Monuments, 2015

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

30 bronze walnuts containing real walnut meat inside
One of these walnuts was thrown in the sea in front of White Island during the TBA21–Academy expedition to New Zealand in March 2018
3.5 x 3.5 cm (each)
Overall dimensions variable

The idea of art’s consumption has long occupied a space in Eduardo Navarro’s (b. 1979, Buenos Aires) thinking about its form and methods of display, influencing projects which appeal to faculties other than sight in our perception of its objects. The concept of food, in particular, has acted as both a literal phenomenon and playful metaphor with which Navarro has questioned how we take in and digest information through art. For his 2018 exhibition “Into Ourselves” at The Drawing Centre in Soho, New York, Navarro made surrealist, comic strip like sketches on rice paper, soaking and dissolving them in soup before serving them up to visitors as edible pieces of work, with the soup acting as “a vehicle to transport the images to the stomach”. As executive director of the Centre, Brett Littman explained, “aesthetics throughout the Western tradition is very much tied to vision… The idea that metabolism and the stomach could play a role in art and aesthetics instead was one of the hinge points that made me want to do the show.”[1]
In Monuments (2015), the subject of food appeared in the form of 30 life-size walnut sculptures, which encased the meat of 30 real walnuts in replica bronze shells. This time sealed off from public consumption, the nut’s value was symbolic: traditionally, its association with ideas of knowledge and wisdom derives from the sweetness of the walnut’s centre, as contained by a hard shell. In Monuments, Navarro encased the walnut meat in heat proof plaster, before sealing it shut using a process of vacuum bronze welding. The replacement of the natural shell by bronze preserves the works’ contents and extends their lifespan to up to 3,000 years, thereby transforming the sculptures into miniature time-capsules. 
In terms of our perception of them as art objects, Navarro’s desire to bury the sculptures in Auckland, New Zealand (a process he initiated on board TBA21 Academy’s 2018 research trip, Current II, led by Chus Martinez, when he relinquished one of the works to the ocean) challenges us to think about the placement of works in the world. We might ask what is meant by the artist’s decision not to limit the works’ existence to spaces we know are built for their preservation, but instead – protected by their own preservative casing - to let them exist in the unwalled, and unmonitored realm of the outdoors. When he participated in Current II, his gesture on board played into Martinez’ question, “is the Ocean an art space? Or a future space within the arts?” reflecting that project’s “mission to foster a deeper understanding of the ocean through the lens of art.”[2] Indeed, more than indicating a gesture of abandon, his proposal might be seen as representing an embrace of alternative forms of exhibition, ones which gift the works a relation with time that far exceeds the potential offered by institutional display and amplifies their connection with layers of time that coincide in the natural landscape.

Eduardo Navarro (Buenos Aires, 1979) uses art to create new modes of perceiving the world. His practice involves the empirical study of diverse organisms, based on sensory experience. In conducting these studies, Navarro appeals to diverse specialists and contexts in order to challenge entrenched behaviours and attitudes. The artist approaches each project as a fresh endeavour to allow for the study of forms of expression and thought alien to human perception. His interest lies in investigating how other entities and elements think, feel and perceive, with the ultimate aim of embodying the subject of study. As such, Navarro proposes altered situations that can seem absurd but trigger transformations of state, thus enabling a reevaluation of the known.