Mi nombre es Lima
Miguel Ángel Ríos
31.08.19 | 12.10.19
Artist Miguel Ángel Ríos (San José Norte, 1943) was born in Catamarca province, but has lived between Mexico and New York since 1976. The starting point for his never-before-exhibited project titled Mi nombre es Lima (My Name is Lima) was a visit, in 1988, to the Museo Larco in the Peruvian capital. The exhibition at Barro included drawings, paintings, and two video animations based on erotic archeological pieces produced from the second to the seventh centuries by the Moche culture located in northwestern Peru.
In 1993, the artist returned to Lima and to the museum to investigate the pieces that had so fascinated him and to develop this project. “I made hundreds of drawings and sketches. I remember that I couldn’t stop drawing. I was riveted by what I saw and my imagination ran wild. But I was called back to my studio in New York unexpectedly,” Ríos explains. In 2003, ten years after that second visit, he was still “obsessed with what he had seen.” He returned to Lima to resume work on the project—and that was when he came up with the idea of making a video animation. But once again he had to return to New York before getting down to work.
Ríos traveled to Lima yet a fourth time, now at the invitation of the Residencia de Al Lado. This was when he was finally able to start working on the project he had envisioned. He went to the museum every day to draw and take notes, though he “had the sense something wasn’t working right.” He goes on, “Since the Moches consumed hallucinogens like San Pedro, chichi, and coca leaf acullico in their rituals and celebrations, I decided that to delve deeper into their world I had to do the same, and work from the perspective offered by those substances. So I went to Huancabamba, Salalá, and Piura, in southern Peru to ingest San Pedro cactus in the open desert. That was where I found the key to this project.”
The show in Barro was organized into three areas. On display in the area closest to the entrance were series of drawings and paintings framed and laid out in a row. It was followed by two parallel spaces enveloped in semidarkness. In each one, a video animation was projected and its storyboards displayed. The third space featured the works produced in an altered state. Here, the images repeat, “proliferating forms both exaggerated and absurd, one on top of the other, one turning into another … After taking San Pedro, my perception of reality expanded, reaching new levels; nature became double and the limits that stabilize observation lost. I was, thus, able to produce characters with multiple penises and eyes or with lips, tongues, and flowers for vaginas, the multi-sexed protagonists of orgies and oral stimulation in the middle of a cactus jungle. In a flashback, I imagined a pre-Columbian figure who turned into the character in Mi nombre es Lima” (Ríos).
Ríos is most known for his work that addresses social and political struggles, violence, and geopolitics. During the nineties—the decade that witnessed the five-hundredth anniversary of the “discovery” of the Americas—he produced a series of intervened maps, some of which were selected for Mapping, an exhibition held at MoMA in New York in 1994. For that work, Ríos cut and folded maps of the New World originally drawn by Portuguese, Spanish, French, and English explorers, piercing and deforming their vision both of the colonized and of empires. Regarding those works, Ríos says, “I not only critique post-colonialism, but also speak of displacement, borders, and limits.” On pre-Columbian cultures, the artist asserts that “new parameters must be established” to interpret them. Those cultures “are outside the framework of Western colonialist and Christian morality. [It is also necessary] to take distance from modernism’s attempt to appropriate indigenous cultures and their practices for the sake of an iconography of nationalist identity… My aim here is to revisit the region’s ancient cultural practices in a manner as subjective as it is uninhibited, engaging all of their erotic audacity, hallucinatory surrealist humor, and delirious dreamlikeness.”
Content produced by arteBA. Annual Report on contemporary Argentine art.