Latin America

Edgardo Aragón
Soul of Mexico

In the agricultural areas of Mexico, Indigenous people use the mylar magnetic tape unspooled from VHS cassettes as an alternative to the scarecrow—the reflective tape flutters in the wind and does an excellent job scaring birds away from crops. This kind of creative reuse of materials (overproduced and devalued) that flow through the global trade of consumer goods, is especially rich in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. In 2020, during a period of isolation due to Covid-19, Edgardo Aragón unspooled a VHS tape and installed it in his father’s crop of corn for six months. In selecting which video to unspool, Aragón chose “Soul of Mexico”—one of many films produced by the Mexican government as propaganda, to concretize a Eurocentric mythology of Mexico that willfully ignores the presence of Indigenous people, their cultures, and their roles in history.

In a contemporary twist on structural filmmaking, Aragón’s Soul of Mexico both ruins a propaganda film, and through a performative act of patience and material transformation captures the (real) soul of Mexico: its corn, its land, its dirt, its wind. After six months in the field, Aragón respooled and digitized the results, presented as a two-channel film, both to de-emphasize the recognizable content (and its harmful narrative) and as an act of time-compression. The video is projected onto a luminous white glass, the surface blurring with the characteristic horizontal lines that cut through the VHS image. This erosion is a symbolic and aesthetic act of destruction of the visual history of white supremacy, domination, and privilege.

Edgardo Aragón’s works employ reenactment to reflect the everyday reality of rural Mexico. Using narratives inspired by the particularities of their respective local contexts, Aragón evokes events—some with very violent undertones—and shapes them into scenes molded by landscapes. His work also addresses points of familial and social inheritance that are conditioned by the local environment, creating a personal body of work recounted through poetic narratives. Each piece is a story slowly told—a description of a memory or a reconstruction of a personal experience—that shows some of the darker sides of Mexico’s social and economic realities.