ELENA DAMIANI

 

 

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The series Rude Rocks takes as a starting point the short story The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges to draw upon the notion of the infinite as a corruptive element that disturbs the understanding of objects making impossible to measure or calculate their limits in space and time. In that, the works are sought to comment on the capacity of physical objects to hold information, which surpasses their materiality by enfolding -and unfolding- countless layers of knowledge that prove difficult to decipher or even remain unknown to the viewer. In doing so, geological materials appear as plausible representations of the formless and the unknown in landscape and culture, embodying long raised preoccupations around the reading of objects that may appear at first as models of manmade structures but then are rendered as ambiguous and consequently unattainable.

 

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Rude Rocks N1. Travertine, copper, stainless steel. 2015

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Rude Rocks N1. Detail

Rude Rocks N2. Breccia marble, copper, steel. 2015

Rude Rocks N2. Breccia marble, copper, steel. 2015

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Rude Rocks N2. Detail

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Rude Rocks N2. Installation view. 56 Venice Biennale, Central Pavilion

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Rude Rocks N3 and N2. Breccia marble, copper, steel. 2015

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Rude Rocks N4. Breccia marble, steel structure, copper, digital ceramic prints on tempered glass, black urethane paint, matte urethane lacquer. 2015

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Rude Rocks N4. Detail

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Rude Rocks N4. Installation view. 56 Venice Biennale, Central Pavilion

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Rude Rocks. Installation view. 56 Venice Biennale, Central Pavilion

 

Elena Damiani belongs to a recent generation of artists from Peru who have earned international recognition for their ability to deal with historical issues. In the case of Damiani, even though she was educated in Europe and her work is represented in an easily recognizable global style, the reference to het country of origin may seem less apparent than in works by other artists of her generation. In Damiani's work, the Peruvian landscape is heavily charged with myths and actual history, the symbolic and the material. Those landscapes that were intensively explored during colonization, especially in scientific explorations during the nineteenth century, are recognized as the work of the ancient cultures of indigenous peoples, who produced some of the world's most prominent architectonic landmarks, including the buildings of Machu Picchu and the Nazca lines. On the other hand, Peru was also (and in some ways still is) a theatre of the cruelties of colonization.

Beyond these common associations, however, Peru has been a country characterized in modern times by the exploration of its mineral resources. This is where Damiani's research into a so-called "aesthetic geology" intertwines the present with the prehistoric. Her most recent body of work, the Rude Rocks series, combines her interest in what artist Robert Smithson called “the earth as a museum,” with her sculptural studies of geographical strata. Rock formations, of course, are microcosms of the earth’s uncertain origins. When they are put together with data that records the earth’s history, however, rocks are highly sensitive to all kinds of speculation, both scientific and otherwise. Damiani’s new body of work, as she explains it, is like Jorge Luis Borges’s The Book of Sand, a story that has neither beginning nor end. Instead, it is open to every kind of intervention and alteration, even though it always remains the same.

In this way, Rude Rocks is like an entropic nightmare: everything is destined to remain as it is. That may explain why, instead of continuing to create site-specific interventions into the ancient landscapes, Damiani has decided to engage the hybridity between modern design and prehistoric readings. As a result, her new series allows rationality to be reflected in its own distorted mirror. Robert Smithson once proposed rereading the work of the French painter Paul C├ęzanne, suggesting that the viewer begin and inverted journey from the canvas to the studio, and back to the landscape, which was the artist’s subject. Likewise, Damiani seems to invite modernity to look back and to consider its conflicted ideological and geological roots.

- Jesus Fuenmayor