduate Program in Museum Studies
from 2001 to 2004. Professor Coffey has
published many articles and catalogue essays including
“Angels and Prostitutes: Jose Clemente Orozco’s
Catharsis and the Politics of Female Allegory in
1930s Mexico,” that was in the New Centennial– New
Centennial Review, I should say. And “I’m Not the Fourth
Great One: Rufino Tamayo and Mexican Muralism,”
in Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted for
the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. She has recently
completed her book, “How a Revolutionary Art Became
Official Culture: Murals, Museums and the Mexican State” which will be published next
year by Duke University Press. This much anticipated book
offers the first study of the reciprocal relationship
between Mexican muralism and Mexican museum practice. Through case studies of the nation’s three most
significant public museums all of which include major works
of mural art namely the Palace of Fine Arts, the
National History Museum, and the National
Anthropology Museum. Professor Coffey’s book
traces the transformation of Mexican muralism from
a public art with radical, social intentions into a
form of state propaganda. She is currently conducting
new research for a second book on the exhibition of
folk art within Mexico and the United States
that explores the role of folk art has played
in cultivating national and transnational identities
as well as the development of the tourist economy. She’s also the co-author of the
Hood Museum of Art’s brochure on Dartmouth’s Orozco mural and has delivered a
podcast on it for visitors. Her lecture today is titled
“Cortes and the ‘Angel of History’: Reflections
on Orozco’s Epic of American Civilization and ‘Messianic Time.'”
Please join me in welcoming Professor
Mary Coffey. [ Applause ]>>Well, thank you for
being here tonight. Can you hear me? I think this is the
first time I’ve addressed Dartmouth [laughs]. And it’s wonderful to be
doing it on this occasion. I want to share Michael’s
enthusiasm for the Manton Foundation and
the care and the resources that they’re putting
toward scholarship on this important mural
cycle and the conservation and preservation of it
here at Dartmouth College. And I want to say one
other thing before I begin. I wanted to acknowledge
two of my colleagues, George Edmondson
and Klaus Mladek. I’m not sure if Klaus is
here but I acknowledge them because they invited
me to participate in a Humanities Institute
at the Leslie Center for the Humanities, two years
ago on the States of Exception, a body of theory,
a political theory that I was not very
familiar with at that time. And it sort of come to
fruition now [laughs]. It’s taken me a couple of years
to really work out the impact that some of what we read
in that institute has had on my thinking about this mural. And in particular, it was the– in my introduction to
Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” And that’s what I’m going
to be talking about today. And it is preliminary. It’s new work for me. So it’s exciting,
and a bit unnerving to be presenting something
in such a draft form but I’m really eager to
get responses to the work as I move toward revision. So with that, I’ll
begin and I need to ask that the lights be
lowered a bit. Thanks. [ Pause ] In thesis IX of his Theses
on the Philosophy of History, the German-Jewish theorist
Walter Benjamin writes “A Klee painting named Angelus
Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about
to move away from something he is
fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth
is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures
the angel of history. His face is turned
toward the past. Where we perceive
a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling
wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front
of his feet. The angel would like to
stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what
has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from
Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can
no longer close them. The storm irresistibly
propels him into the future to which his back is
turned, while the pile of debris before
him grows skyward. This storm is what
we call progress.” This infamous description of Klee’s work encapsulates
Benjamin’s critical understanding of history
as well as the method of his material, historiography. Benjamin treats Klee’s
image as a dialectical one in which time has been arrested
and history has revealed to be a single catastrophe
rather than a change of events. The angel faces the past with his back turned
away from the future. His recognition of
the true nature of history while terrifying
holds the possibility of redemption. He wants to awaken the dead and
make whole what has been smashed but the violent wind of progress
prevents him from doing so. Benjamin’s idiosyncratic reading of Klee’s image provides an
oblique critique of historicism, likewise, as metaphor,
it performs the task of the material historian which
Benjamin describes as “Retaining that image of the past
which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history
at a moment of danger.” This man singled out
by history is endowed with what Benjamin calls
a weak messianic power, to liberate the fullness
of the past from the historicist reduction. If historicists treat
the past as a universal and eternalized sequence
of events unfolding in empty time according to
a teleology of progress, the materialist historian
understands the so-called facts of the past are a
construction of the present. Whereas, historicists empathize
with the victorious when laying out the course of history, the material historian
views the past from the standpoint
of the oppressed. Historicists maintain that
our present is the logical and necessary outcome
of a process set in motion in the past. And that any aberration from
this logic of progress is but an anomalous
state of emergency. The materialist sees
that the state of emergency is not the
exception but the rule and that redemption can
come only if we recognize “the constellation our own era
has formed with the an episode or event from the past.” Benjamin’s understanding
of history as a creative and constructive act
counters the cause and logic of historicism with the
conception of history that crystalizes in what
he calls messianic time. Messianic time refers as not to
the past nor to a utopian future but rather to the now of the
present, a moment of danger that holds the potential for
us to recognize the claim, the past has made on us. In my remarks today,
I read Orozco’s Epic of American Civilization as a
dialectical image in Benjamin– in the Benjaminian sense. Like the Angel of History,
Orozco refuses to reassure us with the utopian
vision of the future and instead faces
the American past. In his mural, American history
is presented from the standpoint of the continent indigenous
peoples as a catastrophe. Progress represented by Cortez
is indeed a storm blowing from paradise. For in Orozco’s telling, the
military and spiritual conquest of the Americas represents
a destructive rather than constructive origin
for the modern nation state. What critical power does
Orozco’s unexpected image of the American past
demand of us? His emphasis on catastrophe,
wreckage, and debris I argue speaks
to a revolutionary hope for social justice,
for redemption, but his materialist
