"Mexican Pyramids on American Walls: Revivals, Restorations, Reinventions"


Uploaded by Dartmouth on 31.10.2012

Transcript:
>> Michael Taylor: So, good evening everyone.
My name is Michael Taylor, I'm the director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College
and it gives me immense pleasure to welcome you to the second in a series of annual lectures
that have been made possible by an endowment from the Manton Foundation.
We began this series last year with a wonderful lecture by Mary Coffey
of Dartmouth's History Department and I'm thrilled that the Manton Foundation Endowment
which promotes scholarship and provides care and conservation for the Orozco [inaudible]
at Dartmouth, will allow us to host this prestigious lecture on an annual basis.
We would like to express our profound gratitude to the Manton Foundation which is also
through a separate ground made possible when new lighting scheme
for the mural that'll be unveiled later this evening.
After the lecture I invite you to join me for a reception in the west wing of the main corridor
of Baker Library and then to the Orozco room for the official opening
of the stunning new lighting scheme.
This is a very exciting moment for those of us at Dartmouth who've known
and studied these murals and we're very pleased that we've two members
of the Manton Foundation Board with, here with is this evening.
Please give a warm Dartmouth welcome to Sandy Niles and Julia Krapf.
[ Applause ]
>> Michael Taylor: And it is now my great privilege to introduce to my speaker James Oles,
known to his friends as Jay who is internationally recognized as one
of the leading authorities on Latin American Art with a focus
on modern Mexican art and architecture.
He received his BA and PhD from Yale University and his JD from the University of Virginia.
Currently, he teaches at Wellesley College as a senior lecturer
in art for one semester each year.
He is also an adjunct curator of Latin American art at Wellesley College's Davis Museum
and Cultural Center and is an independent scholar and curator in Mexico City.
As both scholar and curator his research has focused on Mexican modernist art and culture
from the 1910 revolution through the 1960s, although he often ventures further a field
to places like Venezuela and Argentina or the southwest region of the United States.
He's particularly interested in the cultural interchange
between Mexico and the United States.
His first major exhibition project was the critically acclaimed South of the Border,
Mexico in the American Imagination, 1914 to 1947, an exhibition opened
at the Yale University Art Gallery in 1993 and travelled to several venues.
The catalogue which is co-wrote with Marta Ferragut remains one
of the most important scholarly text in the field of Mexican modernism and the reception
of America, of Mexican art in the United States.
In 1996, he authored the book Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican modernism: From the Jacques
and Natasha Gelman Collection which was published by the San Francisco Museum
of Modern Art in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name.
A few years later in 2002, he contributed an essay titled Orozco at War: Context and Fragment
in Dive Bomber and Tank (1940) to the Museum of Arts landmark publication, Jose Clemente Orozco
in the United States 1927 to 1934.
He also contributed to an important monograph from the German born Mexican artist
and industrial designer Pedro Friedeberg in 2010.
And just this past year, he published a book in the Museum
of Modern Arts artist series titled Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros,
Jose Clemente Orozco and he's currently working on a survey textbook on Mexican art
for the Thames and Hudson World of Art series.
At Wellesley he teaches the history of Mexico from the ancient through modern eras.
In more focused seminars the courses he offers deal with some subjects as public art in Mexico
and the United States, the representation of Mexico in cinema or exhibitions
of Latin American art and he stated that one of his proudest achievements is
that he has had five former students go on to pursue PhDs in Latin American Art.
Please join me in welcoming James Oles, he talk this evening is titled Mexican Pyramids
on American Walls: Revivals, Restoration, Reinventions.
His lecture would explore the diverse ways that muralist envision the architecture
of ancient American cities in several murals created in the United States
in 1930s including Orozco celebrated Fresco mural at Dartmouth.
Please turn off your cellphones and welcome James Oles.
[ Applause ]
>> James Oles: Ah, thank, thank you Michael for that very nice introduction
and I appreciate every single body that's here
on such a beautiful warm fall afternoon, on an Friday afternoon.
I should take a cell phone picture of the, of the crowd just and to members of the,
the representatives from the Manton Foundation for and, and to everyone here at the Museum,
Kathy Hart and Shawn Reid and others who've facilitated my, my visit and, and I really the,
the, my most heartfelt thanks to, to Mary Coffey of the Art Department who brought me,
brought me here and has really been a tremendous wonderful, warm and, and helpful colleague
in many ways over the past, past years.
And she was also very helpful in helping me through the final chapters of this Thames
and Hudson survey which I proud to say is now being copy edited in London.
So I want to begin this, this talk with a statement by, not by Orozco
but by his great colleague David Alfaro Siqueiros.
In his 1921 manifesto three appeals for the current guidance of the new generation
of American painters and sculptors which was published in the first and only issue
of this magazine Vida Americana or American Life, an art magazine that Siqueiros invented
and edited which he was living in Barcelona in 1921 and really a magazine that Siqueiros used
at a very early moment in his own career to give himself a cultural and artistic context.
He wrote, he wrote this manifesto and it's, it's long, I'm not going to quote extensively,
but in this manifesto he rejected what he said were all sorts of decadent art influences,
end of the, end of the century, turn of the century influences like impressionism
and symbolism and things like that and even implicated his, himself in this, in this error
and he called for renewal that American artists, meeting artists from all
over the Americas needed to renew their work, looking at Cezanne, Cubism and Futurism
and at one point he writes let us live our marvelous, dynamic age, that's,
that's something that's echoed in so many European [inaudible] manifestos of the period.
He also though talked about something a little bit different than looking at machines
and factories and, and steel skyscrapers and all in this manifesto he, he wants to look back
in time not only forward in time, but he wanted to look back in time and he says,
"In order for all of us to strengthen our art, it's essential we restore the lost values
of painting and sculpture," and I'm paraphrasing a little bit,
"by returning to the constructive foundations and great sincerity of antiquity,
but let us not use our archaic motifs," he says, "for that would be exotic."
Now I, part of this project is to really dig in and parse a lot of the language
in this manifesto which has never really been, been analyzed critically by in,
particularly in terms of comparing it to some other period manifestos and I think
in that part of, of the manifesto Siqueiros might be thinking of European antiquity
in classical civilizations, but the text is vague.
But later on in the same manifesto he becomes much more specific about what he means
by this antiquity in these, these archaic motifs.
He says, "Understanding the wonderful human depth
in primitive art has given the visual arts a clarity
and depth lost centuries ago along the hazy path of error.
For our part so," so he, he kind of calls out this idea of primitivism which was going
on of course those of you, you know familiar, most of you probably familiar
with the you know Picasso and his engagement with African arts right,
the beginning of the, of the 20th century.
So, so Siqueiros is saying, "But for us, for American artists,
it just make a little different, we need to return to the work of ancient inhabitance
of our value", he says, "The native painters and sculptors," he enumerates them, he says,
"The Mayas, the Aztecs and the Incas," in capital letters, and he says,
it's kind of getting a little bit misty eyed here, he says, "Our atmospheric proximity
to them will help us assimilate the constructive vitality of their work
which shows a genuine knowledge of nature that conserve as our point of departure."
