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An old present (the memory)

“The antique object no longer has any practical application, its role being merely to signify. It is astractural, it refuses structure, it is the extreme case of disavowal of the primary functions. Yet it is not functional, nor purely ‘decorative’, for it has a very specific function within the system, namely the signifying of time.”

– Jean Baudrillard


Inspired by decorative elements from Buenos Aires’ early 20th-century domestic interiors, An Old Present (The Memory) invokes a bygone era in Argentina, suspended in time through the idealization of memory.  

A duo of floral lace-like panels made out of soft epoxy resin hang from a freestanding iron structure that resembles the features of a vintage curtain rod. These mimic the handmade curtains that used to veil the windows of the double doors of houses built in the city during a period regarded as one of national splendor and growth (1880-1929). These airy textiles aim to bridge past and present through the evocative power of antique objects, sparking a reflection about the ‘authenticity’ of the historical time it is supposed to conjure.  

Through this sculptural object, I reference an iconic print series made in the 1960s and 1970s by Argentine artist Antonio Berni, in which he portrayed a decadent local society marked by hints of faded glamour. The seemingly luxurious yet wistful ubiquity of lace nods to a European-centered society and its frustration at feeling “deviated” from the golden future that it had envisioned for itself. This patterned weave serves to ornament Ramona Montiel’s hyper-sexualized body (Berni’s female iconic character, who turns to prostitution to survive) and the moral poverty of her environment, as it is inferred in La bella y el monstruo I y II (ca. 1966).  

Nostalgia is a word that resonates heavily in Buenos Aires. It may partially mirror the feeling of many of our ancestors, those who fled European wars and famine, but it also carries a symbolic value in conflict with our diverse Latin American identities. Looking back and longing for a mythic belle époque raises racial and cultural hierarchical connotations, nurturing a ‘myth of the origin’ in which our multiple identities -mestizaje (hybridity) and native cultures, among others- remain in a relegated place.  

 An Old Present (The Memory) finds strength in ethereal structures over solid architectures; similarly, the tissues that bind our social narratives and identities are at once fragile and yet prevail over the seemingly fixed historical discourses that crumble around us… 

– Paula Córdoba


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