a destiempo

What we see is not what is, but the possibility of being1

Andrea Cuevas et. al.2

Andrea Cuevas es editora, escritora e investigadora independiente. Fue jefa editorial del Museo Tamayo y ha colaborado para diversas publicaciones y proyectos sobre arte contemporáneo. Actualmente es candidata a maestra en Historia del arte por la UNAM.

1. When Laura Orozco invited me to think about ESPAC and its place as a space where art appears in multiple dimensions, the crossings and intersections between formats, disciplines, modes of making, modes of seeing, etc. that it has taken in the course of five years came to mind. That is why, pondering about the position of a place such as this within the map of art spaces in Mexico and before an uncertain panorama, surrounded by a pandemia and of more questions than answers, I couldn’t think of anything but to think collectively, with all those who have been a part of this project. If ESPAC is in fact the center and starting point of these lines, the questions that concern us seek to touch our spaces, moments and relationships with art: be it a museum, an artist or spectator, be it a book or the white cube. I think about ESPAC as an unfolding potency, thus I approach it as a platform in its different times (past-present-future) and formats (books, exhibitions, projects) to try to think—or better said, deviate—about what we must assume from now on as art agents.

2.I wrote this text accompanied by the eyes of Gonzalo Chávez Salazar, and by the hands and voices of Fabiola Torres-Alzaga, Claudia Luna, Pablo Luna, Willy Kautz, Esteban King, Verus Varas, Mara Forte, José Luis Sánchez Rull, Sandra Sánchez, Eduardo Núñez, Cristina Torres, Ana Bidart and Eduardo Abaroa. Thanks to all for allowing (us) to think with you.

3. ESPAC’s art collection is composed of more than 700 works of international modern and contemporary art. The names that are cited here are the first and last in the list of artists that alphabetically comprise it.

4. As part of its publication program, ESPAC realized a somewhat unconventional catalogue that reunited essays, stories, fictions, poems, drawings, etc. realized by 49 artists, curators, researchers, editors, among others, that have directly or indirectly with this space throughout its history.

5. Title of the exhibition Una red de líneas que se intersecan (2016), curated by Esteban King.

6. Jan Svankmajer, Decálogo (1999). 

7. Ana Bidart, Una hoja suelta (2019).

In its name you can compile all the letters in the alphabet, from A to Z. From Francis Alÿs to Peter Zimmermann;3 from Vivian Abenshushan to Andrés Zafra.4 Containing them all is not a pretentious ambition for wanting to encompass a universe. It’s trying to enunciate it without grammar or logical propositions. Containing them all is not a totality, but a possibility. If one has the letters or spelling in the tip of one’s hand, lip or body, then one can enunciate.

Enunciating is to the idea what the dot is to the line. Enunciating is also tracing paths, sometimes clumsy and others unprecise.

What leads an art collection to become public is abandoning the limits of permanence and spatiality. Let’s not even speak about the desire to forget its possible passing through the domains of decoration, at least when dealing with a private archive. Where would you place a Melanie Smith, a Chantal Peñalosa or a Mónica Castillo?
It is its collection that has given ESPAC its center and its strength. I suspect that from it the different letters in its alphabet arise and unfold in different directions. I remember a text by Willy Kautz for the publication Enunciados [Sentences] (2019), in which, in an anecdotic tone, he narrates his first encounter with the ESPAC project and its collection: in it he saw a visual potence that could unfold in diverse times, spaces, bodies, thoughts, and in turn, with each other and among all of them.

Collection (sf) = colectio (lat.) = set of things.
Prefix con- (all, together) + lectus (selected) + sufijo -ción (action and effect)

I imagine the works of art in a collection as each of the letters in the alphabet, which can be arranged in multiple ways, from up to down or from left to right, with messy orders or subjective logics, to pronounce an infinity of sentences ready to be estimated. I imagine a collection like a network of lines that intersect5 and that go through space just like a sentence. Jan Svankmajer said it: “Objects, especially the old ones, were witnesses to certain happenings, people’s actions, their fortunes, which somehow marked them. People touched them in different situations, while acting under various emotions, and they imprinted onto them these different mental states.”6

Now that I think about it, sentences, like time, tend to be thought of as a successive becoming. Shouldn’t a phrase or an art collection be unfurled in the opposite direction of linear order?

We try to make objects speak, though sometimes ego wins. We don’t get tired of talking about novelties and their outlook when we try to be while the immediate and the urgency to subsist prevails. At what moment did we see in art the face of salvation. It is doubt, but also sarcasm. Perhaps it is ingenuity. Because here we are, looking in it, even in uncertainty. It is not romanticism, it is a serious question. What to do beyond exhibiting, writing, reading, promoting, researching, educating and publishing? Or better yet: for what?

One of the great benefits of doing from art—just like that, art in general terms—is the sensual, and sometimes the prepotent, liberty of doing it while infringing the margins. Even though the methods and the theories still fight for their survival, we are not hard science. Though perhaps destined to failure, because of that, I allow myself to depart from a collection and a space of art so as to continue divagating around what, for what and how.

     Art (sm) = Ars, artis (lat.) = (ability) + téchnē (gr.) = tecnique 

If there is an analogy between the art collection and the alphabet, it only has place in each letter and in each image’s possibility to construct a world from the gaze and language.

