Art

Artist Roxana Barba's Work Finds Inspiration in Pre-Colombian Artifacts

Roxana Barba’s site-specific performance "Ritual Vessel" was inspired by an archaeological find in Peru.
Roxana Barba’s site-specific performance "Ritual Vessel" was inspired by an archaeological find in Peru. Photo courtesy of the artist
The site-specific performance "Ritual Vessel" by Roxana Barba, presented in July, was part of a collaborative installation at Laundromat Art Space, “Fragments of Inner, Middle, and Upper Worlds,” but the project by Claudio Marcotulli, Laurencia Strauss, Francisco Huichaqueo, and Barba was the beginning of something bigger, Barba says.

Barba and Marcotulli share a studio space at Laundromat in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, and with Strauss, also based in Miami, and Chilean-based Mapuche indigenous artist Huichaqueo, they’ve created an artists’ collective, Colectivo Cuatro, Barba explains.

“What we all have in common is that we all, while different, work across variations of Latinidad of indigenous and European mixtures and ancestral lineages, so we value indigenous-based knowledge and the context of our relationship to the natural world,” Barba says.

Born in Peru, Barba says she began researching pre-Columbian indigenous cosmovision and iconography. She then formally began the process in 2020 with the support of a Knight Arts Challenge grant and a residency supported by Correlacion Contemporanea, an artist-run, not-for-profit organization, which she explains, is dedicated to research production and international exchange in Peru.


“I was very interested in learning about their myths and rituals things that we have learned through their iconography.”

The site-specific piece at Laundromat, performed on July 24, was partly inspired by "The Altar of Choque Chinchay," a ritual stone in Chavin de Huántar, Peru, Barba says. Dating to around 900 BC, the solid rock weighs about ten tons, and archaeologists have noted that it forms the pattern of a constellation called the Pleiades.

“The large stone has carvings that, when it fills with rain at certain times of the year, it will catch the reflection of certain star constellations on the water,” she says. “They studied the movement of the stars in connection to the agricultural calendar. They learned how to read the sky.”

Using lights integrated in arms-length black gloves, Barba interacted with a series of bowls filled with water. She poured water from one into the next while the position of the small lights on her hands created a reflection.

“In essence, what I was doing with the cycling of the water in the bowls... and the candlelight, I was trying to find the reflection of the light and the water,” she says.

In her interpretation, a ritual inspired by the pre-Columbian indigenous cosmovision, the piece was to heighten the awareness of connectedness. “For them, the cosmos was how they connected to the natural world. So, there was this interdependence that is now missing, and it is affecting us – it is affecting the balance and turning against us in a way,” she says.

The performance at Laundromat formed the basis for "Amaru en los Cielos" ("Amaru in Heaven"), which Barba will present in October as part of Miami Light Project’s Here & Now Festival 2021. In 2022, the theme continues with a Knight-funded immersive performance, "Kanay," a cross-disciplinary work in collaboration with multi-media artist and sculpturist Marcotulli.

Barba and her collaboration with the other artists for “Fragmented Inner, Middle and Upper Worlds” at Laundromat was the final link to create what is now moving forward as Colectivo Cuatro. Huichaqueo, Marcotulli, and Strauss met in Chiapas, Mexico, at an artist residency centered in the study of the autonomous Zapatista movement, climate crisis, and the future, Barba explains.

“Interestingly, as we connect with Francisco (Huichaqueo) in Chile, we see that the challenges and the realities that we are experiencing have differences, but many similarities. Through these indigenous practices and beliefs, we are finding a lot to work with across our multiple disciplines. We are excited about the possibilities.”

 – Michelle F. Solomon, ArtburstMiami.com

For more information on artist Roxana Barba, visit roxanabarba.com. For more information about upcoming exhibitions at Laundromat, visit laundromatartspace.com.

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