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Between Utopia and Failure
Sofía Olascoaga (2012 Grant Recipient)

Sofía Olascoaga, La Comunidad, 2012. Courtesy of Sofía Olascoaga.

Between Utopia and Failure assesses the productive tension between utopia and failure of intentional community models developed in Mexico in past decades.

The project integrates a personal exploration of the experience of growing up in an intentional community in Cuernavaca—started by Olascoaga’s family, along with other families, in 1982 and ended in 1987—in dialogue with similar initiatives developed also in Cuernavaca, which resonate in the collective memory. The research addresses the ideas posed by Ivan Illich at CIDOC, and the influential role this model has played in the practice of many Mexican and international thinkers and artists.

Illich, an Austrian philosopher, founded CIDOC in 1961, an intellectual center where activists and academics from different parts of the world gathered to take part in active discussions: Erich Fromm, Paulo Freire, Peter Berger, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, Everett Reiman, Jimmie Durham, Darcy Ribeiro, among many others, interested in the radical critiques of modern society, the notion of progress and the role of institutions, addressed by Illich’s seminars and publications. CIDOC’s critical activity generated proposals on education, the distribution of energy and resources, work, health, that sought to abolish the cycles of dependency in the types of relationships generated by institutions through the management of these services in society. Olascoaga’s research will focus on the model for collective discussion and lines of inquiry generated at CIDOC as a reference for knowledge exchange and collective thinking.

Tracing an Affective Genealogy

Olascoaga’s research proposal includes interviews, encounters, sustained conversations and exchanges with protagonists who are still active and whose experience resonates with CIDOC’s legacy and affective political memory. Through ongoing dialogues, Olascoaga will delve into the current relevance, along with the influence this experience has had in following generations; not as a historical research of a particular period, but as a map of an unregistered genealogy tracing experiential accounts of 50 years of social movements, notions of community and autonomous experiences in Mexico. Moreover, it approaches the questions and experiences posed by their initiatives as a way to respond to Mexico’s disrupted present.

Sofía Olascoaga (b. 1980, Mexico City) works in the intersections of art and education by activating spaces for critical thinking and collective action. Olascoaga was the 2011 Curatorial Research Fellow at Independent Curators International, completed the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2010 and received her BFA from La Esmeralda National School of Fine Arts (MX). She was Clinics Director for SITAC X the International Symposium of Contemporary Art Theory in 2012, and Head of Education at Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil from 2007 to 2010, both in Mexico City.