DANCE OF THE WARRIOR
to a lineage of seers that originates in Mexico of ancient times, the
shaman gives his disciple arduous lessons of physical and mental discipline.
Focused on self-control and impeccable behavior, the shamans training
will lead to achieve the mood of the warrior , initiating
him as a man of knowledge.
A warrior knows that his death is waiting, the sorcerer
said in one of their first teachings. Death is the only wise advisor
that a warrior has, which will be watching him until his last moment
comes. As a warrior, you must learn to make every action count, since
you are going to be here in this world for only a short while
he added. The shamans lesson is simple: an immense amount of pettiness
is dropped if we confront our daily behavior with our imminent death.
In his Indian wisdom, death is not the negation of life but the negation
of the ego. As a result, a warrior who is conscious of his death considers
life as a mysterious gift and seeks for impeccability in each one of
his actions. Thus, he makes use of the surrounding world - being it
objects, plants, animals, people or power- in a very respectful way.
Finally, a man of knowledge touches the world around him
sparingly and, silently, withdraws without destroying anything.
Rimer Cardillo has been searching for the path of knowledge for a long
while. And he goes through this process with humbleness, as those who
know how to balance the potential of being an artist together with the
creators commitment of what he creates. As in the shamans
teachings, Cardillos work confronts us permanently with the presence
of death. Firstly, that of those South American Indians exterminated
in the XIX Century, as part of the triumph of civilization
over barbarity. Secondly, with the death of the political
dissidents murdered during the hard years of the military dictatorship
in Uruguay, his home country. Finally, he faces us with the death of
the species extinguished by the devastating action of man. The trace
of other deaths also appears in Cupí and Birds of Oil,
Clay and Ashes, the installation presented in the 26th Ljubljana
Biennial. The appearance of dead bodies of small birds, which the artist
found in his garden in the Mid New Yorks Hudson River Valley,
triggered this project. The birds died when they accidentally crashed
against the windowpanes of his studio. While incapable of distinguishing
between reality and its reflected image, the birds mistook the glass
for the sky. The artist did not damage them voluntarily but, somehow,
he provoked their death by building a house in the valley. However,
Cardillo knows that he must confront the consequences of his actions
and transforms the unfortunate death of those birds in an impressive
piece of art.
A site-specific interaction encourages people to experience a
modified space with the idea that they will engage with the work rather
than simply observe it, Cardillo says. The installation at the
Tobacnas Factory hosts a large wall covered with hundreds of silk-screened
images printed on paper. The prints established a dialogue with a self-standing
piece in the shape of a cone: a Cupí. This cone is made
by hundreds of hand-made embossed papers woven between hundreds of threads
that shaped it. The appearance of the cone is of a white eggshell, fragile
and delicate. Technically the work began with a negative impression
taken by plaster molds from the birds corpses (negative printing),
which generate other versions (positive printing) that evolve into pieces
made of terra cotta, bronze or paper. Photographs of these pieces are
digitally manipulated and finally silkscreen-printed in several layers
on paper. The artist uses printmaking processes but disregards the edition,
the traditional printing matrixes and inks. Instead, he uses plaster
molds, acetates, petrol, clay or ashes, all of them elements that are
part of the reality of our time.
Conceptually, the installation is based in the relationship between
the birds-wall and the birds-cupí/cone. Cupí
is the word for termites in the Guaranian language. The artist also
assigns the name of Cupí to the mound built with earth by the
termites. However, his inspiration for this piece was not only the anthill
conical shapes but also Cerritos de los indios, the hills
of the Indians. This is a popular name for the earth ceremonially
heaped by the Charrúas. A number of indigenous American cultures
utilized the cone shape, made of soil, to ceremoniously bury their dead
and their animals along with weapons and daily utensils, he states.
