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1926 __ « Magnavoz - discurso mexicano »
Xavier Icaza (1892-1969)
Comment : The estridentista Icaza was inspired to write “Magnavoz” on his return to Mexico after a year’s absence. [...] Gigantic loudspeakers (magnavoxes) located in the craters of Mexical volcanoes Popocatepetl and Ixtlaccihuatl as well as at the apex of the Pico de Orizaba begin to transmit the voices of wise men who attempt to advise the Mexicans. [...] Magnavoz fuses the real-time, interactive qualities of telephone communication with radio transmission to construct a public forum in which multiple participants can converse with one another at a distance and simultaneously be heard by a multitude. Attempts to reach wide audiences began in the late nineteenth century as telephony was used to transmit concerts and plays to select theaters and homes. Telephone transmission, however, necessitated that the performers be in the same location, and the nineteenth century listener could not participate in the performance. In its ability to link participants in multiple geographical spaces, “Magnavoz” anticipates contemporary teleconferencing as well as various forms of textual communication via the Internet. Ironically, in Icaza’s narrative, it is not communication technologies, but the rhetoric of nationalism, that brings Mexicans together. Icaza wrote “Magnavoz” as the “estridentista” movement was waning, and among the estridentista corpus the work is rare in its nationalistic approach. (Marìa Fernàndez)Published in 1926 by Xavier Icaza, a writer with “extridentismo” connections, Magnavox 1926 prescribes a performance on an equally panoramic scale. Comparable to “As enfibraturas do Iparanga”, this text’s generic identity is ambiguous, presenting a synthesis of theater, narrative, and polemic. This generic ambiguity, noted by John S. Brushwood in his study of vanguardism in Icaza’s work (10), also characterizes Icaza’s most experimental novel, “Panchito Chapopote” (1928). Although Magnavox 1926 is subtitled a “discurso”, in the text’s preface, Icaza calls it a farce and notes its theatrical form. Moreover, lists of the author’s literary productions appearing in later works often include the piece under “theater”. The work speaks directly of the postrevolutionary context in which it was written. According to the preface, Icaza wrote Magnavox 1926 when he returned to Mexico after a year’s absence and sought to present “the panorama of today’s Mexico”. Specifically, he explains, the texte seeks to dramatize conflicting ideological perspectives vying for control of Mexico’s social and cultural future : the idealistic-mystic, the conservative-practical, the leftist-Communist, and the autochtonous-nationalist. In Magnavox 1926, thse views are played out by individual voices seeking to address Mexico’s people. These addresses are physically laid out in the text like the dialogue in a play. The dialogue is intercalated with narrative interventions that provide social background and historical summary. These narrative sections consist of the clipped, synthetic statements characteristic of vanguardist creative works and manifestos but are also, as Brushwood has pointed out, analogous to stage directions in a play. Statements such as “Mexico remakes itself”, “Elections. The people don’t go to the polls”, and “Nobody pays attention” are typical of these “stage directions”. As a performance text, Magnavox 1926 is organized into six scenes separated by these stylized narrative sections. In the initial scene, following narrative stage directions about the state of the nation, various segments of the population, including a reactionary, a missionary teacher, and an Indian, speak to illustrate the point. Each of the following four scenes consists of a “discurso” or speech by a voice representing one of the four ideological positions in contention fro Mexico’s future. Each speech is followed by its reception among various segments of society. Three of the four speeches emanate from a separate “magnavox” or loudspeaker, each placed inside a different Mexican volcano. A woodcut by the “estridentista” artist Ramón Alva de la Canal precedes the text’s preface and spells out visually the written text’s performative scenario. A man, humble in demeanor and dress, stands on a pyramid surrounded by cacti and faces a volcano. A periscope-style loudspeaker protrudes from its crater, and two more look out from alongside it. Because of his location facing the volcano with his back to the implicit reader and potential “onstage” spectator of Magnavox 1926, this man can be seen as the intented audience of the loudspeaker’s performance. In the text, the voice of José Vasconcelos, presenting the idealist-mystic view of Mexicans’ future as a cosmic race, delivers the first speech from a loudspeaker inside the Popocatepetl crater. The second voice, that of an Italian journalist urging Mexico to emulate the southern cone countries by encouraging immigration and foreign investments, emanates from a loudspeaker in Ixlaccihuatl. From the peak of Orizaba, a third loudspeaker projects Lenin’s voice amid thunderbolts, proletarian canons, and the notes of the Internationale. These performances elicit various responses from the chorus of scientists, the “indignant” students of America, the chorus of the mediocre, and even from Romain Rolland (from the Alps) and Alfonso Reyes (from the Eiffel Tower). But ordinary Mexican people, the intended audience for the magnavox speeches, only ignore what they hear, yawn, laugh, dance, cry or shrug their shoulders. As Icaza spells out in the work’s preface, Magnavox 1926 favors the fourth speech, that is, the autochthonous-nationalist perspective on Mexico’s future. Following the first three speeches delivered through loudspeakers, Shakespeare takes the stage to explain the meager response from ordinary people : “Words, words, words, ...”