This project was sparked by a single image—an 1830s painting by Johann Friedrich Waldeck—of a man striding up a mountain with a chair strapped to his back, carrying another man who is clothed in white with delicate boots. These chairs, called silleros, were used in colonial-era Guatemala and neighbouring regions to carry explorers, settlers, and even artists quite literally on the backs of Indigenous people. The painting, a self-portrait by the artist being carted up the mountain, reveals a stark division of class and labour. Figueroa’s configuration of cast aluminum versions of the chairs (also reminiscent of 1920s de Stijl design) imply another possible choreography—one that empties the chair of its colonial power.
Commissioned by the Toronto Biennial of Art.