Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa / Asymmetries

Originally published in The Artist & The Viewer

The wine is flowing like the pouring rain and inside there’s a sea of art aficionados engaged in
conversation. The main lobby is shoulder to shoulder. I squeeze my way through to the exhibition
entrance. I follow the music coming from one of the main galleries and discover the world of Naufus
Ramírez-Figueroa. I quickly skim the curatorial statement to discover that Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa,
a Guatemalan artist who had to flee to Canada during the Civil War. He draws on Latin American
history and the trauma and tragic events that the indigenous people have suffered through colonial
repression. Parallel to the statement is a large screen where three men in black suits play the
marimba in perfect union. Three people enter the frame wearing oversized costumes of white plastic
buildings. As they dance around, I start to think about my mother making me a house out of
cardboard to wear as a halloween costume. I snap back to the performance just as the homes are
beginning to fall off the performers. They are naked and my childhood memory becomes frivolous -
this is about collapse.
Throughout the space, Ramírez-Figueroa continually confronts us with iterations of ‘home’. Two
screens are propped up against a wooden triangle, mimicking a roof. While on the ground, he is
inaugurating a new viewpoint, designed for children. As I peer down towards one screen, Naufus is
standing topless, in a bare room wearing beige pants. He reaches out of the frame and pulls up a dark
almost black feather that is attached to an acupuncture needle. One by one, he takes each feather
and punctures his skin. With every prick I tense up. I begin to realize that this isn’t painful, rather an
exercise in healing and an attempt to return to an imaginary archetype that blurs the line between
man and animal.

This notion of imaginary archetype extends to Ramírez-Figueroa cedar sculptures. The legs,
exaggerated and pristine, absorb the complicated narrative of the uprising against the Spanish. The
metal chains they hang from restores the violent history that juxtaposes the soft, agile wood. All
mirroring the artists performances - naked, stripped of superficial varnish - vulnerable - an ideal of
masculinity that I am unfamiliar with. At every turn, surreal forms of the body draw me into his
visceral reality. All the while, the music from the marimba with what sounds like chimes along with the
ambient sound of the audience fills the background.
The colonial tropes who’s aluminum weight is contrasted by the soft mint green silk that holds them
together lays so effortlessly along the floor. Alongside this work hangs, as though they have been
sacrificed as Jesus once was, the costumes from the performance piece, Corazon del espantapajaros. It
is as these works intertwine so does the visibility to the traumatic history of Guatemala emerge. As I
exist in the room, I can’t help but wonder: will we ever be able to reconcile the repercussions of
colonial brutality and oppression?

Copyright Julia Campisi ©2019 All rights reserved.