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About

Xipe Tótec

The Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco (CCUT), Tlatelolco Cultural University Center, is a multidisciplinary cultural complex dedicated to the creation, research and dissemination of creative projects in a powerful context where art, history and social processes of resistance converge. It is a museum that includes the 1968 memorial for the Tlatelolco Massacre, the Tlatelolco Archaeological Site and the Stavenhagen Pre-Columbian Art Collection; it is a hall for the university’s exhibitions and acts as a space of connection for artists. CCUT promotes the cultural education of different audiences such as the local community from Tlatelolco, the university’s students and the general public, all of which are encouraged to participate.

Lance Wyman, Xipe Tótec, (Mexico: UNAM, 1985)
Lance Wyman, Xipe Tótec, (Mexico: UNAM, 1985)

This is the context for the Xipe Tótec project, a large-scale art installation designed by Thomas Glassford, an american artist based in Mexico since the 1990s who has collaborated with different art collectives at a national and international scale. Glassford is known for using everyday materials in his installations and architectural works, transforming them into abstract creations. The Xipe Tótec project transforms the cultural center into a lighthouse, ignited by the four facades of the CCUT building with a series of LED lights, creating a geometric veil of red and blue lighting throughout the night. The pattern resembles both the blood circulation of the human body, making the institute a metaphor for a vessel carrying life. The project has brought new significance to the CCUT building and the housing complex that surrounds it by presenting it as a womb, nurturing culture and art in Mexico City.

Lance Wyman, Xipe Tótec, (Mexico: UNAM, 1985)
Lance Wyman, Xipe Tótec, (Mexico: UNAM, 1985)

The project began in 2010 for the centennial anniversary of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and remains in place today, maintained by the Tlatelolco local community who have come to appreciate the value of art and creativity in the neighborhood. Xipe Tótec is an Aztec deity that represents the continuous process of rebirth reflected in the changing of the seasons and agricultural cycles. This God, protector of both war and corn, was celebrated during the spring. Also called Our Lord The Skinned One or The Night Drinker, Xipe Tótec shed his skin in order to feed humanity, a gesture similar to the mythical Greek figure of Prometheus, who sacrificed himself in order to give fire to the greeks. Reference to Xipe Tótec bolsters the building’s aim to create a new bond with the community by giving new life to the building, which was once used to host the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the establishment of the museum ten years ago.

Lance Wyman, Xipe Tótec, (Mexico: UNAM, 1985)
Lance Wyman, Xipe Tótec, (Mexico: UNAM, 1985)

“The idea of giving another skin to the site of Tlatelolco follows the tradition of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas and clearly re-marks the institutional charge of the modernist building of the triad. This is not another concept of effacement but one of full respect of all structures and of the tower itself, a relatively transparent skin or net that would maintain the modernist edifice.”

—Thomas Glassford
Project name Xipe Totec
Period 2004
Contributor Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco
Location Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco