La Tallera Siqueiros
Frida Escobedo Lopez
Frida Escobedo Lopez
Fernando Cabrera (team: junior architect / construction supervision), Adiranne Montemayor (design team: junior architect), Adrian Moreau (design team: junior architect), Rodolfo Díaz Cervantes (Consultant during conceptual proposal phase)
Taiyana Pimentel (Director)
This project aims to recover the cultural role of the live-work space of Mexican muralist and political activist David Alfaro Siqueiros by turning it into an active museum, workshop, artist residency and meeting point for the production and criticism of art. Within this context, Escobedo’s design for La Tallera responds to the government’s retrospective agenda, while also providing a space devoid of the stigmas of a government–funded project. Siqueiros, a radical revolutionary throughout his life, often faced charges for his overtly outspoken left-leaning political messages. Escobedo’s message, on the other hand, portrays the audacity of a theatre actor—one who disguises himself only momentarily to portray a character. La Tallera showcases a masterful sociopolitical and architectural juggle; a well-played act that exhibits a need to look inward, only to provide a genuinely autonomous space for reinvention from within. It masks itself as modern to become contemporary. Within its shell, La Tallera´s programme incorporates an artistic residency and an archive space where his work will be made available for research. The most “outspoken” element in the “subtle” proposal is the decision to reconfigure the two murals—which were originally displayed and viewed in full from the building’s indoor patio, giving only glimpses from the street—and position them to face outwards towards a neighboring square. To do so, Escobedo took down a perimetral wall, making the private patio public and extending the square’s dimensions. The angular direction they now have is a public invitation to access La Tallera.
At first glance, La Tallera Siqueiros seems like a tribute to the country’s past. The raw, concrete block screen facade that masks its interior could be read as a salute to the distinct language of government-funded Mexican modernism—an architectural style that’s deeply rooted in the country’s collective imaginary. It could come across as a safe intervention meant to reiterate the ideals of the country’s revolutionary past through its apparent “Mexican design”. But there is something much more complex behind the building´s “contextual” veil. What the new Tallera Siqueiros really represents is a transitional period in the production of contemporary Mexican culture; a new working strategy that is representative of a new generation of practitioners who disguise themselves in attempt to radically break out of a legacy that no longer represents them. “We look at our past to move forward” said Consuelo Sáizar, the spearhead of Mexico’s cultural government branch, during a press conference that announced the outgoing administration’s accomplishments in the matter of culture. And while her statement might be wholehearted, when addressing state-funded culture in Mexico, things just don’t seem to move forward. In the contrary, there is something about Mexico’s complex cultural landscape that cannot move beyond the memory of its thriving golden years of artistic vanguard. In a country where culture is primarily state-funded, the result tends to represent the government’s idea of art, rather than a genuinely progressive approach to it.
Through the use of rudimentary materials, Escobedo´s La Tallera appears contextual and inviting to the modernist-trained local audience. By leaving the skeleton of the existing building—which encompasses the main exhibition venue—in with and using only exposed concrete for the new part, the project shows the remnants of the old workshop, which serve as a visual reference to the added space. Moreover, the project recuperates Siqueiros´s innovative mural-making technology—comprised of a pit and pulley system –not to celebrate it as a museum piece, but to offer it for use today. In a country that is haunted by the unrealized ideals of its modernist past, where revolutionary messages tend to be co-opted by political parties, the new cultural producers must be able to disguise themselves and cope with this condition to a point that seems almost conservative. As Octavio Paz says in his incisive essay “Mexican Masks”: Dissimulation requires greater subtlety: the person who dissimulates is not counterfeiting but attempting to become invisible, to pass unnoticed without renouncing his idivuduality”. This is not an easy task, but Frida Escobedo´s new, masked Tallera provides a framework for an autonomous laboratory where experiments to articulate the voice of a new generation of cultural producers and take place.\