- Asunción Molinos Gordo
¡Cuánto río allá arriba!, the third exhibition of Asunción Molinos Gordo at Travesía Cuatro, pays tribute to the thousands of uses and forms of water, through a sculptural set created by the sum of elements of water pottery: pitchers, jugs, canteens, basins and rhytons. These objects, which for centuries were essential in the daily life of many different human societies, today are relics that have been left in disuse and relegated to museums due to their ethnographic value, a consequence of the generalization of running water, the mechanization of agricultural work and the rural exodus.
Asunción Molinos’ practice is polysemic, skillfully traveling through different languages. With this exhibition she appropriates the work with clay, one of mankind’s oldest activities, through which we can intuit past customs, modes of communication as well as forms of interrelation between humans and their environment.
The artist uses a sculptural code based on the gestural potential of assemblage, and relies on archaeology, tools she has employed in previous projects such as Dunia, Mulk, Yabarut or Description de l’Égypte. Her recent installation at IVAM in Valencia – As we used to – reproduced the layout of the irrigation system in the huerta valenciana, the fertile land surrounding the city, a work of hydraulic engineering built by peasants in medie- val Moorish times. On this occasion, she moves away from the stratigraphic layering and proposes a ceramic collage with which she allowed herself a series of historical licenses by mixing elements of the Nasrid pottery with others from different parts of the Mediterranean without following a chronological line. All of the pieces have been produced in collaboration with three workshops in the town of Manises: Reflejo Metálico by Arturo Mora, Ana Palés, and the Domanises workshop by Juan Carlos Iñesta, who have preserved the ceramic techniques developed during the Middle Ages in the Levant, which reached their maximum refinement under the influence of the Islamic community.
Most of the pieces refer to the transport, storage and consumption of water, although we also find examples of botijos de engaño or cántaros de novia, which tell us about more playful customs loaded with symbols. The latter, with their perforated cavities, go from functionality to artifice, simulating an idea of abundance which quickly spills out before our eyes. Among the different morphologies there are nods to other forms of life on Earth, such as animals, which need water to survive and whose life is not regulated by productivity or commodification. Shariah – Islamic law – reflects this in two fundamental precepts: the universal right of human beings to quench their thirst and that of their animals, and the right to water their crops.
This sculptural production condenses the research undertaken by the artist around the equitable distribution of water and its importance in order to ensure social peace, some- thing that all of the world’s rural communities understand as an indispensable resource. It is no coincidence that several of the works, supported by a metallic structure, are reminiscent of the charitable fountains – ollel – that offer drinking water to passersby in the cities of the Islamic world. Asunción accounts for the remains of an ancestral ethical system of cooperation and solidarity that have governed the planet’s resources until now and which is an example of self-management in local communities, both urban and rural, who nowadays already accumulate lived experiences as a consequence of climate change.
Water, considered a common good and source of life throughout the planet, and the right to its use, began trading on the Wall Street stock market in December 2020. Octavio Paz exclaimed ¡Cuánto río allá arriba! [How many rivers above!] in his poem El Cántaro Roto (1958) in which he questioned the myth of progress the rulers of his country used to disguise reality, in the same way that financial markets have created a mirage of mighty waters from a dystopian struggle for the privatization of the most precious resource on Earth.
Asunción Molinos Gordo (b. 1979, Aranda de Duero, Burgos, Spain) is a researcher and visual artist.
Her practice is strongly influenced by disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and cultural studies. She questions the categories that define “innovation” in mainstream discourses today, working to generate a less urban-centric way of understanding progress. The main focus of her work is contemporary peasantry. Her understanding of the figure of the small or medium farmer is not merely as food producer but as cultural agent, responsible for both perpetuating traditional knowledge and for generating new expertise. She employs installation, photography, video, sound and other media to examine the rural realm driven by a strong desire to understand the value and complexity of its cultural production, as well as the burdens that keep it invisible and marginalized. She has produced work reflecting on land usage, nomad architecture, farmers’ strikes, bureaucracy on territory, transformation of rural labor, biotechnology and global food trade.
Molinos Gordo won the Sharjah Biennial Prize 2015 with her project WAM (World Agriculture Museum) and represented Spain at the XIII Havana Biennial in 2019. In 2020 she was commissioned to create Art Jameel’s Artist Garden, in Dubai, where she presented the project In Transit: Botany of Journey.
Her work has been exhibited at venues including IVAM, Valencia, Spain, Delfina Foundation, London, UK; Victoria & Albert Museu, London, UK; CCA, Glasgow, UK; ARNOLF- INI, Bristol, UK; The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt; Darat Al Funun, Amman, Jordan; Tranzit Prague, Czech Republic; Cappadox Festival, Uchisar-Turkey; The Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland; Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico; MAZ Museo de Arte de Zapopan, Mexico; MUSAC, León, Spain; CA2M, Madrid, Spain; CAB, Burgos, Spain; Mata- dero Madrid, Spain and La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain, among others.
Asunción Molinos Gordo currently lives in Madrid, Spain.