María Fernanda Cardoso: from taming fleas to isolating themselves in a bubble

Published on El Tiempo

Considered a Colombian art star, she talks about how to live in the days of covid-19.

Work ‘Bubbles: together but apart’, by María Fernanda Cardoso
Photo: Mambo

María Fernanda Cardoso dreamed of being Leonardo da Vinci when she was a child, but not only the Leonardo de La Mona Lisa and the one from The Last Supper, but the Leonardo who could be an anatomist and creator of helicopters and war machines. And – luckily for everyone, because his work is one of the great miracles of Colombian art – Cardoso has fulfilled his childhood fantasies.

Its visual and vital journey is an amazing tidal wave of forms of expression. His masterpiece ‘The Flea Circus’ (a show that has been performed at venues like London’s Tate Modern; Sydney Opera House and Centre Georges Pompidou) was made possible by his own blood. Not only did he train the fleas to walk the tightrope and shoot out of a cannon, but he found that the best way to feed them was by putting them on his arms so that they sucked freely from their dark object of desire.

He made a beautiful vertical garden of artificial flowers that he exhibited at MoMA in New York. At the Luis Ángel Arango he presented an impressive installation with stuffed piranhas and – when he was much younger – he won the 1990 Bogotá Biennial with a crown made of lizards. In some of his recent works – working with high-precision microscopes – he has managed to photograph the sexual organs of spiders.

“I discovered the work of María Fernanda Cardoso when I lived in Australia,” says Eugenio Vila, chief curator of the Mambo. “She is a charming artist who explores the wonders of the natural world as a scientific researcher. Its practice can be connected with the tradition of natural history of the XIX century: taxonomy, classification, evolution and museology, central and basic elements in its artistic production ”.

María Fernanda Cardoso lives in Sydney, Australia. 8:00 pm in Colombia is the first hours of the next day. When we talked, she was going on a trip to an amazing place with a friend: Mungo National Park.

“Sydney is quiet and there are fewer restrictions, but now Melbourne has shot up again with the infections. People lost their fear, social contact, parties, family returned, and again they had to go into strict quarantine; in the park we are going to be isolated, but I think we are lost! ”

Cardoso –in his variety of ways of seeing art– now goes in search of painting and drawing. And not in any way; their curiosity is not only about shapes, but chemistry. And the work he did on quarantine and covid-19 for EL TIEMPO and for Mambo was done on cement sheet and silicate mineral paint, a combination that allows him to create the optical illusion of bubbles with special brushes.

“The bubbles are a metaphor for our new life. We live in bubbles to stay alive, “says María Fernanda. “We can see each other thanks to technology, but we cannot touch ourselves; we are isolated but connected. The bubbles, in real life, can be touched, but are kept separate. “