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The resurgence of Ulises Carrion

April 14, 2014

A couple of weeks ago Tumbona Ediciones officially presented El arte correo y el Gran Monstruo (Mail Art and the Big Monster) and Lilia Prado Superestrella (Lilia Prado Superstar), both books are –along with El arte nuevo de hacer libros (The New Art of Making Books)-, the complement of the series dedicated to rescue, rediscover and put into the Spanish-speaking terms the influential and still unknown Ulises Carrion essays.










The importance of having access to the writings of this founder of Other Books and So –Amsterdam based library and forum for artists and model for a generation of young artists, curators, publishers and designers- and “post-Mexican, post-literary, post-book, post-art” artist, as defined by Heriberto Yepez in his magnificent introductory text, lies in the Carrion’s ambitious cultural project as an unexplored territory. It’s about not only a coming back, but the stellar first appearance of this Mexican writer who at the moment when he was about to be canonized, jumped out to the margins becoming a rare specimen immersed in his own ostracism.




Carrion (Veracruz, 1941- Amsterdam, 1989) is intriguing for those who believe in avant-garde as a form of cultural subversion as well as in art transversely.  He reflected on mail art at the time when it was the belly of the international artistic activity, and was the responsible for creating a network where collaboration, exchange and political participation were the basis for a new cultural environment.




This is not the first attempt to come back to Carrion. Because his contemporary relevance goes beyond a single discipline and can be understood as of all his own definitions, renunciations and charming contradictions, some researchers, curators and different publishers have taken up his work at different times and in different ways.


For example, the recently opened Abject matter: resonances and obstructions around Rodolfo Nieto, an exhibition in the Carrillo Gil Contemporary Art Museum, is a conversation between Oaxacan artist work and national contemporary artists –Carrion included- about drawing mechanisms and line and paper’s role such as creative generators.




Also The Vostell Malpartida Museum hosts -until next 4th May- the exhibition Writings in Freedom. Experimental Spanish and Latin American Poetry in the 20th Century which presents for the first time the experimental works of visual poetry artists offering the opportunity to explore the plastic nature of words and a literature where word and image are together in new and startling realities. Among other artists, Edgardo A. Vigo, Clemente Padin, Guillermo Deisler aJuan Hidalgo, Fernando Millan, Joan Brossa, Francisco Pino, Juan Eduardo Cirlot, Jose Miguel Ullan and of course, Ulises Carrion, are part of this  journey through a century of creation.




Through artist’s books or visual poetry, periodicals, film and video works, art with rubber stamps or conceptual and playful proposals, the latest avant-garde of the twentieth century had the ephemeral and changing network of mail art as a compass, always challenging national institutions and questioning artistic conventions.


The resurgence of Carrion is an opportunity to peek in many windows and to hear the call to re-read and create from new concepts, to enjoy yourself the new ways of living intensely the culture. But finally, the return of this writer, promoter of the constant renewal of cultural strategies, lover of language and gossip, is an invitation to keep thinking.


In the old art you write ‘I love you’ thinking that this phrase means ‘I love you’.

(But: what does ‘I love you’ mean?)

In the new art you write ‘I love you’ being aware that we don’t know what this means.

You write this phrase as part of a text wherein to write ‘I hate you’ would come to the same thing.

The important thing is, that this phrase, ‘I love you’ or ‘I hate you’, performs a certain function as a text within the structure of the book,


In the new art you don’t love anybody.

The old art claims to love.

In art you can love nobody. Only in real life can you love someone.


Not that the new art lacks passions.

All of it is blood flowing out of the wound that language has inflicted on men. 

And it is also the joy of being able to express something with everything, with any thing, with almost nothing, with nothing.

“Structures” (fragment), in The New Art of Making Books

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