AGI Open Mexico ends on a fun, moving and experimental note

Sarah Snaith takes us through the highlights of this year's conference which was recently held in Mexico City.

Javier Mariscal

AGI Open Mexico City concluded with Spanish cartoonist and illustrator Javier Mariscal, a legend among his peers and a thrill to watch on stage.

His work speaks volumes, but Mariscal is a true performer: singing and rejoicing to the music that accompanied each slide, traversing the stage and animating a cut-out character driving across the screen in his ode to orange, which he concluded by exclaiming, "Orange, please don’t go". 

Mariscal was one of 22 speakers from across the globe including Elaine Ramos (São Paulo), Karin Fong (Los Angeles), and Selva Hérnandez (México City), among others.  For the audience, there were frequent outbursts of laughter.

Argentine type designer Alejandro Paul, of Sudtipos, concluded his talk by enlisting the help of a member of the Open team who sang karaoke to Mexican singer Luis Miguel’s ‘Tengo Todo Excepto a Ti’ from a moving-image karaoke type specimen. It was brilliant. 

German designer and illustrator Christoph Niemann closed day one with his talk ‘Everything I know about design EXCEPT the fact that the creative process is painfully difficult*’, with the subtext, ‘*even though that’s the most profound thing I know!’. 

Niemann reduced design down to two things, ‘Exit signs’ and ‘Everything else’, before looking at ‘Managing expectations’, ‘Craft’ (and what differentiates very good work from great work) and ‘Abstraction’, among other subjects. 

Australian artist and designer James Brown wore a white suit covered in images of his face and shared the stage with a Mariachi band who played between each new theme in the presentation. 

Brown took the audience on something of an abstract and eccentric visual journey dotted with poetry and profundity, before showing some of his extensive work in designing restaurant spaces such as Motel Mexicola and Tropicola Beach Club in Bali.

While there were many laughs throughout both days of the conference, there were also many moving moments that left the audience reflecting on crime, injustice, politics and borders. 

Both Pooroni Rhee (South Korea) and Patrick Thomas (Germany) showed their contributions to an exhibition ‘Seoul See You Tomorrow Pyeongyang’ that looked forward to the future reunification of North and South Korea. 

By Christoph Niemann

 Dr Alderete showed his short film, Ayotzinapa 26made for Amnesty International Mexico. The film is about the 43 male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College who disappeared on 26 September, 2014. The piece projects their faces onto façades in Iguala, Mexico, as Dr. Alderete slowly turns their young faces into illustrated skulls. 

Flávia Nalon and Fábio Prata of ps.2 arquitetura + design spoke about their recent work for São Paolo Fashion Week and Bodoquena School, before Nalon addressed the tense political situation in Brazil and the impending threat from far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. International protests were taking place as Nalon and Prata gave their presentation.

Nalon lamented her inability to march alongside fellow Brazilians but took the opportunity to utilise the public platform for good. She brought the audience to tears listing all of Bolsonaro’s discriminatory, hateful positions and concluded by taking a photograph of the 1100-strong audience holding signs reading #EleNão (#NotHim). 

The next AGI event will be in India in November while AGI Open will be held in Rotterdam next year.

More AGI Mexico coverage:

AGI President Nikki Gonnissen on building a united AGI in an increasingly divided world

Selva Hernandez on being an independent book publisher and designer in Mexico

Elaine Ramos uses the production of books as an excercise in experimental design