Santiago Roose
Tierra ebria, 2017

Photo: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima, 2017

Earth, sand, straw, lime, beer, playwood and plastic
2.6 x 2.6 x 1.20 mt
Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

In an opposite/complementary dialogue with the large structure, Determinaciones soco territoriales: Colonia, 2017, Santiago Roose presents another, similar structure—a stepped pyramid—but smaller in scale, built using earth and beer, which looks like a mockup (bringing to mind an association with the “Saywite Stone”) and, at the same time, an anti-ritual object that recalls—thanks to the use of beer—certain propitiatory ceremonial practices (such as the payment of offerings to the pachamama, or Mother Earth). Not so much alluding to the introduction of alcohol under the colonial domination of the Spaniards—as an escape mechanism in response to the stupefying exploitation to which the aboriginal population of present-day Peru was subjected—it instead nods to the traditional “roofing celebration” (held after the construction of a house was completed), in which the house’s owner offers beer to the workers who helped build it.
It is important to note the beer, an industrial beverage of urban origin that has slowly supplanted the traditional cane liquors of rural areas as the most prestigious of alcohols. Migration to the cities meant transferring the prestige of beer to the rural world, displacing ancient customs. An oblique nod to the piece “Conchal,” by Juan Javier Salazar—as a remnant of urban cultural practices from a continuous present in movement, with direction unknown—can be discerned in this work. 

The use of organic materials evokes a biotope that displays its flora and fauna, perhaps inviting us to ponder the post-human life of that which we consider our habitat. A distance necessary to understand our human legacy in an expanded landscape where we do not necessarily make the decisions. 

Santiago Roose addresses the yearning for housing resources (which, in its definitive form, involves the possibility of the home), speaking to us through the precariousness of his aesthetics of the overlapping of powers, of mechanisms for coverage and crushing, with the subsequent readjustment of functions. A poetry rooted in continuities of segregation and seemingly new forms of legitimization, appealing—with its pyramidal structure—to the idea of the ritual center, the public space, the civic agora of public debate… spaces in which to decide—collectively—on a consensual possible future: that future which seems to have already passed, of which there remain only unconcluded traces of something fabulous, now rotted (giving rise to other lives, other dynamics).
–Carlos León-Xjimenez

* 1975 in Lima, Peru | Living and working in Lima, Peru