In an empty, uninhabited lot covered by wild weeds and grass, a big conical figure is raised. It is made of red bricks and could be described either as a stupa, or a pre-Colombian pyramid. It is a sculptural silo, containing an offering with a sample of one of the native corn species of Mexico, a single seed. Seeds can be deposited on any land, and with some luck and under the right conditions, they multiply in a micro-ex plosion of fertility. Limits of private property are tested when rituals, knowledge and products are taken from one place to another. A ‘milpa’ is a piece of land that grows from using ancient Mesoamerican agricultural practices that are necessary to produce products to meet the basic needs of a family. A milpa contains a diverse ecosystem that produces corn, beans, squash and chili working in solidarity. This ecosystem is, to a certain point, what has fed us, and one of the most valuable gifts that Damian Ortega shared from Mexico. Ortega uses sculpture, installation, performance, film, and photography to arrive at events of deconstruction, both material and conceptual. In his work, the familiar is altered and re-purposed, leading the viewer to inspect the unexpected interdependence of the components involved. Ortega highlights the complex social, political, and economic contexts that are embodied in every-day objects.
Above: Photo Randhir Singh (note: sculpture by Bharti Kher can be seen beyond Oretega installation. Inset image: instagram rifat_billah Below: Performance by Oretega, cooking and serving local corn with Mexican seasoning to Dhaka Art Summit visitors. Photo Randhir Singh