Mexico City

View of “Miguel Fernández de Castro,” 2016. Floor: Tiempo lamido (Licked Time), 2016. Wall, from left: Sásabe #14, 2015; Sásabe #29, 2016; Sásabe #18, 2011–16.

View of “Miguel Fernández de Castro,” 2016. Floor: Tiempo lamido (Licked Time), 2016. Wall, from left: Sásabe #14, 2015; Sásabe #29, 2016; Sásabe #18, 2011–16.

Miguel Fernández de Castro

View of “Miguel Fernández de Castro,” 2016. Floor: Tiempo lamido (Licked Time), 2016. Wall, from left: Sásabe #14, 2015; Sásabe #29, 2016; Sásabe #18, 2011–16.

An inexplicable insecurity; an empty uncertainty; a strange, ineffable sensation resembling desire—these were the responses triggered in those who entered “NEGRO, NEGRO” (Black, Black), the most recent solo exhibition by Miguel Fernández de Castro. The visitor’s gaze encountered exceedingly smooth domesticated surfaces of things seen and yet not seen: sixteen photographic images and a floor covered with thirty-five semicubic rocks made of condensed minerals (Tiempo lamido [Licked Time], 2016) that had been perforated into whimsical shapes. Fernández de Castro’s work emerges from a familiarity with not only the territories, roads, holes, and erosions of Sonora, Mexico, the state where he was born and still lives, but also with the way of life, challenges, and dangers involved in maintaining a cattle ranch today in this specific territory. Saturated with various fortifying minerals, these blocks are part of the cattle’s daily diet; the animals lick them, sometimes for hours at a time. Among the rocks selected by the artist to be exhibited, the one with the briefest “time of contact” with an animal shows an erosion that occurred over four hours; thus, what we see in those perforations, created with evident and seductive finesse, is duration. Distinct temporalities, as variable as the territory they inhabit, constitute this “licked time.”

The centuries-old practice of feeding minerals to cattle in this fashion and the resulting erosion expose a kind of insatiable appetite—not unlike the hunger for narcotics—and it is precisely in this part of northern Sonora that the greatest quantity of drugs is transported across the border between Mexico and the United States. Fernández de Castro has spent more than five years traveling around this region and generating a visual archive of it—of the inverse mutations that encapsulate the durations, the profits, the risks, and the benefits.

What the artist had been looking for during those years, was made palpable with masterful force in this exhibition: Each of the sixteen photographs (from the series “Sasabe,” 2011–, named after a region of Sonora) on view was activated in the same manner in the decontextualized space of the gallery through a strange tension or parallel alienation. The same was true of the licked rocks and a projected video (Negro, negro, 2016) showing the routine horseback patrol of three “point men” (vigilantes of the cartel that currently controls this territory by monitoring all transit from strategic, always-changing positions). In these works, what is not made explicit almost tears—erodes—the skin, and what we do not see almost strangles or pierces the entrails. The work itself is stretched out between these shifting points in time. The artist has stated that “the hole makes its own space possible and sets the rhythm of how it should be crossed”—a rhythm that strangely seemed to replicate itself in this exhibition.

The works in “NEGRO, NEGRO” summoned residues, involuntary signs of many other types and forms of bodies that Fernández de Castro has learned to approach and then move away from enough to show the blurry registers of those implacable forces that tear apart the economies and politics of the countries they pass through. But, in these rural lands that at first glance seem unharmed—when in reality they are filtrations whose surface boils like the tongues of cows against those hot blocks that taste like salt and subject them to their desire—where does “enough” begin and end? How can one survive time that is (however delicately) pierced?

Marcela Quiroz

Translated from Spanish by Michèle Faguet.