Our souls under your sight are like a little smoke, like mist, rising from the earth (…)
Since his first visit to Mexico City in 2012, Marco Schmitt was very decided to establish a dialogue with urban space through his artwork, as well with the various cultural dynamics that shape this megalopolis. Fascinated with the coexistence of pre-Columbian rites assimilated by the Spanish conquest and updated through indigenous modern and contemporary catholic practices, Schmitt had made his own contribution to Mexican culture when is understood as an unstoppable process of miscegenation, “cultural syncretism” as defined by Latin-American social sciences researchers during the second half of XX century, or multiculturalism as is also known currently.
A tangible example of this is the first character of the video, the shaman Raúl Trejo, who recognizes himself as a member of the Tlahuica community (originally came from the state of Morelos, near to Mexico City) and provides spiritual guidance and help through rites that combine his own indigenous background with catholic traditions to people that consider themselves spiritual but not ascribed to any religion, to members of former catholic congregations or even to those who claim to practice a secular life.
The presence of Mr. Trejo in the Centro Ceremonial Otomí at Temoaya municipality, State of Mexico, is in fact an affirmation of his cultural identity since this architectural complex is one of the results of an alliance made by four indigenous communities to defend their traditions, each of their respective myth creation, and their social organizational dynamics in 1977: The Pact of Matlatzinca Valley. Otomíes, Mazahuas, Tlahuicas, and Matlatzincas who inhabited the State of Mexico promote a political movement for their recognition as indigenous subjects and for the preservation of their languages and cultures. The place, heavily charged of symbolism, is used by Marco Schmitt as a platform to link up new expressions of spirituality and surveillance technologies represented here by a hexacopter.
In Mexico certain shamans are linked to a spirit animal, in the case of Mr. Trejo his nahual is the jaguar. Again intercultural symbolism manifests: The Mexica deity Tezcatlipoca was related to the jaguar (or tepelleyotl) because establishes its lair in caves where sound resonance, a characteristic of its habitat, is related to this god. Tezcatlipoca was also related to certain elements of nature, particularly the windy nights, and it was invoked through the name Youalli Ehécatl. This explains why the priests of this deity play flutes and pipes during its cult ceremonies. Worth noting that Tlahuica culture preceded the rise of the Mexica Empire, and as the latter did often, assimilated the gods and rituals of tribes they conquered.
Tezcatlipoca is a dense mythological construction; it was the major authority among gods in Mexica Pantheon just after Ometéotl, the dual deity that represents the divine creation force. He was renowned for his proclivity to war, the promotion of plagues, and to scare people in the form of a ghost. But he also was responsible for the Creation in collaboration with Quetzalcóatl. In his positive aspects, he was related to healthiness through the form of a young male. He also was a provider of spiritual justice, during his festivities sinners can confess themselves asking for forgiveness. The lawbreakers were devoured by this god using his claws and his tusks that look the same as those the jaguar have.
In Panopticonthera Subobscura I can identify the resurgence of this dark deity, omnipresent, the one who witnesses and understand all human actions, the one that Spanish evangelizers used as a precedent of monotheism among the “savages” of the New World that predestinated them for Catholicism. You can listen to him when the shaman plays his pipe; is present through the endless drone that you can listen all along the video; is incarnated in the costume of the owl-cop while he’s standing in that little concrete pyramid fountain trying to watch over the panopticon block; is on the robe of the artist-priest and over his face while manipulating his crosier to face the hexacopter on the top of Cerro de la Estrella, the Mexica sanctuary in the East side of Mexico City where a new century begins every 52 years with a new fire.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing to me is that Tezcatlipoca also resides on the hexacopter. Since the first Gulf War security and surveillance had become a value that worth the violation of intimacy and dignity. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for war and espionage are becoming a common denominator on military operations all over the Middle East region since 2008. Almost every city has a system of cameras to watch over public spaces and even some hackers use pc cams to kidnap and blackmailing corporations, institutions, and certain people through the web.
Where is the Black Tezcatlipoca, who will provide us justice and generate a new world? Probably as Marco Schmitt had attested he is beyond the sun and we still need priests to reach his benevolence, using high-tech devices in the wild new cities.
Mexico City, November 2013
Irving Dominguez (1976) is a Mexico City-based curator and art critic.
Length: 17 min
Format: HD-Video / Colour
Country / Year
Austria, Germany, Mexico / 2014
Subobscura Films AT
Jaguar Nocturno Indigena Tlahuica
Cop & Howl
José Carlos Velazquez Luna
Marco Schmitt / Georg Tiller
Marco Antonio Pacheco
Aerial Camera Assistant
Jorge A. Gonzales
Joel Abraham Nuno Orozco
International Film Festival, Den Haag, Netherlands
International Film Festival, Braunschweig, Germany
REH-transformer, Berlin “Panopticonthera Subobscura”