IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Adolfo Mantilla OsornioIN THE SPOTLIGHT: Adolfo Mantilla Osornio

Since 2017 Adolfo Felipe Mantilla Osornio has been an academic coordinator for the Academy of Arts, in Mexico. He has coordinated and/or curated dozens of national and international exhibitions. Throughout his work, he focuses on the fields of anthropology, art history, museology, cultural management, postcolonial studies, as well as semiotics, communication, and culture economics.

Portrait photo of adolfo mantilla

What were your first thoughts, when you saw the call for applications for the fellowship?

From the very inception of my academic experience, I have been researching the literature as a transcultural phenomenon and using ethnology to understand poetics and aesthetic values. Through my experience working for the National Museum of Art (MUNAL) and for the Museum of Fine Arts (MPBA) in Mexico City, I developed different projects related to transcultural themes and archiving imaginaries and historical experiences.

The call for applications at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies allows for projects focused on understanding the images, tropes, and discourses of the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic experiences; as well as researching the historical events that were perceived as apocalyptic and their aftermath, from antiquity to the near present.

As an academic coordinator for the Academy of Arts, in Mexico City, I manage projects to research and communicate cultural, poetic, and aesthetic values of society. Thus, during the last ten years I have been researching the diversity of these imaginaries and cultural experiences. So, I think that CAPAS is a great academic space to develop my research.

What does the apocalypse and/or post-apocalypse mean for you?

I am very interested in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic experiences as an axiological, epistemological, poetic, and aesthetic phenomenon. Those experiences and their images enable us to understand different “realities”. Their symbolic qualities enable us to have an access to different phenomenon that operate in different realities and contexts.

What is your fellowship trying to achieve?

I will examine apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic images, especially those produced after the conquest of America, in order to collect an abundant corpus of images and to analyse their different axiological, epistemological, poetic, and aesthetic structures and dimensions. By doing this, I will try to achieve, analyze, and understand some potentially apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic figures of thought, narratives, texts, images, and scenarios. Through a transdisciplinary perspective of scientific work, I also aim to achieve a transversal knowledge of the apocalyptic imaginaries using different theoretical references with which to analyze the images. 

Ultimately, the research I am conducting at CAPAS will form the basis for an exhibition and book on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic imaginaries in Mexico.

How does the fellowship project build on or connect to your previous career or biography?

Through my work, I focus on the fields of anthropology, art history, postcolonial studies, as well as semiotics and communication. The key themes of my published articles are regarding critical aspects of the relationship between art and anthropology. For example, in the article “Votive painting in Mexico: A Flowchart” (2011) I analyze the Mexican’s votive painting tradition as a possibility of finding narratives about several imaginaries and their connection with the axiological dimensions. In the article “Jose Guadalupe Posada: Transmitter” (2013) I analyse the circulation of images into a different poetic and aesthetic systems and how they produce a great variety of symbolic phenomena that impact on various cultural spheres.

Other ways in which I develop these ideas includes: investigating the axiological and aesthetics elements of images and the hybridization phenomenon of imaginaries. In the articles “Imagology, ethnogenesis and aesthetics” (2017), “The symbol as a node for hybridisation: multiple beings in four architectural systems” (2018), and “Animal-human-machine: imaginary about hybridisation” (2018), I analyze the hybridization phenomenon of imaginaries and their impact on axiological, epistemological, poetic, and aesthetic dimensions.

What aspects are you looking forward to in terms of your time at CAPAS?

Working at CAPAS is wonderful because the centre provides a great academic environment to think about the “end of the world” from different perspectives. Every day here I have conversations that cross disciplinary and cultural boundaries. I get to discuss with colleagues from such fields as philosophy, religious studies, critical theory, American studies, architecture, and philology.

What would be the three things you would definitely need in a post-apocalyptic world?

Well that is a really difficult question…because being in a post-apocalyptic world presumes being in a remaining world…so I prefer to think in ways which avoid this experience.

What are some of your favourite pop culture references to the/an (post)apocalypse — whether its films, books, a YouTube channel, or music — what can you recommend?

I am particularly interested in the book Apocalipstick by Carlos Monsivais (2009). The author describes a place (Mexico) where the end of the world is inherent. In the narrative, the people are informed the final countdown will begin very soon and humanity will enter its last, final phase. The book offers an interesting way to think about an apocalyptic time and experience.