Cynthia Gutierrez: The past is what I remember

ZONA MACO SUR is a section in ZONA MACO of booths for projects by individual artists and my crush this year was Mexican artist Cynthia Gutierrez from Guadalajara.

Her stand was an elegant display of marble busts, flags,  a tapestry, black and white photos and some souvenirs. The layout and objects had a sense of formality and tradition yet there was something different about them. The busts were veiled, the flags faded, part of a photograph was ripped out and the tapestry had unusual imagery…giving the exhibit something ghostly and mysterious.

Her exhibition The Past is what I remember, is part of her project El fracaso de la memoria (The Failure of Memory), where she explores the various ways in which the past operates in the present and how memory reconstructs and reshapes past events.

It was a serendipidous meeting she had with a man in Rome in 2002 which led her to create this exhibition. The man approached her as she was sitting on a bench and told her he was an engineer and was in Rome with the purpose of returning a tall obelisk back to Ethiopia. He translated an Amharic poem about equality and diversity which she wrote down in her notebook. Five months later, looking through her notes, she went online to find that the event in question had already happened in 2008. The 23meters tall obelisk, which had been a war trophy taken by Mussolini in the italo-abyssinian war in 1937, had finally been returned to Aksum.

This intrigued her to research more in depth the event and the engineer Bitul Kibret, and although she did not manage to re-contact him, the fragments of what she found are on display. The veiled marbled busts, are of Haile Selassie I (Ethopian empreror during the Italian invasion) and Benito Mussolini and around them is a sort of reconstructed but fragmented documentation of the obelisk’s journey.

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