“We have come to understand our role as designers as not always creating the biggest change, but sometimes, simple gestures carry the furthest,” says Vanessa Eckstein, creative director of the Toronto-based design studio, Blok. She delves into the agency’s latest project, an extensive book documenting the innate creativity within Mexican culture. Covering a range of the country’s “talents, passions, thoughts, textures and flavours,” the alphabetised and beautifully designed publication delves into the abundance of Mexican creative forces.
Having lived in Mexico for nine years, Vanessa was “overwhelmed by the richness of thought and form” which continues to influence her practice today. “The book carries a personal weight as my children were born in Mexico and I owe much of who I am as a designer and person to the country.” Now paying tribute to its creative legacies, the book captures the magic of Mexico in a vibrantly designed compendium of talent.
A collaboration with Paola González Vargas and Adriana Sánchez-Mejorada, who edited and independently published the book, the two Mexicans brought a level of unequaled passion to the project to do justice to the country’s creative voices. In turn, all the proceeds from the book benefit Fundación BECAR, a non-profit initiative supporting accessible education in Mexico. “There are many preconceptions on what the art scene in Mexico is, and many times, the progressive thinking of architects like Alberto Kalach and Tatiana Bilbao, artists like Helen Escobedo and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and political discourse of Mónica Mayer and Minerva Cuevas are overlooked,” Vanessa goes on to say.Origen México therefore, highlights the beauty of the culture in all its nuance and chaos, “yielding unique voices that are both diverse and earnest.” The project greatly widened the whole team’s breadth of knowledge on Mexico and became a research project, as well as a documentation of the diversity of the land. Featuring a number of previously unknown creatives too, Origen México pays tribute to architect, sculptor and poet Mathias Goeritz, one of the first architects to speak conceptually about the emotion of architecture at a time when the conversation was centred on modernism.
Elsewhere, the book highlights Gabriel Figueroa, a cinematographer from the golden age of Mexican cinema. A frequent collaborator with Luis Buñuel, he showed a side to Mexico that “no one else dared to” through a heightened tension between the beautiful and the uncomfortable.
Another highlight for Vanessa and the team of Blok, are the spreads dedicated to painter, sculptor and writer Leonora Carrington – a prominent figure of the surrealist movement, the founder of the Women’s Liberation Movement, not to mention a writing group. The creative director then goes on to reveal that “one of the most inspiring finds” was the discovery of a photograph capturing Carrington alongside the iconic artists Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst.
Central to the social philosophy behind the book’s creation, Blok and its collaborators wanted to ensure that anyone could have access to the book regardless of their financial situation. Thus, the reason behind designing the book alphabetically was so the content could be easily reprinted in various sections, “ensuring it could travel far and wide across Mexican territory.” Curating the densely packed information with graphic rhythm and energy, the spirited design aims to encapsulate the heart of the country through colour and a diverse paper choice.
But ultimately, the book’s significance lies in its content which “provides readers with a new understanding of Mexico and the beauty of independent thought,” concludes Vanessa. Challenging the flat cliches fuelled in part by the voices of the American neighbour, the book presents Mexico in its full dynamism, and through a playful but considered design to match.
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