Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art

49th Venice Biennale
10 June - 4 November 2001

Venice / 2001 / Pavilions / Uruguay


Rimer Cardillo: Interview
From an interview by Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt

I created this work for the Biennale. The central element is the »Cupí«, which means »anthill« in the language of the Guarani Indians. These »Cupí« can be found in many regions of South America, particularly on the Atlantic coast in Uruguay. They're easily recognizable by their unique conical form, from which the structure of my work is derived. On the other hand, many American cultures use a conical form for the burial of their dead, who are laid to rest together with the utensils and animals that they lived with ... so there are several metaphors that flow together.

The terra-cotta figures are castings of dead animals that I found in the jungles or steppe. Among these are animals from South America, i.e. from Uruguay and Venezuela, but also from the Hudson area in North America, where I live and have my studio. Recently I've also made wax moulds, which allow for more detailed accuracy and create a likeness such that one doesn't know for sure if a dead animal is lying underneath or not. The boxes on the wall are part of the installation, and refer to Jewish and Christian relic-shrines. The thought behind this is to preserve the birds in these boxes, and to present them as relics of a world threatened by extinction.

Another important aspect of this exhibition is the reference to the »mirror«. Mirrors were sacred to many pre-Colombian civilizations. They also played an important role in the colonization process, because mirrors were introduced as bartering objects and magical artifacts in the course of the conquest of America. In a certain sense, my work is meant to bring the mirror back to Europe.

My creation has to do with concepts of ecology, the destruction of the environment, and humanity. In a broad metaphor, it deals with the problematic of the native peoples in the American primeval forests and in other parts of the world, but also makes a statement about the alienation of people in the city.
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© Interview, translation, photos:
Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder