A new exhibition at Montreal’s Canadian Centre for Architecture explores the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu as captured by two different subjects: Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza and Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi. Siza and Chambi visited Machu Picchu more than half a century apart from each other, but with a similar approach of active participation. Siza’s voyage to Peru in 1995 was undertaken with a single, inexpensive notebook and a few books of poetry; Chambi, on the other hand, photographed on several trips between 1927 and 1950, often carrying his equipment by donkey. Contrasting Siza’s sketches (35 on display) and Chambi’s photographs (his 1927 series, from the CCA’s collection) clearly illustrates the appropriation of reality by each of these innovators.
Chambi’s landscapes would become the defining postcard images of Machu Picchu; they also appropriated the ancient Inca site, affirming the ownership of indigenous Peruvians in the face of Western claims. Siza’s sketches, on the other hand, reveal an attention to material culture that has characterized his work since the 1950s. Says Tabrizio Gallanti, associate director of programs at the CCA and the exhibition’s curator, “Representation becomes a tool for the construction of history. Through his lens, Chambi builds a position of strength for the Quechua-speaking minority. Through his sketches, Siza confirms the intuitions and choices made in his architectural projects.”
The exhibition is supplemented by documentation of Siza’s landmark social-housing project in Évora, Portugal.
Alturas de Machu Picchu: Martin Chambi – Álvaro Siza at Work continues at the CCA’s Octagonal Gallery until Apr. 22.