Las Palabras Son Muros [Pavilion for Astoria] (Words are Walls [Pavilion for Astoria]) is a collectively authored dynamic sculptural “book” project by artist Rafael Domenech.
Scaffolding and construction mesh – both provisional materials emblematic of a changing urban landscape – comprise the two semicircular towers of this outdoor piece. Mesh “pages” are hung from the scaffolding and feature graphically dynamic laser-cut texts that are updated throughout the exhibition. Domenech gleans these texts from various sources and through different layers of mediation: from other artists participating in public programs, from compositions submitted on site by Park visitors, via a call-in number, and through the exhibition website laspalabrassonmuros.info. The artist allows for chance to determine the composition when aggregating this amalgamation of voices throughout the sixteen-week exhibition.
Domenech’s work takes its title from a line of the poem Flamenco in Big Bang – a book of concrete poetry by Cuban artist, poet, and critic Severo Sarduy. Palabras son Muros embodies some of the neo-baroque visual and textual metaphors that Sarduy identified and articulated in his writing. For instance, the ellipse – a shape rendered in relation to two foci – represents the conditions of dislocation, decentralization, and eccentricity. These elements appear both formally and conceptually in Palabras son Muros. Duality reverberates in the pairing of the towers, the outer borough geography, and the experience of migration. These dualities, the dissolution of authorship, and the embrace of artifice and exuberance further evince Sarduy’s aesthetics.