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First UK solo exhibition of Ecuadorian artist Oscar Santillan opens at Copperfield
Oscar Santillan, The intruder (2015) the top inch of the highest mountain in England removed and embedded in a pedestal. Courtesy of the artist and Copperfield, London.

LONDON.- Copperfield presents the first UK solo exhibition of Ecuadorian artist Oscar Santillan (b.1980).

Despite touching on culturally potent subjects from philosophy to national pride, the exhibition ultimately draws out the obscure. Unexpected events occur: the dance of a dead philosopher is unveiled, a piece of land is taken, nature and culture collide.

Departing from the tradition of land art in making often major modifications to the natural landscape, ‘The Intruder’ presents an inch of stone carefully removed from the English countryside. At a glance it is seemingly insignificant and yet the material is carefully presented. Scaling the 3028ft Scafell Pike in the Lake District, the artist has taken the uppermost inch of the highest mountain in England. An entire nation’s height is modified and its landscape redefined by means of a single precise action. The artist explores the way in which human categories are imposed on nature: the largest, the tallest, the most powerful.

The Wandering Kingdoms draws on the little known process of the early documentation of birdcalls. The work existed first as a performance, which made the installation possible. Since the recording technologies in the 19th and early 20th Centuries were not suitable for the task of capturing the sound of birds in the wild, training in musical composition was required for field research in order to notate birdsong. For the performance musicians were hidden in thick wilderness playing music based on an open structured composition in which the musicians behave like birds as they “call” and “answer” each other while the sounds keeps on changing. The sound is as elusive as the images on the plates – at first we detect only the natural, then closer inspection begins to reveal the presence of the hidden musicians.

In a large new installation titled Afterword, Santillan connects elements as diverse as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a defective typewriter, and dance. As his sight began to fail, Nietzsche acquired a typewriter. The “Writing Ball” was a cutting edge device developed by the Danish inventor Rasmus Malling-Hansen. Nietzsche’s “Writing Ball” arrived defective due to damage during shipping, leading it to produce a great many mistakes. Despite his frustrations Nietzsche typed more than 70 documents using it. Some were abandoned but many were corrected and finalised with increasingly agitated pencil marks over the errors. Fascinated by the frustrations of one of the world’s greatest philosophers, Santillan has produced a composite of all the pencil marks from these obscure documents. The result is an expressive and gestural drawing, accompanied by a compilation on a single page of all of the errors that Nietzsche made using his beloved 'Malling-Hansen'.

By his own account, Nietzsche spent hours teaching his fingers “to dance with the Malling-Hansen”. He wrote of dancing himself “as if something supernatural” echoed out of him. A century after the philosopher’s death, a fragment of paper was taken by Santillan from one of Nietzsche’s typed manuscripts and used as a point of connection in a filmed séance. The psychic medium was asked to pose only one question to the philosopher: What was your dance like?

Oscar Santillan (Ecuador, 1980) received an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University (US) and since then has attended residencies at Delfina Foundation (UK), Jan van Eyck Academy (NL), Ratti Foundation (IT), and Skowhegan (US). His work has been exhibited at the Bonnefanten Museum (NL), ‘Carrillo Gil’ Museum of Art (MX), STUK Kunstcentrum (BE), Poly/graphic Triennial (PR), ICO Foundation (ES), Centraal Museum (NL), Pierogi’s Boiler (US), Marilia Razuk Gallery (BR), among others.

His work is in public and private collections internationally including the Caldic Collection (NL), Balanz Capital (AR), ‘Carrillo Gil’ Museum of Art (MX), Colección Franc Vila (ES), Centraal Museum (NL), ArtNexus – Celia Birbragher (US), Bieke and Tanguy van Quickenborne Collection (BE), among others.

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