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In many places, when man assumes his archetypal role as builder, he acts as sculptor, taking the raw form, the earth, and shaping it to his needs, nearly unrecognizable in its final state. For the people of Lima, their relationship with the earth is fundamentally different. They don’t sculpt the land; the earth remains visible if not nearly unaltered despite their development. Whereas the people of developed nations affect the form and therefore identity of the land, the people of Lima quite literally merely scratch the surface—their relationship to the ground is not one of dominance, but acquiescence. It is only in two dimensions that they can affect the land. They conform to the surface. Their relationship is inverse—it is the earth’s will which is primary. In this way, they do not sculpt but can only paint the landscape, their presence forming a mere translucent film over the land’s topography.

I am Peruvian by blood and birth, but I’ve grown up an American. In the U.S. and in most places, I feel like I am in a city, region, or nation—those intangible creations of people. But in Lima, I felt not like I was in a city, in Peru, or even in South America, but atop the Earth.

Carlos Jiménez Cahua studied chemistry and visual arts at Princeton University. Jiménez Cahua recently had his first solo show in New York at Anastasia Photo. His work has been reviewed by The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, and will be on display later this year at the Princeton University Art Museum in an exhibition entitled Emmet Gowin: A Collective Portrait, marking the retirement of his former teacher.

See also: Built Green: An Interview with Neil Chambers

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3 comments for Lima

  1. Comment by Marta on January 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Hi, so you don’t like Lima, a land of gentle skies and hard working people. Or maybe you like the strange idea you have of Lima, and it’s me who don’t like your photos, except the last one

  2. Comment by Tsui Pen on March 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    I don’t want to attack Carlos Jimenez Cahua ad hominem, but I must say I disagree with what he says, although I find his photography beautiful.

    Each of us makes judgements based on our surroundings (our family, culture, upbringing etc.), and I would say that no Peruvian I know would agree with what Jimenez Cahua has stated.

    This is because the photographs tell of a different place to what he says, strangely enough. Some of these photos look like the outskirts of Lima (others look like something far beyond that), and in a country torn between the old and new (especially the capital), it is difficult to make such blanket statements as Jimenez Cahua has, which I assume were done out of artistic merit, instead of an anthropological study on the people of Lima. But this is exactly the decadence I am personally against and has become so widespread.

    I think most artists have overdosed on postmodernism, and conceptual art in general (even ars gratia artis) needs a serious reevaluation.

    In short, it is difficult for a native Peruvian to swallow Jimenez Cahua’s grotesque generalisation of Lima, especially when the photographs look like the outskirts and beyond, and if you go closer to “downtown” Lima or even further than what is depicted here, you’ll probably find something that contradicts these photographs.

    A difficult subject handled poorly on a theoretical or conceptual level, but with beautiful photographs.

  3. Comment by Paccarik Orue on March 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    This is a strong series of photographs. Jimenez’s looks at the outskirts (pueblos jovenes) of Lima with the eye of an outsider. The images work for me and I understand what Jimenez is trying to express.

    However, I find the artist statement to be misleading and too personal. The problem is that Jimenez gives the audience his peruvian credentials, but then goes on and writes about his work from the same perspective as the images he had shown us; the one of an outsider.

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