And he goes on and he says, "Let us absorb their synthetic energy, but let us avoid,"
what he calls, "lamentable archeological reconstructions.
So we got to absorb their synthetic energy but avoid these archeological reconstructions."
Now there's something he adds there at the end.
He, he, he says, what he wants to avoid he says is primitivism.
So it's funny because he starts the whole paragraph saying we, wonderful insights
that primitivism has given artists like Picasso and then, then again he says I want
to avoid primitivism, Indianism and Americanism which are
so in vogue here but are only passing fads.
This is very muddied and this is why I really want to dig deeper into this paragraph, but for,
for today's talk what I want to focus on is this idea
of the lamentable archeological reconstruction and what Siqueiros might haven't thinking
about when he was talking about that.
One thing is he's probably thinking of both when he talks about Indianism, primitivism,
Americanism in these archeological constructions, he's probably thinking
about works like you see here in the screen, very, very, very different, different works.
On the left side is a painting by a, a Guatemalan born artist named Carlos Merida,
this painting was done in, in Paris, but it was, what have been widely known to Siqueiros already
by 1919, Merida moved to Mexico City before Siqueiros went on to Barcelona.
So this is a sort of Americanism, this modern American art takes these archaic motifs
from pre-Columbian art, from ancient Maya Art in the case of Merida but also from folk art
and kind of synthesizes it with the modern flat quality that is coming from say Cubism.
So that's something it's unclear to me to what extent Siqueiros likes or doesn't like Merida,
that's one thing, but one thing I know he doesn't like is what you see on the right side.
This is what he's, this is the lamentable archeological reconstruction.
This painting by a Mexican academic painter named Felix Parra of the great,
one of the great missionaries that was involved in the conversion of the Aztecs
in the early 16th century, Bartolome de las Casa and you see here
in this background a direct citation of ancient American art, but it's really more
of a pastiche made up of, here's an Aztec sculpture,
this is actually a round column that's more something that would be,
you'd find in you know may be in, may be in [inaudible] but probably more likely in Pompey
and then some freezes that come from various buildings both in southern and central Mexico,
it's not in, in any way an accurate reconstruction of a real building,
but a pastiche and although this painting seems so out, out old fashioned in a year like 1921,
Felix Parra in, was still teaching in the academy of San Carlos in Mexico City
where Siqueiros had studied at this time.
So I think there is a, there is a rejection of this very typical what we see
in the post revolutionary period in Mexico, these modern artists, many of whom have gone
to Europe are rejecting their academic routes and I think this,
this is partly to give you a sense of, of, of context for where I'm going
to go for the remainder of this talk.
Okay, but ironically even though they Siqueiros
in particular disdained these archeological reconstructions, he and his colleagues Orozco
and Rivera definitely engaged in them and did so at sometimes more overtly than did others.
The most famous of these reconstructions I would argue are those overblown panelists
by Diego Rivera in the corridor of the National Palace painted in the 1940s
and 1950s in Downtown Mexico City.
This is one of several panels, this is an idealized recreation of life at the city
of El Tajin in this present day state of Veracruz this was done in 1945.
In this talk I'm going to look at works that are earlier
and that are a little bit less obviously reconstructions done in the early 1930s.
At the beginning, I don't like this either, this,
this is overblown archeological reconstruction.
Done, done, I'm going to look at primarily at murals done in the early 1930s,
some in Mexico but, but most in United States and I think a close examination of some
of them particularly these images of pre-Columbian architecture,
these images of pyramids on these walls and I'm going to focus on Rivera,
Siqueiros and Orozco today, should illuminate not only their precise iconographic sources
which is part of this project and there, but also these artists' relationship
to ongoing archeological projects taking place in the country.
I also think it's going to show that the ways that these artists cited and engaged with each,
with each other was much more complicated and extensive perhaps
than has been previously discussed.
And I also want to show and/or get into something that is very interesting to me
and that's that one of the structuring oppositions in the history
of Mesoamerican studies, Mesoamerica meaning you know sort of ancient Mexico Guatemala.
One of the structuring oppositions in the history
of Mesoamerican studies is the difference between an idealized an international Maya
and a demonized but nationalist Aztec and this reflected in these Mexican murals that I'm going
to talk about in particularly in works that they did on the walls of United States.
Now I'm afraid that today rather than any polished slick conclusions,
all I'm going to be able to offer are some preliminary ideas of refined reading
or two of a panel and some closing remarks that might open rather than close the topic.
This is really a quintessential work in progress.
It builds on a paper that I wrote up mainly focusing on Siqueiros but obviously
because I was invited here I wanted to open it out to Orozco
which meant I could not leave Rivera out the story either, so I just found more
and more images and you're going to see that I have some tentative conclusions but I want
to really survey this vast terrain today and it's really part of a much wider study
of my own work which I'm very much interested in the linkages between archeology and,
and advertising popular culture, tourism and art.
So defined images of the pre-Hispanic past in Diego Rivera's great mural cycle in the ministry
of public education, the first mural that he did that has to do with take Mexico as a theme
in particular are done between 1923 and 1928, we're going to have to look fairly closely.
There's a image for example of an Aztec sculpture in, in the jungle which I'm not going
to talk about, but for the most part Rivera downplayed pre-Columbian imagery
in this, in this vast cycle.
The only real image of the pyramid in this entire building in fact is
in a gresei [assumed spelling] panel, one of these grey sort of foe sculptural reliefs
on the third floor in which he painted several allegories of the arts
and sciences, one of which is architecture.
The little pyramid there which I think you can all see very clearly is a little hard
to identify, but it might be a stylized rendition of the so-called Castillo Chichen,
a building that I'll discuss more extensively in a bit.
In fact, Rivera has visited the Yucatan in 1921 just a few years before painting this panel.
In any case, there's not really any cultural information here or context
and I think the most important thing we can say about this early tentative image of a pyramid is
that Rivera wants to ground Mexican architecture both in an, a ground modern architecture,
both in this sort of idealized Mexican past as well as in the classical orders
which is symbolized by the column there below it.
Ancient pyramids however become far more present
in Rivera's next important mural project in Mexico City.
Mexico of yesterday, today and tomorrow which fills the stairwell of the National Palace,
this was done in 1929-1930, really 15 years before he went back to the nearby corridors
to create these idealized reconstructions.
Now the north wall, the pillar on the north wall which is usually titled Mexico of,
of yesterday shows a very idealized view of, of, of ancient Mexican life,
what's important about this panel and I'm not going to go into details, take me,
take me forever and I'm probably going to be afraid of running over time anyway is,
is that if you know all these people what they're wearing, what they're doing,
the landscape around them particularly this prominent volcano here locate this scene
in central Mexico, in the valley of Mexico, in this territory around Mexico City, this has,
had been the heart of the Aztec empire, it was the center of the, of the colonial regime
and it was of course the center in the heart of the modern Independent Republic of Mexico
and the country, the government when, when Rivera was painting of course.
