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In Mexico City, an Indie Library Builds a Community Around Art Books

The entrance to Aeromoto (photo courtesy Aeromoto, via Facebook)
The entrance to Aeromoto (photo courtesy Aeromoto, via Facebook)

MEXICO CITY — Aeromoto, a small public library founded at the beginning of 2015 in the Juárez neighborhood, evolved gradually and continues to mature as a cohesive and challenging project. The space was created by four young individuals involved in the arts: Mauricio Marcin, an editor, writer, and curator of the Museo Experimental El Eco; the bass player and book designer Maru Calva; Macarena Hernández, the editor of El Eco’s publications program; and the artist Jerónimo Rüedi. Their unique undertaking inevitably raises questions about the sustainability of the physical publication in the digital era, its experiential quality, utility, and circulation. What are the possibilities for print today, and how can a community library nourish the conversation locally and internationally?

Inside Aeromoto (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless indicated otherwise)
Inside Aeromoto (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless indicated otherwise)

The Aeromoto members’ shared desire to create a space dedicated specifically to books about art — experimental and contemporary publications by independent publishers, as well as artists’ books — led them to imagine a collective project where their meticulously curated archive could be experienced by anyone, detached from commercial exchange. They envisioned a place where people from different professional fields and social realms could have access to novel content ranging from theoretical writings by important critics and philosophers to publications and recordings by artist collectives, zines, and mail art from all over the world.

In 2014, Marcin and Calva reimagined their home as an open space where they could share their personal book collections with the neighborhood and artistic community, creating a makeshift public library where anyone could come visit during opening hours or by appointment. Materials and publications like the ones in Marcin and Calva’s personal libraries are very hard to access in Mexico City’s municipal libraries, and often the only way to read or get a hold of specific volumes is to purchase them from a contemporary art museum’s shop, where they are highly overpriced.

Bookshelves and posters at Aeromoto
Bookshelves and posters at Aeromoto

Inspired by this idea — the transformation of a private space, their house, into a public one — Marcin and Calva began to consider the project more seriously. A visiting friend who was staying with them at the time, Rüedi, was drawn to their plan. He decided to stay in Mexico City and became a member of the group. Finally, Hernández joined as well, and Aeromoto began taking shape. With absolutely no government funding, they’ve managed to survive by receiving donations from independent publishing houses, as well as from editors, artists, writers, patrons, and museums. They’ve also received grants from institutions like the Fundación Jumex and Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo, among others.

The space’s configuration “has evolved organically as a public echo,” says Hernández. “Sometimes, friends lent us their own book collections to be temporarily available at the library. Peers and the general public have also suggested themed categories, and this has considerably expanded our archive.” The library presents itself as a welcoming, shared space for books and independent projects. “The way an archive is constructed alters the significance and context each book brings along,” Hernández adds. “Every book, in a way, acquires new meaning by the books that surround it, reanimating its content.” The space’s stacks reflect this open-endedness, and are composed of inventive sections, including “Libros Sobre Libros” (“Books About Books”), “Economías Alternativas” (“Alternative Economies”), “Formas de Diálogo” (“Forms of Dialogue”), “Libros Raros” (“Rare Books”), and “Libros Estructura” (“Structured Books”).

An event at Aeromoto (photo courtesy Aeromoto, via Facebook)
An event at Aeromoto (photo courtesy Aeromoto, via Facebook)

“Books generate social dynamics that later have nothing to do with books about art,” says Rüedi, explaining how eclectic Aeromoto’s events — held about four times per month — can be. Hosting everything from independent magazines’ presentations and lectures by well known artists, curators, poets, and writers, to magic acts, talks on cult horror films, and a tarot reading by the Mexican feminist art collective Invasorix, the library works as a social magnet that attracts a mutating crowd. “A homeless guy came in once, asking us if he could perform and read,” Rüedi says. “We set up a date and programmed the event on our Facebook page. Some people showed up and it became an interesting occasion.”

Aeromoto’s complete openness to suggestions regarding new book sections, content, and events has considerably nurtured its archive and programs. The public collectively contributes to the founders’ curatorial decision-making, proposing new content for sections ranging from Dance and Pedagogy to Erotica and Architecture. Another standout program is “Mesas Curadas” (“Curated Tables”), wherein the founders invite a person — generally an artist, writer, educator, or curator, but not always — to select new books for the collection, loosely connecting notions and ideas with the publication’s content. The table displays, each featuring the new acquisitions surrounded by complimentary materials, change every three months. Curator Zanna Gilbert was invited to create the most recent Curated Table, featuring books by Lucy Lippard, Martha Rosler, Dorothy Iannone, and Ray Johnson, among others. For the next Curated Table, Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas will select an array of books about art making, theory, and craft, directed at young art students and working artists.

Books, zines, and mail art on the shelves at Aeromoto
Books, zines, and mail art on the shelves at Aeromoto (click to enlarge)

Aeromoto, with its slogan “tu biblioteca de confianza” (“your trusted library”), has gained international attention all the while becoming a fixture in the local scene and the Juárez neighborhood. Passersby walking down Calle Venecia, the tiny street where it is located, are irrevocably drawn into its small storefront space. Foremost among its upcoming projects is a plan to host the archives and libraries of other art spaces, galleries, or museums. “We are not interested in issuing our own statement on the art of printing today, but rather in generating a statement with ideas and needs brought from the public,” says Rüedi. “We like to think of books as social triggers.”

Aeromoto (Venecia 23, Colonia Juárez, Mexico City) is open Monday–Friday, noon–7pm and Saturday 11am–3pm.

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