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Mexico’s Magical Echoes at the Venice Biennale

Mexico’s Magical Echoes at the Venice Biennale

Picture of Danai Molocha
Updated: 6 January 2017
Αriel Guzik’s latest invention, Cordiox, is Mexico’s centrepiece at the 2013 Venice Biennale, one that brilliantly utilises the country’s National Pavilion at the former Church of San Lorenzo to create a singular sound space. Synthesizing music, physics, biology and mathematics, this artfully complex sonic machine captures the visitor’s presence, creating an impromptu soundtrack for the mind and soul that will be hard to match.

For the 55th annual Venice Biennale, Mexico will show at its new National Pavilion in the former Church of San Lorenzo, in San Lorenzo campo.

Αt the initiative of commissioner Gaston Ramirez Feltrin – an artist and Venice resident himself for the past 12 years – Mexico has undertaken the highly ambitious project of restoring the abandoned 9th century church, where it was rumoured Marco Polo was buried, after almost a century of disuse. By doing so, not only does the restored church building bring out an exceptional piece of local history, but it also invests in a prolific future at the world class event, for the next nine years at least, as was specifically agreed with the Commune of Venice. The ensuing public polemic, was naturally fierce since the undertaking came at great financial cost – though one can surely argue that it’s financially wise for a country to invest in a permanent exhibition space. The church’s location also came under scrutiny as it’s off the Biennale main thoroughfare, which could possibly deprive the Pavilion of a large chunk of visitors. This is where artist Ariel Guzik and his Cordiox step in, to explore and exploit the historic building in unpredictable and extraordinary ways, ultimately uniting the two divergent fronts in an artistic pact that – he hopes – both would find irresistible.

Guzik has made subtle sound, vibrations and resonance in nature a focal point in his work. Through his highly sophisticated electromagnetic devices, the sounds emitted by plants, whales, sun rays etc create a symphony of unexpected sounds that in normal circumstances the human ear can’t perceive. Applying now the same philosophy and technical expertise, Guzik found an innovative way for the Biennale visitors to explore the most hidden corners of the old church – given the nearly derelict state of the construction in places – translating the natural ambiance to crystalline sound. Technically speaking, Cordiox is a 4-meter high machine comprising of a main cylinder, 45 cm in diameter and 180 cm in height, as well as 180 strings, divided into three separate instruments like harps. The machine will be dismantled, in order to be sent to Venice, and then reassembled on location. When a visitor enters the former church, this alters the natural balance of the ambiance, creating new, unexpected music that is practically unrepeatable. Each new soundpiece is unique to the visitor and the moment, making Cordiox simultaneously a fascinating personal experience and a magnetic force that could attract thousands.


Ariel Guzik, Banda Nerviosa Autónoma, video

An autodidact initially focused on electromagnetics, Ariel Guzik (b. 1960 in Mexico City), spent years investigating new ways to bring his passions together, uniting the feeling of music with the rigour of science. Also juggling a keenness for electronics, traditional medicine and the saxophone, Guzik played in experimental jazz bands before he dedicated himself to bringing forth the sounds of natural life. His first project Espejo Plasmaht, an outstanding way of perceiving signals, was 20 years in the making. By now though, Guzik has had his share of international shows. One of his most memorable works, La Banda Nerviosa Autónoma (The Autonomous Nervous Band, 2002-2005) was an unorthodox 16-robot-spider orchestra rhythmically improvising on percussion. Between science and science fiction, Nereida (2007) was a resonance machine for immersion into water. In a time when science seeks to bare more and more of nature’s secrets, Guzik strives to give nature a voice – and a magic all its own.


Mexico Team

Artist: Ariel Guzik

Commissioner: Gaston Ramirez Feltrin.

Curator: Itala Schmelz.

Venue: Ex Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Campo San Lorenzo