So he's really locating Mexico of yesterday, the origins of Mexico in central Mexican culture
and this is really not surprising, in fact, the name Mexico comes
from the Mi Chica the Aztec people and the Mexican flag today all many of you know is Eagle
on a Cactus with the Serpent in its mouth and this is derived from the [inaudible] or the sort
of hieroglyph for the capital of the Aztecs which we came the capital Mexico City.
So the in, in the entire history of Mexican murals in fact we're going to see Mexico
and Central Mexico privileged at the expense of the Maya,
the ancient Maya were almost always excluded.
In fact in the national palace panels where Rivera goes back in the 40s and 50s to kind
of fill in this much more complete history of Mexican ancient culture,
he includes all of the major civilizations except the Maya.
He excludes the Maya from this, not only are they absent here but they're, they're,
they're not, they don't even come in later in his what,
what you know sort of Technicolor reconstructions.
Now Rivera was a great researcher, I'm going to focus here, here's the pyramids
so that I'm going to really focus on, on them.
Rivera was a great researcher and he used all sorts of visual and textual sources
for his works as well as direct observation when possible, but it's difficult to identify
as actual source of inspiration here.
The two pyramids you see one slightly larger than the other, not only slightly are associated
with a, a volcano and that again situates the scene in the valley of Mexico.
Two pyramids like this next to each other might refer to the pyramids of the sun and the moon
at Tiotiokan [assumed spelling], it's not quite so associated with the volcano
like that, but it's close enough.
A city that into the 1940s was associated within ancient mythical city that the Aztecs talked
about named Tollan which simply means the place of the reeds and,
and it's sort of like saying Newton or I don't know you know ford,
you know ford was something generic, there could be many different new town or place
of a ford something could be anywhere.
Anyway, for the Aztecs this fabled Tollan was the seat and the city that was the sort
of capital of the Toltec civilization the, the primary civilization prior to the rise
of the Aztecs in the valley of Mexico and for a period that city, this is again before the rise
of the Aztecs was led by a philosopher king named Quetzalcoatl,
those of you know about that Orozco murals know that he, he plays an important role there,
here and, and so there's Quetzalcoatl over on the right surrounded
by these bright green resplendent green Quetzal feathers in his city of Tollan
and since Tiotiokan was thought to be Tollan, this could be Rivera's sort of idealized image
of the sun and the moon, the pyramids of the sun and the moon, although it's a little strange
because these two pyramids are both oriented frontally, you can see the stairways,
a single stairways both oriented towards us and actually the pyramids of the sun
and the moon are placed at right angles to each other.
So Rivera I think it's just very, very loosely playing with archeology here.
On the main wall, there's also a pyramid and this is not only a hard mural to photograph
in its entirety, you can see here rising the stairway, you get this avalanche of imagery,
but I wanted just if we can pull out the largest single object in this wall,
which is very densely populated with figures and, and images is this pyramid right here
and the pyramid is associated with eagle on the cactus and this is actually the toponym,
the hieroglyph for to [inaudible], Mexico City and this is lifted from an Aztec sculpture
that was found in the foundations of the building just
about three years before Rivera started painting.
So here he's even more graphically associating the platform with, now with Mexico City,
not with Tollan, not with this mythical Tollan which may or may not have been Tiotiokan
for Rivera, but, but specifically with, with Mexico City and he not only associate,
associates it with Mexico City, he associates it with hard sacrifice
and that's even a little hard to say but here is a guy whose bloody arm is lifted up right
into the center, right under here and he's actually holding a human heart in his hand.
So this platform here, this Maya, I mean this I'm sorry,
obviously Aztec platform is associated specifically with heart sacrifice
and this heart sacrifice therefore is sort of the, you know to, to avoid a kind of a pun,
it's the heart of the whole use of the image here
which is the center of this great, great wall.
I'm going to come back to, to this point about the, the equation of,
of Aztec human sacrifice and, and pyramid in a minute.
If we go to Cuernavaca with where Rivera was working on a mural project
to basically the same time he's working at the National Palace, also 1930,
his murals were commissioned in fact by the US ambassador Dwight Morrow as a gift to,
to the Mexican people, they filled the second story corridor of this colonial house
that so called Cortes Palace in Cuernavaca and this is just to give you a little bit
of the sense of the, of the context, but we're going to focus here on this far wall, the,
the north wall and here it is and again there's a battle scene very similar to what we see
in the, on the main wall in the National Palace
with different indigenous groups fighting each other, also the Spanish are coming in,
this is a scene about the conquest and, and the conquest is framed here again by a pyramid
and here again up there you can see at the top, now very clear,
you don't have to really look very carefully, you can see a clear image
of human sacrifice taking place on this sort of stone, the stairway has been bloodied by this,
meanwhile dancers and musicians and, and others parade around, but this, this looming
and I can go back here, this looming terror of human sacrifice up there is sort
of the beginning of the whole movement forward that we get in, in the, in the cycle
and as others have discussed this, this narrative here in Cuernavaca which is nominally
about the conquest of this city of Cuernavaca and the, and, and the states of Morelos
by the Spanish is located here by Rivera in terms of a national history
and that national history is this Aztec pyramid that's associated more with, with Mexico City.
And why, why do I think this is a, a Mexico City pyramid?
Well, first of all on the south wall directly facing it is another image of sacrifice
which is a scene of this Spanish inquisition, so you have sort of ancient sacrifice and then
on the far wall sort of you know post conquest sacrifice.
The inquisition was based in Mexico City, so that's one thing,
but the other is that if we compare this pyramid to the actual pyramid
that Rivera might have found in Cuernavaca which is there in the lower level,
we see that he hasn't really copied it in anyways, made a much more generic image,
it's got one stairway rather than two stairways.
Anyway, he's not in any way copying this pyramid,
this pyramid was completely excavated by the time he was working here.
He's not making the copy, I'm going to talk about artists looking at actual pyramids
and trying to make copies of them, Rivera is not,
what he's looking at are 16th century illustrated manuscripts showing human sacrifice
and that's what shown on the, on the lower screen.
Although some late 19th century academic painting showed scenes of human sacrifice,
Rivera's direct source is to be found here, perhaps even in the specific codec's [inaudible]
which is now in, in, in Italy, of mid 16th century indigenous work
that Rivera would have known in fact Simile.
These illustrated manuscripts were made by indigenous scribes in the new post conquest,
in a new post conquest context as part of a new order that was both political
and that's why we see all these images of bloody human sacrifice, these are now done 20, 30s,
sometimes 40, 50 years after the conquest
and these indigenous scribes are showing how things used to be
and by implication how they are not now in the new order, I think this is sort of demonized,
the, the bloody sacrifice and see how they particularly exaggerate all the
blood everywhere.
