Experimental Grounds/Unexpected Sources
Perfume de violetas
dir. Maryse Sistach, Mexico, 2001, 35mm, 90 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles
Urban melodramas flourished
during the 1990s, with the critical and commercial success of El Callejón de
los Milagros (Jorge Fons, 1995) and the global blockbuster Amores Perros
(Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000). As in the crime melodramas of the
1940s and 50s, brutal violence and corruption emerged as an integral part of
Mexico City and the construction of its cinematic spaces in this decade. Part
of this revival, Perfume de Violetas bravely extracts the glamorous
conventions of “golden age” melodramas, and their stylization of urban
decadence, to present an unflinching critique of gender disparities, class
inequality, and institutional abuse as the crucial ethical conflict of the
urban scene. The protagonist, Yessica, a poor and rebellious teenager from a
troubled background, strikes up a close-knit friendship with innocent Miriam.
An exploration of precariousness and queer friendship, the urban sensorium
envelops the two young women with scents, sounds, rhythms, and everyday
citiscapes, to create a distinct sense of place and ambiance.
dir. Ximena Cuevas, Mexico, 2001,
Video, 7 min
EXPERIMENTAL GROUNDS / UNEXPECTED SOURCES
Experimental Grounds/Unexpected Sources excavates the expanded media landscape that significantly shaped urban cinema culture in 1990s Mexico. The fiction, documentary, and experimental shorts and features in the series were the product of a vast, cross-medial horizon that was catalyzed by a vibrant video scene and a rising cinema culture. Energized by the sense of the present as a unique moment, and by a dynamic and vital youth culture, the films draw from a rich audiovisual repertoire that includes music videos, talk shows, avant-garde video and performance practices, advertising, as well as established genres and styles. What characterizes this body of works are the remix aesthetics and rhythmic, rapid editing that became the emblematic “look” of the 1990s.
All of the films explore the meaning of the urban through moving images by focusing on a distinct neighborhood of Mexico City through particular genres (Perfume de violetas, Cómodas mensualidades) or by highlighting the city’s cosmopolitan, trans-urban connections (Fronterilandia, ¿Quién diablos es Juliette?). Three veritable “indies,” rarely screened outside Mexico – Tequila, Todos están muriendo aquí, and the riotously nonsensical Coapa Heights – unravel the experimental art and music scenes that thrived in 1990s Mexico City by, documenting the venues, practices and artists that constituted these milieus. Marked by the youthful energy of directors and actors, a distinctive sense of irreverence and contestation, as well as a defiant, DIY attitude in the face of precariousness, these works constitute unique registers of the thrills and challenges of making moving images in Mexico City during a turbulent decade. Each feature will be preceded by a short film.
Experimental Grounds/Unexpected Sources is curated by WalterForsberg, Paulina Suárez and Eduardo Thomas and presented by International House Philadelphia in partnership with The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design. The series is organized in conjunction with Strange Currencies: Art & Action in Mexico City, 1990-2000, on view at The Galleries atMoore September 19 – December 12, 2015. Major support for Strange Currencies: Art & Action in Mexico City, 1990-2000 has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Mexican Cultural Center and the Consulate General of Mexico in Philadelphia. Experimental Grounds/Unexpected Sources is also supported by the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía. Learn more about Strange Currencies here.