Primordium, Cal Tech, Pasadena, CA, USA, 2010

The talking Cactus
Cocteau wrote in a article entitled This pupil who became my master (Les Nouvelles littéraires, artistiques et scientifiques - 5 juin 1952) : "Il est une plante qui parle, en quelque sorte. Dans Le Diable au corps, cette plante raconte le mystère de ses racines. Dans Le Bal du comte d’Orgel, cette plante donne sa fleur, et son parfum est parole."

Caltech Installation by Marcos Lutyens 2000

PASADENA—Combining sculpture, sound, electronics, hypnosis, and a cactus, Los Angeles intermedia artist Marcos Lutyens exhibits his artwork at the California Institute of Technology's outdoor art space July 22 to September 17. Lutyens's installation opens July 22, 2000 with a reception at 5 p.m.

Lutyens will create an installation called Primordium: Leafy, Superman and Flo10, producing a sculptural environment that probes the nature of memory and the subconscious. The focus of the installation will be a seven-foot-tall cactus equipped with a sensor. When a viewer touches or comes close to the cactus, the sensor will trigger a series of sounds. These sounds are recordings of voices of subjects hypnotized by Lutyens and asked to describe their first memory or awareness of a plant. According to Lutyens, "A kind of Jungian correspondence is established between the genetic memory embedded in the cactus and the personal memory embedded in our own subconscious."

The installation will also include a structure made of plastic bands arcing over the cactus. The structure is a visual representation of the word "primordium"—an outgrowth of undifferentiated cells that is common to both plants and animals. "Leafy, Superman and Flo10" refers to the kind of quirky, anthropomorphic names given by scientists to genetic mutations.

Born and raised in London, Lutyens studied social sciences at Edinburgh University in Scotland, before leaving in 1985 to spend a year in South America. While living with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon, he contracted malaria and returned to Europe. He spent the next several years in Spain, where he began to focus on art. During that time, he completed several mural and architectural commissions. He moved to Los Angeles in 1993, and has exhibited his work widely throughout the city since then.
In the late 1990s, Lutyens began studying hypnosis and, in 1998, was certified as a hypnotherapist with the American Hypnotherapy Institute. Rather than using hypnosis as a healing tool, Lutyens employs the technique in his art to explore personal and social memory. He is currently participating in the Venice Biennal of Architecture, where he is performing a work in which he hypnotizes architects and asks them to make drawings of architecture of the future. Says Lutyens, "I hope that my work at Caltech will raise questions about memory—its location and origin."

The exhibit is made possible by the support of the Institute Art Committee at Caltech, an Arts Completion Grant from the Durfee Foundation, and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. The Caltech outdoor art site is located behind the campus recycling center on South Holliston Avenue between San Pasqual Street and Del Mar Boulevard.

Inaugurated in October 1999, the art site utilizes an undeveloped space to allow emerging Southern California artists to display innovative large-scale sculptures; environmental, site-specific work; and other projects, and to encourage a dialogue between artists and the community. This exhibit is the fourth since the space opened.
Contact: Jill Perry (626) 395-3226
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Made possible with a grant from the Durfee Foundation