Nature as a Form of Recycling (2011)
WindFlower Perceptions of Nature. Kröller-Müller Museum
  • Nature as a Form of Recycling
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  • During the 2006 'Open Ateliers' at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, a white tent was set up in the Academy courtyard. In it was an old Russian, hand-operated film projector on which the Peruvian artist Marco Pando Quevedo (b.Cajamarca, 1973, lives and works between Amsterdam, Berlin and Lima) showed his 35mm animation film, The King of the Mountains (2004-2006). Cheerful Peruvian music could be heard in the background. Pando based his animation on a cartoon about a famous Peruvian singer who tells about people who move from the Mountains of Peru to the cities along the coast, in search of work and a better life. The short film is about migration, but is also about himself. He left the town of Cajamarca in the Andes Mountains to go to Lima and study art at the art Academy.

    The white tent is called the Portable Cinema, developed by Pando so that he can to take his own movie theatre with him wherever he goes. Looking closely, we see that the tent is actually shaped like a building: it is a scale model of his father's cinema, which no longer exists. When Pando completed  his studies in Lima in 20o3, he returned to his home town, Cajamarca. Visiting his father's old abandoned cinema, in the projection room, he found the dusty remnants of old films. He created his first animation film by using a knife to scratch drawings into those found filmstrips.

    That way, I was able to make a film by myself without needing technology. It was my way of getting to know the medium of film and making it my own. What was important here was that the carrier, the medium itself, literally already has a story and a history of its own. I had to think of my family, with the film images in my head, a sort of melting together of reality and fantasy. 1

    Film, as a medium and as a theme, has been a consistent factor throughout all of Marco Pando's later work. The Portable Cinema is an ode to his father, but at the same time it is a means of reconstructing his Peruvian past here in Europe. Pando gives form to his own position as an artist who lives between two cultures, that of Latin America and that of Europe. His work is about moving from one culture to another, about how an artist's vision of his native country and its culture or landscape changes and is guided by the new context in which he find himself. It is not accident that Lima and Peru play the role of 'leading object' in nearly all of his films.

    In the animation Tourist Hitchcock (2003), Hitchcock wanders around in a virtual 'Postcard from Lima' and visits politically charged locations in the city, where protests or terrorists attacks have taken place. {Peru was long plagued by the Shining Path, a Maoist terrorist movement-ed.} The Bug man (2006) is a story in which Pando appears in the form of politician who seems bewitched after having swallowed a cockroach. He maniacally begins to eat books and documents and roll big ball of paper from the city to the countryside and back again. He encounters his own image on an election campaign poster, which he also rips off and eats. The enchantment eventually comes to an end when the insect crawls back out of his mouth again, now in the form of a beetle. The transformation of the cockroach into a beetle is a symbol of the process of purification and rebirth.

    In a recent animation, entitled White Lung City (2009), the urban landscape of Lima is once again central. A truck with an oil tank drives through the streets of Lima. Wherever it goes, it leaves behind a 'white' stripe. From a birds-eye perspective above the city, we see how the trail that the truck leaves behind forms the outline of two huge lungs. Lima has the worst air pollution of all the Latin American capital cities. 'In an ironic way, I wanted to see the city "cleaned up", purified. In my version of Lima, the streets are empty and the deafening sound of the traffic is replaced by absolute silence and emptiness.'2

    A year ago, in the context of the 'Altermodern' exhibition and publication, the French curator and art theorist Nicolas Bourriaud wrote:

    With an increase in both enforced and voluntary geographical exile or nomadism and globalization of goods, artists are interrogating what cultural identity is, questioning these traditional ideas of origin and inmigration. Rather than setting one fixed root against another, the ‘origin‘ against an integrating and homogenizing ‘soil‘, artists explore the process of mutation.3

    In other words, artist intentionally step back from one-sided approach to cultural identity and put the emphasis on making connections between different cultures, taking charge of that and creating translations.² According to Bourriaud travelling has become a new medium for artists in its own right. Translating, transposing, relocating, the road movie, exoticism: these are all ideas that originated with travel.

    In Pando‘s work, these ideas, exile (the term Bourriaud uses) and travel, cannot be separated from one another.  This is even more poignantly expressed in one of his most recent works, Tintin back to Peru, which is still in progress. Like his 2004-2006 King of the Mountains animation, this work is also based on a comic strip, in which 'the journey' and the perception of 'the landscape' fulfill a key role.

    Here, it is not about an 'authentic' Peruvian comic strip, but one that is European through and through: Tintin and the Temple of the Sun. Marco Pando was given the comic book in 2006 be a friend's father, and was immediately fascinated by Hergé's fictitious idea of the Peruvian landscape. It is known that Hergé never visited Peru himself. His drawings were largely based on prints by the Austrian scientist and explorer Charles Wiener, made at the end of the eighteenth century.

