It all began with curiosity...
Universal history has taught us that it is not easy to meet the demands of a lively curiosity: too many enigmas, too many searches and some answers that promise to keep on searching. So how to find totalizing answers, how to acquire a vast and comprehensive knowledge that can answer the questions of yesterday, today and tomorrow...? It was precisely curiosity that led a group of intellectuals, among whom Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond D'Alember stand out, to propose, during the 18th century in Europe, to carry out an encyclopedic project, with the aim of removing man from the shadows of ignorance by means of the light of knowledge.
Hence the denomination of this era as the Age of Enlightenment.
It could be said that the Encyclopedia had variations, extensions or even closeness with other projects, thanks to the aforementioned curiosity; an example comes from the father of modern geography and also astronomer, biologist, naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who longed to contain in a single file the knowledge of mankind:
(...) I have the splendid idea of presenting the whole material world, all that we know today of the appearances of space and of life on earth, from the nebulous stars to the geography of mosses on granite rocks, in a single work that stimulates the language and pleases the heart. (Humboldt, 1860)His longing was transformed into a treatise after his death, engaging experts from various fields of knowledge, including his brother Wilhelm von Humboldt to study, record and compile the universe, the earth and its physical geography; climate, flora, fauna; humanity, its evolution and diseases; its inventions, armaments and machinery, in a series of documents that gradually became helpless before his immeasurable work, becoming an unfinished archive that few remember or rather that many of us do not know.
After more than a century, everything starts all over again out of curiosity... Curiosity makes a cartoonist also become a researcher and explorer of this same project, through which he travels among millions of documents to find, interpret and imagine from his present, not only the past of man and his knowledge, but rather his remote past, linked to the most significant experiences of discovery. In this way, he realizes that he arrived late for Humboldt's treatise, but that he arrived in time to reactivate his memory or what was left of it through drawing.
Although he did not appropriate the knowledge, nor the revealing data contained in the documents, he valued each of them in the only possible way: applying them as guides for his lines, as clues to a construction that has secretly assumed the task of continuing, or rather of beginning.... Thus, after a long process of observation and interpretation, species that previously had no body, objects that had no structure, conditions that were found without details, in short, a knowledge that had no image and that now manages to have a possible one, were left on paper.
For this reason, in the exhibition Humboldt's Treatise, the fragments of studies and theories do not seek to complete themselves, but to show that they are part of another archive, an immemorial and mobile archive that, like the first, has remained unfinished, since for now it is composed of twenty-four drawings, precise but speculative, scientific but unusual, old but current, real but at the same time so fictional, that they turn the scientific rotundity into a story, capable of mobilizing beliefs, which point out that everything drawn is not so, but is believed to be so, acquiring an existence of its own that cannot be disproved or refuted, it is there, "it is something that lives to show us its capacity for truth, [. ...] its particular way of [...] touching the real" (Didi-Hu-berman, 2007).
Thus, Humboldt's encyclopedic yearning is now the representational yearning of Juan Osorno, an artist who will continue to draw not to grasp the knowledge of humanity, but to unveil the sensitive knowledge that drawing can provide, a fact that enunciates a new conception of Encyclopedia, questioning its relevance in this era of digitalization, automatism and immediacy: Who needs an encyclopedia, or more precisely the visual development of an ancient treatise, when curiosity has been dissolved in technology and the unbridled production and consumption of knowledge and images?
Perhaps, the need begins with this same artist and others, the "new encyclopedists" or post-encyclopedists, as one could call all those who, through diverse artistic means, reflect on the present of humanity without forgetting the ways of understanding, explaining, organizing, exhibiting and conserving the past, to face the current torrent of information that by saturation can be annulled, -it is the new darkness-, where everything apparently became a piece of information, which in this case, is blurred by each of the pieces of The Treaty of Humboldt, reviving the innate curiosity for the sensitive knowledge and for the image. -The drawing illuminates, as it did in the eighteenth century, the darkness of this era.
Lindy Maria Marquez H
Didi-Huberman, G. (2007). Un conocimiento por el montaje. Minerva N°5. (P. G. Romero, Interviewer) Madrid: Círculo de Bellas Artes.Humboldt, A. v. (1860). Briefe von Alexander von Humboldt und Varnhagen von Ense aus den Jahren 1827 bis 1858. Leipzig: Brockhaus.