For almost 30 years, British-born Melanie Smith (*1965, lives in Mexico City) has been exploring the Latin American continent and the avant-garde currents of the 20th and 21st centuries in her cross-media art. Coming from painting, she explores the cultural, aesthetic and economic contradictions inherent in the metropolis of Mexico City in her formalist video works, photographs and installations.
In the film Xilitla (2010), made in collaboration with Rafael Ortega and shown for the first time in the Mexican pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011, she traces the surrealist movement in Mexico in the 1940s. The scene of the portrait-format 35mm film is Las Pozas, a former plantation near the city of Xilitla, which Edward James (1907-1984), a wealthy Scottish collector and patron of the arts, transformed into a surrealist sculpture garden between 1964 and 1984. For James, this Garden of Eden in the middle of the jungle was a private, intimate place, fragile in its materiality and dysfunctional, referring at the same time to the love gardens of the 18th century.