Memorias del Futuro I

Memories of the Future.

Languages and Biodiversity


“As ancient languages have disappeared, species are being threatened with extinction,” Ken Hale.

This sentence could well synthesize the concept behind Johanna Arenas´s site specific installation for the City Room of the EPM Library in Medellín “Memories of the Future.” Through language, the work suggests a metaphor for extinction as a problem of communication and plays with the concept of time to create a fiction of the future in which historic text can be seen unwinding throughout the exhibition hall from a giant wheel in a serpentine movement approximately 150 meters long.

The resulting image interacts with the spectator in various ways, at times symbolically exaggerating the size of the text to reduce the audience to the fair scale that we represent in the universe. The text, written using laser cuts, allows light to come through and be projected on the spectators, an allegorical way to affect and touch them with many words; data symbolizing knowledge and light communicate to the audience living vegetable species, extinct animals, and the danger of extinction of native languages and their last endangered speakers because of our culture of devastation. The discourse is written using a font which reminds us of ancient Persian texts. In those ancient texts, reference is made to the functioning and maintenance of nature, medicine, counting systems and war strategies which obviously cannot be understood as they are referenced in a dead language. However, the font has the power to make us recognize the vertiginous and seductive language of a frenetic capitalism that today blocks us from understanding the alarms that nature itself is trying to communicate to us.

With each language and species that is lost someplace in the world, part of the knowledge of that region and a very high percentage of the probabilities for maintaining biodiversity balance and the perfect workings of ecosystems are extinguished. By being indecipherable at first view, and in the way in which it has been edited and presented, the text also reminds us of the image of DNA on a large scale which subliminally involves us as human beings in this image of extinction. 

Jorge Pachón