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Ritmo del Fuego/ Rhythm of Fire

RITMO DE FUEGO is an innovative bi-national community-based project presenting the traditional and contemporary copper smithing art of the small mountain town of Santa Clara del Cobre. This comprehensive project has been organized during the past six years through a bi-national collaboration of many distinguished and dedicated scholars and institutions in both Mexico and the United States. Ritmo de Fuego is accompanied by an upcoming exhibition, a bilingual ½ hour documentary video, Huele de Noche (Night Blooming Jasmine), Ritmo de Fuego/ Rhythm of Fire, a bilingual compendium of 21 interdisciplinary essays, and extensive community programs.

Santa Clara del Cobre is located in the highlands of the west central Mexico, in the state of Michoacán. This region is renowned worldwide for its ancient metal smithing mastery, which originated with its indigenous P’urhepecha people and its moving observances of the Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead traditions. Today, the artisans of Santa Clara synthesize pre-Columbian, Colonial, and Modern-day copper smithing techniques to create hammered copper objects whose physicality is transformed into symmetrically balanced forms of expressive tension and a poised sensuality.

Through its celebration of the human spirit, RITMO DEL FUEGO inspires audiences to explore the diversity of cultures we share in the USA. This multi-disciplinary presentation will demonstrate the fluid interdependence and interconnection of community, culture, technology, politics, art, and economy and mirrors the growing ties between the USA and Mexico, promoting cultural understanding within and between our changing national and transnational communities. This project is particularly relevant to Chicago, which is home to over 1,100,000 residents of Mexican descent, at least 16 percent of whom have emigrated from the state of Michoacán.

In the upcoming exhibition, exceptional contemporary copper objects, from Santa Clara and the surrounding region will be drawn from USA and Mexican collections, and commissioned especially for this exhibition. Photographs will be included documenting utilitarian, ceremonial, and decorative Pre-Columbian and Colonial objects. The selection will dramatically illustrate the transformation and resilience of culture as documented in the passage of the ancient coppersmithing techniques, from 600 A.D. through the second millennium.

Passed on from family to family, this ingenious and physically demanding craft requires intense collaboration and interdependence among its artisans and exhibits a complex and sensitive choreography of sound, rhythm, and movement. A bi-national interdisciplinary team of experts in the fields of anthropology, archeology, biology, Mexican popular arts, contemporary art, & art history, ethno-musicology and dance are collaborating to create this multi-faceted presentation of Santa Clara and its historical and cultural context, meaning, relevance, and significance.

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