Monterrey

Miguel Fernández de Castro, Piedra supuesta del antopoceno (Supposed Anthropocene Stone), 2015, C-print, 26 × 39 3/8".

Miguel Fernández de Castro, Piedra supuesta del antopoceno (Supposed Anthropocene Stone), 2015, C-print, 26 × 39 3/8".

Miguel Fernández de Castro

Galeria Emma Molina

Miguel Fernández de Castro, Piedra supuesta del antopoceno (Supposed Anthropocene Stone), 2015, C-print, 26 × 39 3/8".

Jales (from the Nahuatl word halli, which means “earth”) is the term geologists and mining engineers use to refer to the piles of stones resulting from the explosions used to begin excavation on a mine. For the past three years, Miguel Fernández de Castro has been quietly looking for such traces in old expedition logs and other documents of archaeological explorations of northern Mexico. These topographic notes on wild and largely unfertile lands would often document what sorts of rocks were found on and under the surface of these territories, thereby establishing their potential commercial value. In his show “Toda acumulación es violenta y la mercancía circula mejor erosionada” (All Accumulation Is Violent and Merchandise Circulates Better Eroded), Fernández de Castro evokes the multiple layers and implications, the otherness opened up—sometimes explicitly—by these territories.

The works on exhibit included what the artist refers to as a “new” stone—a large rock taken from a mine in Parral, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua—alongside a sequence of photographic “portraits” the artist has made of the stone (Piedra supuesta del antropoceno [Supposed Anthropocene Stone], 2015). Also on view were three large-format photographs depicting the materials used to construct a mine shaft (Parral #1, Parral #2, Parral #3, all 2015) and a video (Brecha Altar-Sásabe [Altar-Sásabe Divide], 2015) presenting a seemingly nonsensical journey down a drab road that leads to the town of El Sásabe in Sonora and that was once used night and day by polleros, the traffickers who take illegal immigrants to the United States.

Hanging from a single corner of the room, the photographs seemed to affirm the meaninglessness of any effort to recognize a specific material or site, to discern one location from another, in a terrain where geographic decisions are made mainly by the wind, a force that can conceal or mark roads, hide bodies, cover signals, render tracks invisible, and cloud vision. Fernández de Castro forces us to heed muted questions. What does the government, in its desire to exercise total dominion over this desolate territory, really control? Who does it protect? The artist also delves into the physical and material effects of political regulation, explaining that the erosion produced by mining yields what appears to be waste (stones, dust, and other sediments in different formats and of different composition). All of that material, these remainders, gathers over time into jales with no exchange value whatsoever—these landforms are completely “useless.” Nonetheless, through the process of erosion, the jales become a “new” material that is condensed and consolidated by its own workings. As Fernández de Castro wrote to me, “All erodible material—that which (un)consciously takes part in a process of erosion—is in the process of placing itself elsewhere.” The discarded, the useless, the hitherto unknown—these stones that, for centuries, have given shape to jales—are ineffectual remains; they are remnants that, though tiny, never disappear but rather change their place,along with their formal and material configuration.

Marcela Quiroz

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brody.