Guillermo Faivovich & Nicolás Goldberg, El Taco, 2010, iron and nickel, two halves, each approx. 23 5/8 x 51 x 63".

Guillermo Faivovich & Nicolás Goldberg, El Taco, 2010, iron and nickel, two halves, each approx. 23 5/8 x 51 x 63".

Guillermo Faivovich & Nicolás Goldberg

Guillermo Faivovich & Nicolás Goldberg, El Taco, 2010, iron and nickel, two halves, each approx. 23 5/8 x 51 x 63".

Entering the Portikus exhibition hall, you walked directly toward a solitary dark boulder, split in half down the middle. The boulder is about a yard across, knee-high, and jagged as a nugget of lava. But the split edge is smooth and perfect. Its precision distinctly shows that this cut was carried out deliberately, with carefully calibrated instruments. And while one half looks rusty and a bit weathered, as though it had been outdoors a long time, the other has a metallic sheen; it seems to have been sheltered from the elements.

Though this boulder, which constituted the entirety of the show “Meteorit ‘El Taco,” is the work of Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg, the Argentine artists did not sculpt the stone themselves. On the contrary: They brought back together—insofar as possible—the two parts of a meteorite, known as El Taco, that scientists had sliced apart. This was the first time in forty-four years that the two halves have been reunited. El Taco’s story was recounted through letters, archival materials, photographs, and reports in a book that accompanied the show but also formed part of it. The meteorite landed in the north of Argentina four thousand years ago, in a region known as Campo del Cielo (Field of the Sky), and was discovered in 1962 by a farmer plowing his field. The United States and Argentina retrieved the find together, and the Smithsonian Institution set about cutting it up in order to study it. After two thin slices were sawed out of its center, one of the leftover halves went on display in the front garden of a planetarium in Buenos Aires, while the other was put into storage at the Smithsonian.

Goldberg and Faivovich have been visiting Campo del Cielo for nearly five years. It was almost by accident that they learned about the halved meteorite—and it was no easy matter to reconstruct the story of its origins. The spectacle presented by these reunited halves notwithstanding, and despite all the lobbying it took to bring them together, Faivovich and Goldberg see the show as only a way station in a much larger project, “A Guide to Campo del Cielo,” which includes, for example, a plan to convince the Argentine postal service to issue a commemorative stamp bearing one of the artists’ holographic images, as well as the work they envisage for the next Documenta in Kassel, whose artistic director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, edited the book. It was Daniel Birnbaum, on the other hand, who initiated this show, having become familiar with the project thanks to Simon Starling, Faivovich’s teacher at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. Starling’s own practice, in fact, provides a precedent for the strategy of using an object to provide the grounding for a process whose aesthetic appeal can be seen in its history—a strategy that clearly makes sense once one has accepted the notion of using archives, history, and artifacts for artistic ends. Faivovich and Goldberg consider their project, which presents this cosmic boulder as both a readymade and a relic, exceptional in the history of art because artists rarely have the opportunity to work with a material that is not only extraterrestrial but also older than the world. The reunification of El Taco celebrates “the possibility of reintegration,” Christov-Bakargiev writes, but “the fact that it gets divided again”—that is, once the exhibition is over—“just means that art could be a lot better than life.”

Catrin Lorch

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.