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Wielding Instruments Like Weapons, a Marching Band Sweeps Through Mexico City

July 27, 2017

For more than two years, artist Erick Meyenberg worked with members of a Mexico City high school marching band to produce a performance that would sweep through some of the city’s most politically charged public sites. The result, The wheel bears no resemblance to a leg, is documented in an ominous 16-minute video, slickly edited to reflect on modern Mexican society as a machine powered by the mechanisms of the state.

Produced during a residency at inSite/Casa Gallina, the film is the centerpiece of Meyenberg’s eponymous solo exhibition currently on view at Americas Society’s Visual Arts Gallery, curated by Gabriela Rangel and Lucía Sanromán. Its name references a section of the prologue to Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1903 surrealist play, Les mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresais), which occurs in an imaginary city ruined by war. Also on view are archival materials that were part of the project’s making as well as the band director’s painted trumpet and helmet, perched beneath a mural of a Paris map inspired by an illustration from the 1919 publication La Fin du monde, filmée par l’ange de N.-D. At the exhibition’s entrance, four flags Meyenberg designed bow to each other, each inspired by Francis Picabia and pointedly featuring cogs. 

But it’s the video that’s the most arresting, unfolding on three hanging screens that surround the viewer in a triangle-like pen. In it, the marching band, Banda de Guerra Lobos, performs in front of the towering Monumento a la Revolución, which commemorates the Mexican Revolution; its members toot horns on the the Plasa de Tlatelolco, which witnessed the 1968 massacre of hundreds of striking students by military and police; the group rides escalators and swarms the balconies of large Forum Buenavista shopping center, a shiny product of a capitalist machine. As they march — with the camera focusing on individuals’ deliberate strides and precisely choreographed about-faces and hand gestures — orchestral sounds play out of sync with the footage, swelling from the hushed chaos of instruments tuning to a sharp, baroque composition that steadily crescendos...

Read the full review here.