“… then the land was consumed by fire and flames surrounded the trees, plants, animals and men. Only a few of the Mocoví people saw the fires coming and dove into rivers and lagoons, where they were turned into capybaras and crocodiles. Two of them, a man and his wife, sought refuge in a tall tree, where they looked on as the rivers of fire flooded the surface of the earth; but unexpectedly, the fire blew upwards and burned their faces and turned them into monkeys …”

From the Jesuit missionary Guevara, on the Mocoví myth on how the Sun fell from the sky (1764).

Four thousand years ago, a meteorite shower took place in a region of Northern Argentina. The original inhabitants of this area named the region Pinguem Nonraltá, which means Field of the Sky in the Guaycurú language. El Taco, which weighed 1998 kg, is a fragment of an 800-ton iron mass, older than Earth itself, coming from the Asteroid Belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Discovered in 1962 by a farmer plowing his fields, the meteorite was retrieved by a joint scientific expedition between the U.S.A. and Argentina. It was then officially presented to the Smithsonian Institution. Since the North-American scientists lacked precise technology to section large specimens, the meteorite was shipped to the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. El Taco was divided in two halves through a critical cutting procedure that took more than a year. Since then, one part has been located at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, the other one in Buenos Aires’s Planetarium.

After almost forty-five years, the two main masses of El Taco will be reunited in Germany for the first time, at this Faivovich & Goldberg exhibition, a step in their journey toward dOCUMENTA (13), where a future stage of their project A Guide to Campo del Cielo will take place in 2012.

Guillermo Faivovich (b. 1977) and Nicolás Goldberg (b. 1978) live and work in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This exhibition is a collaboration between Portikus, Frankfurt; Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, Argentina; Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Frankfurt; Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.; and Gobierno del Pueblo de la Provincia del Chaco, Argentina.

Realized with the generous support of the city of Frankfurt and Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, Presidencia de la Naciòn, Argentina.


Foreword from the book The Campo del Cielo Meteorites – Vol. 1: El Taco:

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev: What is in the world that is older than the world?

Daniel Birnbaum: So you mean this object is somehow not part of our world?

CCB: Yes—it has become part of our world, but it comes from far away and is very, very old. It is transcendent and immanent at once. And it is in such an impossible condition because it has gone through a sort of trauma when it got pulled into our orbit and was shattered.

DB: I presume that this will be the oldest object in the exhibition. Are you sure it is an artwork?

CCB: Are we sure of anything? Are we sure that we are “we” because we know we shall die, and because we have language? What is an artwork according to you?

DB: Well, I doubt that I can give you a satisfactory definition of the notion of “art” right away. But I am quite convinced that this cosmic readymade will be accepted as a work of art—and a pretty great one at that. There is a rather recent book titled After Finitude by the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux that would be worth mentioning here. He talks about objects that are so ancient that they precede not only humanity and intelligent life on the planet, but also any form of life known to us. He asks what these objects might have to say about our modern philosophical tradition, which takes subjectivity and language as its starting point. For him, the fact that we have these objects and can make scientific statements about them forces us beyond an insistence on finitude that is typical of modern thinking after Kant. The meteorite could be an example…

CCB: Yes, it could, if one looks at it from the point of view of time. However, Karl Marx, in “The Meteors,” the fifth chapter of his doctoral dissertation, uses the theory of celestial bodies of Epicurus to argue almost the opposite. To him, understanding the materiality of meteorites allows one to avoid any belief in the unknowable and the infinite: “The heavenly bodies are the supreme realization of weight. In them all antinomies between form and matter, between concept and existence, which constituted the development of the atom, are resolved; in them, all required determinations are realized”. One way or another, the Campo del Cielo meteorite field 1,200 kilometers north of Buenos Aires in Argentina was known from time immemorial to the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the region and since the late sixteenth century to the Spanish, although only in the late 1700s were scientists convinced that meteorites fell from the sky and were not rocks coming from the earth’s core.

DB: One last question. With this exhibition we are trying to rejoin what belongs together. But, of course, our rock is still in two parts. Do you see this as a tragic work?

CCB: I see the reunification of El Taco meteorite, from Campo del Cielo, as a joyous work that celebrates—at least provisionally—the possibility of reintegration. The fact that it gets divided again, at the end of the exhibition, just means that art could be a lot better than life.

Photos: Katrin Schilling