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«A Poetic Analysis of the Undone» – Leyla Cárdenas’s residency at Utopiana and Villa Sträuli [CH]

Switzerland — Residencies

The work of Leyla Cárdenas [CO] deals with concepts such as absence, memory, history, and destruction through processes, culminating in large-scale installations that make the elusive idea of time perceptible. Over the past years, she has been developing a series of sculptural works that seek to investigate the layers that constitute things and places.

“I’m interested in ruin, vestiges, the undone, small palimpsests of urban disaster. It is digging inside the ruins of the architectural remnants of my city (Bogotá) that I have found the thread of my work. Using remnants or urban ruins as a way to critically approach the consequences of a modernity never fully achieved. A thread that is re-woven when I read the city as an ancient manuscript that retains traces of a previous writing, expressly erased to give rise to what now exists. Through this prism, I approach a site responsive practice from a meticulous analysis of the urban landscape and its constant transformation,” stated the artist.

A resident from May to July 2022 at two different Swiss institutions, Utopiana, in Geneve, and Villa Sträuli, in Winterthur, Leyla conducted a process to give shape to a “palimpsestic writing of space and time”. The idea was to investigate what a new sense of space and time means for the present moment, how to unweave patterns that still follow a certain linearity of time and try to propose new nodes of interpretation and knowledge.

She also participated, along with fellow residents Gretel Medina [CU] and Carlos Zerpa & Rodrigo García, from MECHA Coop [VE], in an open studio in Villa Sträuli, entitled «Oracle Night». The group appropriated the house, from the cellar to the studios, filling the rooms with work and sharing with the audience fragments of experiences, research, and inspirations they gathered during their residency at the villa.


Leyla Cárdenas‘ work engages with notions of absence, memory, history, destruction, accumulation, and mutability through extractive processes that culminate in large-scale, delicate installations that render perceptible the elusive idea of time. Addressing the weight, length, and accumulation of time, Leyla’ method involves the removal of strata from surfaces of old, unattended buildings, and the subsequent reconstruction of fragments that give evidence of an obliterated past. In an act of resistance against oblivion, Leyla embraces destruction by literally bringing to her work layers of time and history that inevitably reshape the present.

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