“The Mus Musculus Domesticus Project”
an installation by
Maria A. Lopez & Ernesto Restrepo
Live mice, toy houses covered with lint and other materials like paper, cotton, wire mesh, plexy, etc. Also having video projections, digital prints and more.
on November 13th until December 18th. 2004
Chances are that each and every one of us, at one time or another has had an encounter with “Domesticus”.
Such encounters could also be perceived as inevitable coexistence.
One of our first encounters was in our house in Colombia, where on top of the refrigerator there was a loaf of bread. It looked like any other. But no, it was the edible home of a mouse that died of a heart attack when we claimed his living space as our food. We were caught by surprise. We asked a vet for advice and, although his recommendations were quite drastic, we followed.After a while we saw some of their “paisanos” playing in a small indoor yard we had, jumping from straw to straw in an awesome display of skills and self enjoyment. It was an incredibly entertaining sight. We gave them names and agreed to meet at certain hours to watch the show. The measures to eliminate them changed to more civilized ones, as expulsion or forced migration was more suitable then, given the relationship we developed. Any way, we couldn't live together.
In Philadelphia we had our second major incident in an old second floor studio apartment in Old City, while we were doing our masters. It was in this location that we had the most traumatic of all of our encounters. Without any warning, we were overtaken, as if a “God of Mice” was dropping a few “Mus Musculus Domesticus” into our home each night. The reality was that we were sharing our space with a few dozen of them. Unlike in Colombia, we were unable to establish a relationship with them. We had neither the time, nor the patience, nor the stomach. This time there was no space to share, no food, no bed, no pillow, no art work (one of Maria's projects was literally eaten). We where overwhelmed. This time, it was us who migrated instead of them.
In Saint Cloud, Minnesota, in the snow, was the culminating moment in which all of these experiences became an idea, lacking intention, but an idea nonetheless.In Minnesota everything seemed so plain, clean, and undisturbed. The speed of life was substantially slower. The monochrome days and nights just passed by, one after another. At one point here was a spiritual awakening, a natural progression after like living like monks (somewhat literally speaking after living for the first two months in the convent at Saint Joseph University).Then we moved to an apartment where the pace of life remained the same, and we enjoyed it.We were ready to invite an addition into our home. Then, there were Stella and Miriam, cousins with the common wild house mice, the same but breed in a control environment. It was a reconciliation of sorts with the little partners. We had a rough time at the beginning with the fighting and biting, the running away, the coming back. They brought some humanity to snowy white Minnesota. At one point the living room was dwarfed by incredible constructions, geodesic domes, expressways and even malls. This time we were living together, with respect to our territories and our way of life, no one demanding anything from the other except the right to live in peace, and to have shelter and food. We are not religious, nor did we see in them any religious manifestation that made us uncomfortable, so we didn't care.This time, we humans and mice moved together.
During this time we began developing a project out of this experience. At Vertex we are showing the first chapter or our initial approach to this work. It's a version formally different from what we had at home, and conceptually developed. That is to say, shaping and cleaning things to have a readable and communicative piece. Observations about them and the space they share with their human counterparts. In this relation we learn from each other both ways. The participants in “The Mus Musculus Project” are willing to just live and give good use to the space and bring New Yorkers a message of love and peace, fighting and greed, understanding, injustice and more...
We now live in Miami, and Stella and Miriam have since died of old age. We think they had a good life, apart from a couple of minor visits to the vet. We gave them a decent burial, for Miriam, six inches under next to a palm tree and for Stella, a ceremonial funeral by the lake. They died just a couple of weeks apart.
Now we are living with Martina, Carla and Tomasa, still no problems.
Maria A. Lopez and Ernesto Restrepo are combined media artists.