history like that of Benjamin is anti-historicist. It therefore carries
an implicit critique of not only the authoritarian
cultural practices of the modern nation state but also the alternatives
articulated by artist and intellectuals on the left. Does his vision of
redemption has to be approached as something other than the
vulgar Marxist utopianism of his peer Diego Rivera? And likewise despite
the culminating scene of Christian apocalypse, I insist that Orozco’s
epic does not partake of Christian eschatology,
rather the messianism that structures Orozco’s mural
conjures the weak messianic power that Benjamin
ascribes to us. Tonight, I interrogate Orozco’s
engagement with messianism, both Pagan and Christian
and the way that messianic prophecy
structures the spatial organization and thematic
content of his cycle. In particular, I focus on three
messianic figures, Quetzalcoatl, Cortez and Christ and
the relation between them to better ascertain the
constellation Orozco is forming between the pre-conquest
past and the moment of danger in which he painted. I maintain that the ongoing
power of Orozco’s mural lies in its demand that we recognize
its concerns as our own. My remarks today
represent my initial attempt to bring Orozco’s mural into a
dialogue with Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History and in particular his
concept of messianic time. However, I want to be clear that I am not describing a
causal relationship whereby Orozco is intentionally
illustrating Benjamin’s theory, rather, I see them as
generating analogous insights about the ethics of history due
to each man’s vexed relationship with historicist,
national, cultural projects and the political regimes
benefiting from them. In Benjamin’s case, I
am referring of course to the National Socialist
exploitation of antiquity when constructing the
mythology of the Third Reich. And for Orozco, it was Mexico’s
post-revolutionary state and the official
indigenismo promoted by artist and intellectuals to construct
an autonomous national identity rooted in imperial
Aztec civilization. The Epic of American
Civilization consists of roughly 24 scenes
dispersed across the walls of the Orozco room in
Dartmouth’s Baker-Berry Library. Orozco executed the mural in
true fresco between June of 1932 and February of 1934 while
employed as a visiting professor in the art department. Despite the literary
references in his title, Orozco’s epic is not a story,
rather, it is comprised of discreet images juxtaposed
with another in a provocative but non-didactic manner. Writing in 1934 as he
completed the cycle, Orozco emphatically
declared “In very painting, as in any other work of art there is always
an IDEA never a STORY. The idea is the point of
departure, the first cause of the plastic construction,
and it is present all the time as energy creating matter. The stories and other literary
associations exist only in the mind of the spectator, the painting acting
as the stimulus.” Commenting on this statement,
Renato Gonzalez Mello has noted that the Spanish word
for story, historia, is also the word for history. Mello likens what
he characterizes as Orozco’s asymmetrical
handling of form and narration, idea and history to the
dialectical materialism of Soviet filmmaker, Sergei
Eisenstein’s Montage theory. This dialectical as
opposed to linear approach to image making demands an
active viewer who must work to synthesize the meaning of
often abrupt juxtaposition within a sequence
of panels rather than passively read a seemingly
cohesive visual narrative. Moreover, the dialectical
approach agitates against the progressive
or evolutionary structure of most historical mural cycles. Orozco, as we will see, posits a
discontinuous and eruptive model of history that is asymmetrical and radically questions
the relationship between past, present,
and future. This is an overview
of the cycle. I’m assuming most people have
seen it but just to be clear, it’s been sort of stretched
out into long single images but these are the migration,
ancient human sacrifice, the scene of Quetzalcoatl’s
arrival, the Golden Age and Departure, Aztec
Warriors, The Prophecy, Cortez and the Cross,
The Machine, Anglo and Hispano-America,
Modern Gods or the Birth of Dead Knowledge, and
then Modern Human Sacrifice and the Modern Migration
of the Spirit. I’m going to be referring to select panels
throughout the mural today. And I just want to note that
the titles we’re not given to that the panels by Orozco. So we have to– they are
descriptive and I think and relatively accurate but we
have to take them with a grain of salt when using
them in our analysis. So Orozco described the
idea emanating the Epic of American Civilization
as an American idea. This idea was embodied by
the myth of Quetzalcoatl which Orozco described as
not only an [inaudible] myth but also a living one, “Pointing
clearly by its prophetic nature, to the responsibility shared
equally by the two Americas of creating here an authentic
New World Civilization.” As this suggest, Orozco’s
America is not synonymous with the United States or
Mexico as some of his critics at the time would
have it, rather, the America to which he refers
is hemispheric encompassing all of North America and
symbolically extending south to include Latin
America as well. While Orozco’s point
of view clearly derives from his experiences
as a Mexican, his fresco is not an expression
of nationalist sentiment rather, he situates his New England
audience in this oblique way to estrange U.S. American’s
from their habitual and in his mind parochial
understanding of American history. Instead of inaugurating his
epic along the eastern seaboard of the contemporary United
States with the settlement of devout Christians fleeing
religious persecution, he begins it with migrations of indigenous people’s
throughout North America and the subsequent
development of great cultures with impressive achievements
in agriculture of the arts and science. In this way, he reminds
his viewers that American civilization
precedes European contact while also casting colonization in
the imposition of Christianity as violent and destructive
rather than the benevolent beginnings
of a manifest destiny. This is a schematic
map that shows you where the panels are located
within the architectural space. Orozco uses the architectural
division of the reserve reading
room to divide his fresco into two related
but separate epics. The two halves of the cycle
are separated physically by the reserve desk which
in turn marks the historical rupture between pre and
post conquest America. So the desk is situated here and the cycle breaks
ancient Americas on the west, modern civilization
is on the right and then this is
the quota [phonetic] which I’ll be referring
to at the end of paper which faces the reserve desk and lies outside of
the cycle as such. The west wing initiates the epic with scenes depicting an
ancient golden age inaugurated by the arrival of Tolteken
man god Quetzalcoatl. The story continues along the
east wing with disturbing images of the modern world that follow
from Hernan Cortez’s military and spiritual conquest
of this civilization. Orozco uses the myth
of Quetzalcoatl to allegorize the
trauma of conquest. While the figure of Quetzalcoatl
is found throughout Mesoamerican civilizations, the exact
origins of the myth are obscured by the fact that source
information has invariably been filtered through Spanish
