Land of No Return

Sculpture, 2002

On one side, three naked men adopt aggressive gestures and postures, yet for all their belligerence their very nakedness conveys a strong sense of vulner­ability. On the other side, three clothed women are casting golden cowrie shells in a form of ritual divination. Between these two groups stands a young woman in a white dress and golden sandals, seeming to hesitate, wondering which way to turn.

The kneeling male is based on the figure at the foot of Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabines. This is not simply homage paid to an admired sculptor but is, more importantly, a deliberate and subversive use of the language of the Baroque, brought by European colonisers to South America. In fact, Pacheco deploys the language throughout the piece, evident in more naturalistic human forms and a greater sense of movement than in her previous work. Pacheco’s prints and drawings leading up to the sculpture explore aspects of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the tale of a man-god’s quest for immortality that has fascinated Pacheco since childhood and informs this work.

Robert Bush