Mexico City

View of “Alejandro Paz,” 2017. Photo: Luis Gallardo.

View of “Alejandro Paz,” 2017. Photo: Luis Gallardo.

Alejandro Paz


View of “Alejandro Paz,” 2017. Photo: Luis Gallardo.

LIGA is a nonprofit organization that realizes four exhibitions a year along with a series of talks and workshops. Its focus is the relationship between architecture and art. Paradoxically, the gallery’s physical space is extremely limited—a challenge LIGA has met with transcendental results by commissioning on-site works from diverse artists and architects during its six years of operation. But in conceptual and poetic weight, none of the works presented here so far has surpassed the installation/performance currently on view, in which the Guatemalan architect Alejandro Paz has used classical music as an amorphous body of damp sound between urban echoes. 

At first, the space might seem empty except for the music that fills it. But that’s not quite true. On the gallery’s two windows are two large-format photographic transparencies of the building’s basement. During the day, the forms they depict can be distinguished only by the most patient and interested viewers. But at night, the two images come to life. Their subjects are the adjustable hydraulic compressors that allow the building to remain upright on a geographically lacustrine terrain. Paz reminds us that this metropolis—its foundations drained over centuries to build on what in pre-Hispanic times were lakes—has been devouring itself for several decades, and is seismically active as well. By portraying these structures as enormous, hidden springs, Paz potently and poetically exerts an awareness of the unseen. His action expands not just architecturally but in the consciousness of visitors and passersby, with respect to all that we do not see, which is a large part of what sustains this city. These two images and that which they invoke are, let’s say, half of Paz’s intervention. 

During the opening, a musical performance—invisible, like the adjustable pilings, to visitors—took place. Four musicians repeatedly played an arrangement of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies No. 1, 1888, in the building’s cramped basement, among the pilings. The music recorded that night, replayed continuously, completes the architect’s piece. “There’s nothing else?” some visitors ask, without realizing that they stand before a perfect integral equilibrium. The intervention is subtle—discreetly invasive. Satie’s notes flood this anonymous happening with their own distinctive brand of melancholia.

While attempting to decipher the black-and-white images by detaching them from the real urban backdrop visible through the windows on which they’ve been placed, the visitor hears the “blurry” sound of Satie’s music mixed with the noise of the machines and of the public. This coexistence of invisibilities transforms the constrained space into a sensitive repository for the intangible—a kind of unexpected urban sanctuary.

Inside, as if in an atemporal capsule, we hear, fighting against the non-silence, the dialogue of flute, a guitar, a saxophone, and a bassoon. The symbiotic symphony of the subterranean construction, composed of instrumental sounds that make the space’s existence possible, follows its own rhythm. Once inside, the visitor might wish to remain as long as possible. The tonal familiarity, protective and calming, and the gradual blurring of the outside (and symbolically of reality, with its infinite daily problems) convert the intervention into a hospitable architectural body amid the reverberations of the actuality to which the great metropolis devotes itself before an unstoppable desiccation. We are all so certain that what we tread upon is as solid as our plans, when, surely, we live a reality as exposed as it is invisible—a reality whose substratum most refuse to see, because of the possibility of returning to it.

––Marcela Quiroz

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.