An essay by A.A. Gill on how the Michelin Guide killed food: “Food writing is already the recidivist culprit of multiple sins against both language and digestion, but the little encomiums of the Michelin guide effortlessly lick the bottom of the descriptive swill bucket.”
After a couple of weeks back in the U.S., I’m still trying to shift my brain from the Andes back to California. But one of the many pieces of art that keeps occupying space at the top of my brain is the above sculpture of Saint James, at the Casa Garcilaso in Cuzco. The saint, one of the Twelve Apostles, is frequently depicted slaying a Moor. (Though he was beheaded in Jerusalem in AD 44, legend has it that Saint James appeared to fight on the side of the Christians in a Christians-versus-Moors face-off in Spain exactly 800 years later — hence the image.)
But in the sculpture above, Saint James (Santiago, in Spanish) is shown slaying an Inca. The piece above is a replica of a sculpture from a church in the Apurimac region, which lies west of Cuzco. Unfortunately, the wall text provided little in the way of specifics — such as a date when it may have been made or if this was a common motif of the era. My semi-educated guess is that it was made at some point in the 18th century or thereabouts. Whatever the specifics, this surely has to be one of the most moving pieces of art I saw during my trip…
An owl man figure. The museum’s director, Andrés Álvarez Calderón, who led us on an incredible tour of the collection, says that all ancient cultures conveyed the supernatural with hybrid human-bird figures or hybrid human-feline figures — and sometimes both traits at once.
The visible storage rooms contain thousands of pre-Columbian objects. We spent several hours in here just gandering at all of the awesomeness.
Twice a year, the Qorikancha museum has a contemporary art contest that draws entries from around Cusco and Peru. Above: the winning entry, Perturbación de la memoria, by Edwin Yuri Huaman Huillca.
Announcing the winners.
In the exhibit, I saw some nice use of materials. A work by Nilton Melgar Carrión incorporates canvas, cardboard, trash bags, hair (or fur) and Andean textiles.
Last week, I attended one of the better art openings I’ve been to in a long, long time. The Museo Qorikancha, the museum attached to the ancient Inca site and Dominican monastery in Cusco, held a reception for its semi-annual art contest. For the last eight years, the museum has been putting together a collection of contemporary art and supporting local and regional artists through a regular exhibition program and art contests. This year’s theme was ‘Memory’ and the show provided a good opportunity to take in the local scene. Things really got interesting halfway through the opening reception when the building lost power. In fact, the lights never came back on. Not that it mattered to anyone at the opening. Folks promptly lit up their cigarettes and used their cell phone lights to admire the art. Then the Dominican monks laid out a table of wine, which somehow everyone was able to find in the pitch dark.
Schematic for La Luz, to be installed by Celso at the old Inca sun temple in Cusco, Peru.
Yes, I’m asking for money.
This summer, I’m going to be working as studio assistant/translator/chasqui for my partner-in-crime Celso on a series of installations that will go up at the Qorikancha the old Inca sun temple in Cusco, Peru. For the project — which is titled La Luz — he’ll be building a series of architectural installations around the ruins grounds (and the attached Dominican monastery) using several hundred bottles of Inca Kola, the nuclear yellow Peruvian soda (see images above and below). It will be a pop paean to the gold that once covered the site. The piece will be pulled apart and re-installed in a new location every three days. At the end of each installation, the public will be allowed to take the Inca Kola home.
The museum that manages the site, the Museo Qorikancha y Convento de Santo Domingo, has commissioned the piece. But as with most arts institutions in Peru, the budgets are tiny. Which is why we’re asking for your help. This is going to be a beautiful project — unlike anything the museum has ever done. So pleasepleaseplease help us get to Peru! Any donation, no matter how small, makes a difference.
Please click through to Celso’s Kickstarter to send us your pennies. We have all kinds of goodies for rewards. And we promise that your donations will be wisely and prudently spent (on lots of Inca Kola). If you’re a regular reader, please think of this as a way to help me keep doing what I love to do — namely, writing about great-weird art I find wherever I happen to be.
MUST. READ. A stunning 1988 essay by Joan Didion on our political “process” and its coverage in the media, and how it bears absolutely no resemblance to reality. Though I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “housemaid Spanish” is. (@citizen_kahn.)
Why solar energy is not as green as we might like to believe. A good reason to stop air conditioning shit to death.
It’s been a weird year. I drove back roads across the U.S. Threw a fish across state lines. Stared at an artist in a museum atrium. Taught art yoga. Spent the summer watching a “reality show” about art. Rowed around Randall’s Island in a handmade boat. And joined a religious procession in the Andes. I’ve covered most of these activities here on the blog (or over at WNYC). But a few things have eluded me — either because I just haven’t had time to get them down in pixels, or because I hadn’t quite sorted out my thoughts.
So, in lieu of a year-end listicle (I produce enough lists throughout the year), a little bit of stream-of-consciousness ruminating instead: