Evocative Objects Chapter-The Spine And Tooth Of Santo ... - a blog

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14 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and
fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. The cyborg is our
ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both i
and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical
transformation. In the traditions of 'Western' science and politics… the relation between
organism and machine has been a border war. The stakes in the border

war have been the
territories of production, reproduction, and imagination. […] In a sense, the cyborg has
no origin story in the Western sense

a 'final' irony since the cyborg is also the awful
apocalyptic telos of the 'West's' escalating dominations o
f abstract individuation, an
ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space.

Donna Harroway, “Cyborg Manifesto”

The Spine And Tooth Of Santo Guerro

It’s easy to forget,

a building so formidable as the De Young Museum, tha
the monuments of modern life have not always stood as we see them, if at all. Structures
imposed on landscape construct new narratives of space and environment by
transforming t
heir surroundings. The De Young has gone through many incarnations in
ve in its nearly 100 years of life as an institution. Having arisen in one of San
Francisco’s historic areas of sanctuary, the reconstructed De Young Museum has sought
to draw its beginnings in this park into its existing structure. Designed by Swiss arch
Herzog & de Meuron, the building is plated in copper sheeting perforated with millions
of holes, a design inspired by heavily pixelated photographs of sunlight filtering through

Through the thorough exposure that only time can give, this co
ppery ochre will
undergo a slow metamorphosis of oxidation into a collage of black, brown, and green
patina. The effect is to refold the narrative of the preexisting landscape into the De
Young’s narrative, a cyclical evolution to remind us that what exist
ed before the museum
was only sunlight shining through trees.

The composition of an object from other objects creates a



that creates meaning for and is reinforced by its materials. Such is the case with
The Spine And Tooth Of S
anto Guerro

by Al Farrow (2007),

on display in the De
Young’s permanent collection. It is a formidable construction, a precise scale model of a
cathedral. The mausoleum
like structure is built almost entirely out of bullets, shot, and
deconstructed guns. In the nave, a genuine, articulat
ed spine is mounted on a bolt of 15

century cloth. Above the transept door, a tooth flecked with a gold filling is mounted in a
small glass case

The entire church is meant to be a reliquary, a shrine for preserving the
body parts of martyrs or saints.

Santo Guerro
’s materials transform, and are transformed, by being collected to
form a new narrative. The characteristic hole
punched barrel of the Browning rifle, used
widely in WWII, reinforces the cathedral’s two front steeples, along with other French,

Italian, and British issue rifles. Where the stained glass window in the front of a cathedral
would be, there is instead a ring of burnished cartridges. .303 caliber bullets,

conical, dot the tops of the roofs. The church is an archive of weaponr
y: it pairs the 20

century’s most widely used rifle with its most effective ammunition. In any other con
combining gun and bullet w
ould result in lethal consequences. In the case of
the combination

mes an incisive exposure into the

utility of warfare. The
Browning was developed under the circumstances of an increasingly mobile war; and the
politics of engineering provided the underpinning for a gun model that was used until the
Korean War.
The .303



, fitted
for the Browning
, was a ubiquitous
staple o
f the WWII infantry. Its finely tapered body was strapped into rounds of identical
hundreds, fired through armor and jackets and flesh, never to be retrieved. Each firing of
a gun, an
d the bullet seemed to evapora
, only to re

through the devastation of
buildings and bodies, like answered prayers.

The similarities

Santo Guerro

and the punctured exterio
r sheathing of the
De Young represent and transform the objects’ pasts
. The holes in the De
Young’s wall
convey a past presence in the way that bullets unavoidably represent the purpose they
were manufactured for. And the mate
rials transform both structures.

The copper skin of
the museum is constantly in change, and is caught in a visual oscillat
ion between dark
and light. Through the cathedral replica, b
ullets are transformed from their violent
intention into a silhouette of reverence and worship, a miniature house of God.
What this
museum and this mausoleum narrate is the change of time, of thei
r own materials but also
the physical world as well. They express the changing of the

bodies that move inside,
outside, and among their structures.

The severity of the church’s materials is in direct contrast to its beauty. And
Farrow’s finely constructed


The first time I saw
Santo Guerro
, I
was simultaneously in awe and in horror. The monument stands

out like a bleak, black
focal point in a room so otherwise well
lit and spacious
, with

its black and brackish green
patina, the del
icate spires of bullets mounted skyward, the intricacy of its crafted
doorways. Even the shape of its body, from an aerial view, is reminiscent of a mounted
The depth of symbolism is immediately apparent.

