MUNTREF Centro de Arte y Naturaleza [MUNTREF Center of Art and Nature]

I am still recovering from a “flu-like” virus, which wasn’t too bothersome as I mainly slept for three days, but I managed to make a quick visit to the Centro de Arte y Naturaleza (part of the Museums of the National University of Tres de Febrero, which also includes the Museo de la Inmigración).  It’s in a really lovely building on the perimeter of the old Buenos Aires Zoo, which was chiefly built around the turn of the 20th century and as such is a fascinating example of old zoo architecture but was closed down for being a cruelly terrible zoo.

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In 2016.

Despite being technically within the limited-capacity (now called) Buenos Aires Eco-Park, a transformation that has not been going well, incidentally, the Centro is accessible from the outside, although you can peek out the back windows and see the maras wandering around the grounds:

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The maras are large Patagonian rodents that were always allowed to range freely within the zoo.

The Centro itself faces the large and busy Av. Sarmiento:

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You cannot move in.

It’s quite small and doesn’t take much time to visit–but it is free, has a helpful staff, changes exhibits entirely every few months, and is right within a nexus of other attractions, making it an easy addition to any plans that include La Rural or the Botanical Gardens, or any other of the numerous museums and gardens within walking distance.

Two artists are currently featured.  The first floor holds Zoología Fantástica, by Argentine biologist and artist Pablo La Padula.  From the description on the MUNTREF website: “…it invites us to re-read the historical-cultural markers that reside in scientific devices and their interpretations, as well as in the decisions that are made for scientific dissemination, and the forms that these constructions assume in the social imagination. The materials that are used, the assembly, the lighting and the organization system, come together to place the spectator in the place of the scientist.”

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Man, remember the ear mouse?

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The upstairs houses a show by Peruvian artist Claudia Coca called “Do Not Tell Me I Do Not Know How to Catch the Wind.”  It examines the city’s life forms and their interaction, and includes embroidered verses.

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“Who is the one that, like the tiger, rides the wind with a ghostly body?”

If you’re already in the area, and if you spend much time in Buenos Aires at all you eventually will be, pop into the Centro and see what they have showing.  It’s free and open Wednesday to Sunday from 2pm to 7pm.  I really hope they put whale kid on a postcard.

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Museo de la Inmigración [Museum of Immigration]

Today, if you immigrate to Argentina, you will undoubtedly spend some time in the Migraciones building, near the Retiro train station and the port.  You’ll be going to the same place immigrants have passed through for more than 100 years.

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These guys are probably still in line.

In 1906, the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants Hotel) was built at this site with the aim of acting as a kind of full-service center for immigrants.  Part of the old hotel building, between present-day Migraciones and the Navy’s school of sea sciences, now houses the Museum of Immigration (and a contemporary art center).

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The museum’s on the third floor; definitely take the elevator.

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Bank, ho! (Multi-post joke)

The museum does have some artifacts, but it also dedicates a fair portion of its small space to contemporary art with an immigration theme.  It is more of a tribute to immigration than a strictly educational space (although it does also house historical records for research).  It begins with this work, We Are All the Same Under the Skin (I would credit the artist but apparently the museum handout I was reading like an hour ago has been misplaced):

The visitor also sees a timeline of immigration legislation and its historical context:

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The visitor moves through the experience of immigration, with the examples of travel documents and illustrations of accommodations:

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Sail 3rd class with your closest 800 friends.
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The travel truck of a couple fleeing Italy’s anti-Jewish laws and the impending war in 1939.

In addition to the multimedia artwork, visitors can listen to and watch interviews with more recent immigrants.  As you move into the immigrant’s process of starting a life in Argentina, there is a life-size model of a part of a dormitory in the Immigrants Hotel.  There’s a voice singing, and I recognized the lullaby.

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Marginally better than 3rd class, but the price was right (free).
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It could accommodate 3000 new arrivals at a time.

Next, you see the some of the things immigrants used to create and sustain their communities:

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Finally, the museum has an exhibition by the EDO art collective, imagining a solution to the dehumanization and rejection of migrants by having them be given the legal status of fine art, and then regaining their full status as human citizens of their new countries (the transport ship, La Ballena, is organized into elements of first-world museums, as befitting works of fine art).  It sounds weird but I promise the concept appears more coherent and creative in person.

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That the promenade is mostly Duchamp’s Fountain is just the best.

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The museum is free, and the hours vary by season.  While the signage is only in Spanish, there is an English-language booklet available at the desk on the bottom floor (by US reckoning, I mean the first floor; by Argentine I mean the PB).  Finding it is a little bit of a challenge, as the road in front of the Migraciones complex is currently severely torn up by construction (probably for years to come) and the Immigrants Hotel is set back from the parking lot.  There are some large banners to help direct visitors, and it shares an entry with the Navy’s school–the sailors on guard duty were very pleasant and helpful in directing us the right way.  You can get to the general area by way of a train or subway to Retiro station and walk about a kilometer, or by taxi.