Axis Mundi

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Romero, Rebeca

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Axis Mundi is a new work which borrows from an armillary sphere, a mathematical instrument designed to represent the movement of the celestial sphere through a spherical framework of rings. Armillary spheres were invented separately in ancient China and ancient Greece and feature prominently on the flag of Portugal, as it was a fundamental technology used in seafaring during the European colonisation of the Americas. It would also appear in the flag of the Empire of Brazil. This instrument was used by European rulers as symbols of world dominion and imperial ambitions. Axis Mundi inverts the European imperial symbolism by drawing from imagery relating to the cosmogony of the ancient American culture of Chavín, an extinct civilization from the northern Andean highlights of what now is part of Peru. Chavín was a highly religious civilization, where priests sat highest in the social hierarchy. Their cosmology sees the world as divided in three, the upper world represented by the eagle, the middle world represented by the jaguar, and the underworld represented by the serpent. The temples in Chavín culture had a sacred character and rituals aimed to achieve the intersection between these three worlds – to achieve a vision of the centre of the centre, also known as the centre of one’s own centre.

Through new materialities and diverse technologies, Romero’s work is dedicated to questioning the past by creating alternate futures. She describes her work as “speculative archaeologies”, where her sculptures become new artifacts which quote and are informed by ancient Latin American cosmogonies resulting in something completely different and instilling life to the museological archive. To create Axis Mundi, Romero collaborated with AI technology where she shared textual information about Chavín cosmology, which she gathered from museum entries about Chavín objects and academic essays related to Chavín culture. The AI would reply to her with new images to represent this cosmology for the updated armillary sphere she was constructing. She collated these conversations and designed a mechanism which would be 3D printed on polylactic acid, a polyester made from fermented plant starch like corn and cassava. The result is a new artifact which thinks of a future where objects serve as technologies to find universes within ourselves. Unlike some museum objects which have lost their shine and original colours, Axis Mundi shines thanks to the prismatic paint which covers it. It reflects the light acting as a magical portal to alternative futures where ancient American cosmogonies are still important to understand the world anew.

Gisselle Giron, 2024