The first, most basic act of gathering inf
ormation about the church requires a
contortion on the part of the audience: the placement of the placard is underneath the
rch, on the front of its podium. A
t wais
t level rather than eye level, i
t makes you bend
forward, almost bowing, to read it. The
placement of the door does the same, inviting you
to look closer while making you bow to view the relic inside. Thus, in the first
impression, the church already confronts us by engaging physical movement and
discomfort in direct relation to the gathering
of information. It gives us a fundamental
critique on the structure of religious belief. How far are you willing to
, it asks, to
see what you want to see?

As I approached it, the church seemed to grow larger, and more complex. Similar
to the viewing
of mounted stones in the Scholar’s Rocks chapter (
Evocative Objects
Santo Guerro

was disorienting. L
ike the Scholar’s Rock,
Santo Guerro
’s effects
are “specific and distinctive. One is the deliberate confusion of scale. Another is material

immaterial. Another is infinite, immeasurable depth and movement in a finite
space…. It’s a little piece of a mountain from which you can imagine the whole

and so on.”

In the case of this miniature cathedral, Al Farrow creates a
fascinating illusion of intricacy in architecture by constructing his church entirely out of
warfare implements. From a modest distance, this church looks realistic and ornate
through its desig
n is fabricated
. Also, it is tame

without detail, it exists only as a model
replica of a cathedral.

However, on a closer viewing, the church reveals the disorienting effects of scale.
Two contradictions of size are juxtaposed with one another. The first

is the scale of the
church against the bullets it’s made from. It’s impossible not to be awed by the intricate
construction of bullets, shot, and gun barrels that almost exclusively constitute the
church. It makes you wonder: how many bullets, guns, empty

magazines, shot, or
cartridges were used to make this?
The church is an interrogation of utility, of
transformation. What it blatantly demands that we consider is how the use of an ob
can transform its identity or

transform the identity of the new obj
ect it creates. In this
sense, the church embodies rebirth, using old objects to create a previously unfathomed
new object.

The second scale that
Santo Guerro

asks us to consider is directly linked to its
materials’ origins. In this sense, the constructio
n of the church is not innocent. The guns,
the shot, the bullets were manufactured not for the church, but for the purpose of
efficiently destroying

life. These materials

only became part of the church in a secondary
sense because they failed at their prim
ary utility. Farrow probably picked these bullets up
from a manufacturing plant or storage facility, and probably acquired the guns from
secondhand stores. I doubt he plucked the bullets from the bloody heads of the men killed
by them, or stole the guns fr
om soldiers in the field.
In this sense, the church is intimately
tied with the purpose of and intention for death. It wouldn’t exist without the previous
for weapons designed to murder. For these reasons, t
he church is also strongly
tied to mortali
ty because of

its usage of bones, of relics;

materials that would not be
exposed or revered without the obvious trajectory of the person and body through death.

Almost every time I visit the De Young, I ritually pay homage to the church,
regardless of whe
re el
se I have spent my time. My visits are prayers in the way that they

are small actions or signs of gratitude towards things that

find meaningful.
With this
essay in the back of my mind, knowing that most people who read it have never seen and
will ne
ver see
Santo Guerro
, I reflect on the importance of making my own pilgrimage to
see it. Without seeing it in person, I would not have been made aware of the physical
actions required to actively

the piece. My idea of the church would be without the
ripping confrontation of mortality,

without the questions of utility and operation,

without the dual impressions of death and rebirth. If I had viewed the church from an
image on a screen, that’s the only way it would have existed for me: two
confined in a pixelated square. Virtually sharing this essay and photographs of the church
with my class and teacher may make the information more available, but that’s all it will
ever be

information. Without seeing the church, you can’t begin to as
k questions past
what I have outlined in this essay. But without the church’s representation in the virtual
world, you would have no idea it existed at all. In the intersection between the physical
and virtual worlds, how can we extract our questions?
In t
he words of Susan Yee, in her
chapter “
The Archive
”: “Will we still crave some pilgrimage…? But there will be no
place to go…. What will this do to our emotional understanding of the human process of
design? What rituals might we invent to recover the body
’s intimate involvement with
these new traces of human imagination?”
Will we be able to feel our human connection
through a virtual representation? Will we care about death? Will we care about life?

Works Cited:

1. Hirsch, Faye. "A New De Young."
In America

94.1 (2006): 49
53. Print.

Yee, Susan. “The Archive.”

Evocative Objects.

Cambridge: MIT, 2007. 30
7. Print.

Rosenblum, Nancy. "Chinese Scholars' Rocks."
Evocative Objects
. Cambridge: MIT,
2007. 252
59. Print.