By Sjoerd Kloosterhuis & Madelon van Schie

A Peruvian myth tells us the story of a very beautiful Inca princess Cavillaca who, without noticing, has become pregnant by the God Huiracocha. When she continues to be in the dark about who the father is, she invites all the men in her vicinity. Huiracocha also arrives but he is dressed up as a homeless tramp. When the child points at him to say that he is his father, Cavillaca is so ashamed that she flees into the sea with her son, where they turn into the Pachacamac islands.

Watanabe created an installation based on this story, consisting of a basin with a scale model of the Pachacamac islands. The islands are made of an innovative and promising type of stone based on CO2, which is revolutionary in the field of reducing CO2 emissions.
More than in this revolutionary sustainability initiative, however, Watanabe is interested in the transformation of CO2 from gas into stone. In Cavillaca’s persistence (2017-2018) she draws a parallel between this physical transformation and a mythical metamorphosis.

This visual artist is interested in the distinction between organic and inorganic matter that is made in contemporary Western thinking, but even more so in how we can eliminate this difference. In myths, like the one of Cavillaca, interchangeability of appearance is often a given: a princess turns effortlessly into an island. This does not only mean having control of shape but also of time. By transforming into an inanimate object, Cavillaca will live forever without being affected by the test of time. Recognising this kind of fluidity between forms of life is in line with animism (the belief that animals, plants, mountains and abstract concepts such as words also have a spiritual essence, i.e. a soul).

This concept is often considered to be primitive, but it does open up a new perspective. The anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli, whose theories have influenced Watanabe, sees the animistic view of the world as a challenging alternative to counteract the dominant Western view of nature.

Watanabe started her career as a video artist working with human actors. Along the way, her focus has shifted to making videos about natural phenomena rather than people. She has recently started to design decors, stage settings, either on scale or real life sizes. Cavillaca’s persistence a also reminds us of a film set or a stage setting, which is emphasized by a mysterious hazy mist that surrounds the islands from time to time.