Visitors to the Argentina Pavillion at the 2011 Venice Biennale maybe astonished to find a series of strange concrete looking forms, organic shapes, elements from sci-fi movies growing out of what seems to be piles of concrete rubble, scratching their heads as they leave. Thankfully the title of the exhibition, The Murderer Of Your Heritage, offers some clue as to the meaning of it all.
Obviously we have to ask, what on earth is our ‘heritage’? Or, is earth itself the heritage Adrian Villar Rojas is referring to? It seems like some of the objects are partially taken from popular culture; the gun-looking thing, the 3 columns on a half-dome and inserted into ‘connectors’ and the inverted torso of a mechanized ‘storm trooper’ are techtonic elements reminiscent of scenes from the Star Wars movies, and so it can’t be purely about the earth. But then those curving leaf-shaped objects, finger/asparagus like objects and mushroom-like object are somewhat organic looking and so could allude to nature and our natural heritage.
The fact that there is a ‘murderer’ of this heritage of ours means that it has died. But is Star Wars dead? Are all the plants dead? I don’t think so. And if they’re dying, well then there can’t be a murderer just yet.Ambiguity is also prevailent in the Today We Reboot The Planet (2013) exhibition, which clearly has something to do with nature, and how we’ve altered it by our ‘unsustainable development’ thus affecting our own lives. Curiously there is an elephant-like creature outside the gallery which seems to be either holding up a concrete beam, or is trapped underneath by it, a prelude to the exhibition, the entrance of which is marked by a series of 3 dimensional geometric shapes.
These geometric shapes, cocooning the whole exhibition space, have a futuristic, sci-fi quality to them but also look as if they have been ‘fossilized’ with the choice of using concrete as a finish, which begs the question: is this an exhibition set in the future, or the future of the future looking back? In other words, if these geometric shapes represents the future, and its all doom for the environment from now on, the choice of finishing them in concrete may suggest that the exhibition is set so far in the future that the previous future has already been doomed and fossilized and there is nowhere to go but to ‘reboot’ the planet. Inside, the exhibits have been placed neatly on glass racks, like its a stock room of a retailer or an evidence room as opposed to the usually white walled gallery display. Clearly the exhibits look like they have been mummified, like the people and animals that instantaneously died when a volcano erupted, burying the ancient town of Pompeii, their corpses preserving their body positions and facial expressions, at the moment of their demise.
But these mummies have been buried not by a natural disaster like a volcanic eruption, but a man made one, like our liberal use of plastic bags, which are not bio-degradable, and deforestation, destroying natural habitats of primates represented by a monkey-looking creature who has its abdomen solidified and broken to pieces. Another thing of interest, an Ipod Touch, which brings to mind the question why there aren’t more consumer electronics, mobile phones and video game boxes, so ubiquitous in our societies nowadays. Also of interest is a dead Kurt Kobain sculpture, with figs covering his head and shattered legs and 3 water bottles stuck into his body; their verticality resembling a medical drip-feed system, suggesting perhaps he’s dead because the bottles ran out of water.
The fossilization of nature is further explored in Rinascimento (2015) in which the whole gallery is transformed into some what of a fish tank, minus the fish, with man-sized boulders evenly spaced throughout the gallery. Each of the boulders has organic material; leaves, dried fruit, coral-looking objects, ‘growing out’ from cracks on the surface.Apparently, some of the organic material, leaves, fruits and such, are real, which brings the element of decay into the artwork itself, enhancing the dystopian point of view and introducing the dimension of loss and memory into the composition. Incidently Rinascimento which means ‘Renaissance’ in Italian, makes one wonder if this second ‘awakening’ would cause man to cherish these things that grow more, now that it is decaying right before their eyes in the exhibition.
A curious work, shown in the Two Suns Exhibition (2015), is a rendition of Michelangelo’s David, but in this case David is horizontal and sleeping on top of 2 low pillars in a dim room with curtains drawn, which is a departure from previous themes shown. Did Rojas suddenly wake up one day and find a religious conscience or have a conviction to say something about the Italian renaissance? Is it about art history or is it about religion? While it is possible that David, the boy who took down Goliath with one shot from his sling, that if he were alive today, would feel exasperated seeing whats going on, roll over and go back to sleep, but it is unclear what the intent is. Even more baffling, now that I think of it, is why Michelango sculpted David as fully naked, standing there with an air of intense concentration, as he prepares to duel with Goliath. Was David naked when he went to the battlefront to face Goliath? I don’t think so. And given the fact that it is almost 20 feet tall, I would guess that Michelango was showing off his skills of being able to sculpt an anatomically correct body, with a perfectly proportioned penis, a glorification of the triumph of human rationality and logic.
The Eternal Butterflies (2010) also deals with history and traditional culture, with one part a boy on horse back on a classical pedestal, and the other a girl on a futuristic four-legged droid vehicle on a plain pedestal. Overall I would say that Rojas’ work, even if ambigious in some areas, is positively interesting and intriguing.