From pioneer to pioneer
After cataloguing the Pola Weiss’ documentary and photographic archive, it is clear that she was a restless television producer, film, video and television professor both at the Instituto Latinoamericano de la Comunicación Educativa and at the Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales at the UNAM, Mexico´s video art pioneer, but she was also lonely creator.
As her head musician Federico Luna describes, although it is true that her friends used to work with her in some productions, most of the time Pola created her nonlinear stories in her studio, or while she was running, during a trip, or in the waiting room at some airport. The entries in her notebooks, in her travel journals or on a paper napkin document the beginnings of her creative process.
However, except for group screenings or exhibitions, the daily contact with her colleagues was almost nonexistent.
Maybe one of her most important epistolary relationships was with Shigeko Kubota, pioneer of video sculpture both in the United States as in Europe who emigrated from Japan to New York in 1964 and married Nam June Paik -the father of video art- in 1977.
Shigeko, as Pola did, faces a society marked by long established rules such as arranged marriages and rejects the traditional Japanese ways of doing art. Shigeko then feels the need to use art to redefine herself, both through her writing as well as through very personal video images. She even has a manifesto that reclaims video for women: Video is Victory of Vagina. ¹
Since Pola and Shigeko probably shared some of these points of view, after their first meeting in 1976, Shigeko sends Pola postcards. She also curated Pola Weiss´ screening of Video Mexico at the Anthology Film Archives (which is not registered in the video art catalogue made between 1991 y 1993 ²). This presentation took place at PS1 in Long island, Queens, New York in 1981.
Proof of their friendship can also be found in a postcard in which Shigeko thanks Pola for the presents she sent her and Paik in 1979, as well as an undated Polaroid photograph showing them both in a television studio.
According to Pola´s couple Fernando Mangino, during one of Shigeko’s visits while she was having an exhibition, one of her video materials was damaged. She decided to ask Pola to help her repair it so it could be screened, showing the trust the Japanese video sculptress had in the Mexican one.
² I catalogued the video material between 1991 and 1993, checking a total of 385 ¾ cassettes and selecting 38 video art pieces which were donated to TV UNAM in1998. (Note by curator Edna Torres-Ramos).