Linnæus in Tenebris, a site-specific installation and performance in the Nave of CAPC, is set in the historic context of the eighteenth century, an era that still dominates Bordeaux’s architectural landscape. The work focuses on an emblematic figure of rationalism, Carl von Linné (1707–1778), the Swedish botanist who created the nomenclature for the classification of most living species known in his time. More broadly, Ramírez-Figueroa examines the taxonomical practices that were developed during the scientific (notably botanical) expeditions undertaken in the wake of western colonization at the time of the Enlightenment. By linking their inherent conceptual bias to the logic of ethnic hierarchization underpinning the division of labor and the spread of industrialization—specifically in the realm of agriculture in Central America, and Guatemala in particular, under the impulse of multinational companies employing migrant labourers—he underlines their alienating potential.
At CAPC, the artist thrusts visitors into the cold and bleak atmosphere of a breeding farm where strange hybrid creatures are grown on an industrial scale. The half-human, half-plant-like sculptures populating the Nave – bunches of bananas with protruding arms and legs, a cocoa-tree-hangman, Monstera deliciosa or other species of suspiciously lush plants, an androgynous-yucca-plant and a plant-pod-midget—are simultaneously fascinating and puzzling. Made of polystyrene covered in resin, they affirm their artificiality and question the moral foundations of “enlightened” culture by exposing the crimes committed in the shadow of Linnaeus.
Within the installation, on the 18 and 20 May 2017, Ramírez-Figueroa presented the fifth work within the cycle of performances that he has been developing as a commissioned artist within Corpus.