In order to remind visitors from the very beginning of the exhibit of the literary origin of the word Patagonia, they are greeted by recordings of quotes from the novel Primaleon (1512) or from the account of sailor Antonio Pigafetta. Visitors enter the phantasmagorical world of the exhibit with a series of prints of the huge glaciers of Patagonia taken by Argentinian photographer Hugo Aveta.
From Stories to Images
This first section of the exhibit takes visitors on a journey through the imaginary representations of Patagonia from the 16th and the 17th century: the other side of the world, where anything can happen...
Duplessis: The Travels of Beauchesne in the Tierra del Fuego (1698-1701)
Between 1698 and 1701, Navy Captain Jacques Gouin de Beauchesne (1652-1730) led an expedition to the Straits of Magellan. Duplessis, a member of the crew, wrote a very lively diary with numerous watercolor illustrations detailing the coastline, the wildlife found on the different sites approached by the expedition – mostly fish and birds. It also contains an account of the encounter with the "Savages from the Straits of Magellan". It gives a very precise and realistic report of the exchanges between Europeans and Indians, in a narrative that reveals genuine curiosity, with no prejudice against the Indians.
Duplessis' manuscript, a seldom shown document, is presented along with a slideshow of the book. Less than a century later, Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806) located his utopian fable entitled La Découverte Australe par un Homme Volant, ou Le Dédale Francais (The Southern Discovery by a Flying Man, or the French Dedale) in "Magapatagonia". He created an entirely imaginary Patagonia for the book: on the other side of the world, it is described as an inverted France, the capital of which is named "Sirap" ("Paris" spelt backwards). An album of engravings by Jacques Grasset Saint-Sauveur (1757-1810) illustrates this theme along with a slideshow of prints from the book by Restif de la Bretonne.
Reality within Reach: Explorations and Surveys
The 19th century saw the spread of more systematic explorations: the geographical and ethnographic coverage of the world expanded and became more accurate. The Journey to the South Pole and to Oceania led by Dumont D'Urville between 1837 and 1840 passes through the Straits of Magellan. Like their counterpart Duplessis, although in a more detached manner, naval draftsmen strove to faithfully record the appearance of the landscapes and of their inhabitants through drawings, and later, through photography. At the end of the century, the Cape Horn Scientific Mission produced extensive recordings of several aspects of Tierra del Fuego.
Martin Gusinde and the Hain Ceremony
Between 1918 and 1924, Martin Gusinde, a priest and Ethnologist, (1886-1969), lived in Tierra del Fuego. Trained in Anthropology in Chile, he devoted much of his time to an extensive study of the populations that inhabited the land. He interviewed, observed and photographed the Qawesqar and the Yamana water nomads, as well as the Selk'Nam of the Isla Grande. The study by Martin Gusinde took place at a pivotal moment in the early days of participative anthropology. His research, conducted after the slaughter of the late 19th century, betrays an emergency in the ethnographic process. Furthermore, he is one of the first anthropologists to have been initiated on the land, and one of the few to have witnessed the Hain ceremony, later studied by anthropologist Anne Chapman (1922-2010). This initiatory ritual, which can take place over the course of an entire year, was photographed by the missionary in its last manifestations.
Forty original prints are shown for the first time in this section of the exhibit and large-scale photographs by Martin Gusinde are projected to ceremonial Hain music – the young Selk'nam men initiation ritual – thus reproducing the unique and fantastic atmosphere of these rituals.
Patagonia and its myths continue to fascinate us; contemporary artists have taken over the land and revisit it in their own way. The exhibit introduces the visitor to visions of Patagonia by three different photographers:
- Rodrigo Gomez Rovira (Chile-1968) offers a resolutely familiar and intimate take on these landscapes, thus revealing their poignant poetry.
- Faustine Ferhmin (France-1980) revisits the places described in the myth of the "City of the Caesars", a utopian Patagonian paradise, the myth of which appeared at the beginning of the 16th century.
- Esteban Pastorino (Argentina-1972) explores landscapes at the edge of the world and vast uninhabited expanses of Tierra del Fuego through photography.