Winner of the Baloise Art Prize 2010.
Simon Fujiwara is a storyteller. His objects and spatial installations, his performances and artifacts take us into a world where reality and fiction, autobiographical elements and historical events, his own experiences and wider cultural connections are inextricably intertwined. The point of departure for his “Letters from Mexico” were the five letters written by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés between 1519 and 1526, in which he reported to King Charles I of Spain (the future Emperor Charles V) on his military exploits in Mexico.
Simon Fujiwara started writing his own “Letters from Mexico”—very likely not by chance—at exactly the time when Mexico was celebrating 200 years of independence and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Fujiwara’s letters are addressed to Europe and start with the words “dier Europ.” In them he reports on his own experiences and observations as a European tourist in Mexico—a modern-day conqueror—and reflects on the beauty, violence, and poverty he found in that country. Drawing on real and fictitious biographies, the letter-writer fantasizes about a sexual revolution that would unite all the different strata in society.
The three typewritten letters were not typed by Fujiwara himself. He dictated them, between December 2010 and January 2011, to Mexican scribes working in the Plaza de Santo Domingo in Mexico City. However, given that the scribes spoke no English, the letters are purely phonetic transcriptions of the spoken words. As it were “lost in translation,” the letters symbolize the enduring misunderstandings between Mexico and Europe, and the difficulty of finding a common language.
Fujiwara has framed each letter individually with mementos of his journey (photographs, ribbons, and medals) but also with objects that originally came from Europe (sunglasses, coins, and so on). The fabric lining the box frames echoes the colors of the Mexican flag (green, white, and red).
“Letters from Mexico” lay trails and play with allusions, connections, and associations. They invite viewers to engage with the course of colonialism, to reflect on present-day relationships between Europe and Mexico, and—as they do so—not to lose sight of the political power structures and economic dependencies. But there is nothing didactic in this invitation. Conceptual calculation and a love of storytelling come together vibrantly in the work of Simon Fujiwara.