by Kathryn Matlack
Rip Tamara didn’t set out to create the furry, gleeful, six-limbed zombie monster installed at the CC Recoleta; as she explains it, the creature just sort of happened. Last Sunday Rip and I sat down on the lawn across from Feria Hippy in a patch of afternoon sun to talk about her installation, R.I.P. Rip, Hurra! which has quickly become a crowd favorite.
By day, Rip (Tamara is her first name, Rip Tamara her artistic name) is a professional set designer. She knows carpentry and metalworking, and knows how to work with everything from tube socks to automotive paints. She studied at the Buenos Aires School of Fine Arts. But more noteworthy was her debut into the world of building cool stuff: one of her first jobs was to recreate scenes from the Bible at Tierra Santa, the infamous Jesus themed park on the Costanera Sur where resurrection happens every hour, on the hour. Rip, who has shaggy blonde hair, rows of delicate silver rings in each ear, and a dimple when she smiles, tells me with a grin if I go to Tierra Santa to look for her in the crowd: two of the kids in the scenes she designed there have her face. “We used polyster resin to make the figures,” she recalls. “Great to work with, but it’s super toxic.”
Also a talented illustrator, prior to this installation—her first—Rip often drew animals: hip animals, like martini-drinking pigs, pool playing armadillos, and wine-guzzling satyrs in colorful and fantastic scenes. “Sometimes an animal, or even a particular animal, is able to better express a feeling or capture a particular emotion,” she explains. Later, when I ask Rip to comment about typical habits of consumption in the city, she agrees that many in Buenos Aires are careless. “Maybe that’s why I care about the animals…” she muses. “Man is doing this to himself, but there’s no one to protect the animals.”
In her work as a set designer for movies and commercials Rip found she always faced the same conundrum: what to do with the leftovers? “As a set designer, you work very hard to create a perfect scene,” she explains. “But when you’re creating the scene you use great materials, and you always have some extra. The scene is shot, maybe using your set for just a few seconds, and then you’re left with beautiful materials that you hate to just throw away.”
Go back a few months prior: Rip’s grandparents are getting ready to toss a beautiful but very old blanket made of llama fur. Rip steps in, thinking there has to be a better future for the soft pelts. A few conversations with friends later, and Rip is the recipient of dozens of fur coats emerging after years in closets or refrigerated fur-storage lockers. Rip tells me fur was big in the 80’s in Argentina: it was a time when a man who loved his wife and could afford to would show it by buying her a fur coat.
“Times have changed,” says Rip. “No one wears fur anymore. It’s out of style. But women still have these great memories of their coats, even if public perception of fur has changed.”
Rip’s project, playfully and symbolically giving new life to animals whose furs were taken from them, was enticing enough to coax many women to give up their furry heirlooms. At the center of her microespacio stands what Rip titled “the redemptive zombie of stolen furs”: a light-brown bearish creature with antlers, and skinny, striped arms. The zombie is frozen, dancing open-mouthed on a grave; he is joined by a flock of two-dimensional furry spirit figures that fly upwards, growing bigger the higher they get. “An animal made from the skin of another animal?” reads the placard on the wall. “It’d be better if you’d get rid of them [the furs]. It’s coming to get them.”
R.I.P. Rip, Hurra! conveys a spirit of mischief and of jubilation; the project combines Rip’s talent for imagining and creating endearing creatures with her craftswoman’s ability to bring them to lifelike life. The result? A magical scene that amuses us, while using an imaginary tale to playfully comment on our habits of everyday life.
If you go to the Centro Cultural, it’s worth checking out several other exhibitions running through April 30 that also explore reusing and reimagining materials.
For example, the work of Cho Yong Hwa, an artist of Korean descent who came to Argentina at the age of 14, fills one entire room. Using an ancient Korean kitemaking technique, Cho used pencil and splashes of white, blue and orange paint to transform the front pages of four major Argentine newspapers into scores kites painted with the anthropomorphized sun from the Argentine flag. Anyone who can read in Spanish knows that each newspaper here aggressively champions a certain ideology; Cho leverages this knowledge, and her experience in her homeland, officially divided in spite of a shared language and cultural heritage, to question whether ideologies must separate a nation or whether they can be brought together to create a diverse but unified whole. Reviewer comments posted around the room at the center compare the flag kites to Argentina’s soaring hopes and dreams; another guest comment asks, “El Arte de Cho. La Unidad de los Argentinos?”
CC Recoleta - Junín 1930, Monday thru Friday 2pm to 9, Sat & Sun 10am to 9pm