Neutra VDL Research House II, Los Angeles, CA, U.S. 2010

In 2010, Santiago Borja worked on the roof of the VDL Research House II, an iconic Californian villa built in Los Angeles by the architect Richard Neutra in 1965. By literally transforming the modernist architecture into a loom, Borja used the beams of the pergola on the terrace as a structure for suspending long warp threads, which, in their turn, would accommodate the weft threads of a large textile piece.

The in situ installation was made by two women weavers hailing from Chiapas, in southern Mexico, using their traditional backstrap weaving technique, i.e. attached to their back. The geometric patterns they used are associated with time-honoured beliefs. Here, the lozenge, and its four corners, represents the cardinal points of the cosmos, which is made up of three inter-connected levels: the earth, the higher world (above) and the subterranean world (below). The lozenge motif, which is often used on ceremonial attire (huipils), symbolically turns the person wearing it into the centre of the world. Installed on the terrace, the weavers became the patient architects of a “different” space, between sky and earth, connected to their ancestors and the Maya cosmogony.

Connecting the individual with the world was also one aspect of Richard Neutra’s project, when he built the VDL House. As a theoretician with a passion for systems, he founded “biorealism”, with the idea of once and for all putting architecture back at the heart of an intimate and stimulating relation with nature. At the crossroads of anthropology and psychology, he presented the VDL House as a project permitting a “psychological” connection to water, air and light. With the geometric abstraction of his construction becoming the ultimate medium between an inner and outer world.

Through his installation, Santiago Borja associated two gestures in one and the same space/time-frame: modernist American architecture and Maya textile art. The work’s title refers to a Freudian theory known as Fort-Da (Fort: “gone” and Da: “there”), inspired by a children’s game where a reel of thread appears and disappears. Borrowing the child’s gesture, Santiago Borja draws a new symbolic space between here and somewhere else, leaving us with the task of unravelling what stems from belief and what stems from reason.