Fiamma Montezemolo is a worker of limits. She muses on the liminality and generative force of the between, knowing all along that edges, borders, and limits can be as quotidian as twilight—yet they transform us. Trained as an anthropologist whose works sprouts into the domains of art and critical practice, or art as critical practice, Montezemolo’s work has been deeply marked by limits and their trespassing. These limits are geopolitical and biographical (Italy, Mexico, and the United States), disciplinary (anthropology, philosophy, and art), and existential (through transformation, encounter, and redefinition). Art becomes a portal to the beyond, here as an escape from academic genre, into other forms that stretch our imagination at the edges of the world.
One gets a sense that Fiamma doesn’t muse at fringes from without but enters into their density to become-with, and become-other-than from the materials that she works with and is worked by. In such experiments, the very real borders at the Mexico–United States border people use to cross, for the artist, are not only passages toward exile, to another way of life—but the border becomes exile itself, a site to dwell with and contemplate from within its tumultuous plates. Her ouvre carries the breadth that comes with long-term experimentation, the sitting-with-events and their protracted nature. We’ve selected three works that illustrate the (cartographic) ambivalence found in a multiplicity of limits and their trespassing.
Metalogues takes some of the protagonists of anthropology’s own art scene and asks each to comment on the lines drawn between the disciplines. It curates the curators—something that opens the lineage we want to continue with Con-text-ure. What is the material practice at the center of ethnography, and then what does it do to question it, or position the practice itself at the center? Each of them speaks into their own camera.
Biocartography stakes its territory as the feminized object. Using her own ultrasound as a "map," the object is both personal and political, as the sonographic and topographic fold into one another indiscernibly. It comments on the cultural-artistic scene of the borderlands of Tijuana in the evocative language of medical examiner, the dyadic relationships between doctor–patient, land–cartographer, U.S.–Mexico, and artist–curator are made isomorphic—an interstitial colonialism. (This project accompanies a documentary made about this scene, Echoes, which we will feature for VNMR’s The Screening Room).
Mi-lieus again takes up a colonial legacy in the form of Linnean taxonomy. At once simple and surreal, a species of fly is dropped into a tube and labeled. In the tube, the fly both loses and receives its origins: calliphora vomitoria, bottlebee, blue-bottle fly. As the common housefly, its etymological associations with corpses and vomit lend a new meaning to the colonial and national classification methods that persist in the scientific practice.