Marcela Astorga and the Local Industry

hunger in the Bs As of Pedro de Mendoza,"cimarron" (wild, unruly) cattle,
meat in the colony, slaughterhouses and the "saladeros" (places for the salting
of meat) in the "Virreinatos" ( Viceroyalties from colonial times), Slaughterhouse
(novel by Esteban Echeverria, people beheaded in civil wars, cattle and
"frigorificos" (packing houses) in the 80 s, Lisandro de La Torre's meat business,
the " bife de chorizo" (thick cut of broiled steak),the harmonic connections
of the bull's body studied by Ignacio Pirovano, La Res (the head of cattle)
by Antonio Berni,the motto:"the best meat in the world",the great prize
awarded bull of Federico Peralta Ramos;the meat prohibition law, the
beheaded bodies of Juan Carlos Distefano, "Flesh" (movie by Isabel Sarli and
Armando Bo),"Las Parrillas" (grill rooms) by Norberto Gómez, The "Cabaña
Las Lilas" (a well-known brand of packing house),the actions with flesh by
Nicola Constantino, the T.V program "de Carne Somos" ( we are all vulnerable
since we are made of flesh),the torn off bodies of Marcela Moujan, carnal
relationships with the United States, Samid and the packing houses scandal;
the motto:"Argentine meat free from aphthous fever" (a foot and mouth disease
transmitted by sick cows)

cannon fodder, the resurrection of the flesh (religious term),goose flesh,with
the flesh exposed, "hacerse carne" (to be part and parcel),"carne y una"(like
hand and glove, very intimate),lean meat, red meat, white meat, minced
meat, to put on flesh,"poner toda la carne al asador" (to put everything at
stake),flesh and blood, shaking flesh,"tener carne de perro"(to have an iron
constitution), carnal sins, carnal passion, pork meat, loose flesh (of a person
when getting old),distress of the flesh, excesses of the flesh, carnal attraction,
"carne de divan" (of a person, to be in urgent need of psychoanalytical treatment).
beheading, "vienen degollando" (ravaging the place, beheading people on
their way),flaying, removing the flesh from an animal, castrating, ripping off,
the knife, the wound, the cut, the slaughterhouseman,the butcher, the knife
wielding bully, carnivorous, "carniza" (informal for butcher, or dog or cat
meat, or a person without refinement) fleshy, "carnuza" (disgusting coarse
orheaped meat), carrion,"carnero" (coward),meat ("taba",game that consists
of tossing up an animal’s anklebone, generally played by country people),
butcher's.

“The standing cattle, which has been the source of our greatest wealth,
has remained the "tendón" (tendon,fig. supporting place) of civil wars, the
skeleton of the Nation and the goverment's center of scandal. There has
been life underneath and within animal skin or leather.
There's a way of trading, hiring, relating, being melancholic, loving, dancing,
and looking at things shaped after this issue, whether alive or dead.
Between handling government and running "una estancia" (a ranch),
between a public official and a foreman, between the city and the packinghouses
there is a close similitude. They were all formed at the same
time, each of the species differentiating from a nebulous whole until they
finally break up into constellations delimited by the same zodiac figure:
Taurus.
While our pilgrim parents were bent on giving shape to this world, what
shape there already was in it and what was shapeless-i.e. the mold mark
of that very shape-,they were really molding it after their own image.” (*)
Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Pampa X-ray

A carnivorous country and a vegetarian artist who works packing kilograms
of meat into a cart and a basket.

Marcela Astorga carves cow meat hanging on fabrics or exhibited in wood
frames;she covers daily objects with "bifes de cuadrada" (steaks cut out of a
square-like cut of meat),she cuts and sews a suit, gives shape to a briefcase,
lines a book and flays some Barbies as gifts.

Objects, paintings, reliefs and meat packs that get together for the first time,
while "something smells bad or rotten".A comment on Argentines' diet, a look
on local gastronomy, a parody on the exuberance of meat in the national
imaginary, a statement about the carnivorous habits in our history, a
metaphor on the slaughter of a ravaged community, a stance on historic violence
and daily violence.

Astorga spreads the steaks on the table, and among plastic packs, carts and
family baskets, sets about using the knife and cutting the flesh once more.Her
meat chunks look bright and healthy, until the bloody recurrence triggers the
first discomfort, the first revolting disgust, and the piled up and finally cut
corpses take on the density of a memory that can trace the smell and the
mooings of so many slaughters, of so many cows in the slaughterhouse and
so many beheadings.

Her domestic chores, her supermarket shelves, her actions in the kitchen star t
confusing us;the great national lavish banquet becomes uneasy and restless
and "something smells rotten";and this is not due toMarcela Astorga's
steaks, so obscene and bright in their freshpacks.The abundance makes us
doubt and the sharp action reiterates the cutting;and the excessive presence
of meat disturbs us. It disturbs us quite enough so as to look back once and
twice again and wonder about some guests' manners, who -without any
apparent digestive discomfort- are willing to resume the banquet.

When we finally get used to being almost vegetarians and light food looks
like the most abundant of all in the different markets of the same trade;and
diet food is the best choice at the best price,Marcela Astorga insists on so
many red proteins that digestion is bound to be difficult or slow. Perhaps hers
is the only possible diet to survive in the country "with the best meat in the
world".

MARCELO E. PACHECO