    What I was supposed to think of this landscape, drawn by a European who had never been to Peru and moreover drawn from the perspective of the traditional Peru of the 'Indians'? This landscape belongs to my country, but it nonetheless never made up a part of my social environment. When I realized that I could not make any connection at all between these landscapes and my own memories, a desire for these places began to evolve. The European Peru is a completely different country than Peru as I know it, but the two images are increasingly flowing into one another.5

    For Tintin Back to Peru, Pando spent several months travelling from Lima to the Amazon rain forest, following Tintin's would-be footsteps and visiting all the places that are illustrated in the comic strip, from Puno, Macchu Pichu and Huaraz in the Andes Mountains to Cuzco and Manu in the Amazon. 'I wanted to explore two worlds during that trip, the traditional Peru that I had never gotten to know and the European Peru into which I have in fact become more and more assimilated over the last five years.'6

    Nicolas Bourriaud would view this as a good example of what he upholds as the concept of creolizing. Creolizing is a process of mixing cultures and religious identities, which leads to continual cultural change and adaptations in all directions. Pando is interested in a similar process, 'syncretism', which refers to the melding together of different religions or schools of thought. In many places in Peru, Catholicism has become intermingled with local mythological traditions. During his trip, Pando witnessed the Q'oyllur riti, a ritual that is still carried out by the inhabitants of Quispicanchis province in Cuzco, in the Andes. Local residents carry huge blocks of ice from Ausangate Mountain to their farms in order to irrigate their land with this holy water. The ritual is meant to bring people and nature closer together.

    In addition to having photographed the landscape from Tintin and the Temple of the Sun as he now saw it through his own eyes, Pando also filmed forms of syncretism that he encountered in the mountain villages. It is clear here that he is not acting as a scientist, but as an artist. He intends to return to the Amazon in order to do his own performance to the Q'oyllur riti. 'I see that performance as another way of understanding social or religious processes of adaptation, and also to open up the issue of contemporary, intermingling cultural identities to debate.'7 To date, Pando has completed a comic strip in which his own photographs are mixed together with the landscapes from Tintin and the temple of the Sun, and he is currently working on a road movie in which filmed footage is completed with animation and comic strip images.

    Windflower, Perceptions of Nature includes an installation that continues to expand Pando's explorations in the Amazon Rainforest and his perceptions of the landscape. In the same way that he had previously drawn and scratched on pitch-black strips of film, now, from the black surfaces of old oil rise the majestic landscapes of the amazon Rainforest.

    When you travel through the jungle, everywhere you go, you come across oil drums that people have left behind. They contain the leftovers of the fuel that people use to get across the rivers, from one place to another. I wanted to take that phenomenon as a raw material and translate it in a panoramic landscape. The first time I visited the jungle in Peru, I ended up at a spot from which you can look out across the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali rivers. From there, you have a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape. 8

    Using a small, round hole in a washtub, Pando offers his viewers a panoramic, almost filmic vision of this landscape. Looking at the drawings, one inevitable first thinks of traditional techniques: his method of drawing is simple, and his wiping away of and drawing in the black oil is reminiscent of etchings and eighteenth-century drawings by Charles Wiener. Pando begins all of his works by making notes on simple, lined cards. Stuck together to form a larger sheet of 'paper', these cards provide the background for his sketches, in which drawing, writing and association all come together. It is an example of the ingenious way in which his work allows several different media to flow together. His work is a child of its time, evolved from a mixture of film and Internet culture from which a working method can be generated that allows historical, journalistic and personal observations to mix together. Here too, truth and fiction are presented side by side.

    As majestic as the landscape is, it is exceedingly fragile. Like many other poor countries with natural mineral resources, Peru has become enmeshed in the complex problem of the global 'energy crisis'. As a result of the extraction of fossil fuels, both its ecosystem and the living environment of its indigenous peoples have been severely affected. Researchers have expressed alarm that the Peruvian government has made 41 per cent of the Peruvian Amazon available for oil and gas extraction. Since Shell moved out of the Amazon in the 1980s, oil and gas extraction has been in the hands of a consortium of companies that are pushing the limits of international environmental guidelines. Moreover, while the government allows the oil and gas to be exported on a large scale, local Peruvians have to pay exorbitant prices for 'their own' fuel.

    Marcco Pando is in fact not interested in making blanket statements in his work. He came across oil drums in the jungle and magically transformed them into a looking box, a magic lantern in which he allows the viewer to look over his shoulder and share his view of the landscape. The laureate sociologist Richard Sennet, in his book The Craftsman, devotes many pages to the simple proposition 'making is thinking'.9 In the case of Marco Pando the result of that is an extraordinary form of recycling.

     

    Ingrid Commandeur (art critic and researcher)

     

     1.  Interview with the artist in Amsterdam, 22 October 2010.

    2.  Ibid.

    3.  Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial 2009 (London: Tate Publishing,2009), 20.

    4.  Christophe Gallois, ‘An Archipelago of Local Reactions: Nicolas Bourriaud on the Altermodern‘, Metropolis M (2009) no.1.

    5.  Interview, op. cit. (note 1).

    6.  Ibid.

    7.  Ibid.

    8.  Ibid.

    9.  Richar Sennet, The Craftsman (New Haven,CT: Yale University Press,2008).