German Arciniegas wrote that after the birth of Christianity no other event produced so radical a change in European thought as the discovery of America. Up until the day before the discovery of the new continent, the world could be considered the work of God, albeit incomplete. The known Universe finished at the pillars of Hercules; beyond that there opened a land of fairy – tale, myth and magic. America had already been sensed in the time of Plato, as a land rising from the realms of enigma; a fantastic story of power, knowledge and adventure that appeared in Europe, bringing with it the mystery of the unknown.
At once desired and feared, it has been imagined, lived, and above all depicted. And Europe has been fascinated during this process of depiction, as was Narcissus, with his own reflected image.
Inés Fontenla envisages this “ mirror meeting ” through maps. She deconstructs the process of figuration of the New World in a journey of her own through the Archives of the Vatican and the libraries of Genoa and Florence. The result of this voyage is a work that explores the complex conceptual operation that is the representation of real territory, cartographical image-making.
The reduction of reality to image is always a decoding of information, a way of recording our knowledge of things. The artist explores, patiently through many centuries, the diverse ways of representing the space we inhabit. She begins with the maps of Eratosthenes, from the first and second centuries before Christ, passing through the Cosmographia Universalis of Mùnster in the sixteenth century.
It is no coincidence that she chooses for this passage an ultra marine blue which leads to the meeting with the New World and the representation of it that we find in Europe.
We feel in this work a particular interest in the internal organisation and different points of view of different systems of representation. Who decides the site of the centre and of the periphery? This cartographic itinerary shows us how geographical representation
often coincides with the representation of power. So, while the Mediterranean was the centre of the Universe in the second century,
it was Northern Europe that filled that role in the fifteenth century.
Fontenla’ s installation puts the emphasis on this point, with research on the past that throws light on our present. Her maps move, in an uprooting of territories that coincides with the present day uprooting of man and of things. In this work, the idea of the journey that once stimulated the thirst for adventure, fascination and fear in the face of the unknown, seems to be changed. We are all citizens of a world that is every day less diverse, that every day goes beyond the Pillars of Hercules, but that has lost the compass of the lands of myth and fairy – tale.
Anna Maria Battistozzi
Translation: Sandra Hancock