There's also a new visual order by the way and that is the use of perspective,
although it might seem a little awkward to us the way that the building is shown
in three dimensions with some shading here is definitely reflection
of the new European visual order that's also come in into Mexico.
You can see here that the, the pose of the body is very similar in both of the,
the murals even the orientation and so is this V shape of blood on both and I think this is the,
this is the closest I found, but this bloodied stairway is typical of these representations
of in early colonial manuscripts even when no bodies are shown on the pyramid,
the blood is often there as evidence of the sort of, again is of demon of, of the buildings.
You can see how Rivera streamlines his original source.
He fixes the awkward perspective for example and, and I think Rivera's mural is partly
about the need for continued resistance to all forms of conquest and oppression
and the heart sacrifice is a sort of originary one, he's not idealizing sacrifice in any way
but it's sort of done by the elites, you know I think in Rivera's vision it's done by the elites
against the worker in a way and this resistance to that is going
to partly animate the conquest and, and the support of certain indigenous groups
to who ally themselves with the Spanish to defeat the Aztecs, the,
the evil heart sacrificers and then sort of create this ongoing Marxist dialectic,
this struggle between forces that's going to animate Mexican history
up till the, up to the present day
and this is the importance of this image of Aztec heart sacrifice at the beginning
as if it's a sort of example of working class oppression in a way located there deep,
deep in Mexico's, deep in Mexico's past.
Rivera very frequently idealized indigenous people, certainly living people
and often Aztecs themselves and but here he's really picking up on something that was sort
of proof positive that the Aztecs were you know quote unquote bad.
Now this privileging of the Aztec or the valley
of Mexico really informs Rivera's hypernationalist narratives in both Mexico City
and Cuernavaca and it necessitated I think the exclusion of the Maya.
From a centralist perspective and, and Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros are all artists
who are working primarily in Mexico City for a centralized political regime and,
and for these artists and, and for many people that live in Mexico City,
the Maya are peripheral, they're not only peripheral meaning far away from Mexico City,
but they're also sub-national, they're, they're or multinational, they're shared,
they have to be shared with these other countries
because the Maya are civilization that's not confined
to the present day geographic boundaries of Mexico, but rather the Mayas that all
of you know, they occupied Guatemala, Honduras, Belize etc, so they don't function,
the Maya just are never going to function very well for as an, as a, as a people that are going
to get Mexicans a national identify because one thing the Mexicans really want to do
in forming national identity is distinguish themselves from Guatemalans
and if you share your identity with the Guatemalans, this is going to create a problem.
So it's a geographic thing that the Aztecs are associated with, with Mexico City,
but it's also this national issue as well in terms of geographic boundaries.
Now we do however see citations of Maya architecture in the murals done by Orozco
and Siqueiros in United States, not by Rivera,
in his U.S. murals Rivera never touched Mexican themes, dealt with exclusively American themes,
U.S. themes I should say, but so we're going to, we're going to see first Orozco's mural cycle
for the new school first done at the new school for social research in,
in New York which is a recently founded center for adult education
and these murals were done in, in 1930-31 and this is just a view, this was, it's now,
it's even changed from this photograph, it was a classroom for a while,
but it was originally a cafeteria and Orozco painted these frescos on the surrounding walls.
He was inspired by a, a group of intellectuals in New York that he was part of mainly
because his dealer was a part of it, called the Delphic Circle,
a very utopian intellectual salon and because and I'm, and I can go into detail here
but because of his relationship with the ideas that are circulating around in this circle,
Rivera, Orozco's very interested in developing a themes of, of universal brotherhood
that he develops not only in this central panel where you see all the different races
of the world clustered around a table, but in the side panels
which depict these very specific enlightened leader prophets, they're were interesting
to him, they were interesting to him even when he was
in Mexico City even before he got involved with the Delphic Circle and I think his, his,
his interest in joining in with this very strange esoteric group in York was partly
because of their you know elevation of the leader, the heroic prophet and,
and Orozco had always been interested in this.
And on, on one wall there, he shows two of these, and, and, and a facing wall we have a,
a scene called struggle in the orient and it basically focuses on Gandhi and,
and the struggle in the oxidant or the west, he focuses on Lenin obviously
on the right side is one of these great prophets changing the world, these enlightened leaders
and a Mexican and for the Mexican he chooses the former socialist governor of the states
of Yucatan, Felipe Carrillo Puerto who's shown there in a coat and a tie,
it's him, right there, right, obviously.
So why Orozco selected Carrillo Puerto rather than other revolutionary here,
heroes is of some, some interest.
In fact, other people like Emiliano Zapata or Pancho Villa certainly more famous
to you all today and they certainly would have been more famous
and familiar to audiences in New York.
If you're looking for one of these great heroes
and by the time Orozco was painting here both Zapata and Villa had been assassinated,
so they were sort of martyr figures.
Lenin of course had, had died, while Carrillo Puerto was also someone
who had been assassinated but I think the difference he'd been assassinated
in December 1924, the difference is that unlike those guerrilla generals, Zapata and Villa,
Carrillo Puerto who'd actually accomplished revolutionary reforms without violence
and I think this was very important to, to Orozco.
He had taken control of the local hemp industry, he accelerated land reform
and passed a whole host of liberal laws like legalizing divorce and,
and prison reform laws etc, and things like that and he embarked
on an extensive school and road construction campaign.
By contrast when we look at Orozco's images of Zapata, you, you sort of have,
you should know one here at Dartmouth, but in his oil painting Zapata
and Villa are usually these more, more threatening figures who're the leaders
of a possible unbridled and dangerous mass or every specific perpetrators of violence,
Orozco had no, no love I think for, for Zapata or Villa, but he,
he does really elevate Carrillo Puerto here.
But Orozco was all, all, also always watching what Diego Rivera was doing
and Rivera was always watching what Picasso was doing and,
and Orozco was always watching what Rivera was doing and Orozco often reworked Rivera's themes.
Here he eulogizes a figure well there is a detail, I'm sorry I could have brought
that up a little bit quicker, but may be come back to that, he eulogizes a figure
who actually appeared twice in Rivera's ministry of education murals both
as a living revolutionary here, it's actually with Zapata who's sort
of instructing a young child and both of these men are dead at this time,
but notice the association here with the red, triangular red banners,
so you get that here too as well.
And then also as a martyred figure done a five years later on the top floor
with a bullet hole right there on his chest,
so Carrillo Puerto had already been elevated twice by,
by Rivera in, in his murals in Mexico City.
And I think may be the least important reason, although it's often the one that's underscored
by scholars is that Carrillo Puerto had been the lover of, of Orozco's patron Almer Reid,
and she might have been an inspiration for the selection here,
but I seriously wonder whether it was that simple that Orozco simply took her,
took her idea for, for the figure.
In any event, in the panel Carrillo Puerto appears as a sort
of monumental rendition based directly on a photograph
by the Yucatakan photographer Guerrero looks pasted to the wall in a kind
of an awkward montage, Orozco was really grappling here with how to join multiple images
or vantage points in a single space still and he's next to an abstracted light grey pyramid,
now very clearly the so-called Castillo, it's a Spanish name the Castle,
but it's really the main pyramid at Chichen Itza.