. At this moment, the fourth and principal speaker, Diego Rivera (object of the “estridentistas” great admiration, scales the pyramids of Teotihuacán and agrees : “That old Shakespeare is right. Those are pure talkers”. Eliciting sparks as he strikes the pyramid of the sun, Rivera speaks, advocating works over words : Let us learn from the pyramid builders. Let us continue their interrupted work. Let us realize Mexican works. It is imperative to be of the country. It is imperative to express Mexico”. Significantly, Rivera is the only speaker to address his audience without a magnavox and the only one to capture unified public attention and receive a positive reception : “Creative masses have gathered at the foot of the pyramid. Painters, some literati, agonomists, teachers, all resolved to realize Mexican works”. The manifesto qualities of Magnavox 1926 operate on multiple levels. The piece dramatizes conflicting views on Mexico’s future and the reception of those views by an explicit audience, Mexico’s people. By enacting the story of that conflict, the work establishes a concrete relationship with debates about Mexican cultural and aesthetic autonomy that provide a context for “estridentismo” activity. These debates, which includes Vasconcelos’ tributes to cultural “mestizaje”, also surround vanguardist production in the visual arts, in particular the work of Diego Rivera and other muralists. Comparable to “As enfibraturas do Ipiranga” in this sense, Magnavox 1926 openly advocates an autochthonous position for shaping culture and ideology. In addition, the work acts out the more explicitly “estridentista” position on the engagement of art with life, a view of art as only one of several forms of action that ought to constitute a modern and dynamic Mexican scene. This implicit integration of artistic activity with other kinds of work is often evident in the piece’s narrative stage directions : “The students organize themselves. The workers unionize. The farmers unite. The artists don’t let go of their paintbrushes. The writers, although nobody notices them, persevere and write”. As Brushwood points out, the piece also has important connections with Icaza’s own more expository writings on Mexico’s cultural life, including the work’s “Proemio” and ideas delineated in “La revolución y la literatura”, a 1924 lecture delivered at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The rhetorical strategies employed in Magnavox 1926 also contribute to the ambience of a performance manifesto. All of the work’s speakers, including the external narrative voice that emits the clipped stage directions and the internal voices addressing Mexico’s people, speak with affirmative, polemical maxims in the manifesto mode: “It is imperative to make a nation”, “It is imperative to create”, or “It is imperative to the Mexicans”. Similar to the Juvenilidades Auriverdes in Mário’s piece, here Diego rivera assumes the voice of a manifesto’s speaking “we”, employing one that genre’s predilect communicative forms, the first-person, plural imperative that incorporates speaker and audience into one: “Let us learn from the pyramid builders. Let us continue their work uninterrupted. Let us realize Mexican work.” Though its incorporation of the vanguardist manifesto’s hyperbolic imagery, Magnavox 1926 is the script for as unperformable a performance as the Brazilian “ As enfibraturas do Ipiranga”. Invoking metaphors of modern communicative technology, the work stages a global-scale interaction among distant voices from New York, Paris, Moscow, the Alps, and Argentina, with interventions from such totalizing characters as “the students of America”. And if mario’s piece incorporates its gargantuan audience, the citizens of Sao Paulo, into its own performance, Magnavox 1926 does the same with the equally comprehensive ‘”Mexican people”. But the most marked performative and manifesto quality in Icaza’ s text is the tension between doing and words, between the dynamically visual and the auditory. Both “As enfibraturas” in its subtitle (“Profane Oratorio”) and Magnavox 1926 in its title invoke communicative forms sustained by sound. But both undermine the auditory mode with the visual imagery of powerful and dynamic speakers (or singers, in Mário’s work) typical of the vanguardist manifesto. In Icaza’s piece, this speaker is constructed through the image of Diego Rivera whose immediate physical presence contrasts with the distant voices trying to reach Mexico’s people through the magnavox : “Those are pure talkers, -- Diego Rivera shouts, climbing the Teothihuacán pyramids. Diego Rivera gives his cane an Apizaco strike, producing sparks on the top of the pyramid of the sun”. And after his speech: “Diego Rivera descends with a sure step, with his head help high, and with a thick cane”. This performative interaction of the visual with the verbal is further unerscored in the text’s use of the woodcut to depict graphically its own performative situation. The scene of the Mexican man facing the magnavoxes emerging from the volcanoes emphasizes that the work’s performance is something to be seen as well as heard. In the text’s privileging of visible work and action over words, moreover, this woodcut lays bare the performance metaphors that Magnavox 1926 employs to make its point. The image of a loudspeaker inside a volcano is more than an obvious juxtaposition of the modern with the indigenous, or of technology with nature. It also presents a farcical play-within-the-play, a palpable image for the duplicity of the theatrical that embodies something disguised as, playing the part of, or representing something else. Through they might appear to spring forth from the volcanoes, the voices the loudspeakers magnify actually come from somewhere else, as Vasconcelos speaks from New York, the Italian journalist from Argentina, and Lenin from Moscow. More important, the magnavox projects a technological duplication, amplification, and distortion of the human voice; the result lacks that voice’s immediacy and presence and also, the text’s deceptive imagery suggests, its power. (Vicky Unruh)
Source : Fernàndez, Marìa (2005), “Estri-dentistas : Taking the Teeth out of Futurism”, In “At a distance: precursors to art and activism on the Internet”, edited by Ann-Marie Chandler & Norie Neumark, Leonardo Books, MIT Press, Cambridge MA USA, pp. 341-371.
Source : Unruh, Vicky (1994), “Constructing an Audience - Contending for Mexico’s Audiences - Magnavox 1926 : Discurso Mexicano”, In Latin American Vanguards : the Art of Contentious Encounters, University of California Press, pp. 50-53.
Urls : http://www.utpa.edu/DEPT/MODLANG/hipertexto/docs/Hiper5Rashkin.pdf (last visited )

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