Santiago Díaz Escamilla, Clarão. That from Which Things Become Manifest, 2018, HD video, color, sound, 2 minutes 50 seconds.

Santiago Díaz Escamilla, Clarão. That from Which Things Become Manifest, 2018, HD video, color, sound, 2 minutes 50 seconds.

Liliana Sánchez and Santiago Díaz Escamilla

Curated by Paula Bossa, the exhibition “Ser dejar estar” (Being Left to Be) paired the work of Liliana Sánchez and Santiago Díaz Escamilla to explore how both artists address the landscape. In a presentation that was at once contemplative and enigmatic, the dialogue between the two artists brought to the fore the shared elements of their modi operandi, including an emphasis on process, a multisensory observation of natural data, a meditation on the poetic power of nuance, and the potential aesthetic redemption of everyday objects.

Viewers were greeted by Díaz Escamilla’s Clarão. That from Which Things Become Manifest, 2018, which he created in the dense Amazon rain forest of Brazil. The work comprises three distinct elements: a video that, with the help of a refracting mirror on the ground, documents the scant light filtering through the dense canopy; a slide projection of video stills that record the sunrise as a gradually expanding halo of light; and, finally, a light box with a photograph of jungle vegetation traversed by a beam of sunlight. This piece lyrically probes the boundaries between the visible and the invisible, as condensed in the Portuguese word clarão, which refers to the impairment of vision due to the glare of bright sunlight.

Another play of contrasts could be found in Sánchez’s Discreta cantidad (Discrete Quantity), 2015: twenty-five black-and-white photographs mounted in a single horizontal line along the walls. Together, these images constitute an almost lunar landscape, constructed from the digital enlargement of a carefully choreographed array of small objects—pebbles, bread crusts, lumps of putty—atop a table in the artist’s studio. Other works by Sánchez included Soplo (Puff), 2016–20, a sculpture that revels in its perceptual ambiguity as an object that appears at once seemingly mineral, but also malleable. Closer examination revealed that the flexible mass actually consists of reams of paper, manually softened through repeated folding and crumpling. The work’s physical characteristics, its irreducible impermanence, offered potentially infinite possibilities of reconfiguration in the space.

For Respo que no es calma (Rest That Is Not Calm), 2020, Sánchez paired two photographs on the wall with a small, bricked-in garden, installed in the center of a room. The images show ambiguous objects tucked into dense foliage. In one of these photographs, viewers could discern a tuft of fur whose contours resembled those of the animal pelt displayed amid the plants in the gallery; in the other, a human body lay nestled under some ferns. It was unclear whether either of the beings was alive, but the sudden suggestion of presence underlined the general absence of inhabitants in the works within the show. The effect brought to mind Gilles Clément’s Manifeste du tiers paysage (Manifesto on the Third Landscape, 2004), in which the noted French landscape architect enumerates all the “places abandoned by man,” from nature preserves and large uninhabited stretches of the planet, to less noticeable but more widespread neglected spaces such as moors, bogs, and swamps. While the speculative landscapes of Díaz Escamilla and Sánchez at first seemed to fit into this description, closer inspection revealed more and more traces of the artists’ hands. The effect brought us back to the title, as if these were places not abandoned, but specifically cultivated only to be “left to be”: models of an alternate coexistence with the world around us.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.