In the beginning there was not just one but many. Monotheist religions place their own unique god at the start of everything, but the primordial soup where human culture took shape began churning a long time before the ‘Word’ (logos) came to distinguish between the truth and its alternatives.
This is why pantheons in ancient religions are always crowded with plural and ambiguous gods: because also the origins of humans are murky, plural and ambiguous. From this muddy bed, where the baby cannot yet be distinguished from the bathwater, there spring primordial creative energies. Things, not yet completely formed, fluctuate in a state of ‘existential imbalance’ which made them become, and generate, other from themselves.
Ometeotl, the ancient Aztec god who was the creator of everything, fully belongs to this initial stage of humanity. His nature is dual, with a male person, Ometecuhtli, and a female, Omecihuatl; to turn to them, composite expressions must be used, such as “he/she”.
Not because of a problem of translation but because of the impossibility to import the plural narration of the ancient world into the modern concept structure which – though secularised – has been moulded by the monistic stories of Middle East religions.
Mexican art and design are the heirs to the creative flow that springs from the dual figure of Omecihuatl (literally, “mister/miss two”), through the procaryotic multiplication of “imperfect” projects which are the opposite of the Latin idea of per-fectum (“done”, “finished”, “closed”).
Lively Mexican design prefers syncretic objects with an open identity, such as the Miss Susan wooden tray by Cecilia Léon de la Barra which, with restraint, reveals sophisticated visual instability.
It is not by chance that such remote inclinations return at the start of the third millennium. After the long modern development, our ‘reticular’ age provides again the ideal growth medium for a proliferation of open pluralities that not only grow locally but branch out globally.
This can be seen in projects such as the Porin coffee table by studio Mob, or the Mono mirror by Cooperativa Panorámica which, on one side, are in line with the contemporary macro-trend of the elementary disassembly of the object, on the other, bear an idea of destructured and ‘not normalized’ design.
But tracing back all of Mexican creativity to the hot blood of their Aztec origins would be reductive. Also the cultural assimilation process cold-bloodedly imposed by the Conquistadores played a fundamental role in shaping the South-American visual narration.
The unresolved encounter between the chaotic forces of the ancient world (that generate but cannot be controlled) and the general principles of modern world (which regulate but cannot generate) is expressed in projects reflecting refinement but also brutalism, such as the Ambra lamp by David Pompa, where the built rigour of geometrical fragments is combined with the material restlessness of gravelly substances.
Even more explicit is the Binomios del Comité de Proyectos collection (Andrea Flores and Lucía Soto) which, particularly in the coffee table, sets sections of hot magma onto a cold and skeletal bearing structure, to express the contradictory way by means of which culture masters nature: turning it into its opposite.
Such a composite landscape explains the contrast that stems from the co-existence of items such as Gualdras by Caterina Moretti (studio Peca), made with a single block of wood, and a seat of patently functionalist origin such as Cas.bah from the atelier Nomade.
Which, in a series of designs, among which the Luz lamp, plunges the blade even further into the blend between order and chaos, designing items that appear to have been conceived starting from pre-technological technical principles.
Along the same line there is the Nuñez piece by studio Mob that places mystical linear structures on heavy stone bases, custodians of the geological memory of our planet. Islands with a partial order left by the fragmentation of modern rationality, drifting on flows of thick and primordial energy: this is the new Mexican design, now playing its game globally thanks to the topicality of its origins.
While the modern narrative describes the world’s beginning as being by a single god, the story recounted by Aztecs about themselves is exactly the opposite, calling themselves “people of the sun” (the Aztec word “mexxica” seems to refer to the sun) since they were in charge of postponing the end of the universe every 52 years, with ceremonies that also included human sacrifices.
If, after finishing this rite, at the dawn of the fifty-third year the sun rose again, it meant that a sufficient quantity of life had been offered to the gods, to placate the destructive/creative threat that always loomed over, and nourished, human culture on earth
Article Stefano Caggiano