Project: La Alquimia de los Sueños

An Unintended Turn

Our ears perked at the idea of counterfeit caviar. Art historian and curator Tere Arcq told Wendi, Julio, and me a story about Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington. In the 1940s in Mexico City, Varo and Carrington were friendly with the Russian Consulate and were expecting members of the delegation for dinner. The mischievous artists served tapioca colored with squid ink as caviar to their unsuspecting Russian guests.

Sitting for a Dream

Dr. Ignacio Chávez of Mexico City was troubled by only a handful of things.

He did not like the bureaucracy at the hospital, where as Director of Cardiology he all too often observed paperwork and politics clogging the institution’s arteries.

He did not like it if his lunch or dinner was tepid in temperature when delivered to his office.

And, most of all, he did not like disappointing his daughter.

All three of these things had now occurred. Dr. Chávez had been overwhelmed by the documentation necessitated by the planned installation of a skylight in the hallway to the children’s ward. He ruminated in his office without any fear of his dinner going cold, because it had arrived cold. And by working late, he had ensured that he would not make it to his daughter’s art opening that evening at Galerías Diana.

Dancing at Gunpoint: Surrealism and Revolution in Mexico

The arrival in Mexico of Spanish exiles such as the artist Remedios Varo amid the context of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and World War II (1939-1945) was a stimulus to Mexico’s economic and cultural development. Mexico was politically positioned to support these exiles due to President Lázaro Cardenas’ (1934-1940) progressive policies, which were based on the ideals of the Mexican Revolution. That framework built on the country’s connection to Spain without necessarily bypassing the history of colonization (we can’t deny our Iberian heritage); it speaks to what Roberto Fernández Retamar describes as “the other Spain,” not the clerical and ultra-reactionary one, but the one of 16th-century figure Bartolomé de las Casas and the 20th-century fight for the Spanish Republic[1]. It’s simply mistaken to assume a single totality for a nation as linguistically and ethnically diverse as Spain, what with its Indo-European and North African roots. The era of Varo’s arrival enjoyed a shared vision of revolution and social change, a vision aligned to global political and social movements outside the imperialism of the West

The Spell of Fashion

It was one of those Bay Area days when you can just breathe in the fog, when there is a beautiful film, a nostalgic haze, covering everything. Peonies had just started appearing at the florists, and I was debating whether to spend the last three dollars in my pocket on a single flower or on a latte. Then I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder. There was a much older man standing next to me. “Buenos dias,” I said. He took my right hand and placed it between both of his, and then he looked at me with his blue eyes. They were leathery and moist. In almost a whisper he said, “Thank you for taking the time to dress up. You are a beautiful gift. From now on, for the rest of the day, I will only see beauty. I’m under a spell.”

The Sound of Dreams

Guillermo Galindo is a Mexico-born, San Francisco–based musician, sound artist, and educator. His work ranges from solo performance to orchestral endeavors, from originally designed instruments to fully immersive installations, from improvisation to sound design. For La Alquimia de los Sueños he pondered the interest that Remedios Varo had in resonance for resonance’ sake. This led him to, among other things, develop a system to turn the hall in which the event takes place into something akin to a single, over-sized speaker cabinet. An adjunct professor at the California College of Arts, he spoke in advance of La Alquimia de los Sueños about the influence of Varo and the surrealists on his work, about the manner in which water can be imbued with special energies, and about the role of sound in dreams.

The Omnipotence of Dreams

“One night, a strange being entered through the window and threw itself on top of me; it was like the devil. I resisted, but his heat was immense. The following day and without [my] having said anything, at the table my grandmother said to me, ‘Remedios, what has happened to you? Your hair is burned.’”