PAST

There will come soft rains

Elisa Balmaceda, Barbara Marcel, Tomoyuki Ueno

26.11.16 – 14.12.16

Curated by Manuela Morales
Text Merlina Rañi

In the Fifties, Ray Bradbury published “The Martian Chronicles”, a series of short stories which, influenced by the brand new atomic bomb, show the arrival of the human race to Mars in the context of a Planet Earth in the middle of a nuclear war. By that time, Bradbury made use of exoticism to tackle the social and political problems that he faced as a human being. He wrote beyond his time and beyond his own planet, in an effort to reflect upon the direction in which the future of mankind going.

This kind of exercise is what defines an exote: the person who manages to go back to him or herself after having been through the diverse, a concept elaborated by Segalen in his Essay On Exoticism. He made other observations during that very early stage of globalisation, in which he considered that the exotic tension of the world decreases, in a slow movement into the realm of the tepid, a sort of sociological death, given that the diverse is the source of all energy.

Nowadays, in a situation of advanced globalisation (and just about to colonize Mars, according to Bradbury's Martian Chronicles), the field of arts and aesthetics is also a medium for the global dynamics, a kind of manifesto and reflection in which the exotic still functions as a mechanism for otherness, through which it is possible to recognize what is your own. In the work of Balmaceda, Marcel, and Ueno, the exotic can be found in an enclosed and near space, indicating that the boundaries that used to demarcate systems, cultures, and distances, are also going through a phase of deterritorialization, immateriality, and fluidity, which are characteristics of these times. Traveling to Mars through images transmitted in real time, represents a smaller potential for diversity than the possibility of having access to places within our own planet of even our own regions that, hidden behind massive amounts of disinformation, still keep their mysteries to themselves.

Balmaceda shows a part of an ongoing project that revolves around the idea of Invisible Architectures. Developed during a residency in the Atacama desert, this work focuses on the study of an enormous crater of unknown origin. Halfway between popular myths and the new scientific discoveries about this phenomenon, she carries out a poetic action in which, using a mirror-like material, reflects the sky and shows the crossing of horizontal and vertical axes, and at the same time creating the illusion of containing water. This is the driest place in the world, the best place in the planet to watch the sky, and an area of ruthless mining activities, and these facts are clues that, through this action, resonate like an echo inside the void of the crater.

The work of Marcel consists of a work in process from his recent residency in the Amazon forest, which started with the research of the photographic record from the Dahlem-Berlin Botanical Garden about a particular plant species called Victoria Amazonica. After traveling to Manaus for the first time, a series of discoveries made Marcel question her own knowledge about the Amazon, and immerse herself in a work of video recording, which brings to light a new sense of scale and unsuspected relations: from the organization of insects to the organization of humans; from the Amazonian imagery as a tropical dreamland to pirate activities; and even the fact that this ecosystem owes its fertility to the tons of phosphorus that travel all the way from the Sahara desert across the Atlantic.

Ueno has an extensive body of work dedicated to the idea or imaginary borders, in which the artificial factor is conceptually intertwined with the organic functions. Doors of Perception is a sculptural exercise, where he works on the possibility of representing the presence and absence of a door at the same time. In the context of the exhibition, it represents the impossibility of conceiving a closed system, and the conceptual nature of the boundaries and borders, that only make sense inside the structures of human thought.

There will come soft rains is the kind of prediction about a near future, in which tepidity turns into something slightly apocalyptic. The Bradbury story, the Sara Teasdale poem quoted in that story, and the exhibition where these works are shown, all share the same title, and also certain concerns that remain relevant throughout history. They work as letters for the future, which, soaked in their own present, wonder and grope for what's yet to come.

translation by Gustavo A. Roselinsky

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