I began the first photographs for this project in 2007. In the initial stage I worked specifically on the appearance of particular public buildings in the city of Buenos Aires: nine buildings constructed in the city between the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1950s, each representing a distinct aspect of Argentine social and political life. I have included, amongst others, the Ministry of Economy, a court, a public hospital and a military building. My interest in these buildings has various possible explanations: from their use as metaphor and the intention to make certain comments on history, to an almost taxonomical end. Public buildings can say a great deal about a country. I think of these works not only as simple images of buildings but rather as remains that can be interpreted, signs that demand an exercise of memory. These photographs arise from my interest in the complex and difficult relationship that the State maintains with those who depend on it and who are the reason for its existence. I chose to concentrate on the facades and to work on them as if they were portraits, a means to make evident the different layers of accumulated history in this deteriorated architecture, like the stories that can be read in the wrinkles on a face.
Mist - Part II (2008/2011)
In the second stage of this project I have dedicated myself to photograph locations, monuments and unfinished structures of particular public works. This second stage is my response to an idea that many monuments created with the aim of commemorating specific events ultimately end up obsolete. I have chosen to photograph particular places and objects, motivated by the anecdotes hidden behind them and fundamentally for the capacity that I find in these object to evoke those anecdotes: observation towers, walls used by firing squads, decapitated sculptures, bridges that lead nowhere, amongst others.
To cite a particular example: in the photograph Evita, we see the decapitated sculpture of Eva Perón. On her left, barely entering the frame, is another figure representing President Juan Perón, headless and handless. After the death of Evita in 1952, President Perón commissioned the sculptor Leonne Tomassi to produce this pair of statues for the frontispiece of what was to be the mausoleum where the embalmed remains of his wife Eva Duarte would rest. During the military coup of 1955 that overthrew and exiled Perón, military commanders obsessed with the idea of eradicating all images of Evita stormed the sculptor’s studio just as he was working on the finishing touches to the statues and proceeded to decapitate the figures with hammer blows. The sculptures, made of tons of solid marble, were immediately seized and thrown to the bottom of Buenos Aires’ heavily contaminated Riachuelo river. The sculptures were recovered forty years later during the Peronist government of Carlos Menem and located in the 17 de Octubre country park in San Vicente, 50 kilometres from Buenos Aires, the place where Perón and Evita used to pass their weekends and today also the resting place for Perón’s remains.
How much of this story of antinomies and violence is recognizable in this image of decapitated sculptures in a misty wood? It is here that I sustain my commitment to photography as the best tool for representing the ideas that I am working with.
Mist - Part III (2012/2014)
In the third stage of the work I am travelling across the country to photograph specific locations where the physiognomy of the landscape has been modified as much by political decision-making as by the weight of history itself. The proposal remains the same: that the relationship between the appearance of things and their history can eventually produce an image strong enough to bear witness to the past. These images would contrast with the saturated planes and the literality of the photographs of the public buildings and those of the monuments and structures. The idea is to continue to work from the idea that something of some weight is still perceptible in these landscapes, despite the absence of recognizable elements. This is the leitmotiv that runs through all the photographs of the series, from the first taken in 2007 to the latest, still being produced.
The diptych Woods can serve as an example of the photographs that I intend to produce during the new stage: it concerns dead woods in the province of Tierra del Fuego, in the far south of the country. In 1946, the Argentine navy, with the aim of expanding the furrier industry and obtaining economic return from the almost deserted island of Tierra del Fuego, imported 25 pairs of beavers from Canada, brought specially from Alberta on an Argentine army plane. The project failed and the animals began to multiply uncontrollably due to the lack of natural predators in Argentina. Today, with a population of more that 100,000, the beavers have caused irreparable damage. Their dams cause flooding in terrains and lead to the death of trees. The beaver reigns in what has become the cemetery of other species: dead trees, nests that are no longer there, birds that have been forced to migrate.
The absence (2001/2002)
At nine fifty-three on the morning of July 18, 1994, a bomb exploded opposite the building of the AMIA, the Jewish Community Center, at 633 Pasteur Street in the City of Buenos Aires. The explosion completely demolished the seven-storey building and killed 85 people. The AMIA was a center for civic and social activities exclusively. To-date the material and intellectual parties responsible for the massacre remain at large.
Condición de las flores, Santiago Porter, Rolf Art, Buenos Aires, 2014 La observación detenida, Santiago Porter, Museo de Bellas Artes Emilio Caraffa, Córdoba, 2012 Bruma, Santiago Porter, Zavaleta Lab, Buenos Aires, 2011 Los Monumentos, Santiago Porter, Museo de Arte y Memoria de La Plata, La Plata, 2010 La Ausencia, Santiago Porter, Dilan Editores, Buenos Aires, 2007 Recent Work, Santiago Porter, Pan American Art Projects, Miami, 2007 Piezas, Santiago Porter, Ediciones Alberto Sendros, Buenos Aires, 2003
Santiago Porter was born in Buenos Aires in 1971. His work has been shown in numerous individual and collective exhibitions in Argentina and abroad and is also included in several public and private collections. He was awarded a Guggenheim grant in 2002 and also received an award from the Antorchas Foundation in Buenos Aires. In that same year he was invited to take part in the residency for visual artists held by the Banff Center for the Arts in Canada. In 2007 he received a grant to take part in the Intercampos III program organized by the Telefonica Foundation in Buenos Aires and received the First Prize for Contemporary Photography awarded by The Central Society of Architecture of Buenos Aires. In 2008 he was awarded the Petrobras Award for Contemporary Photography. In 2010 he was granted the National Grant from Argentina’s National Fund for the Arts. In 2011 he was selected to take part in the Artist’s Program at the Universidad Di Tella in Buenos Aires. He is the author of “Piezas” [Pieces], published in 2003, and “La ausencia” [The absence], published in 2007. He lives and works in Buenos Aires.
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