Its presence here is to clearly justify not only because Carrillo Puerto is himself
from the Yucatan but during his regime as governor, he had promoted the restoration
of the ruins at Chichen and that all this also the, that restoration project was also covered
by Almer Reid in a series of articles she published in the New York Times in the 20s.
As part of Carrillo Puerto's broader plan to foment the development of tourism
in the undeveloped Yucatan peninsula and increase a sense of pride
and class consciousness in once down trodden and abused local Maya populations.
There's also a symbolic connection too, Almer Reid later recalled
that Carrillo Puerto's supporters had likened him to the great philosopher hero Quetzalcoatl
which we saw featured in Rivera's National Palace mural,
according to Aztec legend Quetzalcoatl had been exiled from the central Mexican City of Tollan
by a military order and he fled eastward, quote across the water
and one common gloss on this myth was that his destination was in fact the Maya city
of Chichen Itza which did have complex artistic and cultural connections with central Mexico
in this early post classic period, period and I gave a whole lecture on this to my students
and I still don't have enough time so I'm going to really have to skip over this.
But Tollan is now actually thought to not be Tuiotiokan it's thought to be the city of Tula
in the state of Hidalgo, if we, if you go to Tula there're building identical
to the buildings of, of Chichen, so there, there's contact between central Mexico
and the Maya in the pre-Columbian period, it's very important and that contact
which is probably economic, military, cultural, artistic is, is symbolized by the story
of Quetzalcoatl moving from central Mexico over the waters, over the gulf of Mexico
to the Yucatan, to Chichen Itza and so huge can of worms.
For our purposes suffice to say that for Orozco associating Carrillo Puerto
with the emblematic building in a city that scholars believe to have been the refuge
of Quetzalcoatl that benevolent misunderstood exiled on the case
of Carrillo Puerto assassinated, philosopher only enriched to the more direct connections.
Now this perfect form of the Castillo is a little bit, it resonates actually quite a bit
with Rivera's mural in the ministry of education,
but you see Orozco's really shows it much of this three dimensional object rather
than this sort of schematic pyramid which really could be any place.
This is much more clearly an image of the Castillo,
but one thing for me that's very interesting and a, a theme that's going to run
through the rest of, of this talk is how, how we, we can see the way that rather
than show the pyramid as ruined, Orozco is showing it as perfectly restored streamlined.
He's recreating and restoring the past just exactly what the archaic,
archeologists in the period were doing at Chichen Itza itself.
And the, the let's see because I'm between of living and lost my place I'm sorry, and this,
this restored version of the pyramid is what we see mostly as we're going to see
in the popular press and also in being emphasized in archeological reports.
Now Chichen Itza, the site in the Yucatan peninsula how many
of you've been there to Chichen?
So quite a few.
Had been famous in the popular imagination particularly in the United States
since the mid 19th century travel accounts of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood,
which were best sellers of the 1840s and when Orozco was working in New York,
this site was the subject of renewed attention due to the massive architectural,
archeological project undertaken there by the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Archeologists had actually wanted to excavate Chichen as early as 1914,
but the Mexican Revolution and, and local bureaucracy intervened,
but the Carnegie Institution which is really one of the main archeological forces
in the United States obtained a concession from the Carrillo Puerto regime, it excavated in 1923
and they began work there in the spring of 1924 and that project went all the way up until 1941.
When you go to Chichen today the ball court, the Castillo, the temple of the thousand columns,
all of those buildings were impeccably restored by these Carnegie Institution
of Washington archeologists among them Earl Morris, during that, during that period.
Now of course they had to promote their archeological project
and they promoted it not only through scientific publications,
but also through the popular media.
The wife of Earl Morris, the lead archeologist published a book called Digging in Yucatan,
which is the best seller in 1931 and it as well as several articles published
in National Geographic in the late 20s and early 30s were all illustrated with photographs taken
by uncredited Carnegie Institution of Washington photographers
and I'm showing you two examples there on the bottom.
Now many of these photographs simply showed the beautifully restored, clean, slick buildings
but others articulated a rhetoric of cultural continuity between the living Maya
and their ancient ancestors, this who'd built this city of Chichen Itza,
which was specifically the, one of the political visions of Carrillo Puerto and they did this
by taking living Maya, probably workers who was during the day had work boots
and you know they take off your work boots, put on these sandals, here's the you know put
on this sort of loin cloth thing or here he's wearing a actual jaguar pelt, carrying a shield,
posing on these beautifully restored buildings right, particularly here they're even put
in these wooden standards, everything is redone as if you're going back in time
and National Geographic loves taking people back in time and but, but it's, it's not only that,
it's not only taking the armature traveler back in time, it's evoking this idea of,
of continuity between present and past.
The Maya men here are meant to evoke the past just as the restored ruins evoke,
lie their own existence as works of modern architecture and get us to think ooh,
that's the way it was in the past and of course they, they never are the way they were
in the past, but the goal is to give you a sense of traveling back
in time whether you're a tourist and that's one audience, but also for the local populations
in Yucatan or for the national audience as well, the sense of the restored ruin,
there's no archeological reason, there's no scientific reason to restore a pyramid
and make it looks, make the stairway perfect, the reason you make a stairway perfect is
so modern people can climb that stairway and therefore reenact and go back in time and,
and have a sense of the lost splendor or the actual splendor of this city that the ruin
which is a whole other type of archeological form doesn't quite provide,
the ruin reminds us the time has passed.
These perfectly slickly restored ruins make us think that may be no time has passed at all.
Now I think Orozco was actually thinking about this juxtaposition of men with pyramids
when he did this and I, I think what he was probably looking
at even more are illustrations and there's three on the bottom.
In, in all three we get women now, not these warriors with their leopard skins,
but woman and notice here in every case the woman is associated with a restored image
of the Castillo, this is by Jean Charlot one of the staff artist of the Carnegie Institution
and a muralist in his own right and a very close friend of Orozco, this is no question
that Orozco wouldn't have known this painting, this is an illustrator and minor muralist,
Alfonso Akispenia [phonetic] from 1930, there again the women associated with Castillo
and finally this calendar art from 1950s and I guess this looks more like Rita Hayworth,
but she's associated too with a Castillo back there.
In fact, there's a whole, I do, I have a whole part of this project where I talk
about that whitening of the Maya women from the indigenous to the mestizo or mixed race
to the sort of Hollywood white, white form there, but I'm not going to go into that.
I think Orozco is exciting these cliches and also trying to demolish these cliches perhaps
which were circulating around an awful lot, he masculinizes this topos of the,
of the juxtaposition of the living Maya with the, with the pyramid, he politicizes it,
but he also critiques the sexualization and escapism present in the entire field of images.
