Daniel Otero Torres 
Tierradendro




Essay
Exibition catalogue
Le Livre d’art & Drawing Lab, Paris


For Daniel Otero Torres, each drawing is the result of an ongoing collection of archive and media images as well as travel photos, which are included in variegated compositions. These are then spread out, enlarged or miniaturized, stripped of any context, and subsequently drawn on paper, stainless steel, or ceramic. By way of presentation, and in order to adhere to Daniel Otero Torres' elliptical creative process I would like to share some narratives and crossroads that have influenced the exhibition, as parables and possible paths for visitors to follow.


INSIDE EARTH

The exhibition title Tierradentro, "inside earth" in English, comes from an archaeological site built from the 6th to 11th centuries AD that is located in the northern Andes Mountains in the Department of Cauca, Colombia. Protected for its elaborate subterranean tombs and monumental statues, it houses the remains of a vast but little known ancient pre-Columbian culture.


QUANTUM MYTHOLOGIES

Daniel Otero Torres remodels pre-Columbian know-how and legends from across Latin American; creates connections with ancient cultures of the Mediterranean basin; finds inspiration in Hindu and Egyptian deities; and draws parallels with scientific discoveries, contemporary events, and his personal experience. In the central chamber forgotten female activists and revolutionaries, appear like deities among memories preserved in ceramic and textiles. In an adjoining room, a fragile temple on stilts encloses an entire floor of the Weimar Bauhaus in Colombia's Chocó forest. As the empty hammocks swirl, the vortex of a spatial storm around the north pole of the planet Saturn gradually grows. In the last chamber, a pair of ceramic vases with etched drawings and engobe, depict a story spanning the ages: leopards from the Monterozzi necropolis in Tarquinia, Italy, mix with Jaguar Warriors from the Cacaxtla's Battle Mural, their Mexican counterparts; human DNA is represented by a black figure drawn in an Antique Italian Etruscan manner; Quetzalcoatl, the Snake God, prowls in its animal sheath among the planets and a gigantic cell; and Cyborg ants bustle around a nuclear power plant.

Adopting the gaze of an anthropologist, a naturalist, a physicist, and a science fiction reader, Daniel Otero Torres creates a mythology that is hybrid and mixed. Legendary stories of the origin of the world and scientific models that explain the universe blend together; cosmogony and cosmology are interwoven to produce new hypothetical fantasies. Quantum physics and astronomy are always at hand.

Spatially dispersed, few entities flow between realities and dimensions: dogs without owners and shamans without shadows become guardians and guides; jaguars, which represent an essential deity in Mesoamerican cultures, bridge the gap between the underworld of the dead, the world of the living, and the heavenly world; borrachero (brugmansia Angel's Trumpets) shower down like quantum time, spreading their hallucinogenic scopolamine, a remedy and lethal poison at once, both an ointment and a psychoactive “ritual medicine”; while poppy flowers arise from the footsteps of the stainless steel goddesses.


THE SPIRIT OF STRUGGLES

Protests, and revolutions offer a diffuse source of inspiration for Daniel Otero Torres, from spontaneous gatherings to collective celebrations. Resulting from his research on the iconography of struggles, his monumental sculptures portray a lesser known facet: women fighters, soldiers, and silent heroines of resistance movements during major conflicts of the 20th century: the Mexican, El Salvador, and Nicaraguan revolutions; the Spanish, Algerian, and Vietnam wars; and the Islamic State opposition. Poorly documented, erased by governments once established, or centered on a few emblematic personalities, the history of Milicianas, Soldaderas, Peshmergas, and other female activists remains incomplete. Drawn in graphite on mirror-polished stainless steel, each goddess incorporates parts of various women fighters, forming a multi-armed deity. Devoid of contextual features, they each carry personal attributes and ornaments. Each of them is given an individual meaning. They are not Mother Goddesses but Sister Goddesses. They are not War Goddesses but Dance Resistance Goddesses. Meanwhile, the Spirit of Struggles permeates the world's soil like a subterranean force that reemerges in other ways: fists rise skyward as corals or bushes to music played by a Cupisnique flute player; a Mayan priest from Xochicalco dances in turn.


SHARED FICTIONS

This other land, neither entirely the same nor completely different, is a place of affective and emotional encounters. Daniel Otero Torres views his artworks as a bridges between different cultures and different worlds: Colombia where he spent his childhood, and France where he has lived for many years, as well as the many other lands suggested by fragments, memories, and dreams of colliding universes. "Tierradentro" is driven by this aesthetic of coexistence and interconnection. This revival of signs and figurines makes archetypal images and primeval visions emerge. In this coexistential ecosystem, we cannot see separate works at a glance but are enveloped by them in a game of mirrors, drawn in by their devouring plants. And from all these sensations there’s always this question, “Who is the ‘I’ that gazes»? 

