Santiago Roose
Determinaciones soco territoriales: Colonia, 2017

Photo: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima, 2017

Wood, bamboo reed, aluminium, plastic, mesh, and concrete.
7.5 x 12.5 x 20 mt
Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

The intervention carried out by Santiago Roose at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima (MAC-Lima) is a temporal interference with nods to the popular culture that nourishes much of the most critical and relevant contemporary Peruvian art… in this case, by citing do-it-yourself homebuilding, which—in the city of Lima—has progressively led to a certain democratization of the city following a period of mass migration from the countryside to urban areas during the twentieth century. 

The precarious appearance brings to mind constructions not only exclusive to districts on the city’s outskirts—but also expansions, built like a kind of parasite upon or transformation of original constructions in more established districts—as well as the abandoned historic downtown area of Lima. A vista of the city and its flat rooftops seen from the tracks of Lima’s Line 1 metro transports us to a landscape of modern ruins in the midst of accelerated development. 

Here, we find a critique of what is pejoratively referred to as “informal architecture,” viewed through the aesthetics of the “working class flood and the crisis of state”—a foundational investigation by the now-iconic Peruvian thinker José Matos Mar, focused on urban transformations in contemporary Peru following the mass migration from the country to the cities (1940-1980)—as a phenomenon that served to articulate social transformations (such as social mobility and the development of a mestizo urban identity, for example) and confront a state structure that was limited in the scope of coverage of the basic services it provided to citizens. 

In short, the urban transformation brought about by this migration laid the foundations for the entrepreneurial ethic so highly praised by our neoliberal present, foundations that have launched us—starting with the labor and economic deregulation of the early 1990s—into a complex process in which modernization is consolidated without modernity, consumerism grows without any prospect of bolstering citizenship… almost like an idol with feet of clay… just as in many other places throughout the world. With this intervention, Santiago Roose seems to address the notion of architecture and heritage, with nods to the past and the present, but above all to the residual condition of the thousands of archaeological ruins scattered throughout Peru; the majority of them unprotected and abandoned, if not complete wastelands, squatted or destroyed in the name of deregulated speculative urban development, hand-in-hand with the haphazardness of our urban heritage form the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. A condoned chronicle of progressive forgetting. 

The works from the series “Estudio para determinaciones socio-territoriales” (“Study for Socio-Territorial Determinations”) suggest a model of urban development based on an articulable module of different forms, in both the two-dimensional works and the site-specific three-dimensional interventions performed in different places starting in 2012.
In dialogue with this process, the works presented at the MAC-Lima serve as deconstructions of the aforementioned construction systems, contrasting notions of monument, memory, and present. The three-story stepped pyramidal structure (which might remind us, too, of medieval or colonial hierarchies or social strata) also whispers to us contextually with its aesthetic centered on the urban transformations of the district of Barranco, which hosts (and surrounds) it: an architectural heritage oftentimes abandoned and in ruins, if it can still be found, given that real estate speculation has driven the district, with its immense numbers of new buildings, into an unstoppable process of gentrification. This pyramid, with its materials typical of a construction site, suggests to us an unfinished but suspended process… and one, when put into perspective, without any signs of conclusion. Its external image covers a hollow interior—like a circus tent—creating, on the inside, a space for use, for specific activities. The pyramid as unfinished structure seeks a meaning and function: here, a world of possibilities and challenges. 

Next to the museum’s metal structures, with their industrial aesthetic, the pyramid offers an evidently curious counterpoint between two worlds and two aesthetics that are very different, even opposites given the extreme contrast, yet—in the case of Peru—closer to one another than we might think: in a relationship of implicit interdependence (just as there is no master without a slave), as if reproducing, in the landscape, the dialectic of inequalities found in the vast social, economic, educational, sexual, and cultural gaps, among others… existing and coexisting simultaneously in the city. 

– Carlos León-Xjimenez 

* 1974 in Lima, Peru | Living and working in Lima, Peru