After all in his murals, Carrillo Puerto is an assassinated martyr wearing a jacket
and tie directly situated in the present and in a particular political reality
that makes him the equal of figures like Lenin and Gandhi.
Now I'm going to jump across the continent LA and look at the first image
of pre-Columbian architecture to appear in any of Siqueiros' mural.
Here too we're going to discover conscious but less direct illusion to Chichen Itza.
This mural was commissioned by a local patron in, in downtown LA for an exterior wall
of the building overlooking Olvera Street, which had been the former Mexican neighborhood
in Los Angeles, the Mexican population had basically been displaced
and Olvera Street had been converted into a tourist area that is still is today
and this mural was probably intended by the patron to be a sort of lure for visitors
with very pleasant imagery of a title that he probably gave Siqueiros,
I want you to paint me a mural of tropical America, to which Siqueiros responded
with a highly politicized work that was soon whitewashed.
This is a reconstruction by Chicano artists, which is not so bad actually
of what the mural mine have looked like.
Up here you can see it, it was not only whitewashed, Siqueiros was very used to lot
of these experimental pigments, he painted on cement, was exposed to the elements,
it began to erode very quickly after it was done plus it was whitewashed very quickly
and so it really exists as a former shade of itself although the Getty Institute is
about to reopen it after a long restoration, but not reconstruction project in any event.
The, the bright visual impact must have been something that looked a little bit
like the colors and tourist posters over the serapes
that you would have seen in the shops down below.
But the imagery was, was really much more severe.
The mural features a large pyramid with sloping walls.
I think you can all see this in grey there and two entrances which are actual windows
on the wall itself surrounded by stylized tropical vegetation
and some fragments of pre-Columbian sculptures.
This is another one over here in red.
There is a half-naked figure bound to a modified cross there in the center,
Siqueiros identifies him as an Indian and this cross on top has an eagle,
Siqueiros says is the eagle of imperialism sort of watching guard over this victim.
And then on this far building which is actually, this is a real door that opens
out into the wall, this is kind of opens out into a rood, there're two soldiers coming in,
one is clearly identified as Mexican, one clearly identified as Indian, that's important,
one Mexican, one from the Andes or Peru and they're coming in and they're armed,
they're dressed as contemporary figures and they're according to Siqueiros are coming
into sort of save this figure in the center.
Now this structure is what I want to focus on is unlike any specific work
in pre-Columbian archeology, it's instead a pastiche even more inclusive than any of those
in the 19th century academic paintings done in Mexico City because while the overall profile
of the structure is Aztec, the geometric stone work on it is clearly Inca.
And what do I have here I think?
There we, there is an Inca wall, here is a detail of the, of the, of a black
and white photograph from the period and here you see how it's situated in front
of this roof top, so here's an Inca wall as if you needed to see one, but that's what they look
like and in, in then there's a couple of broken columns that are covered with feathered forms
and these are probably serpent columns such as we find it at Chichen, but what I want to focus
on is its band of one of my students once said that it looked like plates of Macaroni,
but this band up here across the wall and that I think is meant to evoke Maya glyphs
like you see here, so if you don't, if you can read them they kind of look like spaghetti
and so the sculpture, the structure's visual references are located in all
of these civilizations and particularly in the three civilizations that he mentions
in his manifesto, the Maya, the Aztecs and the Inca,
so he synthesize these three cultures together in this one pyramid.
And these visual references to both Mexico and the Andes are reflected
in those two warriors there that come in to save the day and, and, and liberate that figure
in the center and, and symbolically perhaps returned power to the oppressed.
This is a quintessential American building in the, in the broad sense of the term rather
than one that's tied to any single cite culture or nation and one that recalls the rhetoric
of his 1921 manifesto where he specifically drew attention to the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas, okay.
Now I can't go into the detail here but what Siqueiros is basically riffing
on is the Mayan theater in downtown Los Angeles from 1927 by a team
of American architects working with a Mexican designer and I just want to point
out that you get this, see this band up there at the top this is sort
of this brightly colored poly-chromed tiles up here that are taking,
taking images from all sorts of pre-Columbian cultures, it's true pastiche,
but also you get that here and then you have this az, I mean Inca-es stonework between them
and I think that's what he is riffing on in this, in this mural and he is probably trying
to make a critique here perhaps in terms of what the Mayan revival style meant
in the United States as an, as an architecture of escapism, an exoticism, which is common in,
in movie palaces in particular and, and he might want to even be critiquing the sort
of whole imperialist capital system that's implicated in a theater like that,
but also perhaps in the actual reconstruction of Chichen itself by American archeologists who,
who are getting their glory by redoing these buildings and so this column on the far side
of the mural surrounded by vegetation seems to be drawn specifically from these illustrations
in the Carnegie reports and in the popular press of these similar kind of serpent columns
with this you know L sticking out of it also surrounded by vegetation and,
and here surrounded by ropes as if it's, as it's being restored
and again I think there is there is a critique here
of the lamentable archeological reconstructions in the movie theater,
but also that are happening at a site like Chichen Itza.
In both cases whether it's the Mayan movie theater or the reconstruction of Chichen Itza,
Siqueiros might be asking how these sites actually would have benefitted real indigenous
subjects except perhaps for a few field worker.
So the pyramid is not just a, an exotic backdrop, but a fundamental part
of the anti-imperialist critique in the mural.
And perhaps he's even critiquing the way these half naked guys with their cloth
around their waist often appear in front of the pyramids in the Carnegie photographs as well,
sort of victims of this American idea
of cultural continuity rather than, rather than subjects.
Now, get here, so if we turn to Darmouth which was started, the murals here at the,
at the Baker Library which was started when Siqueiros was working in Los Angles,
I want to look closely at the two panels that show Mesoamerican architecture.
On the left side of the north wall in the reading room which we all go over and look at
and prove even more fun if I just did the rest of the lecture over there, but I'm,
I'm going to talk about the, the, these two panels, the coming of Quetzalcoatl
and the departure of Quetzalcoatl and they sandwiched this, this panel in the center
on the pre-Columbian golden age that I'm not going to actually discuss.
Now as discussed by Jacqueline Bos in the one of the articles, foundation articles really an epic
of the American civilization, notes taken by the art, art department chairman here at Darmouth
in May 1932 based on discussions with Orozco emphasized the connections in this,
in this wall to central Mexican civilization, particularly to the idea of Quetzalcoatl
who according to this, these notes probably riffing on Orozco,
Quetzalcoatl would come along the Toltecs and taught them the arts which brought
about a long period of prosperity, peace, fraternity,
and great accomplishments may have echoes there of Carrillo Puerto's regime and the other panel
so that was the coming panel, and then the other panel was to show the destruction
of the Toltec Empire and the coming of the Aztecs
and I don't think Orozco really mentioned the Maya specifically
when discussing this section of the mural.
In fact here again we find Orozco I think directly revisiting Rivera's work
but streamlining and refining the discourse.