The problem arrives just when what he has at hand seems insufficient, sterile or expired—not to speak of doing when we are submerged in the precarious. But that is another subject. It occurs, I think, when inconsistently —or perhaps very consistently— any manifestation of making vindicates the extremely worn out notions of originality, authenticity, utility and authorship. The yesteryear regimes of the individual and the productive.

For many, me included, there are no novel questions in these lines. I have no proofs, but neither doubts. We crave novelty, that is why we want answers, not countless questions. Concrete answers, not meanderings. Where do we excavate to find fresh roots and know what to do? How do we construct to keep progressing? Progressing? Why don’t we build with those next to us, sideways, from the common?

I have the intuition that we already have the forms and the means. I can’t remember since when has the generation of spontaneity been negated, but it’s time that we surpass it as a method of production. The obsession with immediacy and newness has led to the revindication of a desire for productivity that ends up turning contents into parts of an entertainment industry. I don’t cease to think that now, more than before, that hardheadedness to be present in any way, via a dynamic of production and consumption—in big puffs—that does nothing but tame imagination. If spaces of coexistence and relationships are not generated it’s as sterile to relocate museum or art spaces’ programs to the screen, as has been the custom of hanging a picture on the wall (I wonder what Aby Warburg would do if instead of her huge panels she had screens).

And again the doubts: from where do we grasp impulse, from where do we draw out strength, from where do we imagine futures? We have images and letters… we have the other. As a friend once told me: “works of art don’t revolt themselves.”

Espacio (sm): spatium (lat.) = matter, terrain or time that separates two points.

We also have space. In fact, I think that what little can be done with minimum presence and the maximum lack is to make space, as cliché as it sounds. Not the kind of public space that is seized by a corporatism that carries a well-intentioned flag; nor the one of the white cube, as romanticized as it is stigmatized.

Exposition (sf):  expositio / expositionis (lat.) = act of putting or taking something  
Prefix ex (from an interior to an exterior, from, from) + verb ponere (to put, place, place). In Latin the word expositio has a very specific meaning: it refers to the abandonment of unwanted newborns on public roads, which is taken out (sic.) For others to acquire.

A space or A Loose Page7 to play with images and letters as if throwing a rhombus to the floor until its movement traces the route that the weight and the shape of its body suggest. Sometimes chance brings unsuspected results.

Now screens present themselves as a refuge that projects the illusion of closeness. A seductive space when the encounter with the other and the exterior are adversaries, yet suspicious if it’s thought of from the regulation that assumes a practically obligatory use. I was saying that we have spaces, yes, but it becomes necessary to disarticulate, discompose and disorganize them. Prevent them from becoming hegemonic bodies within these “new normalities.”

What a space does as a force and as a center, be it the public space, the white cube or the screen, is to generate a normativity of relationships. Because of this the power of enunciating, but it must also be done from the body, as an energy to break the great conceptual unities and defy the passive dynamics so liked by the social systems that rule our every day and what is outside.

It is not that hard to think about these normative scenarios from an artistic standpoint. We are so used to the formats of the academia, the museum, the institution, the spectator and to those of making and proposing from conventional roles that, in the midst of a crisis as unpredictable as the one we are currently going through, it is hard for imagination to distance itself from the security offered by the regulatory unit.

If the path that we already know augurs a journey that will culminate in a dead end, why not bet for discontinuities? Perhaps that is why we have words and images, not as a tool of mediation to apprehend the world, but as a way of disarticulating and (re)forming it.

I should have probably warned that I would most likely not get to any healing truth or conclusion. Maybe it is for the best, I wouldn’t want to have a formula. As much as I search and read in others their proposals to imagine other modes of making shows, publications, educational programs, etc., I cannot find a clear path. I just know that we still have words and images.

And if it’s with words and images that we can enunciate to defy spatialities and permanencies, so then, may those sentences serve to imagine a redistribution of making, of the functions of spaces and the roles that we have, until now, occupied as art agents. May those sentences show (us) the possibilities of being.


The subtitle, the epigraph, as well as all the quotes located at the center of the page within the body of the general text, were “copy-pasted” from some of the editorial projects that ESPAC has published in its five years of history. The ideas correspond to the following authors, in order of apparition:

Fabiola Torres-Alzaga, «What we see is not what is» in Impresiones del tiempo [Impressions of Time], 2018; Claudia Luna and Pablo Luna, «La piedra vista desde la Geología» in La piedra perfecta [The Perfect Stone], (2020); Willy Kautz, «Del ars combinandi al ars enunciandi» in Enunciados [Sentences], 2019.Verus Varas, «Piedra» in La piedra perfecta [The Perfect Stone], 2020; Mara Fortes, «Materia oscura del cine» in Impresiones del tiempo [Impressions of Time], 2018; Eduardo Núñez, «¿Quién tiene la necesidad de lanzar una piedra?» in La piedra perfecta [The Perfect Stone], 2020; José Luis Sánchez Rull, Katastrofe Pruffs, 2019; Willy Kautz, «El cordón umbilical retiniano» en El cordón umbilical retiniano [The Retinal Umbilical Cord], 2018; Sandra Sánchez, «bla bla bla: el cuarto de los ojos sucios» in El cordón umbilical retiniano [The Retinal Umbilical Cord], 2018; Cristina Torres, «Inter/medio» en Inter/medio [Inter/media], 2020; Eduardo Abaroa, «Una transfusión pictórica en el arte de los noventa» in Post neo mexicanismos, 2016;  Fabiola Torres-Alzaga and Mara Fortes Acosta, Historias de la noche, 2019.