School Watch: From These Dark Mirrors of the World: “The Rise of the Coyote,” Materia Abierta Summer School

School Watch: From These Dark Mirrors of the World: “The Rise of the Coyote,” Materia Abierta Summer School

e-flux Education

October 10, 2022
School Watch: From These Dark Mirrors of the World: “The Rise of the Coyote,” Materia Abierta Summer School
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From These Dark Mirrors of the World: “The Rise of the Coyote,” Materia Abierta Summer School
by Guillermo Canek García

“The Rise of the Coyote,” the third edition of Materia Abierta’s summer school, was held in Mexico City in August. Curated by Sara Garzón, the program brought together international and local artists and collectives such as Pedro Neves Marques, Michael Marder, Paula Gaetano Adi, Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Black Quantum Futurism, Fernando Palma Rodríguez, Calpulli Tecalco, Laboratorio Lacustre, and Mujeres de la Tierra to articulate an array of situated, social, and political knowledges. Reflecting on non-Western technologies, organic intelligence, and Indigenous conceptions of the future, “The Rise of the Coyote” took place mainly in the south of Mexico City, in rural or semi-rural districts such as Milpa Alta and Xochimilco, with additional lectures and discussions at Casa del Lago UNAM and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC). The following is a free chronicle of the monthlong gathering.

It is six in the morning and a group of about forty of us is trudging up the slopes of the volcano Teuhtli, between Xochimilco and Milpa Alta. There is a strange haste, in this place and at this hour, to reach the summit, as if we were late for a work meeting rather than here, out in the open, at 2,710 meters above sea level, struggling to keep our balance on the irregular surfaces of volcanic rock. Our legs have become eyes so to apprehend with each step what objects to avoid: a rock, a trunk of a tree, a maguey, a piece of excrement. Our phone flashlights are not enough to light our path, but they create a subtle spectacle, a small cluster of Wi-Fi-enabled fireflies. Someone, distracted by them, now wears a cut on their leg. Our rush up Teuhtli continues: it began a few hours earlier with arrangements to travel to the community center Calpulli Tecalco, more than forty kilometers from downtown Mexico City, to meet artist Fernando Palma Rodríguez, our guide for this first part of the tour. We are approaching the summit of the Venerable Lord (teuhtli in Nahuatl) when Fernando explains that if we reach it a few minutes before sunrise, we will witness an unusual phenomenon, a kind of negative sunrise in which, strictly speaking, the city is not brought to light by dawn but rather disappears under a chemical haze as its electric lights darken. We will not glimpse the tallest buildings, nor a recognizable urban outline, nor even the gray splatter of the metropolitan area of what was once the largest city in the world and which has since spread beyond its administrative limits. We are not Caspar David Friedrich’s walkers on the sea of clouds, as the urban scene before us lacks the kind of clarity that would allow us to contemplate its totality. A dawn is a birth, an origin—orto in Spanish, related to the Latin words orior, to be born, or origo, origin—but this dark dawn will shed light on a sea of polluted clouds, the smog that turns the daybreak into a non-origin.

We get to the top and, with the sound of rockets, roosters, and the murmur of the group, the sun’s first rays emerge from behind the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Lest there be any doubt about the historic moment in which we find ourselves, we note that Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl, the iconic snow-capped volcanoes of the Valley of Mexico, do not have a single white spot. Perhaps they never will again. Fernando’s anthropocenic promise is fulfilled: the city disappears in what resembles a sleight of hand by the artist, a magician’s trick that hides the city’s elephantine demographic explosion under the cloak of smog. The Venerable Lord has played a joke on us. The question is not if it is funny but if we can draw at least some lesson from it. This is more radical than it seems: if we think deeply, the question is whether it is still feasible to propose an order of knowledge from this reality, whether a pedagogy can arise from disaster. Those of us who live in Mexico City sigh in despair and, after a brief stop at the crosses that welcome the inhabitants of Milpa Alta every May 3, the Day of the Holy Cross, we go back down the road etched into the volcano. Except for Fernando, who gracefully surfs the volcanic rocks, every one of us slips down the mountainside of Teuhtli, falling over and over and over again.

Read more of Guillermo Canek García’s text on “The Rise of the Coyote” on Art & Education School Watch.

School Watch presents critical perspectives on art and academia. Featured profiles, surveys, and dialogues consider education in art, curating, and critical theory, as well as the ideas and conditions that influence practice.

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