The Darmouth murals and Mexico of yesterday in the National Palace
and the bottom both show Quetzalcoatl twice, first as the king of, of Tollan, the leader
and then as the guy fleeting across the water here as you all see in this tiny detail,
but there is Quetzalcoatl in the water with the serpents and here is actually riding a sort
of serpent boat through the sky which you know I think it's really honestly Rivera just had
to kind of squeeze it into the panel somehow and there is big empty space up there
and that's what he decided to do.
But anyway in both cases we have the, the sort of the king and the exile in both
and also both murals refer to corn cultivation, they refer to carve, stone carving in the arts
and these other gifts that the Quetzalcoatl the sort
of promethean figure had given to the people.
Now as Bas notes the coming of Quetzalcoatl represents Orozco's absorption
of the early colonial idea that Quetzalcoatl was a Christ like figure given
to self sacrifice on behalf of his people.
Now we know that Orozco believed Quetzalcoatl had discouraged human sacrifice
and although sacrifice appears in a previous panel in the epic, it's now absent here.
In both murals, the reigning benevolent Quetzalcoatl is associated
with two pyramids though Orozco is more specific architecturally as to what they are,
so I won't go over that, you see that, sorry but I just want
to make sure you all get out of here before 10 o'clock.
So and here is the Orozco panel and very clearly he's citing the pyramid
of the sun very clearly at Tutucan.
It's actually specifically depicting the pyramid of the sun and he referring
to the nearby pyramid of the moon though there is no way you could get a photograph showing the
two pyramids in that, in that location, in that relationship to each other
and the main reason is it because when Orozco was working here at Darmouth,
the pyramid of the moon had not been excavated, it was a pile of rubble, it was not excavated
until and restored until the 1940s, the pyramid of the sun had been restored in 1910.
So he's, he's, but much more clearly here, he's locating Quetzalcoatl in,
in Tutucan this place thought to be the place of reeds, the city of Toltec
and using the same dual pyramid image that are, that Rivera had done.
Now Bas speculates that the structure in the departure panel is the Castillo,
which he featured at the new school and she's suggested this how to do with Orozco's links
to Charlot who was working there in Chichen and to Almer Reid who in fact
in her biography laid her biography
with a painter discusses having given Orozco information
on the ancient Maya while he was working here in Hanover.
Now assuming that the Castillo is depicted here would function historically
since Quetzalcoatl's eastward flight might have been to Chichen, but clearly the building
and the departure panel is not the same as the building in the new school panel,
what do I have, yeah, even though the relationship between hero
and structure is compositionally the same.
It's notable how much more sophisticated
in fact Orozco's montage skills have come, become by the way.
I'd like to focus on some differences, the profile of the pyramid
in the departure panel is taller and narrower than the squat Castillo,
the proportional relationship between chamber and base is less extreme
and much more attention is given to the portal at the top.
The colors are notably different unlike the bright white Castillo,
white limestone surfaces that'd been recut and cleaned by the archeologists,
Orozco's shown this building blood red.
Finally we need to take into account the pyramidal mass of people in front
of the temple is struggling anguished figures, alright.
If we return to exemplary images of sacrifice torn
from mid 16th century [inaudible] we see the same top profile large portal relationship
between temple and suffering human figures
and I think Orozco's clearly here showing a Toltec pyramid
of central Mexico using iconographic sources that deal, dealt specifically
with Aztec's culture as Rivera had done in his own murals in Cuernavaca as I talked about.
This is clearly not the pyramid of the sun and, and I think significantly scholars believe that,
now forget that, so it's, it's not pyramid of the sun, it's not the Maya Castillo,
in fact this is Quetzalcoatl, this is not Quetzalcoatl's destination, but is origin Tollan
and his position is crucial, he's in the water to the east of the city leaving it,
pointing away from it to an uncertain future in exile.
1933 article in the Dartmouth Alumni magazine also you know reinforces this idea
of the importance for Orozco of getting at this theme of witchcraft and human sacrifice
in Tollan this, the Toltec City that this was what Quetzalcoatl was fighting against the,
the appearance of human sacrifice in what he's, what,
what kind of surges when he, when he leaves.
So at Dartmouth, Orozco turned his back on the Maya, locating his epic in the central valley
of Mexico, just as Rivera had located his own epic of the history of Mexico there
and Maya had become marginal once again and this in, in other talks I, I work through the way
that this red pyramid of sacrifice is now directly restated in, in Orozco's murals in,
in Guadalajara and in, in the Ospisios Cabanias [phonetic] of the late 1930s
and particularly you get the, the same kind of construction now building off of this,
these figures clearly here's pulling the heart out and this arm bloody arm rise,
raised up in front of the pyramid is exactly what Rivera had done in the National Palace,
these are Aztec images and I think this is meant to, to evoke the Aztec, Aztec barbarism as well.
In fact, where I am, sorry, and I think there, there's no doubt that the, okay, so sorry, yeah,
so this also allows a closer interrogation back to Siqueiros' tropical America
because I think this specific placement of the crucified indigenous figure can now seem
in context as one of these sacrificial victims who's arriving in the front of the pyramid
in the Dartmouth mural rises heart torn out in the Rivera or in the later Orozco mural,
but here is, is caught on this bound to the cross by Siqueiros.
Now there's a very important issue here that needs to be at least signaled is
that the differences between Orozco and Siqueiros are nowhere better shown here
because whereas Quetzalcoatl, the leader flees you know he's cast out,
but he also abandons his people as the hero.
Siqueiros shows the armed proletariat so the leader abandons the people but Siqueiros shows
that armed proletariat coming to rescue the figure,
here's these armed guys coming to rescue this figure.
And this theme of the proletariat coming to the rescue is going to be something he will repeat
in his great murals in the electrician union at the end of the decade.
Now in these works of the early 30s, Mexican muralism emphasized the Aztecs with
but two exceptions kind of trying to summarize here, I mean trying to conclude here.
Orozco's panel in the new school which was a particular exception guided by the selection
of a particular heroic leader and to a lesser extent Siqueiros' tropical America
where the temple is pastiche is as much Aztec as Maya or Inca,
but these murals also feature images related to sacrifice which is the theme that drives many
of the depictions, the pyramids are backdrops for the historical sacrifices
that drove Mexican history and society that animated it forward and that continued to inform
in a symbolic way audiences in the present.
In the longer version of this study, I compare the Mexican murals I've discussed here
with two new duo murals done in the 1930 where pre-Hispanic society now exclusively Maya,
I think I have, is idealized bloodless and instructing but failing to direct the audience
to any higher goals and the two that I discuss in detail are one
by an artist named Roger Wolcott, this is a, a panel, these are both oil and canvas,
this is in the museum of science in Springfield, Massachusetts, it's one of a group of panels
and extended cycle, Asia and Africa and the Iroquois, I think and Mesoamerica,
Mexico is represented by the, the Maya.
And what part of Maya world?