colonial interlocketers. Nonetheless, the most popular and pervasive account
describes Quetzalcoatl as a historical ruler of
the lost City of Tulan who was either named after
god or deified subsequently for his great leadership and the
god with manifold attributes. As a deity, Quetzalcoatl is
associated with the wind as well as the morning star but most
significantly he is a boundary crosser, a feathered serpent who
combines attributes associated with both earth and sky. The man god often referred to as Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl
is credited with banning human sacrifice
and with the introduction of the cultivation
of maze and the arts. His enlightened reign was
corrupted by Tezcatlipoca who drugged and humiliated
him resulting in banishment. Disgraced and rejected,
Quetzalcoatl took leave of his people on a
raft of serpents. The legend continues
that upon his departure, he prophesized his return
in the year One Reed or as we know it 1519, the date of Cortez’s arrival
at Vera Cruz. At which point he
would avenge himself and destroy the civilization
that have rejected him. Gonzalez Mello suggests
that Orozco’s version of the myth was influenced by two books he would
have encountered in Dartmouth’s library. The first is Samuel Goodrich’s, Lives of the Celebrated
American Indians from 1849 in which Quetzalcoatl’s
reign is explicitly described as a golden age and his
achievements in the arts, religion, science and
politics are enumerated. The second source,
John Hubert Cornyn’s, The Song of Quetzalcoatl
published in 1931 transcribes
not a lot of fragments from the Florentine Codex
that pertain to the leader and the mythology
surrounding his return. Mayo argues that Orozco
depicts Quetzalcoatl as both a historical leader
and a deified prophet. In the arrival panel,
Quetzalcoatl appears in his guise as the fabled
ruler of the Toltec emerging at the crossing of the
pyramids of the sun and moon in ancient city of Teotihuacan,
and here are the pyramids. In the departure panel,
his beard has grown wild and he bears the aspect
of a wizened prophet as he points dramatically
toward the arrival of Spanish conquistadors who will destroy the
society that rejected him. In his way, the sequence
of panels dedicated to Quetzalcoatl’s myth
dramatizes the ruler’s transformation for man to god
as well as his mythical return as the white, bearded
god, Cortez. In the shift from
arrival to departure, Orozco employs the symbolic
metaphor of daylight and dusk. Quetzalcoatl rises like the sun, illuminating Tolteken
civilization and then departs with the fall of night, thereby,
recalling his associations with the morning star while also
characterizing his reputation as the end of an enlightened
epic and the prefiguration of a dark age for
American civilization. Orozco’s version of the
myth then is indented to pose conquest Spanish sources
that were widely accepted in his day but which
are now heavily debated. According to the story, the
Spanish conquest was understood by it’s victims as
the fulfillment of Quetzalcoatl’s
prophecy and Cortez because of his white pallor
and beard was perceived as Quetzalcoatl returned. Orozco uses this myth to
establish a relationship between the ancient and modern
world essentially rewriting enlightenment narrates
of European encounter with the Americas from the
standpoint of what he believed to be an indigenous world view. Despite his praise for ancient
indigenous civilization, Orozco draws a contrast between
the accomplishments of Toltec and Mayan peoples signified in
the architectural references to the pyramids of
Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. So here, we have Teotihuacan and here the Castillo
from Chichen Itza. So these are specific
architectural monuments associated with these
two specific cultures. Orozco makes a distinction
between the Mayan and the Toltec and the Aztecs. This contrast is
evident in two ways in the western half
of Orozco’s cycle. First, Orozco characterizes
ancient human sacrifice as barbaric and outside of the enlightened
reign of Quetzalcoatl. Second, he frames
the interregnum of Quetzalcoatl’s
reign with equivalent by the posing scenes
of Aztec warriors. The Spanish conquistadors
thereby– sorry Aztec warriors and
Spanish conquistadors, thereby, drawing a parallel between
these two imperialistic and militaristic civilizations. They literally face off
along the northern wall of the western quarter with Quetzalcoatl’s golden
age positioned between them as if an enlightened parenthesis
within a longer history of imperial aggression. By situating the scene
of sacrifice prior to Quetzalcoatl’s arrival
within the sequence of panels, Orozco endorses the claim that
ritual sacrifice was banned by the Tolteken leader. In this panel, Orozco
associates human sacrifice with the Aztecs explicitly
despite the fact that several groups
practiced human sacrifice and that historically the
Aztecs post day Quetzalcoatl’s legendary reign. So as an image of
Aztec brutality, this panel should logically
follow the sequence dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, however, here as an other instances
Orozco deliberately issues a linear historical
narrative in favor of a dialectal juxtaposition
of ideas, barbaric sacrifice
versus enlightenment. In both the ancient
human sacrifice and Aztec warrior panels,
Orozco makes reference to well known statuary
associated with the imperial
practices of the Aztecs. The carved effigy of the feathered serpent
located along the base of the Aztec warrior panel
refers to those lining, the ceremonial pyramid at
Teotihuacan in reference to the Aztecs emulation
of Tolteken urban design and their efforts to link
their Empire to Tulan and the enlightened legacy
of Quetzalcoatl’s reign. Two of the warriors are
dressed as eagles and jaguars in reference to Quetzalcoatl’s
struggle with Tezcatlipoca and the other two are rendered
in the guys of Quetzalcoatl as the Wind God– this
is– that the picture. Based on illustrations
in Cornyn’s book, does Orozco shows
how Aztec veneration for Quetzalcoatl underpinned
their military aggression? Orozco draws a visual
distinction between Quetzalcoatl,
the enlightened leader and the petrified image
of the feathered serpent that the Aztecs appropriated and deployed symbolically
in warfare. This contrast is
between oral tradition, the legend of Quetzalcoatl
depicted along the north wall and the construction of heritage through material cultural
practices of appropriation. Through this contrast between
a dynamic and living process on the one hand and in the
historicist petrification of the past and the cultural
treasures on the other, Orozco calls attention
to the symbolic practice of tracing political origins to
an idealized [inaudible] regime. Orozco lends contemporary
resonants to this critique in the scene of ancient
human sacrifice as well. Here, a sacrifice takes
place before a monolith whose attributes combine features
associated with Huitzilopochtli, the god of fire and war and
the patron of the Aztecs, city of Tenochtitlan and his
ferocious mother Coatlicue. And I’m showing you the
Coatlicue monolith here and an illustration of one kind
of illustration Huitzilopochtli that shows some of the
attributes associated with him conventionally. And we can see in this monolith
that there’s a combination of the hearts and palms,
necklace that Coatlicue wears with the spear and shield and
