Part of home art residency Casa Lucas Alamán, Mexico City. Photo & video taken by Leopoldo Germán Beltrán Rolón
El pasado aún está vivo (resurrected city)
Transfer of memories through microorganisms by touch from the surface of basalt sculpture (Mexica, 1325 - 1521) into cultivating Petri dish.
I cultivate microorganisms from various public sites. These locations are within the parameters of the archaeological area of Tenochtitlan, the remnants of the prehispanic city-state island currently situated underneath modern day Mexico City. I use garden gloves to rub the surface of a particular basalt sculpture of the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, and transfer the bacteria picked up by the gloves into a cultivating Petri dish. The "serpent head" is a fragmented pre-hispanic sculpture dating back to the formation of Tenochtitlan and currently situated underneath and upholding a quoin, the structure corner of a Spanish colonial building.
"If political systems are constituted of formations—both in the realm of ideas and in concrete structures—then, like living species, they also are subject to the troubling deformities brought by the process of decay."
Undercover Softness: An Introduction to the Architecture and Politics of Decay (2010) Reza Negarestani
I create a digital model of the 1521 city-state island of Tenochtitlan as a "microorganism map" using the cultivated fungi and bacteria attained from the basalt sculpture.
The 3D prototype map shows main causeways, neighborhoods and sacred centers superimposed on enlarged images of bacteria and fungi from the petri dish culture. A reimagining of the precolonial, mythological city that has been interpreted many ways throughout history, paintings and literature—never fully realized in its suppose precision, always dream-like and mystic, an apparition within the histories of colonialism.
The map highlights the unseen bacterial-fungi-virus fabric that has played a symbiotic role in shaping the landscape, architecture, and political movement of every body that has passed and passes through this site. This fluid medium knows no boundaries when it comes to our definition of time and space, bridging an intimate connection to the eco-geo-political formation of Tenochtitlan and its various subjugations, both colonial and imperial. It's in a constant state of degradation, but it was never "lost", it continues to live within us through what we consume, decay, breath and touch. El pasado aún está vivo—The past is still alive.