18 Feb Melanie’s trip to Mexico January 2023
I have always wanted to visit Mexico. I grew up reading Carlos Castaneda’s books and then continued to devour any Mexican writer I could find who was writing
in the form of magical realism. My chance finally came in the form of an ex student who I had taught visual arts to but who is also a dancer and a choreographer,
moving to Mexico several years ago.
This November due to the state this country is in and a desire to have a clearer perspective on my personal life I decided to propose to Rebecca (my ex student) that
I came for a month and created a site specific performance with her. She agreed and I immediately booked my flights and buses and coaches and taxis
and Air B&B visits and prepared for the 6 day trip there and back. Rebecca lives in San Cristobal de Las Casas in the province of Chiapas, the poorest
and most political province, surrounded by indigenous tribes in modern Mexico.
What I did not know was it was also the highest city in the region at 7,200 feet which meant my whole physicality had to change to accommodate that intensity.
The journey there was an adventure as all good journey’s are, and when I arrived Rebecca had organised a flat for me and had found a site for our performance.
I asked to have a slow start to get acclimatised as I felt sensually overwhelmed by the incredible colour, heat, sound, culture shock of being in a place that was so
different from what I was used to. Once I had got over my jet lag we stared to visit our site every day ( A large privately run garden, once owned by 2 famous American anthropologists who collected over 30 years a huge range of indigenous plants in the centre of the city ) Each day we began the process of researching it’s history and also developing a performance language between us.
Rebecca seemed to know everyone in town so very soon I felt part of a community and each evening I was either eating out, (Mexicans love to eat), or dancing or
teaching a workshop or having a massage and at weekends going to fiesta’s or lagoons or participating in intensive Gestalt therapy trainings. Slowly the performance came together, it became in structure an immersive journey for the audience through the whole garden, where they would hear and see stories
and participate in dancing, drinking tea ( from herbs in the garden ) and creating an alternative language through gesture.
During this time by accident I found myself in a small café /garden near our site one day and discovered a smaller still gallery at the end of it. I ended up having a very long talk with Fernando, an Argentinian who ran it with his Mexican artist wife and we organised a meeting to continue our talk. They have a vision of creating an arts school to involve not only the local population but also the indigenous tribes that surround the city. I told him about the work we had done at Heart of the Tribe in terms of Artists Talks and workshops and education and networking events and invited them to the performance. They both came and where very excited at the potential of site specific work and the interaction between place and history and the spectator. We agreed that it would be great to try and twin up for a network across continents.
Almost all the people I worked with while I was there suggested I stayed, as if there was no problem in that, why not they said it is warm here, you are happy, it’s cheap to live (£250 a month for a beautiful flat in the centre of town.) You could teach and help us set up projects. But I declined,I loved Mexico, it was the most vital and friendly and generous country I have ever been to but is also carrying it’s own demons and ultimately I realise I will always be a European.
I am making a series of short films about this experience and will be showing the first one at Hatch in Langport in an exhibition entitled Shadows and Reflections from March 17 TH to April 2 nd .
A small film about the performance entitled Inexterior will be up in the next month.
Gallery in Mexico called – Enzue, Galeria & Enstudio de arte Garden called –Corazon de jade Museo Jardin
Melanie Thompson February 2023