this little red decoration that often appears in
images of Huitzilopochtli. So this is a sort of
combined a image of the two. [ Pause ] Both deities are
closely associated with the ritual precinct
at Tenochtitlan where one of the two sacrificial pyramids
was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and perhaps more significantly
the infamous stone monolith depicting Coatlicue was found. Originally uncovered during the
colonial period the Coatlicue monolith was subsequently
reburied then briefly disinterred in the 18th
century at the request of Baron Alexander von Humboldt
and finally placed in storage until the late 19th century
when a Mesoamerican antiquity and Aztec civilization in
particular was reinvented by liberal elites as the origin
of Mexico’s meztizo heritage. This 19th century revivification
of the Aztec past was enhanced and exacerbated in the
post revolutionary period by both politicians
and intellectuals. It reached its apogee
with the opening of the National Anthropology
Museum in 1964 where the Coatlicue
is today venerated within a soaring
two-story gallery dedicated to glorified Mexico
Tenochtitlan. Orozco would have
been very familiar with its predecessor
institutions where in the monolith
was exhibited in historic displays
alongside the heroes of Mexican independents. Creating with historian, Luis Morales Moreno
calls a Museo Patria, a patriotic museology that
functioned as propaganda for subsequent faces
of Mexican statecraft. Orozco’s reference to
the Coatlicue monolith in particular suggest
that the scene of ancient sacrifice does more than indict Aztec
ritual practice. It also suddenly caused
attention to the role of heritage and the blood
rituals of the modern state. This point is made explicit in the modern human sacrifice
panel located across the quarter as a mirror image of
the ancient scene. Here, the skeletal remains of an unknown soldier lies
buried beneath floors while the– a flame burns
eternally in his honor. An aggressive war
monument takes the place of the Huitzilopochtli Coatlicue
monolith while a fat cat politician stands in for
a high priest pronouncing on the heroic sacrifice
of the nation’s dead. Orozco develops– I’m glad
somebody is laughing [laughs]. Orozco developed this
panel after returning from a three month soldier
into Europe taken after he– just after he began the cycle
and he return and completed it. While in France, he visited
the tomb of the unknown soldier which had only recently
been installed between the life of triumph. This colossal monument anchors
a sequence of triumphal arches that line the Shanzelize
in Paris, a grand boulevard that comprises the
city’s historic access. Modeled after Roman architect, the arch exemplifies French
neoclassicism commemorating revolutionary and
the Napoleonic wars. It symbolically associates
modern France with Imperial Rome. The eternal flame
was added in 1920 to memorialize French soldiers
who perished during World War 1. Their anonymity stands
and start contrast with the meticulous recording
of victories in generals named on the arches in inner
and outer surface. By calling attention to the
eternal flame in particular, Orozco indicts the
depersonalization of death within modern warfare and the
rationalization of slaughter to the glorifying rituals
of national heritage. We need to keep this Aztec,
Mexican and French examples of historicist culture
appropriation in mind when assessing Orozco’s
representation of a preconquest golden age. Before I argue that one evoking
indigenous antiquity Orozco is not endeavoring to
repeat the strategies of the Aztecs toward
Toltecs and even more so he’s not endorsing the
politics of heritage employed by the modern state
rather, Orozco’s depiction of Quetzalcoatl’s
golden age serves to facilitate an
anti-historicist critique of the contemporary
politics of indigenismo that were being
institutionalized by the ruling party in Mexico
to the artistic collaboration of his peer, Diego Rivera. Mexican indigenismo
was developed as part of the progressive social agenda of the Mexican Neo-Renaissance
spearheaded in 1921 by the post revolutionary state. In order to restore a
sense of civic unity after the 10 year civil war, Minister of Education Jose
Vasconcelos asked artist to paint edifying
murals in the auditoriums and courtyards of
federal buildings. The artist many of whom
have been radicalized by socialism soon redirected
Vaconcelos’s modifying agenda by executing mural cycles that emphasize not only the
country’s divisive class-based and ethnic antagonisms, two
scenes of conquest revolution and proletarian struggle but also a sympathetic view
Mexico’s vast indigenous and peasant underclass. And just as a point
of reference, I’m showing you two the most
famous images from this period. Diego Rivera’s one of the
panels from the Ministry of Public Education Murals where
we see the venerated Tijuana, this indigenous woman
presiding over a table in which Mexico’s various race– racialized and through
class citizen receded and so of the new table of brotherhood. And over here an
example from Orozco from the National Preparatory
Museum that shows Cortez and Malinche, his concubine and
translator presented as the sort of primordial parents of
modern mestizo Mexico. This is are two examples
of the– how indigenismo registered
itself in visual art. Positing race as
an ethnic force, the muralist issued the
cultural superiority of European tradition
from classical antiquity to the present and cultivated
instead a modern art rooted in autochthonous
American sources. A variant on modernist
primitivism, indogenismo differ somewhat
from the appropriation of non-Western cultural
forms by European artist such as Pablo Picasso,
interest in African sculpture because it was motivated
less by a desire to critique academic standards
and art and more by a search for authentic identity. Mexican artist viewed indigenous
culture not as external other but rather as an internal
other that must be recuperated and brought into the
cultural imaginary. The Mexican self they
insisted must be conceived of through the colonial
relationship between settlers and indigenous peoples
and cultures. By the mid 1920s government
patronage had all but dried up prompting artist to
seek private commissions and regional centers throughout
Mexico and in the United States. However, by the end
of the decade, Mexican Presidents had begun to appreciate the
propagandistic value of the muralist radical politics
and under the administration of Plutarco Elias Calles and
his proxies collectively known as Maximoto, the state awarded
a high profile commission to Diego Rivera to paint
the history of Mexico in the Grand Staircase at the
Nation Palace, the headquarters of the federal government and in subsequent years several
mural artist were employed to decorate key federal
institutions. This is the National Palace. Rivera’s commission coincided
with Calles’s program to institutionalize the
revolution to the creation of a ruling party, the
National Revolutionary Party or as it’s known the PNR. Rivera’s radical populism
provided a progressive face for the conservative politics and political authoritarianism
or the Maximato. Moreover, as Leonard Folgarait
has shown, the national populism and discursive rendering
of Mexico’s history and Rivera’s National Palace
mural coincided neatly with Calles’s rhetoric about the