In addition, the word Cupi is also used by the Kuna Indians to
name the old great man who inherits from his ancestors the knowledge
of his people becoming, therefore, the spiritual leader. Cardillos
cone remains both, the cerritos and the hills scattered in the old world
of the Indian shamans, which are signaled as dwellings of the spirits
and places of power where nomadic tribes returned regularly as part
of their life cycles and ceremonies. The Cupí is not only
displayed as a cerrito of ritual burial of birds, which died by the
artists involuntary intervention, but also as a symbol of knowledge
and concentration of power. Simultaneously, the artist deals with a
repertoire of conceptual and technical layers providing metaphorical
richness to the installation. Oil, the war incentive, and ashes,
the remaining of ancient forests, interact along with Clay, the most
positive element, used in ancestral methods of construction, protection,
and healing. Oil, clay and ashes, with which the silk-screens
are printed, functioned as what is not because the effects
of pollution do kill it. The evidence of contamination, death and extinction
of cultures and species are woven here, as the embossed papers of the
Cupí, with extreme delicacy and powerful significance.
The 26th Biennial has been designed under a multi-curatorial, intercultural
and transnational umbrella. Jure Mikuz, its director, has challenged
the curators by posing a difficult question: What is Graphic Art
today? In a certain way, the answer is involved in the title of
the biennial. Sunek/Thrust refers to a point in which Graphic Art has
thrust the limits of its technical procedures, evolving
from an aesthetic based in a 500 year-old technology to a field of research
stimulated by the processes of nomadism and hybridization that appear
in other artistic media.
In this context, Proyectoace attempts to answer Mikuzs question
by displaying only one paradigmatic artist: the Uruguayan master Rimer
Cardillo, an internationally known artist who studied Graphic Art in
the University of Uruguay, the School of Art and Architecture in Weissenssee,
Berlin and at the School of Graphic Art in Leipzig, Germany. Leaving
his country for political dissidence with the last military dictatorship,
he settled in the United States at the beginning of the 80. Today
he is a Professor at the State University of New York in New Paltz,
and lives between the Hudson River Valley and the city of New York.
Cardillo belongs to a South American artistic generation of strongly
trained printmakers, who share the experience of the Diaspora and struggle
between being here and there. This generation produces art within a
Latin American perspective, not based on the difference with the
others but creating from this difference. It opened the road to
a very representative group of Latin American artists (who do not necessarily
come from the printmaking area) to use printmaking beyond Modern Art
conceptions and conflicts concerning the technical reproduction of an
image. In this way, there has been a displacement in which the artists
focus is not on the object but on the process. What matters is not the
mere technique in itself by the reproduction process, which allows us
the copy, the replica, the duplicate, the imitation, the simulacrum,
the counterfeit, and the derivative. These procedures all of them
present in Cardillos work- enable us to elaborate graphic
strategies which emerge not as a technical ghetto but immerse
into the inter-textuality present in other contemporary art practices.
In the Indian world, Death cannot seize the warrior who narrates his
ultimate dance. This last act on earth should be the best of himself
and, as long as he continues perfoming, his impeccable soul has the
power to keep Death waiting. Provided the warrior has acquired limited
knowledge, the performance will be poor and short. However, if the warrior
has acquired a deeper knowledge, the choreography will be magnificent.
Rimer Cardillo's work is a grandiose dance, which narrates his commitment
concerning the survival of the indigenous cultures and the conservation
of the species and the natural forest. Beyond the political barriers
and the social discriminations he portrays, metaphorically, how those
processes of destruction filter everywhere in the contemporary world.
In this way and by his strong commitment in the defense of life, the
artist as the warrior who has lived an impeccable life- is empowered
to stop Death.
Taken into account that man confronts knowledge as he
confronts war -with awe- the man who goes towards knowledge can well
be called a warrior.
CASTANEDA, Carlos. Journal to Ixtlan. The Lessons of Don Juan.
Simon&Shuster. New York, 1972
Cardillos statement for the Ljubljana installation
Rimer Cardillo was a prizewinner at the 17th Ljubljana Biennial, in
1987. More information about the artist in http://www.rimercardillo.com
Together with his compatriots Luis Camnitzer, Antonio Frasconi and the
Argentine Liliana Porter among others.
The same tension most of us share, even leaving in our own home town,
belonging to a group of artists who move around various international
See WILLERS, Karl Emil. Impressions (and other images of memory).
A complete essay on Cardillos work. Retrospective exhibition catalogue
at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art. SUNY New Paltz. New Paltz, New York.