Reyes Santiago Rojas - Tabaco/Tobacco/Tobakk
Curated by Ana María Bresciani
Jane 2021, September
The title Tabaco/Tobacco/Tobakk presents an itinerary of geographic and temporal migration of the artist Reyes Santiago Rojas and his exhibition protagonist, the tobacco plant. Their parallel movement and work appear to be driven by the shared destiny of cultivated organisms propelled through existence by the employment of fascination, cultivation and compulsion.
Whenever leaving his native Bogotá, the only materials Rojas consistently brought on his travels have been artefacts gathered in the artist’s beloved tobacco archive – items connecting the plant and its many people. For Rojas tobacco is a singularly important, iconic vehicle for unravelling and deciphering the globally entangled production of human, though not only human culture.
Starting in the Andes before the ‘discovery’ of the New World, he traces the pathways of an extensive and complex story. Rojas researches the means through which tobacco, traditionally a medical narcotic, remains a tool for mythologising identity and a continually employed instrument in the dissemination of dependance on colonisation.
His current project has been under development in the city of Oslo and on the grounds at KOSA for the better part of this year. But it stretches much further and draws into itself Norwegian tobacco history and its growers today, farmers in Italy, Spain, Colombia, Puerto Rico, their help and their stories. People, many people have been combing the streets of their cities, collecting material that is woven into the tapestry exhibited in Jane, proving their fellowship in his compulsion. Reyes Santiago Rojas’ way of working ignites others’ fascination, as does his ability to articulate precise form through meticulous cultivation.
Tabaco/Tabacco/Tobakk mainly consists of two parts, one takes place inside Jane, the other is outside. They share the same size footprint. Both are confined within their frames and initially involve more than a thousand aggregate parts for each, seeds to become a concrete tobacco patch amid pine trees, and an abstracted aluminum paper tapestry behind tobacco leaves in Jane.