Magazine article Artforum International

Fernando Palma Rodriguez: House of Gaga

Magazine article Artforum International

Fernando Palma Rodriguez: House of Gaga

Article excerpt

Fernando Palma Rodriguez

HOUSE OF GAGA

"We would reach a better understanding of the world," says Fernando Palma Rodriguez, "if we accepted the indigenous concept of person that does not limit itself to individuals but that is also conferred to nature, animals, and human beings as a whole." The works that made up Palma Rodriguez's most recent exhibition, "Totlalhuan, Mictlantecuhtli, Chak-ek, Kan" (Our Land, Lord of the Underworld, Venus, Sky), fuse vision and language in the manner of an ancient codex. In Nahuatl--as opposed to many Western languages--grammatical subjects aren't central to oral communication. Even the verb to be quickly becomes unnecessary and redundant: Since things and beings already are, there is no need to emphasize their existence. A person's presence can be conveyed through the combination of different concepts, the immanence of which is frequently untranslatable. With that in mind, our understanding of the natural elements, discarded objects, mechanical parts, and industrial debris that form Palma Rodriguez's sculptures becomes rather instinctive, stirring our senses to perceive what the gestures performed by these humble automata might communicate before they eventually fall into extinction.

The central piece in the exhibition, Quetzalcoatl, 2016, represents the feathered serpent, god of vegetation, renewal, and warfare that descended to Mictlan--the underworld in Aztec mythology--to fight and defeat Mictlantecuhtli in order to bring back the corn that feeds humans. The motorized sculpture is made of cardboard, a worker's boot, and native criollo corncobs and dyed leaves harvested in Palma Rodriguez's land in Milpa Alta, on the outskirts of Mexico City. In a country that today imports half the corn it consumes from the United States, criollo corn is turning into a chromatic rarity threatened by transgenic maize. Here, the erratic movements of the serpent's severed body literally gestured toward the huge amounts of energy squandered by the entropie society we live in. An earlier version of the sculpture incorporated forty-three rattles made from misshapen cobs, a semiveiled reference to the forty-three missing students from the southwestern city of Iguala who have come to symbolize Mexico's fundamental lack of human rights and criminal justice. …

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