Oaxaca 2021

Cow with Buckets of Milk, Etching, 1985, Francisco Toledo

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Through fieldwork, filmmaking, and architecture drawing in tropical, post-colonial contexts, Tropicality collects stories and closely reads how they are entangled with space and practices, routines, and rituals. Our inquiries help us to deepen fundamental investigations into architectural form and materiality in its entanglement with forms-of-life, their perpetual unfolding. In past programmes, we have encountered a shear multiplicity, unique beauty, and tragedy in each of the stories and architectures. However, we could also say that despite the irreducibility of each individual story, they shared something in common but also reflected back on ourselves.

In Summer 2022, Tropicality will work in Oaxaca, where to literally and existentially survive colonisation and inquisitions that began as early as the 16th century, pre-historical indigenous knowledges and practices were hidden, mutated or syncretised, many inhabiting or fusing with colonial Spanish architectures, technologies, religion, objects, rituals, and symbols. The resulting ‘continuity’ of sorts begins to offer an explanation as to why, since at least the 1950s, ‘uprooted’ people like us have ventured to Oaxaca in attempts to remedy our alienation, to take refuge in ‘craft’, tradition, in sensory overloads and in people who are apparently not so completely subsumed by abstraction and atomisation. We have ventured there in attempts, whether spiritual, existential, or otherwise – to touch or recover something we have lost. On the contrary however, Oaxaca’s ‘medicines’ and rituals of passage, healing, and knowledge might offer us an encounter in which binaries collapse: which is at once more ancient and future, more abstract and concrete.

We travel to Oaxaca with an interest that extends beyond the architecture of ceremonies and experiences surrounding the application or ingestion of cures and medicines whose use are now of course, increasingly, and most revealingly, en vouge. We are perhaps even more interested in the daily architecture and practices of medicinal plant and animal cultivation and care, and those surrounding the diagnosis of physical, mental and ‘spiritual’ dissolution. All of these practices – in their form, their objectivity, materiality, order and phenomenology – can offer us new perspectives too, on the architecture, habits and pathologies at the source of our malaise. Our hunch is that we can learn about how finite forms and intricate choreographies might allow us to embrace and confront the seeming opposite: the unknown and unknowable.

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Hombre con Cola De Caballo 2012, Ivan Hernandez Gutierrez