In South America, land is sacred. Like farmers in the old world, Salvatoro Hernandez Munoz is more versed in the nuances of the sacred – and the way clay, mud and woodwork once shored up that land.
This complex of around 300 houses – some temporary, others permanent – sits outside a city in northeastern Paraguay, the birthplace of Aguascalientes’ ancient monument of mummies. In an unlikely marriage of modern and ancient, Munoz lives by the works of Mechelen Rodriguez-Garcia, a modernist who refined an understanding of the nature of spirituality by establishing himself in the Sacred Valley of Pocitos.
What Munoz builds, he first observes from the air. Here, a horse-drawn carriage rains ash. In another part of the city, a brothel attracts the ghostly reflection of a passing plane. Using a heavy-duty camera, Munoz records his homes in a series of fly-throughs and aerial photography.
Munoz lives in a mud house (he is especially fond of deconstructing his floor) near the Atlas Mountains, in a valley that contains a collapsed pagoda, an abandoned pottery kiln and a cave that became a parking lot for anonymous cars. In other words, it is not long before it becomes clear that the modernist’s primary concern is harmony – and traditional building materials – with the landscape.
Clay and other volcanic rock-cave materials form the basic structure of his home; he then uses wood, including a giant redwood trunk, taken from a grandmother’s cupboard. She is mourned and a sinister shadow, perhaps some invisible force, hovers in the valley.
In another house, his work gives the impression of a tunnel under the surface, at least to someone with a beginner’s understanding of Muzak. A rocky slope with cracks and slash marks – caused, he believes, by mice – tracks from the ceiling to the floor in all directions.
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