HEART OF GOLD
27-05-2008 / 19-07-2008
Heart of Gold is Félix Curto’s third solo show at La Fábrica Galería. Organised as part of the Off Festival of PHotoEspaña 2008, the exhibition features ten photographs taken by the artist on recent visits to the Mennonite communities in America. “This project on the Mennonite community is like my own soundtrack, but in images. Yes, there is still something pure, wild and genuine that is not virtual and that touches human sensibilities.” (Félix Curto). Since Félix Curto (Salamanca, 1967) moved to Mexico in 1997, the idea of travel as an initiation experience, and the way memory reformulates that experience, have been central themes in his work. Using either the medium of photography or collected objects, Curto explores the poetic and nostalgic aspects of a recent past. The Mennonite communities in America work the land and lead simple lives, with no cars, electricity or any other modern conveniences. All of this is an expression of their understanding of the Christian faith, and they guard their privacy extremely jealously, totally isolated from the outside world. Currently, there are Mennonite communities in 82 countries, with over a million and a half members. The members of this community are, as the artist says, “good people, united by a strong spirituality that is never mentioned and yet is perceived at all times. Life in the community turns mutual respect and assistance into something that is completely normal, routine. They are reserved men and women, but if they empathise with you they will open their hearts to you.” The atmosphere in the Mennonite communities, not unlike that of a Western film, is pervaded by the philosophy of non-violence. Once again, Curto shows us that his trips are not simply a case of the post-global nomadic artist travelling from one place to another, eager to accumulate miles for a frequent-traveller programme, a collector of miniature hotels. In his previous projects, Curto has dealt with the intensity of physical travel and its repercussions, equally or more intense in the imagination: the intensity of that moment in time when a chord, a vision, the very act of driving along a remote road, transports us to a different place and confronts us with a revelation. Heart of Gold features a series of photographs taken by the artist on his visits to Mennonite communities in America. Last year, one of the portraits from this series won the 2nd Pilar Citoler International Contemporary Photography Prize. The Mennonites in Mexico The Mennonite community was recently portrayed by the film director Carlos Reygadas in his film Luz silenciosa [Silent Light], which used the medium of fiction to provide an insight into life in a Mennonite community in Mexico. The history of the Mennonite community dates back to the 16th century and the emergence in Switzerland of Anabaptism, a Protestant trend based on the principle that baptism is for adults who choose to be baptised of their own free will. Menno Simons (1496-1561), a Dutchman from Friesland, codified the doctrine by incorporating it into a radical concept of pacifism. Those who followed his path were mercilessly persecuted for their anti-militarism and fled from Holland to Prussia, and then on to the Russia of Catherine the Great. Europe’s incessant need to make war caused a vast majority to emigrate to Canada, where they were accepted in 1873, and to the United States, where Mennonite and Amish communities had existed since 1683. Following the First World War, the anti-German feeling in Canada became stronger and the teaching of Germanic languages entered a crisis, leading in 1922 to the emigration of numerous Mennonites to the north of Mexico. Nowadays, close on 100,000 Mennonites live in Mexico, where they have their own education system and a special regime of civil liberties. Those who are in disagreement with material development emigrate to Bolivia, Belize and other parts of Mexico, where they establish traditional farming communities without electricity, internal combustion engine technology, the telephone and mass forms of communication, maintaining only minimal with the native populations. The Mennonites adopt a variety of positions on material progress. There are some moderate groups who are not opposed to development and more conservative groups who adopt a lifestyle similar to that of the 16th century. The Mennonites speak Plautdietsch, a German dialect from Friesland with similarities to medieval Dutch and Flemish, although those who live in Mexico speak Spanish.