FOREWORD TO THE BOOK WITNESSES OF TIME /3
Carlos Fuentes, London, May 99
Native American time is simultaneously vast and minute, infinite and limited. The ancient Mexicans lived it both in the indeterminate embrace of the successive Suns of a creation that contained the promise of death
end resurrection and in the immediate beauty and seduction of a figurine from Jaina, a smiling little mask, or a parrot stylized for all eternity.
The ancient inhabitants of Ecuador, Peru, and Upper Peru imagined the world succeeding itself in horizons of time that were vast, incommensurate, perhaps only visible like the Nazca lines to a bird on the wing. but
perhaps no civilization has devoted more attention or given more range to the humble presence of a piece of weaving, a knot, or a mirror.
Flor Garduño enters that world with the intention of portraying the instant: the minute of the smile, the mask, the pose. but through the luminous elements of her photographs water and tree, earth and air the
horizons and suns of the Indian land of America enter the present. Sitting in a clean room, looking toward the door, perhaps somewhat blinded by the light, accompanied by the man who is slightly bent forward to listen
to him or speak to him, Taita Marcos, in one of Garduño‘s great photographs, is also sitting in the very center of the universe. As he too looks at the anguished and joyful succession of suns, he becomes the protagonist
of the horizons. Taita Marcos possesses memory and also, perhaps, foresight. he lives in two times: he exists in two worlds.
To penetrate both worlds (the immense and the minuscule; the now, even the right now, without losing contact with time before and time to come) is the secret of Flor Garduño‘s art. We don‘t have to abandon
her witness, Taita Marcos of Ecuador, to watch the procession of witnesses of time, the slow march from life to death, interrupted by comic accidents, childish play, liturgical ceremonies, erotic repose.
There are many roads in Garduño‘s photographs: some go to parties, others to graveyards, others, simply to the farmer‘s fields. but sooner or later all of them cross that threshold of incense where, uncertainly, nature and art blend so that mankind may have a margin of whimsy, freedom, or significance on the face of the gods. Witnesses of Time, the protagonists of this true sacredtemporal masque seen by Flor Garduño in the uplands,
the valleys, the lakes of America, inherit the time and the world of their ancestors. And they find it to be devastated, moribund, enslaved. Feeling themselves abandoned by their gods, the Indians personify a theater of nature where, in disguise, they convoke their gods, although in reality they take the place of their gods. One dimension of Garduño‘s art reveals this selfsacralization by means of masks. but the Indian masks of America are two things: a mute plea to the fleeing gods that they return and the insinuating, malicious suggestion that they reappear in the figures of the gods who took their place. The mask is the veiled bridge between the ancient and new gods. Neither the new nor the old should abandon us ever again: ceremonies, prayers, sacrifices, labor, poems, objects. All of it, by making the other sacred, makes itself sacred in the indigenous world. Sixto, in bolivia, a boy wearing the melancholy mask of a wolf cub; a Guatemalan woman with the divine Face resting on her knees; a man, don Perro, in Ecuador, convoking, assuming, and frightening away all at the same time the protective animal, victimizer and victim of the person who carries him as a second face: a divine face. but this is where the secret resides, this is where we find Flor Garduño‘s
revelation: only the ceremony of the mask reveals the real face of the person wearing it. The culmination of this series of photographs is the series of bare faces, unmasked faces we can only see thanks to the masks, the
ceremonies of incense, and the shadows that precede them. There is an unforgettable photograph of a naked woman emerging from Mexican water. The simplicity of her gestures accentuates the intensity of her beauty, which is inseparable from the water and the forest that accompany her. We know that we would never have discovered the beauty of this woman if it hadn‘t been preceded by the masks of the gods, the skins of
the animals, the elegant robes of the saints, and even the cornstalk capes of the corn farmers. This woman shines where religion and work, birth and burial all converge. Work and faith, death and life had to precede her so she could emerge, like an Indian Venus, from the jungle water.
Flor Garduño is privileged to be present at the birth of the Indian Venus and even gets permission from the gods to photograph her tearing out her soul in the process, no doubt, but also restoring it. because from
the gaze of that naked womanare now born, without masks but never more naked, the other magnificent images of this Mexican artist: the profiles of the only real American aristocracy; two boys who are kings of clubs; a Zinacantecan wedding as beautiful and worthy as Jan van Eyck‘s Marriage of Arnolfini; a bolivian woman wearing a coneshaped Indian hat that frames an AmericanVelázquez face; a Guatemalan queen
crowned with agave; a girl crowned with flowers which are her crown of light. Ancient kings, fallen princes: they have no other dominion than that of time, no other palace than the shade of great laurel trees. Witnesses of time, Time as survival, yes, but time as promise as well, time as restitution, but also as inevitable loss. Survival, promise, restitution, and loss which the Indians of America keep safe for all of us who have been thrown into the race of progress, who are slaves to an unreachable future, who forget ourselves because we have forgotten others. Witnesses, guardians, sanctuary of another time, of another way of living, of lost signs and realities that have become invisible to our blind eyes, Flor Garduño‘s portraits deserve the poignant definition of time that Socrates gave us: The moving portrait of eternity.