Marcela Moraga: Neither Spices Nor Species

In 2018, Marcela Moraga participated in the artistic research program “Magallanes 2020” in Punta Arenas, Chile, an initiative coordinated by the Universidad de Magallanes with the Goethe Institut Chile. The artist was invited to realize her own project during her stay in Patagonia, which was supposed to include contacts with on-site research institutions in the fields of ethnobotany, marine biology, archaeology and history as well as with the local community.

Marcela Moraga left Berlin-Moabit, having prepared herself by reading the diaries of the Italian explorer Antonio Pigafetta and other travel reports of historical expeditions to Patagonia. What she actually found on her journey, however, differed significantly from the naturalistic and colonialist descriptions of the 16th-18th centuries. ‘Neither spices nor species’ documents the artist’s own journey with drawings, photographs and texts. In a playful authentic way, these notes disguise themselves as an old travel diary. The written and drawn sketches cover a wide range of topics, from local myths about the ocean, stray dogs, climate researchers to activist ducks fighting the Coca-Cola corporation. With her tales, Marcela Moraga counteracts imaginative ‘discoverer’ narratives by undermining their structure with irony and subtle humour. She contrasts the idealized natural landscape of Patagonia with new fictions and stories that speak imaginatively about actual realities such as social and ecological collapse, oral traditions, science and boredom at the end of the world.