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Milpa Polímera. (© Marcela Armas and Arcángelo Constantini)

Milpa Polímera (Polymer Cornfield) (2013) is a 3D open-source printer modified to function as a tractor that plows seeds made out of polylactic acid (PLA), a thermoplastic biopolymer made from corn. The printer-tractor is fixed by an axis to a closed cycle in which the machine is only able to perform a single repetitive and absurd task: print artificial corn seeds and sow them into the soil.

Like the never-ending loop in which this tractor-printer operates, the work is a manifestation of a series of contradictory relations between the natural and the artificial, as well as other conflicting narratives of patents, open-source technologies, and free knowledge.

The machine was constructed using the first generation of MakerBot, an open-code 3D printer developed by a community of enthusiasts who selflessly supported the advancement of this technology. Nevertheless, soon after it achieved enormous success, MakerBot Industries terminated its open-code printer production and entered the patent market. At the same time, [End Page 420] the PLA used as the machine's main production material is a thermoplastic obtained from cornstarch, processed by a genetically modified bacteria. The corn used to produce this polymer is itself transgenic patented, which paradoxically contradicts the very origins of corn: a seed domesticated about 10,000 years ago by a collective civilization whose cosmogony and culture saw it as a shared source of life.

The Milpa Polímera tractor is trapped inside a perverse cycle whose logic is strictly economic and market-driven, planting infertile seeds that are unable to germinate. Thus it exposes the system behind the control of life and knowledge, which radically negates the origins of corn and the original milpa crop-growing system.

Marcela Armas
Arcángelo Constantini
Marcela Armas

Marcela Armas's work seeks to articulate disciplines, techniques, processes, and research to address the relationship between matter, energy, space, time, and their relation to society and history. Her work has been shown in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, and has been exhibited recently at the Eleventh Biennial of Havana. Armas's work has been supported by FONCA (the Mexican National Endowment for the Arts), the CENART (National Center of the Arts, Mexico), and the program Arte Actual by Bancomer–MACG. She has received awards including the ARCO/BEEP Award at ARCO Madrid 2012 and the VIDA 16.0 prize of the Telefónica Foundation in Spain. She currently co-organizes the Meditatio Sonus series with Arcángelo Constantini and is a member of FONCA's National System of Art Creators.

Arcángelo Constantini

Arcángelo Constantini is an artistic inventor, technological hacker, and existential speculator. His work is characterized by a deep scientific, philosophical, and perceptual investigation of the processes of nature through technology. He was the new media curator at the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art; the 1/4 project; the 2005 and 2009 Transitio MX Electronic Art Biennial at CNA/CONACULTA; and director of FACTO 2014 and 2015. Constantini currently co-organizes, with Marcela Armas, the Meditatio Sonus series. He obtained the Rockefeller/MacArthur Fellowship, the VIDA award from the Telefónica Foundation in Madrid, and the CNART PAPIAM. He is a member of FONCA's National System of Art Creators.


Milpa Polímera was originally conceived for Sin Origen/Sin Semilla, curated and directed by María Antonia González Valerio and Liliana Quintero as part of the research group BIOS Ex MachinA. English translations of texts by Tere Carter. [End Page 421]



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