One morning, hunting the Mexico City flee markets, I came upon a small battered suitcase that caught my eye. When I opened it up I was surprised to find it full of old photographs, negatives, postcards and other personal mementos from the 30s and 40s. There was a whole story to be woven, image by image: I could tell that the original owner was both an amateur photographer and also an amateur physicoculturist; I could easily imagine that this suitcase kept a certain (nameless) young man’s favorite pictures, plus dozens of self-portraits in different stances and under different guises. I was mesmerized by all that was there to be inferred, and also wondered about how such a suitcase ended up in a stranger’s hands. It made me think of the story of The Mexican Suitcase–a suitcase full of negatives of the Spanish war, shot by Capa et al–and also of the suitcases that someone found on the streets of Massachusetts, full of pictures of a ravaged Hiroshima after the war… both of them surprisingly full of important historical contents. And then there was this suitcase, this other Mexican suitcase, also full of images, of a very different nature. The contentsÂ are not historical, but it is history nonetheless: a personal history taken, kept,Â forgotten and lost and then sold.Â Because yes, I bought it with all it contained. And TÃ³xico then invited several talented visual artists to reinterpret the materialsâ€“or rather be inspired by them, to propose their own.
Today the suitcase flew into Cuba, ready to be shown at the Fototeca, in Habana. Besides, Alinka EcheverÃa–wonderful Mexican photographer, and one of the artists involved–will be working with several talented local photographer’s: the suitcase will leave the island with a new artist-book, created collectively.
And so the suitcase will travel now, and keep on traveling, and it will acquire a will of its own. It will travel with what it contains, both the new and some of the old, making space for both chance and accident, and at every stop a new artist will be added to the list and at every gallery or museum the project will be presented in a different type of installation. And just like before: who knows where it will end up, and in whose hands.
Artists: Ramiro Chaves, Mark Powell, Mezli Vega, JosÃ© Luis Cuevas, Carlos Casas, Maggie Delgado, Santiago da Silva, Carlos Ãlvarez Montero, Alinka EcheverrÃa, Lorena Moreno, AndrÃ©s Padilla, Corine Vermeulen, Alfredo Moreno, Omar Gamez, Gabriella GÃ³mez-Mont and the anonymous photographer, the original owner of the suitcase.
(Muchas gracias a Alinka EcheverÃa, Lorena Moreno y Maggie Delgado por su ayuda. Y gracias a Nelson–curador de Noviembre fotogrÃ¡fico– por su invitaciÃ³n.)
(Soon a website for la Maleta)