“Heterochronicity: Historicizing Drainage and Enlightenment in Mexican Ecological Art” presented by Pederson


Session Title:

  • Ecological Art

Presentation Title:

  • Heterochronicity: Historicizing Drainage and Enlightenment in Mexican Ecological Art




  • This essay focuses on Possessing Nature as a project whose import pertains to heterochronic notions of historical development. Conceived as an environmental installation to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale in 2015, the project’s creation, as a collaboration between a curator and two artists, speaks to their shared focus, on highlighting the contemporary cultural particularities of Mexico through a historical framework based on multiple temporalities. This in turn entails a similar perspective on modernism and modernity. It relates Eduardo Galeano’s manifestos against European colonization (The Open Veins of Latin America, 1971, and Mirrors, 2008), and Paula Findlen’s historical account of thingified and commodified nature for European modernity (Possessing Nature, 1996), and expands on these works from a point-of-view akin to what Macarena Gomez-Barris’s calls the “submerged perspectives”, or decolonial epistemologies central to current ecologically-themed art by marginalized individuals and groups in Latin America. In this vein, Possessing Nature decenters Anthropocene chronologies, which as manifested in the form of the current water crisis in Mexico City, trace to European colonialization and enduring belief in modernity as temporal progress. As well, it shifts attention to the role of Venice not as perceived today, as an originary locus of the European Renaissance, but as an early model of European colonial expansionism. In contrast, it highlights overlooked modernisms, particularly the constructive legacies of the Latin American avant-gardes. This heterochronic perspective is ultimately central to Possessing Nature’s proposal concerning the limitations of progressivist narratives, and conversely, the significance of other notions of temporality, including those of non-Euro American arts and their insistence on heterochronous time, for sustainably changing our relationships with nature.