Museo de la Chingada

Main Image Credit: John Phillips, Museo de la Chingada I, generated using DALL-E

“We know enough to make up lies which are convincing, but we also have the skill, when we will, to speak the truth” (The Muses to Hesiod)

Museums are respectable institutions charged with the preservation, interpretation, and display of objects. They are good places to visit while on holiday, or on rainy days out with the kids. We rarely stop to question them. Perhaps it is the combination of well-trained smiles emitted from visitor-enquiry desks, the lure of gift shops, proffering ersatz antiquities and the bottled Lethe water sold in air-conditioned cafes that makes museums feel so comfortable and cuddly, and encourages us to avert our eyes from the violence, both mythical and real, that lies at their foundations. After all, who would want to hear ‘the hapless soldier’s sigh that runs in blood down palace walls’, whilst trying to grab a bit of culture on a Sunday afternoon?

But our museums are far from innocent: they are at best a bloody pirate’s treasure trove. So why not question them? After all, it would be comforting to know that the previous owner of a painting that we so admire had not perished in a gas-chamber, or that the wonderful display of marble sculptures in gallery X hadn’t been nicked by an upstart ambassador and bequeathed to the Nation for some ignoble honour. But even after pushing aside the violence of plunder, our museums still confront us with successive layers of brutality disguised as culture. There is the violence of restoration, which has erased so many works of art; the violence of sacrilege that denies the religious significance of countless curated objects; the violence of professional discourse that cocoons the ‘initiated’ and intimidates the ‘untutored’ and the violence of desecration, which haunts so many living peoples. Then, lest we forget, there is the plagiaristic violence perpetuated by a Frankenstein monster that, with the heart of a rebel and the hands of a colonial despot, calls itself, in true military fashion, the avant-garde. And, of course there is the violence of denial implicit in all interpretation.

Image Credit: John Phillips, Museo de la Chingada lI, generated using DALL-E

Europe possesses no word to fully express its cruelties, but Mexican Spanish does. It is a word that evokes the Conquest, and the wealth that flooded Seville and drained into the coffers of Italian renaissance banks.

It is a word with countless facets, whole sentences can be constructed by manipulating its inflections. It flavours everyday speech with bile. The word is Chinga.

It means fuck, rape, destruction, plage, hopelessness, despair, and theft. It evokes a mythical time and place ‘la Chingada’ – the rape of mother earth – which in European parlance connotes the discovery of the ‘New World’.

Thus “Chinga tu madre! Chingamos a los chingones, hijos de la chingada, quien nos chingaron con chingaderas.” Might be politely translated as “for the abuse of your mother, let’s upset those toffs, the decedents of conquest, who treat us unfairly and lie”.

But la Chingada is not confined to a resentful memory in the argot of Mexico. It thrives today in countless ‘third world’ cities.
It is carried in the socio-genetic code of AIDES. It is force that decimates natural habitats in pursuit of profit. It is the life-blood of the global arms trade. It is the secret sponsor of our museums.

Image Credit: John Phillips, Museo de la Chingada Ill, generated using DALL-E

• The above text was originally published as part of Noor Afshan Mirza and Brad Butler’s The Musuem of Non Participation’s first Newspaper commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction in collaboration with the Daily Jang London.

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