A student exchange project for Made in Mexico, an exhibition exploring the art of the Rebozo shawl, has led to staff exchanges between Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) and Universidad Iberoamericana textile design departments. Course Leader, Caryn Simonson went to Mexico City in November 2014, just in time for the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) festival. Dean of Design, Fernando Bermúdez and Textile Design Course Leader, Mariam Bujalil Palafox visited the Chelsea course in the spring term 2015.
After Caryn went on staff exchange to Mexico City to Universidad Iberoamericana, she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. She presented the Textile Environment Design research group (TED) ‘The TEN” strategies for sustainable design futures to a group of staff in the Design Department. She showed examples of the course’s TED project, Adhocism, showing how the course develops and embeds research into the curriculum. Ibero organised a fantastic programme of Museum visits – Mexico is a textile designer’s paradise, with its wealth of museums housing fascinating artefacts, rich colourful textiles and objects. Its incredible cultural and political histories portrayed visually in its famous murals by Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros span the walls of galleries, museums and the Palacio Nacional. The exchanges have enabled us to have further discussions about future collaborative projects and exchanges with Iberoamericana for students.
In the recent spring term at Chelsea, Fernando gave an engaging lecture on Mexican soap operas and the role of textiles within them at Chelsea:
Textiles, Fashion and National Identity in Mexican Film and Telenovelas: new approaches at deconstructing Mexico’s National Identity. After 300 years of Spanish rule, Mexico’s Independence was declared in 1821. The process of constructing a concept of national identity turned problematic from the very beginning. We cannot talk about Mexican citizens before 1821 because they were subjects of the King of Spain. In order to understand how our identity was formed we need to understand the creation of the Caste System. The Caste system based the superiority of white Spaniards on the notion of “purity of blood”. A complicated system of Castes was originated in accordance with the mixture of races. Two factors were important in allowing social moving in Colonial society: genetic mixing and Fashion (dressing to disguise your own caste with the intention of moving upward or downward in the social system). The Revolution of 1910 brought the opportunity of reinventing our identity by stressing the “greatness” of our Indian past. This article explores the role of textiles and fashion in the construction of Mexico´s National identity. This paper approaches the relationship between textiles, fashion and the media (Mexican Cinema and television, especially “telenovelas” [soap operas]) in the creation of a set of visual and rhetoric commonplaces that became crucial in reproducing our “national identity”. (Fernando Bermúdez)
As part of Mariam’s staff exchange at Chelsea, she lectured on her students working collaboratively through Textile Design with Mexico’s rural communities, inspiring future Chelsea students for exchange projects:
“Empathy is key to any design process. In a context of multiple realities such as Mexico’s, empathy is a challenge even for capable and creative designers. During 2014 a group of Design students in their final year accepted this challenge in order to benefit one of the most discriminated communities in the country. The lecture reflects around the experience of designing for and with ethnic communities without losing traditional techniques and iconography. Many questions arise. Empathy should be equal to inclusion, so is Design the way for a better life for these communities?” (Mariam Bujalil Palafox)