Chichen Itza with the restored Castillo back there other restored buildings, people at work,
etcetera, very much in this, you know this is no Quetzalcoatl but this kind of idealized view
that we also get here at Dartmouth in the, in the coming of Quetzalcoatl image
and in the lower part is the post office mural from Ames, Iowa which you know center
for corn production and in fact it shows ancient Maya corn cultivation
and modern corn cultivation by an artist names Lowell Howser who was a colleague
of Jean Charlot's on the Carnegie project as an illustrator there back in the 1920s.
Here by the way this is not the Castillo from Chichen Itza, this is,
this is actually a pyramid at a site in Guatemala named Washactoon, was also excavated
by the Carnegie Institution of Washington which is why they gave the name,
invented name Washactoon to the site, Washington Washactoon.
So if I had to say that these murals like almost all Maya imagery of the 20s and 30s done
in the United States including National Geographic illustrations,
the photographs of Laura Gilpin and an unlimited number of Maya theaters, Maya apart,
Maya revival pottery and neckties and whole host of stuff as well
as Sergei Eisenstein's unfinished film Que viva Mexico all of these are parts
of this wider research project, all of these images idealize the Maya world primarily
through the iconography of Chichen Itza, which is the most well known city through,
because of this archeological excavation to create a sort of Greek origin,
a sort of Greek perfect civilization that could be part of our shared new world.
All of that is superidealized and then we get Mel Gibson.
U.S. Americans would continue to idealize the Maya for as long as they could, even if scholars
and curators were busy transforming the field,
although this year much it's got a logical rumination and internet chatter has revolved
around whether the conclusion of the 13th Bactoon, a period of about almost 400 years,
this coming December 21st is going to signal some sort of apocalyptic moment,
although the Mayan never really predicted the end of time and really
for them it was just a big loud click in the interlocking wheels of their dual calendar.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the repressed dark side of Maya culture was eventually going
to percolate to the surface for the combination of the violence and images of sacrifice
and these murals appears not in a film about the Aztecs,
but in Mel Gibson's overblown Apocalypto 2006 set
in the Yucatan peninsula just before the conquest and particularly in the scene here
in which our young hero, Jaguar Paw and his fellow captives are terrifyingly escorted
to the top of a pyramid to be sacrificed although of course our hero escapes.
This time, by this time by 2006, scholars had well proven that the ancient Maya were just
as violent as their Aztec cousins, but by 2006 there were no longer any ancient cultures
to idealize in the Mesoamerican world.
In this fascinating visually rich and complex at times insufferable film,
Gibson and his team recreated digitally now as well
as physically truly lamentable archeological reconstructions now according
to the directors own peculiar, peculiar religious and political agenda
in part is concerns about our contemporary moral depravities and ecological depredations
that he views undermine our own civilization.
However, easy it might be to critique Gibson or even attacked historical accuracy of Apocalypto
which I'll be working on with my students in a seminar next term.
It might allow us to better approach a series of murals, better think about
or to textualizes a series of murals from 75 years before in which architecture
in the end is background to stories of sacrifice, noble or not,
by political leaders and by anonymous victims.
And of course there's another possible way of concluding
or thinking about the end of this talk.
Last year the Mexican tourism board announced a plan to promote 2012 drained of all apocalyptic
and sacrificial messages as a mystical and marvelous time to revisit the restored pyramids
in the Yucatan peninsula and help revive the nation's flagging tourism industry
which has suffered because of the drug wars where bloody sacrifices
of a completely other type are currently underway.
These two sides of Mexico, the idealized touristic side
and the demonized drug war side say, once framed as Maya versus Aztec now reappear as art world
versus drug world, beaches versus the maculadora [phonetic] industry, fiestas versus kidnapping
and we see how these two sides, its idealized side and the demonized side continue
to structure how outsiders and insiders understand such a complicated place.
Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> James Oles: Very sorry, I'm sorry that I went, went over my time,
but I guess I didn't see too many people fleeing, so it was okay.
I'll take questions or do you want to, do you want to go right directly to,
so I will field questions or let some people escape.
[ Pause ]
>> James Oles: Yeah.
>> So you were talking about how Maya
[ Inaudible ]
>> James Oles: So why are, why are the Maya left out of, particularly in the Mexican murals
and the main reason that they're left out is because they're distant
from Mexico City, they're just physically distant.
They don't fit into this nationalist discourse
because they're not connected to Mexico City in the capital.
They're much more problematic in that they not only resisted the Spanish for longer,
but they actually resisted conquest through the 19th century
and there was a famous what they call the cast war of Yucatan through much of the 19th century,
the Maya resist and so they're, they're not the, they're not so easily heroized as great
but dead conquered peoples, they're farther away, they have to shared with Guatemala,
Honduras, etc, and, and I think also for quite a few of these reasons too the Maya
which was less visible in the Mexican popular culture than they were in United States
because since the Mexican archeologists were so intent on excavating central Mexican sites
and places in Vajaca or Veracruz, they basically left the excavation and restoration of the sites
in southern Mexico, Yucatan, Chiapas and of course
in Guatemala were basically the responsibility of American and British archeologists.
It was a little bit different at the site of Palenque [phonetic] might be the only exception.
But most of those sites were being done were done by American archeologists
so they were that's partly the reason that the Maya just don't form very much part
of a visual world in, in, in Mexico City's popular culture or in, or in the mural.
So I mean these posters and calendars what you do see the sexy babes with Maya pyramids that's,
that's a sort of exception to a rule.
Almost no images of the Maya in Mexican muralism until the 50s and as Mary knows in the museum
of anthropology, the Maya are finally brought in and this is largely
because of the discoveries I think at a place like Palenque and Bonampak in, in,
in the state of Chiapas where Mexican archeologists made some spectacular finds
and that now begins to help pull the Maya back into,
into the equation, I don't know if that's...
[ Inaudible ]
>> James Oles: Yeah, the, the, this tourist industry thing is and how they muddy things too,
with these pastiches is also, that's you know good point and, and a true thing too.
Yeah, I, yeah, this is sort of an observation or is there...
>> I don't know, I, I was, I mean do you think that [inaudible] today too, I mean I?
>> James Oles: It's much more complicated to talk about today
because I think the Maya have been more subsumed within a,
sort of a broad Mexican identity particularly after the construction of a new museum
of anthropology in Mexico city which dedicated a very large room to the Maya and the, and,
and excavations in the Maya world are now largely directed
by Mexican archeologists whether they're Americans involved as well.
So the Mexicans are much more attentive to what's going on in the Maya world,
the Maya discoveries are on the front page of, of Mexican newspapers.
So it's, I think it's very different today and it's, it's particularly been different
since even before this Zapatista uprising of 94 when that really brought the Maya to,
to public attention much more in the United States, much more in Mexico
than they even been before where they were kind of peripherally easy to forget about.
Whereas in Chichen Itza the whole thing behind the,
the restoration of Chichen Itza is also a patriotic thing, but it's a state funded
or a state promoted, not really funded but promoted effort at the beginning.
Yeah. Okay.
Alright.
[ Applause ]