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Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist who over two decades has produced a body of work known for its insertion into the social through appropriation of a wide variety of communication formats. In Quodlibet (Bellas Artes), Helguera takes on the history of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico’s foremost exhibition and performing arts center. Opened in 1934 after decades of construction and reflecting a variety of styles as a result of the hiatus created by the Mexican Revolution, the Palacio is a site charged with a complex past, having served as a stage for the most prominent figures of Mexican as well as international art. Helguera’s exhibition, a result of extensive research of Bellas Artes archives, includes the incorporation of objects from the theater’s little known and yet vast warehouses of opera, dance and theater, housing objects from decades of past productions.
Incorporating musical composition formats, scriptwriting, and narrative pedagogical approaches into the gallery space, Helguera has made a deliberately tendentious selection of several known and obscure anecdotes of this site, and has made a narrative patchwork of them through the works in the show. Known in the art world for his contributions to the sociology of art through artworks and writings, Helguera usually describes his work as often following a script, either visible or implicit. The term quodlibet, which refers to a musical composition that takes form with various melodies, alludes to the idea that, in the words of the artist, "the construction of a nation’s cultural identity is dependent of physical stages where to enact it, and this process, always complex and prone to accidents, is made as much through canonization of artists and works as through misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and omissions, thus building a selective history that, before we know it, becomes official." Quodlibet functions as an exercise in composition, mixing elements from official and personal histories, as an interpretive project that uses this building not only as a container but as performer of its own history.
Pablo Helguera (Mexico City, 1971) creates work that focuses on history, pedagogy, sociolinguistics and anthropology in formats such as lectures, museum displays, performance and written fiction. His project The School of Panamerican Unrest, a nomadic think-tank, physically crossed the continent by car from Anchorage to Tierra del Fuego. He has exhibited widely internationally and has been recipient of the Guggenheim and Franklin Furnace Fellowships and the Creative Capital grant. He was the first recipient of the International Award of Participatory Art of the Emilia Romagna Region in Italy. He is the author of several books including The Pablo Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style, <emphasize>Theatrum Anatomicum</emphasize> (and other performance lectures), <emphasize>What in the World</emphasize>, and most recently <emphasize>Education for Socially Engaged Art</emphasize>, a primer for social practice.
The Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) embraces priorities such as the promotion of arts, art education and research as well as the preservation and conservation of artwork and buildings of the Mexican artistic heritage from the 20th Century onward. INBA is responsible for 15 museums throughout Mexico City, such as The Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, located at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which is a landmark in the heart of Mexico City and houses masterworks of muralists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo among others. It is also devoted to presenting national and international exhibitions.