Heavenly Bodies

Objects that are so ancient that they precede not only humanity and intelligent life on the planet, but also any form of life known to us

“… then the land was consumed by fire and flames surrounded the trees, plants, animals and men. Only a few of the Mocoví people saw the fires coming and dove into rivers and lagoons, where they were turned into capybaras and crocodiles. Two of them, a man and his wife, sought refuge in a tall tree, where they looked on as the rivers of fire flooded the surface of the earth; but unexpectedly, the fire blew upwards and burned their faces and turned them into monkeys …”

From the Jesuit missionary Guevara, on the Mocoví myth on how the Sun fell from the sky (1764).

Four thousand years ago, a meteorite shower tookplace in a region of Northern Argentina. The original inhabitants of this area named the region Pinguem Nonraltá, which means Field of the Sky in the Guaycurú language. El Taco, which weighed 1998 kg, is a fragment of an 800-ton iron mass, older than Earth itself, coming from the Asteroid Belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Discovered in 1962 by a farmer plowing his fields, the meteorite was retrieved by a joint scientific expedition between the U.S.A. and Argentina. It was then officially presented to the Smithsonian Institution. Since the North-American scientists lacked precise technology to section large specimens, the meteorite was shipped to the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. El Taco was divided in two halves through a critical cutting procedure that took more than a year. Since then, one part has been located at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, the other one in Buenos Aires’s Planetarium.

After almost forty-five years, the two main masses of El Taco will be reunited in Germany for the first time, at this Faivovich & Goldberg exhibition, a step in their journey toward dOCUMENTA (13), where a future stage of their project A Guide to Campo del Cielo will take place in 2012.

Guillermo Faivovich (b. 1977) and Nicolás Goldberg (b. 1978) live and work in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev: Are we sure of anything? Are we sure that we are “we” because we know we shall die, and because we have language? What is an artwork according to you?

Daniel Birnbaum: Well, I doubt that I can give you a satisfactory definition of the notion of “art” right away. But I am quite convinced that this cosmic readymade will be accepted as a work of art—and a pretty great one at that. There is a rather recent book titled After Finitude by the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux that would be worth mentioning here. He talks about objects that are so ancient that they precede not only humanity and intelligent life on the planet, but also any form of life known to us. He asks what these objects might have to say about our modern philosophical tradition, which takes subjectivity and language as its starting point. For him, the fact that we have these objects and can make scientific statements about them forces us beyond an insistence on finitude that is typical of modern thinking after Kant. The meteorite could be an example…

CCB: Yes, it could, if one looks at it from the point of view of time. However, Karl Marx, in “The Meteors,” the fifth chapter of his doctoral dissertation, uses the theory of celestial bodies of Epicurus to argue almost the opposite. To him, understanding the materiality of meteorites allows one to avoid any belief in the unknowable and the infinite: “The heavenly bodies are the supreme realization of weight. In them all antinomies between form and matter, between concept and existence, which constituted the development of the atom, are resolved; in them, all required determinations are realized”.

Excerpt: Foreword from the book The Campo del Cielo Meteorites – Vol. 1: El Taco

about the exhibition
about the meteorits of Campo del Cielo

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