At this year’s London Design Biennale 2021, artist Cristián Mohaded will be representing Argentina, using a material which aligns very closely with the subject of our latest issue, Issue 101 Grow. The experimental designer will present Monte Abierto, a characterful and joyous installation for the Argentinian Pavilion which considers the notion of 'resonance' in design and craft. This is examined through his close bond with artisan Lorenzo Reyes, and simbol, a plant native to the Calchaquí Valleys in Catamarca, a province in the northwest of Argentina, where both artists come from.
Between rivers and mountains, shrubs grow wild on the Monte (the bush) forming scattered islands of dense coloured clumps; a desert-like landscape of warm rusty sunsets that Lorenzo visits every three months. “Let’s go to the material,” he says, and from this encounter with the Simbol, relationships begin to be woven.
Simbol refers to both the plant and basket weaving tradition of the province of Catamarca. Typically harvested during the winter, the cool winds dry the tender green plants into fibrous strands of yellow ochre, ideal for weaving. In summer Simbol fibres are mostly given over to the cows, horses, and donkeys that come to the Monte to feed on them. In winter, however, the cool wind dries the bright, tender green of the plant into shades of sandy yellow. What’s more, depending on the minerals in the soil, red and orange spots can appear on the fibres. For Lorenzo, these are not peripheral details but rather nature setting the pace of his practice. "Mother Nature offers us everything, we just have to go to the fields and work with our hands," he says. The Simbol, both as material and technique, reflects a language specific to the Monte.
Monte Abierto is a world where visual expression is embodied through the relationship between people, materials, and nature. The installation will present a large group of woven sculptures that characterises this philosophy. It is a shared vision and relationship built over ten years between Cristián and Lorenzo, a unique collaboration that reveals their reciprocal knowledge of design and native crafts, as well as communicating a powerful narrative about place, visual communication and language, tradition and friendship.
The London Design Biennale will be taking place at Somerset House from 1 - 27 June. To find out more about the installation for the Argentinian Pavilion, visit the website.
In the latest issue of Selvedge, Issue 101 Grow, we examine straw in many of its guises. Find out more here.
Photos courtesy of Cristián Mohaded.