‘Casa Tomada’, Saatchi Gallery, London

'Casa Tomada', by artist Rafael Gomezbarros

Installation at the Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom


Response to ‘Pangaea- New art from Africa and Latin America‘, at the Saatchi Gallery, London. April 2014.

By Terence Erraught

This short response engages with, in particular the work of artist Rafael Gomezbarros.
The title of the installation escaped my mind initially, and after leaving the gallery, recall a foreign title, which had no resignation with myself when reading it and visiting the installation.
On first entering the space, both myself and co-visitor were seriously impressed by the gallery space itself. Immaculate (daylight?) lighting, and beautiful wooden floors. This was very noticeable but appeared to not interrupt with the power of the work. Perhaps there still is a luring aspect to the notion of the ‘white cube’. This work was obviously a crowd pleaser. When deciding on visiting London, I looked online to see what was on at the Saatchi (open a new page), and the initial image for the show was of a little female child, looking up at these “insects”.
It was one of those works where the audience was powerless not to feel the urge to take a few snaps within the melee of what seemed like hundreds of large ants.
My initial reaction was dictated by the positioning of the creatures, that appeared to be both of this world, but unworldly also. This immediately brought about notions of metaphor and fantasy.
During my years studying at art college I observed numerous (sculpture) students captivated by materials such as tights, stockings and twigs. From this noticeable attraction to artists with a hampering to suspend objects and materials within such materials, I felt this would strike a lot of gallery goers on varying levels.
(As I entered) my initial reaction was based on a metaphor. Being fewer of these creatures in number as one entered the room, they quickly multiplied and congregated into a hive of activity, scouring into the opposite corner. It appeared to me as representational of the human social structure. As individuals we are human, have strong personalities, interests, passions and drives. As we are brought together, in obvious ways, as with the modern needs and desires of life; jobs, income, family, food, sex and quality (of life), we transform from that individual into a collective mass. This mass has become something else. Each one playing a part in the system that we have created ( drumroll please !!! : Who has created this system…??) Have we created this system, the individual, the singular ant, or the Queen, master and ruler? A busy labour set out with tasks in order to allow the system function and bring prosperity as a unit. But who is benefiting. These ‘ants’ have nothing but themselves. They do not appear to be carrying out any task, they do not hold within their grasp any food, materials or money. Each one appears just as the next, with no sign of gender roles or distinguishable features. There appears no place for them to go, no hole in which to hide (unless they saw the other doorway..), only to amass and alter their classification.



Close-up of Installation at Saatchi Gallery, london


The individuality of each ‘ant’ is also diminished by its construction. Each one comprises of two featureless humanoid skulls. One faces the opposite way to the other, and is tied to some sticks. The basic, but well constructed beings create a sense of non identity and simplicity. Just like these creatures, the audience flocks about the space, following the human path of clockwise and self induced protocol that allows them to engage with the works.

The catalogue alters one’s perception of the work, through it’s inclusion of the ant’s obviously original purpose to be placed in their multitudes over government building facades (Go to Project Website for images – {new webpage}). The book, which is written very loosely, states that it’s as if the artist “…were attempting to summon death in life.” Im not too sure how I would agree with this, in terms of how I saw the work in this space. Altough it is an inevitable part of life, no matter what life form we describe, I perceive that the artist sees that through one’s grinding struggles, always lingers close to death, and that the laborers are often undervalued and faceless. It is part of everything.
Immigration and the plights of many are his main subject.
Taken from the catalogue:
Entitled Casa Tomada, the work makes a very particular reference to a short story by Argentine writer Julio Cortazar, in which the inhabitants of a large mansion become invaded by elusive presences announced solely by muted sounds.“{#1}
Now, for me, not being able to translate this at the time of viewing, and only seeing the images of the ants overrunning the buildings, that perhaps i was able to engage with the true meaning and potential of the work. Perhaps there were other curatorial options available in this case. To even recreate the installation on the facade of some english government or relevant buildings, or even on the face of the Saatchi itself. these steps may have linked more to the plight and real-world position of the artist. Even one or two well placed photographs just outside the installation, or placed cleverly within the room could also have brought another level of depth to the work. With the work being “locked” into such a perfect space, I can’t help but feel that a lot of the piece’s power was reduced to a really cool photographic opportunity.


‘Casa Tomada’, 2013, Resin, fibreglass, wood, screen cotton, rope, Cerrejón coal

Body: 50 x 20 x 50; legs: 90 x 50 cms.

#1: Salgado, Gabriela, ‘Pangaea Saatchi Gallery‘, Published by the Saatchi Gallery, 2014, pg. 47

Photographs by Terence Erraught