Place: Permanent installation, Parque Cultural El Tranque, next to the Centro Cultural El Tranque, Lo Barnechea.
Material: Steel and stainless steel (mirror finish)
Size: 14 meters high by 5 meters x 6 meters approximately.
Year: 2019

A spatial journey/ A trip to Pénjamon.

Un viaje espacial/un viaje a Pénjamon.

When I think about space I cannot avoid thinking about how it becomes present before us. Does it exist prior to us? Or, do we construct it insofar we exist in or with it? And, if space exists in this sort of preamble, almost in the twilight, what are the shapes or actions needed to be made for it to finally appear, or for it to exist? I think this is not a simple matter because it is not resolved by putting something in a place or in space for it to appear. In my conception, space is only possible when a thing, or the things that inhabit it, or the actions that take place in that same space, respond to a systemic or organic logic that allows the existence of a totality. Unbreakable and inseparable.

I think my life is a bit like that; things must somehow fit to construct a sensible unit, emotional and sculptural, therefore spatial.

When I think about a project, I believe I always think about a spatial situation and how I relate to it, or how we relate to it, as if I wanted that space to be a part of my life. According to that, I need to make it “fit” into that systemic unit, organic and sensitive.

My work has been constructed from experience, from what I have learned and made, which at the same time has evolved into a visual language that has developed from those same experiences. However, it is no less true nor less important, that the way I speak from visual arts or sculpture specifically, comes also from my memories, from my relationship with the world, from things and materials, people and landscapes, and a profound affiliation to the concept of Sculpture itself as an expanded field.

When the Municipality of Lo Barnechea commissioned me this project, one of my first approaches was to learn which was the proposed site for its installation. I visited the location several times. In one of those visits, I went down to the river bed and observed the relationship between the mountain and the river, one vertical, the other horizontal, coming closer and apart, like an umbilical relation. I spent quite some time there, collected stones and remembered when I was little and gathered stones with my father, we played stone skipping. Whether it was a river, ocean or lake, we could spend hours playing, looking for the best stone, the one that bounces more off the water surface. Perhaps that is why I started picking up stones, unconsciously holding them in my hands thinking about finding the relation between sculpture, space, landscape, and memories. Sometimes I think my work responds to instructions that are foreign to me, given by my previous learnings, by the things I have seen and done, instructions that have given a vocabulary to my visual language.

From the many stones I collected, I started selecting (just as I did with my father) the one that had the right shape to best fit in with space and the stone that would also give an account of the space. Just as I would pick the stone that would be ideal for skipping. I remember that as a kid, I would sometimes pick stones when I was not even near the water. I kept them because I knew that at some point my father and I would go to a place near the water and I would have the chance to throw them across it, making the stone find a more appropriate site to perform its best action.

I modeled the stones, draw them, draw structural lines over them, almost trying to find a skeleton or to find a way to understand that shape, to learn it. The drawings and sketches were, in a way, attempts of that, of thinking how this form that has a concrete existence, needed to be transformed into a nonexistent visual idea. Like a concrete matter in the present, but in a future state. The only thing I got from this exercise was to have drawings of the exterior, it seemed impenetrable. Suddenly, in one of those drawings a kind of exoskeleton appeared, it was a structural graph that could represent the shape and that it also allowed me to fold its surface, play over it. Somehow the shape referenced the memory of the way stones skipped the surface of the water when I played with my father. Like when the tense reflection of the surface was interrupted and reinterpreted by the bouncing of the stone, drawing on that reflection and constructing, at moments, a new reality.

Folding the Landscape is not just a matter of surface: as long as surface exists, it also means that there is something deeper; it is necessarily a relation between both, like the river and the mountain. Through this time-traveling, that has extended for over three years, the piece has been questioned in its conception, construction and set up. This has lead me to think that unconsciously the work does not finish only on its surface, this is just one aspect and apparently the first way to relate with space. Time and events have given the piece a specific weight, a degree of autonomy beyond its appearance, which is something I have not found previously in other projects.

Folding the Landscape started because of a specific location and from the relation that should be established with that location. However, after wandering through different places in the borough I understood that this particular piece contained its own space and was able to establish relations with any site; it is a piece that speaks many languages and therefore communicates very well with different placements.

The period of the process spent wandering in search of a location, allowed somehow –as the drawings did in their time– to take a step back or to stop and contemplate the things that were not part of the piece yet, but that paradoxically existed in it, like its spatial condition and its independence regarding a specific site.

Even though it has been a long journey, sometimes I think that the path is always more important than reaching a destination. I am thankful for that time, I am thankful for this loss that turns into a gain.

The encounter with the site

It is strange to look for a place to install something that does not yet exist. In that sense the search for the site was always a utopia; there was never a site to be found just as much as there was no physical piece to be installed. There were ideas, sketches, hundreds of drawings, so in a way there were infinite locations to be found, or perhaps none.

I remember when I was a kid, we used to take trips with my family, anywhere, and when I asked my father where we were going he always replied: “to Pénjamon”. Then, I would ask, but where or what is that? And he replied, “It is a place and we are going there”. Just by naming the place I assumed it existed; in fact, I still believe it does. I think that perhaps Pénjamon is the place where my sculpture belongs.

My father saw my drawings, saw my models and I explained to him the way I wanted to make the piece. Those conversations were fundamental to me because my father was a metallurgical engineer and a natural builder, a Homo Faber par excellence. He fantasized with the possibility of this complex structure of imprecise geometry filled with technical and structural speculations. He observed, expressed an opinion, tried to understand and became fascinated when he saw the first models. He always asked me how the project of Lo Barnechea was going on. He did not get to see it finished, but I know he always imagined it even better than it is.

I believe human beings are never more human than when they construct things.

I want to think that the park where the work is installed in my own Pénjamon or our Pénjamon. I am certain that the piece won’t have any inconvenience in inhabiting this site. It is a diplomatic artwork that knows how to listen and welcomes the context over itself, replicating its surroundings, communicating with it and therefore, establishing a relationship with the location. The piece seems to need locating itself in a place to figure out what language to speak, folding that landscape over itself, momentarily constructing a new reality, like a stone skipping the water.

It is a happy encounter, the piece found its place and the place was born once it found the art piece. It is as if the work says: “I am as you see me and you are as you see me, therefore I belong here, to your place, to our place”.

Photo Credit / Benjamín Matte