Gossip is undoubtedly universal but in Mexico gossip – chisme – seems to exert an influence that distinguishes it from other international art centers. Mexican artist Ulises Carrión has described it thus: “Gossip can be used as a scientific model for artificial chains of communication which will reveal something about the chain’s users and something about the chain itself.” If we consider the chain of gossip in Mexico’s artworld, what we find is that more than mere efficiency and proliferation, our informal networks of information provide the primary method of our criticism. I spoke with several leading artworld figures in Mexico on chisme‘s unique influence and effect.
Mexico City’s shallow bench of culturati seems to require that the dynamic be, according to an interview with Chris Sharp, curator and co-founder of the capital’s alternative exhibition space Lulu, “simultaneously polite and secretive; [we are] allergic to real confrontation.” Gossip moves differently in Mexico because in such a small and concentrated community no one feels they can afford to offend.
This past July a new online arts criticism project, Blog de Crítica, published an essay titled “El fantasma de la crítica en México” (“The Ghost of Critique in Mexico”). In the text Óscar Benassini interviews twelve Mexican artists, curators, and critics about the state of critical writing in Mexico. The general consensus is that the deficiency of Mexican art criticism stems from a chicken-or-egg dilemma: there’s very little critique in Mexico because there are few readers of art criticism, therefore few publications to sustain critical writing (much less the writers). The second and no ness important point they make is that there are very few critics of contemporary art who are only critics. Most critics are also curators, artists, or both, so that their writing is colored by the suspicion that someone is benefitting from their criticism, or that they’re holding their punches.