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“We have the weights, we have the measures”

COPPERFIELD
6 Copperfield Street
June 1, 2017–July 29, 2017

View of “We have the weights, we have the measures,” 2017.

The daily maintenance of territory is symbolic, and it is perpetuated through distinct tools: from defensive structures and emblems of protection, including spiked fences and nationalistic monuments, to bureaucratic and ritualistic systems with obscure planning laws and expensive conditions of compliance. These practices surrounding domain prohibit most from staking claims to place. This exhibition shows how artists Ewa Axelrad, Daniel de Paula, Marco Godoy, Ella Littwitz, and Oscar Santillan manipulate these symbols of power to subtly weaken them.

Axelrad brings London’s defense mechanisms into view. Had It (all works cited, 2017), is a to-scale reconstruction of a lion’s head from Trafalgar Square. Unlike the original, it hangs on a wall, removed from its usual position defending Nelson’s Column. The relocation transforms this icon of strength into a melancholic and dislocated trophy. The artist makes clear the abjection beneath grand public markers.

Santillan addresses the appropriation of land in Latin America. Solaris (noon) presents a striking allegory of vision: He observes how the construction of the Extremely Large Telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert overwrote the history of an area covered in national reserves and sacred sites. The instrument will peer into extraordinary distances and may even facilitate the appropriation of celestial terrain, though scientists working at the observatory will likely fail to see or understand the importance of what’s nearby. Santillan built a crude lens from desert sand to photograph the site. The result? A blurred image. The artist’s soft optics return us to the complexities of the local, as the “big picture” of progress often depends upon the harmony of what’s small, what’s closest.

Duncan Wooldridge