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Álvaro Laiz opens 'The Edge' at MUN, a journey through time, territory and ancestors

The exhibition, the result of the artist's participation in the Museum's Tender Bridges creation programme project, can be visited from 7 April to 2 October.

FotoManuelCastells/Artist Álvaro Laiz in one of the rooms of exhibition'The Edge' at MUN.

07 | 04 | 2022

Time, territory and ancestors are the totems that Álvaro Laiz (Leon, 1981) explores in The Edgethe exhibitionthat opens this Thursday at the Museo Universidad de Navarra. The sample, which has been produced by the MUN, as part of projectof residency programTender Bridges, has the support of partnershipof the Science Museum of the University of Navarra and can be visited until 2 October. 

This work, on which he has been working since 2016, has led him to make different journeys, from the Bering Strait to South America, a journey that will soon culminate in Tierra de Fuego, Argentinean and Chilean territory. This geographical journey follows in the footsteps of the Paleo-Siberian populations that 20,000 years ago passed from Asia to America, becoming not only the first settlers of America, but also the ancestors of the peoples who subsequently inhabited this territory. 

Laiz, a National Geographic Storytelling Fellow since 2021, explains the origins of this deep workwhere nature, traditional culture and technology converge "In Chukotka, I explored Geneticsof populations, a scientific disciplinethat tracks the origins of human beings through DNA, by paternal and maternal groups. At the time, I was working with National Geographic and went to contactwith scientists and programs of study, based on the scientific literature on the populations that crossed the Bering Strait to America 20,000 years ago. At the same time, I conducted workfield research on the Chukchi, a grouppeople who inhabit the Bering Strait and have a very land-bound way of life. One of the ways that struck me most was how they understand themselves in time. According to these traditions, one is not only one, but carries within oneself one's ancestors". Thus, based on a dialogue between traditional culture and science, the various series that make up sample emerged.

It takes its name, The Edge, Spanish, from the Russian word kromka. "It is the place where sea, ice and land meet, in a rather fluid way. It is a hunting area for polar bears and also for humans. It is a contested place that is always changing, evolving, to make reference letterfor the migratory processes that come and go. They are not linear.

Valentín Vallhonrat, director artistic of the MUN together with Rafael Levenfeld, stresses that this work"brings together not only artistic disciplines but also many other forms of knowledgeand representation that give rise to numerical series and datawith which we are used to relating in fields other than art". He also valued the fact that it is a "very ambitiousproject, territorially immense, which has generated very different series, dealing with subjects such as the Geneticsof populations, migrations or the first populations that define the territories".

One of the series on show is the Relative Information portraits of people from Russia and across America, which addresses core topicissues of projectby portraying people who have worked there. "The captions do not make reference lettertheir name or profession. I use them as a kind of evocation that alludes to the geographical coordinates where that person and I crossed paths, the time frame in which the image was taken and the date. My intention is that the viewer, when confronted with both the portrait and the captions, should participate in this meeting". The visitor could, for example, enter the coordinates into his mobile phone and see the exact spot where the photograph was taken.

In addition to photographic pieces, the exhibitionalso brings together video art and installations. For example, one of the pieces is a polyptych of 18 images made with the technique of transported charcoal (19th century). "The overall image is one of the first images of Mars and is made up of small images, emulsified with pigments that I have collected on the journeys I have made," explains the artist. In this exhibition, Laiz has kept in mind the work of artists from the Museum's Collection, such as De Launay, Napper, Laurent and Ortiz Echagüe: "I felt that I was also following in the footsteps of a tradition, of a lineage". 


The samplealso has a strong link to sustainability, with a parallel projectcalled Beyond the Edgewhich has been accompanied by the consultancy firm Ureculture. This initiative has been made possible thanks to the support of the National Geographic Society, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Museo Universidad de Navarra. "For example, the frames were made from recycled material. With Ureculture we have worked on product issues to prepare a series of models to make them. We seek not only to talk about long-term thinking deadline, but it invites us to rethink in order to do things differently. Art, sustainability and science all come together organically at project". 

The Museum also supports this parallel projectwhich is aligned with theUniversity of Navarra's Strategy 2025 focused on sustainability. As part of this support, a groupof workhas been formed with members from other schools and Schools, and from the developmentteam of Strategy 2025, which will analyse the impact of the Museum on the frameworkof the time during which exhibitioncan be visited in its galleries. This projectof the University and the Museum with the artist seeks to unite architecture, art and sustainability.