Dead Time: Capturing the Forms of the Mexican Present
Can art stop time? What might the desire to do so on the part of contemporary artists tell us about art and politics in Mexico today? In this talk, I explore how contemporary Mexican literature and film figuratively stop time to speak to the neoliberal moment. I consider novels such as Valeria Luiselli’s Historia de mis dientes
(2013) and Nicolás Cabral’s Catálogo de formas
(2014) before turning to the aesthetic strategy of “dead time” in Carlos Reygadas’s film Japón
Time increasingly has been a concern in late capitalism as humans are pushed to a frenetic 24/7 lifestyle. It is not surprising that Japón’s
own interest in time has generally been read through the lens of “slow cinema,” a type of cinema that stresses the passing of time while also indexing the commodification of objects in late capitalism. Pointing to the limits of indexicality and slow cinema, I suggest that the concern with the objecthood of commodities and the literalness of the passage of time in cinema can create obstacles for understanding contemporary capitalism. In my reading of dead time, I argue, instead, that Reygadas insists on authorial intention and aesthetic form in his film. It is this reengagement that connects Japón
with novels by Luiselli and Cabral and links all three to a critique of neoliberalism in Mexico today.
Eugenio Di Stefano is an associate professor of Latin American Literature and Culture at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has published articles on human rights, the work of Roberto Bolaño, and the politics of aesthetic form in MLN, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, and Nonsite. He is the author of the book, The Vanishing Frame: Latin American Culture and Theory in the Postdictatorial Era (University of Texas Press). He is currently working on a book manuscript titled Dead Time: Capturing the Forms of the Mexican Present.