institutionalized revolution. Rivera’s mural is divided
into 3 scenes that correspond with the Northwest and South
walls of the stairwell. This is the north wall,
this is the west wall, this is the south wall. I’ll show details in a moment. The north wall depicts
the Aztec world configured as the nation’s past. The western wall
provides a spatially and chronologically complex
narrative of Mexican history from the point of
conquest to revolution and the south wall is dedicated
to a Marxist vision of Mexico of today and tomorrow. The north wall, Rivera
situates Aztec’s civilization as modern Mexico’s
point of origin. Like Orozco, Rivera recalls the
Aztec veneration of Quetzalcoatl by depicting the man god
four times in an array of representations that
reveal a cleaver integration of ethnographic research into
his modernist figurative idiom. In the upper left corner, we see the plumed serpent
emerging from a volcano. In the center, we see the
historic man god [inaudible] Quetzalcoatl seated
administering to his followers. On the top right he
appears again departing on a raft, a serpent raft. And at the top, the very top of
the wall, Quetzalcoatl appears as a falling or setting sun,
establishing a circular logic that connects up with the
iconography of the south wall. Quetzalcoatl’s reign is likewise
idealized in Rivera’s mural, however, as the viewer move
toward the larger western wall depicting Mexico’s– Mexico
from the conquest in 1930, scene of social unrest appear as
an indigenous agitator attempts to organize tribute
paying subjects against the abuses
of the Aztec empire. So it’s very idealized over here but as you move toward the
western wall we see now images of tribute and exploitation with
this sort of Aztec communist, the agitator here and
trying rally his fellowmen against the empire. On the western wall,
the imagery is organized into three horizontal
registers was seen as Spanish conquest
depicted along the bottom, episodes from the colonial
period in the middle and groupings of peasants
and leaders associated with Mexico’s post independence
history aligned across the top. The imagery is likewise
organized into five vertical bands
framed by the arches of the architectural space. These bands have clusters of
historical figures associated with key military struggles
in the nation’s history. The French intervention and
U.S. invasion are represented in the outer arches while
the revolution and reform, wars framing– framed the
central arch dedicated to Mexican independence. As Folgarait has argued, there
is a general shift from illusion as to it seems of hand to hand
combat along the lower register to a more static and spatially
compressed depiction of history as discourse toward the top. As the viewer moves from the
lower landing up the stairs to arrive at the balcony
situated at a remove from fresco she is
at first immersed in the near life size battle
scenes but eventually steps back to enjoy a distanced view. Her body now oriented toward
the fresco in a similar manner as the many peasants depicted
from behind in the act of witnessing or
reading the numerous text that accompany the
figures in each arch. And I’m referring
here to these figures. They are dispersed
throughout the mural. So their backs to the viewer
reading all these proclamations that are proffered
by the leaders of Mexican political history. For this reason,
Folgarait claims that the viewer’s movement
echoes the shift from action to institution, experience
to discourse that the mural promotes. The historical– and
chronological complexity of the western wall is centered
around an Aztec sculpture of an eagle with a war
banner at its peak. This reference to an actual
Aztec relief carving recalls the prophecy of an eagle
with a serpent in its peak alighting
upon a cactus that instructed the
Mexica on where to found the imperial
capital of Tenochtitlan. It also corresponds
with the toponym of the modern Mexican flag, a motif that 19th century
liberals appropriated from the Mexica to
ground their new nation within indigenous antiquity. The symbol of empire and nation
anchors the central vertical band connecting the scene of
the Aztec Warrior Cuauhtemoc. He broke struggle against Cortez with a radical priest Miguel
Hidalgo’s uprising during the independence struggle and Emiliano Zapata’s
revolutionary fractions agitating for land and reform. So we have Cuauhtemoc down
here, Hidalgo here, Zapata here. Straight line. It thereby draws a straight
line from the indigenous past to the modern state that
assert Aztec culture as force of resistance emanating
the nation’s long struggle for independence and social
justice against the host of colonizing and
exploitative forces. The southern wall
completes the cycle with the scene depicting
Mexico of today and tomorrow. And as with its mirror image
across the stairs we see scenes of industry and exploitation with a communist
agitator attempting to organize the working classes. In the place of Quetzalcoatl, Rivera depicts Karl Marx
holding a communist manifesto and pointing dramatically
toward the east where a utopian city rises as
an emblem of the future free from class antagonism. So here is Marx, here are
the various agitators. Like Orozco’s mural, Rivera’s
historical cycle is structured by Quetzalcoatl’s myth only at the National Palace it
is the white bearded Marx who represents the pagan
god prophetic return. The brilliant sun behind Marx
represents Quetzalcoatl symbolic return in the rising
of the morning star. Marxism brings about
the destruction of class exploitation shown
depicted throughout the mural and thus, the utopian
reinstatement of Quetzalcoatl’s
enlightened reign. Rivera’s treatment of
the prophecy corresponds with what Georgio Agamben
calls the oxymoron structure of messianism in which an
idealized past is married is with the utopian
vision of the future. The two incommensurate
temporalities are joined in the figure of the
Messiah who’s coming promises to literally take us
back to the future. Rivera’s messianism likewise
melts the class politics of Marxist theory with a racial
politics of indogenismo in a way that nationalizes socialism by
crafting it as the fulfillment of Quetzalcoatl’s prophecy. He thereby partakes with
the same historicism as the Calles regime despite his
Marxist political orientation. I think we need to view Orozco’s
mural as a critical response and reply to Rivera’s National
Palace mural and it bears noting that this mural was
incredibly controversial and extremely well
publicized in its day. So Orozco was very aware
of what Rivera was up to at the National Palace. I think we need to
view Orozco’s– returning to Orozco’s arguments
about idea versus historia. We can now see that it was
Rivera’s discussive approach to visual narration and the
historicist symbolic structure of his cycle that
Orozco was refuting. We can see this not only on
Orozco’s dialectical as oppose to linear approach to
story telling but also in how he handles the prophetic
structure of messianism. Four, if we we’re to interpret
Orozco’s handling of the myth of Quetzalcoatl through
the conventional structure that Rivera employs. We would have to view Christ
not Cortez as his return. According to this logic, Orozco’s mural would
assert the indigenous past as an idealized point of
reference for a future utopia with Christ resurrection
configured as the messianic event
that completes the prophecy and brings about a return to
