Jami Porter Lara is a conceptual artist interested in the ways humans use ideas about nature to naturalize human political constructs. For Untitled, a series of seventeen vessels in the Matamoros Embassy, she turned to a process she calls “reverse archaeology,” employing tools of the past to excavate the present and future. While exploring a remote stretch of the United States-Mexico border, Porter Lara found two-liter bottles used to carry water—the most recent in a lineage of artifacts that remain from millennia of human travel through the region. This proximity of plastic bottles to potsherds led her to see both as precious objects, capable of sustaining human life, and to contemplate the borderlands as spaces of ancient continuities of people, objects, and culture.
Porter then Lara traveled to a northern Mexican village famous for its ceramics, where she learned to forage and prepare clay, build with coils, polish with stones, and pit-fire. For her vessels project, she used the oldest local ways of working with clay to make objects that reference the plastic bottle—the most iconic and ubiquitous vessel of our time. Part of Porter Lara’s interest is looking at the plastic bottle differently so that we might see the creativity that goes into it as opposed to simply regarding it as waste. Her process begs the questions: What is precious, and what is profane? When does trash become an artifact? When does it become beautiful? The answers to those questions reveal how we regard ourselves as a species.