The banality of public monuments: Miguel Andrade Valdez on Lima.


Untitled – Monumento Series, by Miguel Andrade Valdez.

Not wanting to ever be accused of producing timely coverage on this blog, I wanted to take a minute to ruminate on a video by Miguel Andrade Valdez I saw in Galería Revolver‘s booth at the Armory Show last month. It dovetails perfectly with my current Peru obsession, as well as my continuing interest in supremely absurd public works. In fact, recently, I’ve been immersed in photographer Mario Silva’s book Lords, Pyramids and Replicas: Images from the North Coast of Peru, in which he chronicles the influence of pre-Columbian art in contemporary architecture. If you’re into vernacular everything, his book is an absolutely stunning documentation of blended styles and motifs — from Moche forms to graceful Art Deco to that school of design a friend of mine lovingly refers to as “the South American bizarre.” Plus: it contains a two-page spread on bizarre traffic circle sculptures in northern Peru.

Which brings me right back around to the Armory: Andrade Valdez’s video Untitled – Monumento Series is a chaotic, rapid-fire visual compendium of the monuments that occupy Lima’s traffic circles and pedestrian malls. They range from the forgotten to the futurist, the Spanish Mediterranean to the brutal, the Modernist to the I-don’t-know-what. (Check out the weird blue things at about 2:50. They re-emerge later in the video as well.) Interestingly, in looking at all of this, the trapezoid emerges as a very popular shape — perhaps because it’s cheap and easy to construct (and resistant to earthquakes), perhaps because it’s a common motif in pre-Columbian Peruvian architecture. Also popular: brutalism. Of all of the monuments shown, my favorite have to be the bizarre pipe organ thingies, shown in the image above, which appear to be a decorative collaboration between various Soviet bloc architects and the guys in charge of the local water authority.

If you’re into all things design, consider watching Andrade’s video more than once. He has turned up some amazing stuff — a fantastic tribute to all of the things in our landscape we might see but rarely take the time to examine.

Find Miguel Andrade Valdez’s website here. Special thanks to Carlos Díaz at Ojjo for the tip on Mario Silva’s book.

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