Aromérica Parfumeur, 2016, Beatrice Glow, Installation at Sala de Arte del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Chile en Mall Plaza Vespucio.
Situated within a commercial center, Sala de Arte Mall Plaza Vespucio del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Chile, the exhibition Aromérica Parfumeur by American artist Beatrice Glow is on view from August 13th to September 25th, 2016 before traveling onwards to Concepción. This new work by Glow reveals how plants have shaped history during the bloody development of colonial commerce through an installation that appeals to the olfactory senses. The project underlines a parallel between how the imaginary, systemic violence and smell are invisible yet omnipresent.
The installation takes on the form of a perfumery, while connecting the historic imaginary of the formation of the Americas through the search for the spices of Asia. The conquistadores were not only behind El Dorado (The Golden) and the Fountain of Eternal Youth, but also El Picante (The Spice) and the País de la Canela (Country of Cinnamon). Botanical social history shares an intimate relationship with globalization: the circumnavigation of the world led by Ferdinand Magellan was financed by a handful of cloves while Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the Americas in search of spices. Then, it was Amerigo Vespucci who declared the “radical” idea that a New World was “discovered.”
Perhaps one could say that spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper were the petroleum of the 17th century. Globalization formalized when Asia, the Americas and Europe connected for the first time in 1565 through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, better known as “Nao de la China” or “Nao de Acapulco.” Through this commercial trade route between the Philippines, Mexico and Spain, Chinese luxury goods such as porcelain, silk and spices also began influencing the visual culture of the Americas. In reference to the development of globalization, the silk prints on view in the exhibition embed the social history of plants inside compositions inspired by the Manton de Manila.
Taking in the conscience of the land and standing in solidarity with indigenous cultures, the installation also features native Chilean plants, positioning us in the reality of our own territory, the place we live, inviting us to reestablish our ties to the ecosystem.
The Museo sin Muros project is an initiative between the National Museum of Fine Arts and Mall Plaza’s chain of commercial centers that aims to extend the spaces of the National Museum to a larger and more diverse audience through temporary exhibitions of both patrimonial collections as well as representative artistic expressions of new trends.
Ñuke Mapu; Ancestors; Andy and Anne Guo; The family of Senaquerib Astudillo and Gabriela Amigo; Alejandro Pino Trompetista, músico y productor musical del Colectivo Mapocho; Alexandre Girardeau of HIGHWAY101, ETC ; Alexandra Chang, Curator of Special Projects and Director of Global Arts Exchange at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University; Joan Mitchell Foundation; Cristián García; Alex Bahamondes; Jodi Waynberg and Alessandro Facente at the LES Studio Program of Artists Alliance Inc; Delfina Curihuinca Huenchún y familia; David Akivi y Hiengel Muñoz; Luis Neira; Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center
Beatrice Glow "Tobacco", 2016, Digital print on silk, 54” x 54”
Who would have thought that nutmeg, a shriveled spice that can be easily found in any grocery store was the petroleum of the 17th century? I am in the process of building a collection of missing artifacts to tell the social history of spices that encapsulates a bloody history and continuum of exploitation, extraction, and land dispossession. This body of work includes olfactory blends that evoke the scents of colonial commerce, mock chinoiserie, Delftware and mantones de Manila that reference the transhistoric weight of silk and spices that have propelled forward countless caravans and ships in the birthing of globalization. I narrow in on the complicated circulations between Asia and the Americas, in particular the watershed land exchange between the Dutch and the English that swapped Manhattan and Rhun during 17th century Spice Wars. As I engage with this unresolved past, I found it difficult to uncover information on the Lenape, the indigenous peoples of Manahahtaan, as well as the decimated Bandanese of Rhun. These broken links of history and skewed politics of the archive haunt me like a repulsive perfume.
I am thankful to Artists Alliance Inc for generously supporting my three-month studio residency that allowed me to pick up threads of thought from my previous residency at Wave Hill and weave them into the history of the spice trade that is so closely tied to Manahahtaan. During the residency, I noticed a shift in my personal connection to botanical history. While the early interest was rooted in the excavation of a pivotal historic moment, the work expanded into a desire to better understand pre-colonial times of the lands that nurture us as a species, respect for indigenous cultural and environmental stewardship, and wondering if it is not the plants who are shaping human history.
This body of work in progress will be presented late summer in Chile with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in the form of a fake perfume store in a shopping center to expound on the social cost of commerce through a play on consumer expectations.