Navigating through these worlds, Daniel Otero Torres explores the ties between what is sacred and profane, between vernacular cultures and planetary thought, between personal recollections and collective memory. "Tierradentro" generates a new system of relations between time and beings. It is a place that creates another story of crossroads and syncretism, challenging us to consider our connections with others via mythologies and political struggles, as well as personal and everyday lives.
A location, a vessel, a feeling, and a planet, for Daniel Otero Torres, "Tierradentro" is all of these at the same time.






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About



Anaïs Lepage is an independent curator and writer based in Paris.

Trained in Art History at the École du Louvre, in Museum Studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), and in Curatorial Studies at the Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne University, Lepage multiplies experiences in France and abroad. She started at the Maison Rouge - Foundation Antoine de Galbert in Paris, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal and, alongside Guillaume Désanges, at the Verrière - Hermès Foundation in Brussels. Then, she worked as assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chengdu, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

 With a fondness for collective dynamics, she co-founded the HEIWATA curatorial platform, based in Paris, Mexico City and Toronto, and participates in the queer and feminist writing  workshop How to SupPRESS Universty Writing led by Émilie Noteris. She has collaborated with AICA International, CNEAI, the Palais de Tokyo and the Cité Internationale des arts in Paris. Since 2019, she is teaching exhibition curating at the Sorbonne University. 

Her research focuses on the excesses and secrets of art history in connection with sensitivities and spiritualities as well as postcolonial, gender and feminist studies. She is particularly attached to words, forms and gestures generated outside of rationalist thinking  : drawing on occult and mystical sources; or being inspired by affective flows, emotions and the sentimental life. Practices that often cross issues of resistance, struggle, healing, and ecosystems preservation.

Deploying a holistic conception of curating, she question the forms of writing about art by shifting critical, fictional and intimate narratives in collaborations, performances and podcasts.
 
Infuenced by radical pedagogies, she begins a research on the  emotional labor in her positions of curator, teacher, and art worker. 

She has developed a particular interest in the artistic scenes of the Americas and the Caribbean, Scandinavia and South Africa.

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Anaïs Lepage est commissaire d’exposition indépendante, historienne de l’art et autrice.

Formée en histoire de l’art à l’École du Louvre, en muséologie à l’Université du Québec à Montréal et en études curatoriales à l’Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, elle multiplie les expériences en France et à l’étranger. Elle débute à la Maison Rouge à Paris, au Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal et aux côtés de Guillaume Désanges à la Verrière – Fondation Hermès à Bruxelles. Elle s’investit ensuite en tant que commissaire assistante au Musée d’Art Contemporain de Chengdu en Chine, au Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, et à la Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Affectionnant les dynamiques collectives, elle a cofondé la plateforme curatoriale HEIWATA, basée entre Paris, Mexico et Toronto, et participe à l’atelier d’écriture queer et féministe How to SupPRESS Universty Writing mené par Émilie Noteris. Récemment, elle a collaboré avec l’AICA International, le CNEAI, le Palais de Tokyo et la Cité Internationale des arts à Paris. Depuis 2019, elle enseigne le commissariat d’exposition à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Ses recherches portent sur les excès et les secrets de l’histoire de l’art en lien avec des sensibilités et des spiritualités ainsi que les études postcoloniales, de genre et féministes. Elle s’attache particulièrement aux mots, aux formes et aux gestes générés hors d’une pensée rationaliste : puisant dans des sources occultes et mystiques ; ou s’inspirant de flux affectifs, d’émotions et de la vie sentimentale. Des pratiques qui traversent souvent les questions de résistance, de lutte, de réparation, et de préservation des écosystèmes.

Déployant une conception holistique du commissariat, elle réfléchit également aux formes d’écritures sur l’art en déplaçant les registres critique, fictionnel et intime lors de collaborations, de performances et de créations radiophoniques.

Inspirée par les pédagogies radicales et engagées, elle commence une recherche sur le “travail émotionnel” à l'oeuvre dans les rôles de commissaire d'exposition, d'enseignante et de travailleuse de l’art.  

Au fil des rencontres et des projets, elle a développé un intérêt particulier pour les scènes artistiques des Amériques et des Caraïbes, Scandinave et d’Afrique du Sud.