Cabinet of curiosities

By Daniel Molina

Perfil Journal, april 2013

With “Gurí” (Child), the Misiones native Andrés Paredes has devised the link between two worlds; in this case –as a passionate naturalist– by sticking to the wonders of science and nature. Through a microscopic look, Paredes uncovers the weaving of this wonderful and terrible rainforest that ended the lives of Horacio Quiroga and all his family. Discover why. 

Gods  –as the Iliad narrates– give men tragedies and happiness so that poets  have topics for their works. The eldest Western poem tells us that the tragedies and triumphs of life are part of the staging of an absurd fiction, where we are sometimes protagonists but usually work as those extras that move along the stage without opening their mouths. Art is possible because the world is impossible. Life is merely a bureaucratic path: only artists can make sense out of it. Rousseau said that, until they turned five, all children were artists: in their learning of the world, each child imagines a reality that is far more fascinating that the one ruling adults’ common sense, where taming has managed to kill the poet that each person had inside at birth. Andrés Paredes (Apóstoles, Misiones, 1979) continues being a poet child: in his exhibition “Gurí” (Americanism that comes from the Guaraní term ngiri that means “child”) we find proof that the world he sees (the world he manages to make visible to us) is a systematic invention that weaves science, play and imagination.

Paredes was born in a huge house that, at the same time, was a clinic where his father, a doctor, worked. Apart from the waiting room, X-ray scanners and operating theaters; apart from bedrooms, a kitchen and a living-room, in that house there was a limitless garden, full of tropical plants. Full of tropical life: butterflies, cicadas, small reptiles, spiders. A world that was even more fascinating than the one that populated his father’s waiting rooms. In his father’s office, he discovered a microscope that allowed him to build a bridge between both worlds –the rational thoroughness of science and the baroque derangement of the exuberant nature. Two worlds that lived together within the same house: just a few meters separated the medical room from the butterfly flapping of wings. 

In Gurí, Paredes presents (among many other works) two reconstructions of his father’s medical cabinet interacting with the animal and vegetable nature that harassed him. On the one hand, a great photograph, Memory of Both Worlds, shows the assembly the artist made in his workshop in Misiones. On the other hand, an installation reminds us of this dialog between both worlds in a way that is, at the same time, more intense and more distant. In both remembrances, natural elements coexist with scientific instruments and fictional objects used by the artist to create a new world. This new world does no longer belong to his childhood, but becomes a tribute (which is always distorted, i.e., truly personal) to what he presently wishes his past had been.

Paredes is a brilliant craftsman: a master of fretwork. In his works on paper, he takes this mastery to the level of detail and care that can be observed in the most exquisite works performed by the best ñandutí embroiderers; and his fretwork on MDF, resin and other materials he uses for sculptures is not less elaborate. Gurí is full of vegetal echoes (as may be seen in The Coconut Plant or Growth) and of huge skeletons of dragonflies, cicadas and other insects (Nymphs, Host with Chrysalis, Exiting the earth or Anisoptera in Arbors). It is not a coincidence that the same insects that populate the rainforest recalled in Gurí are those that, like butterflies or cicadas, go through a larval stage.

The whole exhibition is under the sign of the trans: the bridge between two worlds. Between childhood and adult life, between memories and the present, between the larva and the fully developed insect. In some way, it is about the landscape between desire and its impossible realization. Even though what we see are insects, plants, medical offices, recreations that insist on the biographic and on memory, what we actually have before us is a map of what art is: the stress between what we believe to know and the wonder of daring see what we do not know. It is a map of discovery at the moment the disclosure takes place. In the same way that, when we were children, we used to imagine we were refounding the world and thus giving sense to it. 

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