Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Sky piracy is glamorous, but they don’t tell you about the zep-lag

Penned upon the 26th of November, 2009

Hello, my swells! The little string which tethers my mind to my body like a hot-air balloon in the Roaring Forties has finally been reeled in – that is to say, I’ve recovered enough from flying across half the world to rub two sentences together, so here’s the continuing account of our Mexican journeys!

Now, I left you at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where we saw a very clever exhibition and, as it happens, got scammed by an aggressive shoe-shiner. Really aggressive – BOOM! Shoes shined, out of an orange-coloured sky. But, putting shoes behind us – beating feet, you could say – the next contributor to what doctors would later term “the most severe case of museum fatigue ever recorded by modern medicine” was the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, Frida and Diego’s house and working space in the flashy San Ã�ngel district. I say house, but this is the famous pair of houses connected by a dizzyingly high bridge. Unfortunately, it seems we visited on an off day – much of the building, including the entire Frida side, was closed.

Still, you’ll never get anywhere if you let a little disappointment disappoint you. While there was still much to see at the Studio – including Diego’s death mask, and Bony Joe here – our next destination was much more promising: Chapultepec Park, home of at least four major museums, two memorials and a zoo. And that’s just in the corner we walked through. In particular, we were interested in the Museum of Modern Art, and a fascinating visit it turned out to be. Set in layered wings around a central domed area, it hosted multiple themed exhibits at once – some from the permanent collection, ordered by period; some focussing on a particular artist or social issue. I was particularly struck by both the selection from the permanent collection’s paintings and the poetic exploration of the work of Surrealist painter Remedios Varo. Also, if you’ll permit me to speak, not as an appreciator of art history and curatorial practices, but as a giggling fanboy – we saw The Two Fridas, we saw The Two Fridas!

Next on our plan had been Teotihuacan, the World Heritage-listed pyramid site, but we took a last-minute rain check on that one in favour of another archaeological site, the Templo Mayor. The Templo has fascinated me since I first heard of it – an Aztec pyramid, buried by the emerging Spanish city after conquest, and not rediscovered proper until the late seventies – mere paces from the Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral, in the heart of the CBD. The site holds both the dig itself and a surprisingly extensive museum – several layers, including multi-layered displays – and the breadth and depth of study was thought-provoking, to say the least.

I’m a sucker for all kinds of history, but two lines of inquiry struck me in particular – first, the social elements, the marking out of the parts of the site used for particular practices, and their accompanying furnishings; second, the chemical analyses, identifying from centuries-old, long-buried traces where plants were brought and burned, where blood was ritually spilled, where was painted and in which colours. The volume of artifacts on display was staggering – tools, statuary, daily sundries, and naturally, remains. I wonder if archaeologists ever get used to uncovering corpses – does the professional dedication to uncovering and maintaining a site override the reaction of “OH my LORD someone was MURDERED HERE”?

There’s more still to tell – about our crossing of the border to the north, and of the generosity and kindness of our hosts there – but I have a serious case of the yawns and, not wishing to delay this post any longer, shall leave you with this much, and complete the triptych e’er too long!


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Commentary upon “Sky piracy is glamorous, but they don’t tell you about the zep-lag”

  1. Melanthios was heard to remark,

    Upon the 26th of November, 2009 at 4:44 am,

    I wonder if archaeologists ever get used to uncovering corpses – does the professional dedication to uncovering and maintaining a site override the reaction of “OH my LORD someone was MURDERED HERE�?

    You want I should ask my archaeologist friend?


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