Lucian Comoy: Latin America's scents and spices

What this joint venture between a number of Latin American countries, under the banner of the Istituto Italo-Latino Americano, amounts to is an examination of the cross-fertilisation of Latin American and European artists. The title, “El Atlas de I’imperio” is taken from Jorge Luis Borges's story of a map that was as big as the territory it represented. Uruguay’s president is famous for his philanthropic ways and simple life: he donates 90% of his salary to social housing projects and uses his old VW Beetle to get around town. Now he has lent his name to another worthy cause: a (unique) bottle of scent, made from the flowers that grow on his farm, is to be auctioned to help create a national contemporary art fund. A promotional video by Martin Sastre tells the story, showing a sort of sub-Bond figure breaking into the Uruguayan senate. Laudable stuff but... ho-hum.

Lucía Madriz Vitalis, 2013

The Costa Rican entry, by Lucía Madriz, presents a sort of mandala on the floor depicting a haemoglobin and a chlorophyll molecule, symbolising the inherent unity of plant and animal life and our link with nature. By using rice and beans that have not been genetically modified, her work becomes a clear critique of the latent threat of manipulated food and of companies like Monsanto, which dominate South American agriculture and its farmers. A nice conceit.

Sonia Falcone's Campo de Color, 2013 during the installation of the Latin American pavilion

The real eye-catcher here, however, is the Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone's installation of spices. Looking like an Oriental spice market, the explosion of colours and scents aims to suggest both Asia and Venice, drawn together by their trade, and adds an American touch with local flavours. The spices also stress the ephemeral nature of sensory pleasure and the fleeting nature of life. Ay que dolór!

Published Thu, 30 May 2013 15:53:00 GMT

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