GalleriesArtists 30-01-2017

Miguel Calderón and the sequestered world of falconry

Working across film and photography, artist Miguel Calderon offers us a very personal snapshot of Mexican society. As part of the exhibition "Caída libre" presented at the beginning of the year in Mexico at Kurimanzutto gallery, and subsequently at the New York gallery Luhring Augustine (until July 29) H A P P E N I N G spoke with the artist.

Is the falconer's passion for his sport a means for escapism – an allegory of our present society, where we often shy away from confronting reality? Why was the hawk chosen to symbolize the alliance between man and nature?

For the community of falconers in Mexico City falconry is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. They have their own codes, most of them wear camouflaged army gear and one of the reasons why I was interested in their world, besides having had a hawk as a kid, was that falconry to some is an addiction. I am certain that there are men that have lost their families because of their obsession with their birds.

When I was a kid, a guy that used to bathe dogs at a local pet store had a Harris Hawk chick that he was selling and I immediately fell in love with it. Since I couldn’t afford it, I became so determined to find a way of getting it that he finally challenged me to a high-stake bet. If I completed 100 crunches from the back of his pick-up truck while in motion he would give me the hawk, if I lost he would keep my bicycle. I was so skinny that when he noticed I was on crunch number 80 he raised the number to 110, but I was so determined that I won the hawk. I had a rough time during my teens and my hawk helped me cope with reality as if it were an anxiolytic, plus I learned about animal instincts (and therefore my own) first hand. Because of this, I relate to the current world of falconers here in Mexico City.


Miguel Calderón, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City 2017.


In an interview you once said, talking about Mexico: " an artist, living in chaos is attractive, but as a citizen looking for a place to live, it does not work." Is this why you decided to become an artist? Because of the attachment to your country?

I made that comment in relation to the chaos that surrounds me on a regular basis while living in this city. Cars flooding the streets showing no respect towards pedestrians, corrupt cops, historic buildings being torn down without permission, the list goes on.  There is a saying in Mexico that is used a lot while people drive: The current drags away the sleeping shrimp. You have to stay awake because there are so many adversities out on the streets; you have to be looking behind your back constantly. All these things can be interesting from the perspective of an observer but on a day-to-day basis it can become exhausting and that is what I meant.  The lack of rules can be good for an artist but not so for someone who is just trying to get by. Doubtlessly all the things that happen daily in Mexico City are a great source of information to make art, though I actually made the decision to become an artist at a very young age because I was obsessed with painting.


Miguel Calderón, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City 2017.


Could you present your video Camaleón in a few words? What is the link between "Caída libre" and your previous works? Why the idea of "free fall"? A bird never falls.

Actually Peregrine Falcons do free fall when they strike their prey in the sky and as a consequence the hunted bird falls to the ground. Camaléon is the nickname of the main character, a real falconer who uses his bird to deal with a physical condition in which he has violent, blackout episodes. I’ve had blackouts myself, so the idea of free falling while losing consciousness, and the falcon free falling to hit its prey, added up. The two elements kept on ringing visually in my head, which is why, when the project came to fruition, I decided to title it “Caída Libre”.


Miguel Calderón, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City 2017.



Caida Libre will be on show at kurimanzutto gallery in Mexico until February 25

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