Quetzalcoatl’s golden age. Not only would a reading of
this nature situate each section of the cycle in a chronological
relationship, past, present, future but also it
would set up Orozco as a Christian militant
even zealot a kin to Rivera as vulgar Marxist. There are at least three
arguments that mitigate against this interpretation. First, there is ample
evidence, textual and visual that Orozco was extremely
opposed to the historicizing
indogenismo Rivera deploys. Shortly before beginning
the Dartmouth commission, Orozco published a manifesto
entitled new world, new races, new art in which he pointedly
criticized the artistic “looting of indigenous remains of the
New World with the object of copying its ruins
or its folklore.” Orozco calls for a
new art something that will express
the unique spiritual and physical materiality
of the new world. He suggests the Manhattan
Skyscraper as an exemplar of this new values and
calls for a mural art to draw from its example. Orozco is clear throughout
the manifesto that American artist
should not look to an idealized past whether
European or indigenous, but rather cultivate an
authentic expression forged in the unique properties of now. Given the clarity
of his conviction on this point it is
difficult to imagine that he would endorse
an atavistic return to an indigenous antiquity
in his fresco cycle. Second, Orozco’s depiction of Christ destroying his
cross begs questions about how to interpret the apocalyptic
climax of his cycle. It is conventional to view
this scene as an image of the resurrected Christ
who returns to destroy rather than redeem humankind. Rather than accept his
martyrdom signaled by the cross, Christ chops down the implement
of his sacrifice refusing to die for our sins instead
bringing about kingdom come so that the spirit might
migrate to a new age. This interpretation is
hard to sustain however because of the unorthodox
liberties Orozco has taken with Christological iconography. Although bearing the marks of
this crucifixion Christ appears in the guise of the
Pantocrator or judge. His resurrected body if indeed
it is a resurrection scene is not immaculate, thereby,
His humanity rather than His divinity is emphasized. The small panel entitled
chains of the spirit. It’s here. That follows this image presents
a scene of chains, locks, weapons and keys presided over by vultures
downing clerical colors. This iconography suggests that
Orozco is actually referring to the Anastasis or
Harrowing of Hell, an episode from the Passion
conventionally associated with Easter. The Anastasis takes place
before the resurrection, during the three
days and three nights that Christ’s body
remained dead in the tomb. Typically, Christ is shown
releasing Adam from the chains of bondage often using His
cross to skewer Hades while keys and locks are strewn about. In her exhausted study, Anna
Cortonas [phonetic] notes that the Anastasis betrays
temporal ambiguities and that it refers
to resurrection but it takes place during
the death of Christ. In conventional Anastasis
scenes, this emphasis the difference
between Christ’s human body and His embodiment as
the Logos incarnate. In his panel, Orozco has
layered references then to the Pantocrator with multiple
episodes from the Passion with an emphasize on what
Cortonas calls the temporal ambiguity of the Anastasis. Like early Christian
illuminators, Orozco refrains from depicting the resurrection and thus the triumph
full outcome of the Christian
[inaudible] predicts. Rather, the padlocks in
Vulture’s clergy depicted in chains of the spirit suggest that the spirit has not
been released or migrated. Thus this scene does not
seem to bring the prophecy to a close rather it leaves us
arrested in time still waiting for messianic redemption
in the end of days. While Orozco’s image partakes
of the visual ambivalence about the resurrection
and a temporal ambiguities of conventional Anastasis
iconography, it omits Adam’s rising
up from Hades. If Christ rescued Adam as
meant to guarantee redemption, Orozco’s image refrains
from any such guarantee. Orozco’s image of a vengeful
Christ does not satisfy the longing for messianic redemption
that it would seem to solicit. We need to read this
refusal within the context of contemporary political
theology and in particular, the messianic claims of Hitler
in Germany, the Cristeros in Mexico and even the secular
presidential politics of the PNR as well as Rivera’s messianic
characterization of Marx. Orozco seems to have understood
perhaps implicitly the danger of political embrace of
messianism in the 1930’s and as he evokes it only
to undermine its promise that a messiah will come to redeem our past
to make us whole. Orozco toyed with the idea of
rendering an indigenous Christ in the final scene
and had he done so, it would be more compelling
to interpret this final scene of Quetzalcoatl’s return much as Marx’s functions
in Rivera’s mural. However, he abandoned this
idea preferring instead to keep the relationship between
the three messianic figures in the mural ambiguous and
unresolved by prophesy. Finally, and this
is my third argument against the historicist
interpretation of messianism in Orozco’s mural. The physical and thematic
structure of the cycle mitigates against this kind of
historicist reading. Orozco’s exploitation of
the architectural features of the reserve corridor
asserts a radical break between ancient and
modern worlds. This cleaving of the present
from the past is represented as well as a rupture
with orality and myth. The past is available to us only through oral tradition
as a myth. The present is characterized
by a material history grounded in the trauma of conquest. An event that irreparably
thundered modern America from the indigenous past. Thus, the two halves of the
mural established in asymmetry between past and present,
the time of myth and the time of history suggesting that
these two approaches are being juxtaposed rather than
placed on a continuum. We might read this juxtaposition
as an attempt on Orozco’s part to lift modern history
into the realm of history to glorify American nationalism
within [inaudible] myth of indigenous prophesy. However, I’m arguing that in
Orozco’s mural we are presented with two incommensurable
temporalities held side by side in a dialectical image. In the climatic scene, the time
of history has come to a stop. This is not a transitional
moment in a narrative progress, it is an image of
time standing still. The time of now shot
through as Benjamin would say with chips of messianic time. Orozco’s rendering of the
American past is not intended to be and historically
accurate depiction of Quetzalcoatl’s reign,
rather, it represents a part of the constellation
our era has formed with the definite earlier one. By evoking Quetzalcoatl’s
prophesy, Orozco conjures the historicist
mode of indogenismo employed by both, the authoritarian state
and the Marxist left but only to defy the conventional logic
of messianism that we see in Rivera’s National
Palace mural. Orozco’s fresco does not
in fact depict a Messiah that will take us back
to the future, rather, the arrest we experience
in the final panel and that’s what Benjamin calls a
messianic cessation of happening that endows us with “a
revolutionary chance in the fight for
an oppressed past.” So if Orozco is not
calling for return to Quetzalcoatl’s golden age,
