Date of Degree
Mary K. Coffey
Architectural History and Criticism | Contemporary Art | Historic Preservation and Conservation | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
Movimiento Estudiantil, Arte Público, Public Art, Activist Art, Memory Studies, Los Grupos
The student movement of 1968 in Mexico City staked a claim to urban space. Through mass gatherings in the Zócalo, posters in the streets, and marches past prominent landmarks, student activists countered the spectacles of national unity designed in preparation for the 1968 Olympic Games. These competing claims to space came to a head on October 2, 1968, when government agents fired on activists and bystanders gathered in Tlatelolco Square, killing dozens and imprisoning thousands more. Scholars and essayists have since framed 1968 as a watershed moment in twentieth-century Mexican history and the massacre at Tlatelolco as a “wound” in the national consciousness. I analyze how artists, architects and activists subsequently commemorated—or erased—the history of 1968 from three spaces in Mexico City that were central to the movement: Lecumberri Prison, the streets of the Centro Histórico (Historic City Center), and Tlatelolco Square. I argue that many of these interventions troubled both the government’s teleological timelines of progress and those canonized by movement leaders, offering alternative afterlives for 1968.
Chapter one considers the renovation of Lecumberri Prison, which held movement protestors in the aftermath of 1968, that transformed it to become the Mexican National Archive. I contend that, through selective demolition and performances of progress, the Institutional Revolutionary Party-government attempted to reclaim Lecumberri’s history from the movement activists who used it as a symbol of state repression during and after 1968. Several prison spaces and artist interventions, however, escaped these tidy timelines. Chapter two analyzes artworks made by the collectives Grupo Germinal, Grupo Suma, and Grupo Proceso Pentágono for the commemorative march on the tenth anniversary of the massacre, arguing that these opaque works offered a new paradigm for protest art and used the aesthetics of bureaucracy, muralism, and agrarian indigeneity against state claims to these strategies. The third chapter considers both La Grieta, the design that won the 1988 competition for a memorial in Tlatelolco Square, and the 1993 stela that activists eventually built in its place. I argue that both monuments proposed a “critical pre-Columbianism” against the state, and that the stela’s widespread condemnation as a “failure” offers a locus of resistance. Chapter four returns to the street and the Square in 2008, considering the ephemeral and participatory artworks commissioned by the newly opened museum Memorial del 68, and arguing that their itinerant, archeological strategies refuse the nostalgic homecoming to Tlatelolco Square offered by the Memorial itself. Poetic protest banners, abstract monuments, and fleeting art installations escaped from the canonical timelines and territories of 1968, proposing new temporalities.
Dosch, Mya B., "Creating 1968: Art, Architecture, and the Afterlives of the Mexican Student Movement" (2018). CUNY Academic Works.