Mexico City

Cristina Tufiño, Dancing at the End of the World, 2019, polymer clay, each approx. 9 × 4 × 8 1⁄2".

Cristina Tufiño, Dancing at the End of the World, 2019, polymer clay, each approx. 9 × 4 × 8 1⁄2".

Cristina Tufiño

Galeria Agustina Ferreyra

“It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas,” according to the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern, as quoted by Donna J. Haraway in her 2016 book Staying with the Trouble. This sentence reverberated in my mind as I walked through Cristina Tufiño’s first solo show in Mexico. Titled “Dancing at the End of the World,” the exhibition was spun from many ideas, and from materials both solid and incorporeal: first of all, from a scent, a nostalgic, luxuriant, almost funerary aroma concocted by the Escuela del Olor (School of Smell), a Puerto Rican project run by Adelaida Ortiz-Chiqués and Chaveli Sifre that explores the fragrances of the Caribbean. The scent floated over a medley of pastel-hued ceramic sculptures holding court on the floor, Constellation Sunset (Cubetas del Atardecer) (Buckets at Sunset) (all works 2019). They were reminiscent of thick, hard plastic paint tubs, but petite, their hard edges rounded. One was filled with shoots of purple flowers, and a couple of them seemed to be growing facial features: a small nose with Kylie lips, for example. Between these objects was a baby-blue head with a stylish hairdo of buns shaped like fettucini; what might be this figure’s long blue arms emerged out of two buckets, one of them visible through more flowers: a cloud of baby’s breath.

The rest of the room was sparse. A pair of puffy ceramic computer keyboards hanging on the walls seemed to morph into posthuman configurations: The pale-blue Bocaccio turned into an arm, a now complete writing instrument, while the lilac HUGS embraced itself, a gesture sealed with a kitty emoji. Between them, on a humble four-inch pedestal, sat a pair of feet shod in pole-dancing heels—Dancing at the End of the World. As if the feet and shoes had turned symbiont, both were hot pink and covered in spiky tentacles, the grip of the footwear tight enough that the digits spilled over the front in a bad case of cliffhanger toes.

In the next room, the scent intensified, ylang-ylang saturating the air. Tufiño’s drawing Le Diable (The Devil) was an apparition. An exuberant jungle, all vines, shoots, and tendrils, parts in the presence of a she-devil, her legs and arms covered in mossy fuzz, her hands held up in gloves, her possibly deadly eyes hidden behind sunglasses, her head sprouting horns. Her familiars are two big dicks tied to each other by their necks, flanking her. A sculpture in a corner near this work was an offering: High Priestess, a six-eyed effigy, her hair in a crown, her forearms straight, the palms of her hands showing puddles of perfumed oil. Baby’s breath radiated around her, over her arms, between her legs, under her feet, and on the chains holding her up; her flesh and hair were blue ceramic: an alien deity, and just a girl. Right behind her, in the video Dear Pilar, the artist led us through her memories, telling us of her late grandma, the ruins of a nineteenth-century leper colony on Isla de Cabras at the mouth of San Juan Bay in her native Puerto Rico, her travels to Tokyo and Paris when she was younger. She spoke over images she either created or pulled from the internet, explaining her interest in certain enigmatic feminine figures—sphinxes and models—in a tender whisper that evoked Lana del Rey singing the songs of the end of our world, an end that is always coming, for someone, somewhere. The women Tufiño depicts have identities so fluid they spill over into nonhuman territory, surrounded by flowers, by scents, by furry creatures. They evoke disembodiment, disassociation, virtuality—techniques through which humans have always sought to transcend the banality of our material bodies to communicate with whatever is out there, beyond us.