Biography






Pola Weiss was born on May 3, 1947 in Mexico City.

Her parents, Emma Álvarez and Leopoldo Weiss, received a restless child who in a few years would even be dancing and singing in a children´s talent television program.

As she herself would state years later, she owed her career choice in television to her grandmother Maria, with whom she constantly attended the movies. But it took Pola many years to decide to take up television and specifically video as a path. However, she was always connected to art: she studied ballet, singing, music, languages and perfected her drawing abilities and the use of color, as can be seen in the vignettes found in her personal archive.

She also studied English literature and later Communications at the Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales at the UNAM, where she graduated in 1975 with a thesis in video, being the first person to present a final project in this format. She also requested that her degree should be in television making, but the Degree’s Committee granted her a BA in Journalism and Collective Communication similar to the one obtained by other students.

As a Television professor at the same Faculty in which she studied, after a trip to New York in 1977 where she met Nam June Paik –the father of video art– and Shigeko Kubota, she decided to create Flor Cósmica, her first video.

Without the use of synthesizers and creating only through feedback from the camera to the monitor and moving the controls of her video equipment around, she was able to produce colors that astounded everyone. This type of works fascinated Europeans when 9 of her videos were screened at the Pompidou Center in Paris, France in 1979.

That same year, the 32 year old artist travelled to Italy to the International Performance Art Festival where she presented Videodanza Viva Videodanza, a dance where she carries the camera on her shoulder and her image is reflected on mirrors placed around her.

By then video art had been around for more than a decade in Europe and the United States but in Mexico this genre was quite unknown. Thus, Pola was swimming against the tide by being an avant-garde artist and also by navigating a male dominated aesthetic ocean.

However, neither the economic obstacles nor the lack of spaces where to exhibit her art stopped her from working: in 1980 she presented her performance La Venusina renace y Reforma in front of the Auditorio Nacional.

The 80’s were very productive. In 1981 she also started working on Videopus, a project of interviews with friends and artists that she intended to televise, but which ended up as one more among her 38 videos. That same year she was present at the Museo de Arte Moderno and she received four or five newspaper reviews which explained her art and her feelings in a country that was unaware of her career.

By 1985 she had already visited Yugoslavia, Holland, Italy, France and Venezuela showing her video art pieces. But she finished Mi Corazón, her most complete work in 1986 and a year later she reaped the harvest of her work with a retrospective exhibition at Saint Gervais (Geneva), Switzerland, organized by Claude Namer from the FAMA group who would also organize another exhibition at the Casa de América Latina in Paris and at the Centro Cultural México in the same city ¹ .

That same year she created Merlín but was unable to present it at the Yugoslavia Festival. However, she was invited to participate as a juror at the Film and Video Festival in Rio de Janeiro, an event where she and Luis Mandoki were the only Mexicans.

The last year she produced was 1989 because after her father’s death and even though she was planning a project called Videodors (video installations with odor), she stopped making videos. After months of depression, on May 6, 1990, she committed suicide.

¹ In a letter from Paris dated November 28, 1986, Claude Namer notifies Pola that the exhibitions in that city (Centro Cultural de México) and in Geneva, Switzerland are doing fine. However, he mentions he is upset because the person in charge of Casa México at the University Center in Paris did not come through and her programmed exhibition had been canceled.

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Pola Weiss, 1947.

Pola Weiss, 1947.

Los Atlantes, Videodors project, 1989.

"This project was funded by the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes"
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