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Rimer Cardillo

Foto de proceso  by Rimer       Cardillo

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Dec 19, 2003
Location: Uruguay
Topic: Interview with Rimer Cardillo
Interviewer: Anamarí­a Forteza

LatinArt:  You have lived in New York since 1981, was it better for your career to live abroad?

Rimer Cardillo:  Without a doubt, it was an important change in my career. Above all it was important for certain artistic projects of mine such as installation, exhibitions, which would have been more difficult to carry out in Montevideo. Projects with institutional financial support there in the northern hemisphere offer more opportunities than here in Uruguay. There is also a more important art market, at least in terms of sales. I also have my career as a teacher at New York State University where I am in charge of the Engraving Study Workshop. I spent a couple of years living in Germany on a scholarship, working and studying in Berlin in 70 and 71. I also visited several countries in Europe at this time whose cultures revealed themselves to me very strongly and influenced my work. After this period I came to Uruguay and was linked for many years to the Montevideo Engraving Club.

LatinArt:  When one visits the workshop of an artist one sees brushes, paint, but here I see tools, boxes, even a walrus.

Rimer Cardillo:  I have always been very attracted to the tools of engraving, and unique works on paper, collage, hand-made paper, in fact, this is the type of work I have been most focused on, even in my installations. My work has a great deal of construction in wood and works on paper enclosed in boxes...

LatinArt:  Your work possesses archeological trends, such as an investigation for of the artist himself. Do you see it that way?

Rimer Cardillo:  Partly yes, there is an entire archeological past in Uruguay which, only in recent years, has been accorded the importance it actually deserves. From a Eurocentric viewpoint it was felt that this past was not really important. Importance was given to the arrival of Europeans in Latin America, and that our history somehow began there. Except in exceptional cases such as the great Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures, the cultures which belonged more to a "pre-history" had never been considered, nor studied. Since Uruguay today has few indigenous peoples, what this past of ours consisted of was always a mystery. One can visit the Uruguayan countryside and confront the indigenous presence there, such as in the "Quebrada de los Cuervos". I made an installation based on this place. That indigenous presence was always there in my objects. There is a personal interest in this, without a doubt.

LatinArt:  Kalenberg wrote "Cardillo endeavors to base his work on Latin American roots, but also on the stones of Joaquín Torres García..."

Rimer Cardillo:  Well, Torres-Garcia places a lot of emphasis on pre-Columbian objects, all the Latin America cultures of the past, while summarizing a great deal of that past, what those objects were, their understanding and his conception of modern art. One is influenced by Torres’ works because he is a great synthesizer. The other day I was out there looking at his Cosmic Monument, facing the Museum (Museo J. Torres García, Montevideo, Uruguay), made of granite...that very elemental form, that streamlining he does, and the symbology are closely related to the encounters I have had with Incaic sculpture, the Fortress at Sacsahuaman or Machu Picchu, and their constructions in stone. Without a doubt, those constructions served as an inspiration to Torres and his constructivism. Those angles in those walls do not only obey a logical construction but obey an aesthetic need for it to be done in that way,

LatinArt:  Your work speaks of an uprooting, not only of the artist but of the indigenous cultures which in one way or another have been exiled, even within their own lands.

Rimer Cardillo:  One’s education takes place gradually, acquiring information and forming a point of view through one’s work and one’s experiences. I travel a lot in Latin America and this has been very important for me and my work. I have lived side by side with other Latin American cultures--even more so in the United States. What one acquires from these travels is a more global perspective of what we really are.

LatinArt:  The relocation of culture is a reoccurring theme in your work.

Rimer Cardillo:  Although I base myself on local elements like the Cupí (the ants’ nest), I have also seen these in Brazil in incredible dimensions, and constructed in red earth. I base my work on these local elements and they are like metaphors enclosing a broader dimension. More than anything it is a working aesthetic methodology with specific interests in referring to these previous cultures-- it’s also partly a way to build a future.

LatinArt:  Your work references nature and the American flora and fauna. Plants, clawed insects, beetles, bumblebees or nocturnal butterflies appear in your work since your first engravings. Can you talk to us about this?

Rimer Cardillo:  I think it has had something to do with my family. When I was a boy I went to the countryside a lot and insects have fascinated me since I was small. I remember summer nights in Montevideo, my father had a general store and the number of beetles at night were incredible--thousands of them. We played with them, we made groups, ran races, the presence of insects was very powerful at that moment. I believe my interest comes from there. Without a doubt my interest became more intellectual later in life. An insect is endless; one comes closer with a magnifying glass and sees an increasingly perfect mechanism. One applies a microscope and it continues to be incredibly perfect, it is wonderful machinery. The ecological part is a preoccupation which appears very early in my work, the destruction of Nature, how to preserve it, what to do to achieve a balance between our lives as human beings and Nature.

LatinArt:  You have travelled a great deal, is the European art market different from that of the United States?

Rimer Cardillo:  The art market is without a doubt international, and there are not many differences in Latin America, Europe or the United States in the sense of a gallery selling works of art. I could tell you of my experiences in Venice where I presented a work which was a pile of earth (the cupí) with a number of ceramic and terracotta pieces (over 500). The European public was fascinated, above all the Italians, because of the terracotta. Ceramic works are a constant in their history going back thousands of years. That work was very powerful for them to the point that now it is housed in a foundation in Florence; first they planned to install it in the interior and now they plan to place it outside within a steel and crystal dome in order for the cupí to integrate with the hills in Tuscany. The Italian is perhaps more acutely sensitive to a work like that than someone from the United States. The American might have a closer link at the conceptual level, but at a level of sensitivity, feeling the material, perhaps this is felt more by the European.

LatinArt:  Following that train of thought, what does the participation in international Biennials represent for you as an artist?

Rimer Cardillo:  In addition to the Venice Biennial of 2001 I have participated in the Havana Biennial, the Mercosur Biennial, I have been in over 100 international engraving biennials, and that has been very important for me. When I lived in Uruguay the biennials were what linked me to the world. The biennial as a phenomenon is very important; it is a meeting place for art critics, galleries, art historians, and artists. It is not only the presentation of your work but it’s an opportunity to encounter so much that the world has to offer.

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