Francisco Guevara

The links between the reigns of Moctezuma II (the 9th Aztec Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan), and Elizabeth I, Queen of England converge in an obscure mirror reflection. Between 1548 and 1550, John Dee, advisor and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, acquired an obsidian mirror, smuggled from an early shipment from the Americas to Hapsburg Europe. Dee, who according to scholars, “straddled a fine line” between “natural” and “demonic” magic, is also credited with the imperial vision of England, spurring the rise of the British Empire in the subsequent centuries. This mirror, now in permanent display at the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery, was frequently used as a scrying device for divination, to communicate with spirits and provide supernatural advice.

“Looking In the Mirror” is a series of obsidian and silver mirrors encrusted with precious gemstones, exploring different manifestations of ‘Empire’ as a superstitious fantasy of destruction and extermination. Thinking about the black mirror as an “inversive” medium and inspired both by the obsidian mirrors from the British Museum, and the descriptions from the codexes Yanhuitlan and Kingsborough, this series links Cartesian philosophy to the practices of knowledge destruction and looting, to produce divine imperial illusions. From the so-called “conquest” of the Americas, to the birth and expansion of the British Empire, including the ransacking practices of the Grand Tour and the creation of museums, mirrors have been present as a technology throughout the history of power.

Francisco Guevara is a visual artist, independent scholar, and founder of Arquetopia Foundation and International Artist Residencies based in Mexico, Peru and Italy. His experience spans more than 20 years of international artistic projects, curating and teaching, as well as multiple collective and solo exhibitions. He specializes in Levinasian ethics applied to the design of cross-cultural artistic projects, and the analysis of historiography and performativity in contemporary art practices. As a visual artist, Guevara investigates the historical construction of the differentiation processes, embodiment, and the concept of distortion through a wide range of artistic/historical mediums, including painting, installation, and metalsmith.