Julio Cortázar’s Axolotl but this one is about archeologies.  This is an exhibit of findings found either in Tilbury, fiction or friendship. It is articulated as memories of the expeditions and extracts of Cortázar’s short story Axolotl, laid out as some sort of non-linear essay.

Tilbury and its surroundings show the scars of a myriad of events and myths, notably, forts of disparate royal narratives, a citadel conceived by a Fordist/Modernist visionary and a horde of robots encapsulated in a very dull yet pervasive fortress (Amazon’s Fulfillment Center). They are not hard to bump into, out of time. Some of them are clumsily or accidentally preserved, some systematically preserved to serve a currently dominating narrative, some clearly lost but present in their absence, many ongoing. I find the anachronistic nature of the area very reminiscent of the worlds sketched by authors of 1960s Latin American Literary Boom: Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez and their predecessor Jorge Luis Borges. In their writing fiction, metafiction and reality are seamlessly intertwined while chronology is utterly disregarded. Fantasy easily finds its place in the mundane. Comments on existing and imaginary books and other authors are offered with equal importance. Reality and fiction are subverted into something new. They certainly (and boldly) challenged the conventions of literature at the time inherently challenging doxas, legitimated knowledge; what is naively dismissed as ‘truth’, ‘fact’ or even natural order.

Can Tilbury’s histories be explored through design, or rather its inversion, archeology. (Briefly, design makes things that then become the latest iteration of the built environment, archeology dissects found things to understand past built environments) Then, can those archeological expeditions be performed with the same sinvergüencería «wit and shamelessness» as the magical realisms/speculative fictions of Cortázar, Márquez and Borges so that these archeological experiments become “not only “a critical discourse and a transformative discipline”, but also a space of cross-epistemological research and advocacy of alternative ways of thinking about heritage, subjectivity, personhood, identity, relations between humans and non-humans, materiality, environment, non-intentional agency, indigeneity, the sacred, tradition, etc. (Domanska 2014, 100)” (Ståhl, Tham & Holtorf, 2018).

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1. This is the voice of Cortázar, as in 1956’s short story Axolotl.
2. Highlighted text is the voice of Ola Ståhl, Mathilda Tham and Cornelius Holtorf from Towards a Post-Anthropocentric Speculative Archaeology (through Design)
3. This is my own.
4. There are also some echoes from Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones (1944).