The presence on the Neuchâtel littoral of a cigarette factory established in 1942 – the first to produce the famous cowboy brand outside the United States – led artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca to focus her exhibition at CAN on the relationship between humans and the tobacco plant, particularly with regard to its ritual use from the time of the Paleolithic shamanism of the native American peoples to nowadays.
For the exhibition Reverse Engineering, Ximena Garrido-Lecca based herself on the first cigarette rolling machine whose invention in 1881 revolutionized the tobacco industry. She reproduced it exactly, piece by piece, from the patented plans. But instead of using the materials needed to make a functional model, she substituted them with a paste made of tobacco leaves and ashes, a ritual object with magical and purifying virtues called San Pedrito. The reference to reverse engineering is to be considered not only in its proper sense: the study of an object to understand its functioning and method of manufacture; but it also evokes the idea of a rewinding, a potential rewinding of history.
Ximena Garrido-Lecca inverts the function of this machine, transforming it into an unproductive object and proposes to assign it another more mystical purpose; like a rotary press, which, instead of printing and spreading daily the news of the day, would swallow them every morning in order to reconsider their essence and transform them into salvific incantations.
(Text by CAN Centre d’art Neuchâtel)