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Héctor Zamora: Memorándum

Martha Raoli

Mujeres Mecanógrafas perform Memorándum, an installation by Héctor Zamora at Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City

FEBRUARY 11-MAY 11, 2017

Children skitter across the museum floor collecting 8.5 x 11-sized pages, hoarding them in their arms. Heads upturned, these boys and girls chase the sheets of paper gliding through the air in irregular side-slip descent. Glancing at a page, they find nothing to read. No ink. No matter. A competition for the blank notes unfolds.

It is the weekend of Zona Maco in Mexico City, and here in the grand salon of Museo Universitario del Chopo, a vast post-minimal basilica, Mexican artist Héctor Zamora has installed a towering multi-level workspace for typists. Slyly mimicking the criss-cross beams of the existent architecture, the provisional scaffolding (steel, institutional) has been mounted around the perimeter of the space for the performance. Desks are set upon these five floors of scaffolding. On the desks, typewriters. I’ve come to El Chopo to hear women type.

The sound of pounding keys creates a symphony of small hands making instruments of their Olivettis, Underwoods, Smith-Coronas, and Royals. A trillion taps of fingers forms a chaos of whirring machines. Ping goes the paper release. Carriages march along until the little bell sings to signal the edge of the paper. The slug of the type hammers, where the shape of the raised reversed letter lands, hits the paper with a slap of cold metal. The ribbon-less center guide vibrates endlessly.

Pages fly off the carriages. I retrieve one. Turning the paper reveals the shadows of pressed text. Name: Maria Solis Martinez. City of birth: Juarez. More details follow, writing an invisible autobiography.

I happen to be standing next to the artist and learn that these sheets carry answers to a memorandum that travels through the office of this museum’s bureaucratic trail of papers. He points out the machine that belongs to his mother, a secretary for thirty years in Mexico. The other typewriters were loaned by women, like Doña Clara, an elegant lady in her Sunday clothes. She and the artist take turns thanking each other for their participation in the piece. He is the artist, un artista plastico, and she is one of the silent ladies that labored in this country’s institutions in the service of men.

The artist says this is a protest for the women who have worked, and continue to work, for the profit of men. Women like Claudia Lopez, age 62, who sits at the uppermost level of the five story scaffold with a harness around her waist. In America, I say, some people believe that type-writers liberated women from the home. The pages fall like rain. The typing sounds like rain. I can’t make out the names or the stories. I pick up a sheet from the floor and wonder if it belongs to Claudia.

Martha Raoli is an artist and writer based in Miami.