Opening May 3, 2024

Pioneers of Indigenous robotics, Fernando Palma Rodríguez and Edgar Espinoza Rios’ new project Āmantēcayōtl: Auh inihcuac huel ompoliuh, mitoa, ommic in meztli presents an installation that emulates a corn field on the slopes of the Teuhtli Volcano in Milpa Alta, Mexico. At Canal Projects, the exhibition features three robotic entities that represent different deities of the Mesoamerican pantheon. A large-scale Cincoatl snake will be suspended above the cornfield and be accompanied by two additional robotic agents: The Huehuecoyotl (Old Coyote) and Tezactipocla (Jaguar lord).

Throughout time, farmers have encouraged the Cincoatl snake to roam their crops—the name Cincoatl is consequently often translated as “snake-friend of maize corn.” Huehuecoyotl (Old Coyote) is the god of music, dance, mischief, and song. As a trickster, the coyote has the capacity to navigate different worlds, roaming the earth and the underground. On the other hand, Tezcatlipoca (Jaguar lord), which literally translates to “smoking mirror,” is known as the god of the Great Bear constellation and the night sky. Tezcatlipoca is a prolific shapeshifter, who would commonly appear in the form of a large jaguar, also referred to as “Heart of the Mountain.”

Palma Rodríguez and Espinoza Rios combine their training as an artist and mechanical engineer to create robotic sculptures that are activated by drawing upon internet-sourced climate data from the Milpa Alta region. His works respond to issues facing Indigenous communities in Mexico today while also underscoring that the struggles for the protection of life and the defense of territory are inseparable from the recuperation of traditional ways of life.

In the context of the thirty year anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA), which came into effect on January 1, 1994, Canal Projects invited the artist to produce his largest site-specific installation to date. This year also marks a symbolic moment in Palma Rodríguez and Espinoza Rios’ artistic career, for it was in 1994 that he showed his first robotic sculpture titled Greeting Zapata Moles, which responded to the industrialization of his hometown, a process that would lead to the systematic dispossession of resources and land from his community. Connecting Mexico and the United States through the invocation of sacred machines whose movements are an embodiment of natural phenomena, the exhibition aims to enact a future of technological justice and care in the face of decades of environmental violence towards Indigenous communities by NAFTA.

Fernando Palma Rodríguez (Mexican, b. 1957) lives in the agricultural region of Milpa Alta outside Mexico City, where he runs Calpulli Tecalco, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Nahua language and culture. Central to Palma Rodríguez’s practice is an emphasis on indigenous ancestral knowledge, both as an integral part of contemporary life and a way of shaping the future. Fernando Palma Rodríguez lives and works in San Pedro Atocpan, Mexico. He was the subject of a retrospective at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (2017). His work has been included in group exhibitions at FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France (2016); Parallel Oaxaca, Mexico (2016); Nottingham Contemporary, England (2015); the Biennial of the Americas, Denver, Colorado (2015); Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, Mexico (2014); and SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico (2014). Also, there was an exhibition of his work at MoMA in NYC called In Ixtli in Yollotl, We the People (2018).