what then is the oppressed past that his dialectical image
commands us to recognize? The hazard response I
recall Orozco’s comments about the living myth of
Quetzalcoatl in which he argues that the myth points “clearly
by its prophetic nature, to the responsibility shared
equally by the two Americas of creating here an authentic
New World civilization.” We should recall as
well Orozco’s manifesto in which he argued that a new
authentically American culture follows from the physical
and spiritual [inaudible], the new races of the New World. Keeping these two
statements in mind I want to review Orozco’s depiction
of Anglo and Hispano America and suggest how his
characterization of the two Americas
informs the quota. For I argue Anglo and Hispano
America depict the mutual failure of the two Americas
head Quetzalcoatl’s prophecy, however, in the quota
Orozo hints at what an authentic new
world civilization might be. Anglo and Hisopano America
follow immediately scenes of conquest and modern industry. In his panels there
are relatively success and failures seems to flow from the technology aided greed
displayed by the conquistadors and its transmogrification into a dehumanized
industrial modernity. Angle-America while politically
stable is stultifyingly conformist people
by homogenized race of zombie like White ethnics. Hispano America is
dynamic but riddled with political corruption
and caught up in cycles of bloodshed. Its populace revolutionary stand up front unrepresented
underclass but are routinely done in by
a foreign and domestic elite. The variation of skin tone in this panel reflects the
intersection of race and class that perpetuates Latin
American social and equality. Both America suffer from
the racial antagonisms that European exploration and
colonizations set in motion. In its relentless promotion of a singular wasps identity
Anglo America excludes all difference from its
national imaginary. Hispano-America on the other
hand exploits racial difference to maintain and exacerbate
class hierarchy. In these panels, Orozco
foregrounds race and racism as key features of American
nationalism and state formation. He shows that national
imaginary is predicated on an empty promotion of
racial hybridity are socially destructive as those
structured by its [inaudible]. Neither America has
grappled effectively with the ethical dilemmas of
the post colonial settler state and thus both and implicitly
on nationalism fall prey to the blood ritual of
industrialized warfare depicted in modern human sacrifice. In the quota Orozco depicts
yet another temporality. One in which the
industrial achievements of the modern epic continue but
without sacrificing human life, labor, and leisure to
the almighty machine. Orozco symbolizes this new age through modern steel frame
architecture in the image of a racially hybrid man
depicted in workers’ garb but shown in repose
reading a book. This is Mestizo man
stands in for the promise of a racially equitable America
where in the values established by Quetzalcoatl’s enlightened
reign might once again be possible. Orozco visually evokes this
analogy by likening the body and posture of the modern
industrial man to that of the sleeping figure
lying beneath Quetzalcoatl in the arrival panel. Although brick wall
indicates the building of a new civilization in
the ancient scene just as a steel frame skyscraper
signifies the new man under construction in
the fresco’s quota. In this way, Orozco
argues modern and ancient humanity are
connected to genealogically and spiritually despite the
radical change our social environment has undergone. Orozco is careful however not
to indulge in easy utopianism. The alternate temporality
suggested in his quota is left
deliberately vague in strip of an acronism. Orozco points to the
possibility of a new age imbued with the ethical values
of Quetzalcoatl’s reign without implying that it
will constitute a return to a pre lapse era in past. Prepared to a drawings revealed that Orozco models
his reading figure after a Dartmouth undergraduate. In the sketch, we see a square
[inaudible] collegiate male with a crew cut wearing
sport coat. In every way, this
figure corresponds with the conventional image of
the Dartmouth man, an athletic, studious white Anglo-Saxon
and Protestant. However, as he developed
the image, Orozco turned his Dartmouth wasp into a racially ambiguous
worker. It is important to recall that
Dartmouth is a private college and a raised worker like the one
Orozco depicts would have been– would have had a hard
time gaining access to the libraries
resources in the 1930’s, a fact that Orozco
must have noted. So what are we to make of this
quota to the artist indictment of the modern history
of the Americans? Some are tempted to see
this as an endorsement of communist politics whereby
the worker becomes the subject of history. Others see this figure
as a mestizo and read the final
panels as a reference to the Mexican schools
endorsement of a future oriented cosmic race
and still others see this man as an African-American
and read his presence as an overt critique
of the racial politics of 1930’s United States. Following Benjamin, I argue that this is indeed a
mestizo figure whose racial identification is left
deliberately ambiguous. What matters is that he
represents the new races that Orozco exalted
in his manifesto. He does not represent the
worker as the subject of history as [inaudible] colleagues
would have it but rather he is a configuration of the weak messianic
power that we poses. To conclude then, I
offer a reading from one of my Dartmouth students,
Nicole A. Tucker [phonetic] who was given the task of
writing about Orozco’s mural in the epic form in my senior
seminar on Mexican Muralism. In her essay, Tucker
argued that it is the viewer who plays the part of the
epic hero in Orozco’s cycle. Treating the fresco as
a performative write through which the viewer
undergoes a radical reeducation in American history and
emerges transform, she suggested that the mestizo worker
“embodies the new state, the Dartmouth student init– enters after performing
the cycle.” In this new state, the hero of
America’s epic is transformed from the hegemonic
privilege white subject into a working class mestizo. He is no longer the progeny
of European genealogy but rather the hybrid offspring
of the violent encounters between Europeans and their
colonized to enslave others. And here it is significant
that Orozco’s figure could just as easily be read as
African-American as mestizo. For Orozco, there is no savior, no messiah who will make
hold what Cortez’s standard. Our salvation does not rest
with an atavistic return to a pre-Cortezian
reality nor will it come from a historicist construction
of an indigenized nation state. It will come if and only if we recognize the
race problem as our own. And here, I reiterate
that it is significant that Orozco executed
this cycle in and for a U.S. American
audience by transposing the body of the white Dartmouth undergrad
with a body of a raised worker. Orozco visualizes what our
redemption would look like? Redemption will come
and we can see ourselves through the living
prophecy of Quetzalcoatl when we can see his thinking of
Anglo-Americas having nothing to do with Hispano-America
and when both Americas grapple with the psychic
consequences of living in a post colonial
settler state. When we can see the mestizo
worker reading in the quota not as a symbol for a period
