MONTE ABIERTOArgentina Pavilion for the London Design Biennale, 2021
Monte Abierto is an invitation to experience the making of a shared territory in dialogue. In this installation, the designer Cristián Mohaded examines the resonance of design from his relationship with the artisan Lorenzo Reyes and the Simbol, a plant that grows in the Calchaquí Valleys in Catamarca, a province in the northwest of Argentina, from which both come from.
Between rivers and mountains, shrubs grow wild on the Monte (the bush) forming scattered islands of dense coloured clumps from green to gold; a desert-like landscape of bright clouds and 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. For almost a decade, Cristián and Lorenzo maintain a collaborative and experimental practice built upon an ongoing process of making agreements, of forming a common language, and of pacts of respect between them, the Simbol, and the Monte.
Simbol is both the plant and the basket weaving tradition of the province of Catamarca. Although Simbol fibres can be cut and woven at any time of the year, in summer they are 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, according to the minerals of 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 — a way of relating to the material as a source of knowledge and as a bearer of the identity of a territory. "Mother Nature offers us everything, we just have to go to the fields and work with our hands," he says. The Simbol thus becomes a technology-memory that stores and transfers a making expertise and a language specific to the Monte. The Monte is, then, not simply a bounded geographical space, but the socio-ethico-material support of the relations that emerge from it.
The meeting place for Cristián and Lorenzo is on the border between craft and design. For them, referring to their disciplines as two distinct fields does not represent a rigid division but the possibility of creating (designing) their own making together through the dialogue of their knowledges. Dialogue appears here as a committed technology towards finding a shared vision, a shared language, a shared practice, a shared world. In that sense, design is a situated activity that configures values, ways of relating, identities, and territories. For Cristián, to ground his work to a place echoes as a fundamental principle for a sustainable and respectful practice, as well as a strategy to place design at the appropriate distance and thus amplify its potential towards the creation and coexistence of multiple possible worlds.
Monte Abierto is the bringing forward of a making in which the generation of things happens through the reciprocal and embodied relationship between people, materials, and the forces of nature. In the installation, the objects present themselves as the reflection of their own becoming; a threading that emerges from the polyvocal dialogue between the designer, the artisan, the Simbol, the Monte, the animals, the wind, and the sun. To enter the Monte, then, is not just an invitation to the landscape but to an epistemic orientation and a disposition to see and do things otherwise — a perspective in which the material and the immaterial are mutually constituted.
Monte Abierto is the disclosure of Cristián and Lorenzo’s shared territory and an invitation to their conversation as landscape — a world made through dialogue and a dialogue made world.
Designer: Cristián Mohaded
Artisan: Lorenzo Reyes
Curator: Franca López Barbera
Light Design: Arturo Peruzzotti
Project Team: Josefica Roca, Gonzalo Kaiser, and Franco Chimento
Supporting Bodies: Argentine Ministry of Foreign affair, International Trade, and Worship and The Embassy of Argentina to the UK.