In May 2018, Mario García Torres invited 14 friends to a beach house in Puerto Escondido, a resort town in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Offered little explanation, Walker curator Vincenzo de Bellis, Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi, musician Ernesto Adrian Garcia (aka Neto), and others agreed to meet Torres for a long weekend. Fueled by sun, surf, and mescal, the group learned that their task was to be photographed, the captured images to be transformed into 3D holograms to populate the augmented reality app accompanying Mario García Torres: Illusion Brought Me Here. The message is clear: Torres wants these people—his friends and collaborators, influences and inspirations—to be present in the exhibition itself, testament that the solo exhibition was really a group show, of sorts. Among them was Eduardo Donjuan, a screenwriter, producer, and sometimes comedian, who shares his diary of his days in Puerto Escondido.
In May of 2018 I received an email from Mario García Torres’s assistant asking if I could take a few days off to get out of the city. It said something like: it will be a short trip to celebrate collaboration and friendship in Mario’s career. I immediately said yes, not just because I feel great respect and affection for Mario, but also because it is hard to say no to a free vacation. The last words of the email: “All expenses will be covered.”
That’s how everything started, and the story is simple. Mario, the artist, finds the spot: a beautiful place on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Then he transforms himself into a curator and selects a group of people he has collaborated with on different exhibitions. Together, he and I wrote a monologue about a man and his turtle and presented it at his gallery in Berlin earlier this year. I really think Mario is the only person who would encourage and help me to write about a retired math professor, Achilles, who decided to accept his luck, stopped trying to reach the turtle, and let poetry save his life. The gallery found a great Austrian actor to perform the piece, and it was a great sensation for me to see all this nonsense come to life in a very professional way.
As the day of the trip nears, Mario’s studio sends a plane ticket to all participants. We all fly together. We have no clue of why we are doing this, but we all agreed to this trip with no hesitation.
We land at the Puerto Escondido airport, get off the plane, and walk across the landing strip. I love to go down the stairs and step directly onto the tarmac; I think it’s very cinematic. Airports in small cities look like they are not real. They have this feeling of something made only to fulfill the idea of an airport, like a movie set that makes us think we are in an airport when it really is just an illusion.
Mario was waiting for us with mescal. The house at the beach is grandiose, a Tadao Ando design made to host artists and let them think freely. Ironically, it is full of bad art. But what is good art? Maybe another illusion. The first day I drink mescal nonstop and meet other attendees I don’t already know. A small guy makes a good impression on me: he says he is a musician. He seems full of life, one of those people who just seem so comfortable on the earth, happy in a natural way, without posturing. I like people like that, because I do not get why I am here—I mean on the earth—or what I want. Sometimes I really do not know if I want to keep trying—I mean in life. I also meet two curators, the nerd-style curators who read poetry and talk about TV shows—so that was good for me. The group is eclectic: a talented woman composer; a well-known sculptor from Peru; a gallerist from Monterrey; Vicente, the cinematographer; another musician whose nickname is Catsup (Mexican for ketchup, he obviously has red hair). They all look like Mario’s collaborators, smart but not pretentious.
That night I get drunk and play all the classics: Héctor Lavoe, Ray Barretto, the TNT Band… I make a fool of myself, screaming some salsa stories out loud, but everybody is patient with me. At the end of the night, I go to my room and get into bed, keeping one foot on the floor. I hear the horrible noises of nature, which makes me think about Humboldt: I saw him crossing the Orinoco River and the Llanos, then walking through the Andes followed by the mules, stopping every mile to measure with a cyanometer how blue the sky was. Thinking about Humboldt reassures me, that and soccer replays. I wake up anxious, my head filled with last night’s mescal and images of the Colombian team’s match against England in the World Cup. Everybody else is enjoying the beautiful landscape, and I prefer to be inside a non-view room watching the match preview. What can I say? I like Humboldt and soccer.
I leave the TV room with the all-too-normal taste of a Colombian defeat. I’ve always been curious what it would be like to grow up in a winner society. I meet the rest of the guests in the dining room; Mario is finally going to explain the reason for all this. He starts telling us about his exhibition at the Walker Art Center. I think: maybe it’s going to be his most important ever. (I have this natural need to think, “Oh, that’s the most important ever.”) Anyway, he says he thinks we were relevant during his process of becoming an artist, so he wants us to be in the show. When he says that, I think—I don’t know why—of all of us posing naked for him and hating the idea. Of course, we don’t pose naked, but they take some pictures and video of us in front of a white backdrop. Mario asks me to act like I normally do; he says something like, “Be that anxious maniac who talks about everyday life paradoxes while pulling his hair.” I do it.
We’re going to be a hologram and part of a piece at the Walker.
After the hard work of posing at being ourselves we enjoy the sunset and drink more mescal. Aram and Vinny, the curators, and I talk about a story I’m writing for a possible TV series. I like the way curators enjoy the process of fiction. It seems they would love to get into the realm of fantasy because art is so serious lately.
Eventually, we all get into the swimming pool, and Mario asks me to tell some jokes, and I make a fool of myself again doing my routine about paradoxes: “You know, I had this math professor, Albino Negrete. How can an albino can be Negrete? That’s paradoxical, to say the least. It’s like this Mexican soccer player, Cuauhtémoc Blanco! Cuauhtémoc can not be Blanco!” Neto, the musician, finds that joke funny.
Everything ends in a beautiful supper in the nice hotel close to the house. We are a family already. We’re confident enough to talk about dreams, politics, gastronomy, and sex.
On the last day, we leave the town feeling nostalgic, knowing that we’ll be part of something special, an art show.
Some months after that trip my sister calls to tell me that Neto was hit by a truck when going home on his motorcycle. He died.
The death of these kinds of people are always paradoxical to me. Those who pursue happiness should always live longer. Neto’s death is like reverse-Darwinism: that guy made evolution better. I never saw him again but, thanks to Mario and that trip to Puerto Escondido, we share space in a virtual universe as holograms. Everybody wants to find eternity, but the only thing we can get is illusion.