politics of race and class but as a true reflection
of ourselves. We are only now beginning to
recognize the image of the past that Orozco has sees as
a concern of our own. We are only now beginning to exercise the weak
messianic power to which this past has a claim. In characterizing the
revolutionary hope of Benjamin’s notion
of messianic power, Walter Hamacher writes
the, “Each possibility that was missed in the
past remains a possibility for future, precisely because
it has not found fulfillment. For the past to have
a future merely means that the past’s possibilities
have not yet found fulfillment, that they continue to have
an effect as intentions and demand their
realization from those who feel addressed by them.” I would like to end with this
quote to demonstrate the hope that I see in the messianic
structure of Orozco’s Epic of American Civilization. The fact that we are all here
commemorating his achievement at Dartmouth some 80
years hence suggest that there is still a future for Quetzalcoatl’s
golden age in our America. That’s the end. [ Applause ] So I’m happy. I know it’s a long
talk but I’m happy to entertain questions
[inaudible]. [ Inaudible Remark ] [Noise] Yeah. [Inaudible Remark]>>Yeah.>>And [inaudible] a theory
of melancholy [inaudible]. And also we decided
it’s not going to be [inaudible] described
with Jew in those [inaudible] so they decided [inaudible]
unless you have a kind that’s not yet being declined. So I wondered if– and you made
it clear that the appearance of Christ in the mural
[inaudible] inherent about what [inaudible]. But I wonder if your edifice,
I hope is too hopeful–>>Right [laughs].>>[inaudible] You know
in the depression of– depressive human history
that may have [inaudible].>>Yeah, yeah. I mean in the end I don’t
think as misanthropic and dark as Orozco was. I don’t think he was
as hopeless as Benjamin and that is a function
of his privilege. I mean he really– he wasn’t
a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. He was a relatively
privileged Creole, you know, mestizo in Mexico. I ended on hope because I do
think there is hope in the mural and I wanted to kind of
push against this sort of– the criticism that it
often receives as the– it’s just as, you know, the
slash and burn, you know, criticizing everything,
you know, from Christianity to Dartmouth to Anglo-America
because I do think and this is sort of
picking up on Benjamin’s. There was moments on the theses
where he talks about hope, where he talks about
the possibility of restoring the fullness of
the past so that any moment from the past could possibly be
have resonance and be recognized by us as a concern of
our own which would sort of potentially undo the kind of
violent reduction of historicism that seeks to constantly
identify our present with this sort of history of
military victories essentially. So I think there is a little
hope in there although I think for Benjamin, it’s a
kind of desperate hope and for a Orozco I think
he’s also quite skeptical about any utopia, [laughs] any
future, any ideology, any– anyone who claims to have
the answer for anything. But I think that he is
focusing on the oppressed that is telling the
history of the America’s from the standpoint
of the oppressed for precisely the same reason to
sort of move us away from a kind of victorious theological
progressive notion of enlightened nation
building toward one that has a more just social and
sort of racial, has an ethics at least of sort
of social justice. So, and that last panel,
it’s unusual for him. You know he really refrains from
doing this again and by sort of depicting something
that could be interpreted as a utopian even
Marxist image in favor of just these men of fire. That’s kind of the most
utopian he gets after this. And that quota really stymies
scholars a lot who either want to read it as just a full
on endorsement of Marxism which I just do not believe
it is or as some kind of uncritical embrace of the Vasconcelean
notion of a cosmic race. You know, another prophetic
kind of account of America and I do think in the sort
of explicit racializing of that figure that he
is sort of suggesting that it’s race is the
hinge that we have to– we have to work with, that we
have to see ourselves as called by ancient indigenous mythology
instead of seeing ourselves as somehow totally separate
from what– from that. I don’t know if that totally
gets it your question but–>>Yes, absolutely.>>Yeah, [inaudible] feel
about the view of that statue of the broken statue
of the Buddha?>>Yes. [ Inaudible Remark ] Yeah, so what’s the [inaudible]
I mean the Buddha is a little strange. I think it’s there
because he’s– he is trying to sort of indict
all of civilization, you know, not just Christian civilization. So he going to throws
in there as an icon of something meets
outside of the, you know, western tradition I think. I mean it’s an open question. The column is a [inaudible]
uses is over and over again. It always, as an
architectural marker, it always signifies
western civilization. He often uses it to depict the
imposition of European culture in the Americas and I
brought, I’m glad you ask because I did bring these
images of two other iterations of Christ destroying His cross that Orozco painted one
very early in his career and the destroyed cycle at
the National Preparatory. This is– was actually
titled the Redeemer. He ultimately destroyed
this image and repainted much more
kind of contemporary images and instead– and the others
are very late work, an oil, also Christ destroying His cross
where you can see the symbols of culture [inaudible] about
books and columns and the cross of course and then the fire,
the flames of purification which show up again and again. And, you know, there are lots
of ways to interpret this. One is as sort of Christ,
you know, those apocalypse. Another related one is
in Mexico in the 1930s, there’s a whole lot of
propaganda circulating on foreign against the
Cristero about war. These was taught in the name
of Christ, sort of [inaudible] in the name of Christ against
the post revolutionary regime in which images of Christ
are sort of deployed both as an emblem of the prophecy
of sort of Christian rectitude and also as a– on
the other side but the left just says an image
of sort of hypocrisy, et cetera. And that sort of final, so
Orozco seems to be responding to that iconography
a lot in his murals. And the final thing is
Renato Gonzalez Mello argues that for Orozco this is
really a sort of symbol of the destruction of old
orders of language bringing about a new language and this to me feels very Benjaminian
[laughs] and sort of very much in his sort of understanding
of post messianic time where literally words
we knew that unders– words start to mean
their real meaning and everything before
that, is this confusion. And so Gonzales Mello thinks
that’s what this image means. For me, it’s just an always
an open question ’cause his representations of
Christ are so an orthodox that they’re very slippery. And I’m not– I don’t feel
like I can say for sure but I have this hunch
that I keep pursuing. You know, does that help? Yeah.>>Great.>>Okay. [Inaudible
Remark] Thanks.>>It’s really great. And there’s a reception in
the Kim Gallery upstairs but thank you Mary for
a wonderful lecture.>>Thank you [inaudible] [ Applause ]

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