top of page


How Rivers Think


Water from the Amazon gathered and sealed within 80 customized slides.

CREDITS: Thanks to the generous Kushuimi community, especially to Juan Viakash. Thanks to my traveling companions; my dad --Marco-- and our friend Gilbert Calle. Production: Maud van den Beuken, Leandros Ntolas, Zois Loumakis, and Marijn van Bekkum.

While canoeing down a river in the Amazon rainforest (called ‘Kushuimi’ by the native Shuars) Santillán took actual samples of the water throughout the journey. These many river samples, taken along the way, were then poured inside customized slides. Consequently, they have been sealed, preserving each of them as living ecosystems. This rare viewpoint enables us to see the river not as an object of representation, but rather we see the river itself from within, as a living entity. The title of this piece refers to the groundbreaking ‘How Forests Think’ written by anthropologist Eduardo Kohn, based on his field research in the Ecuadorian Amazon.   


My education began in the early 2000’s as a self-taught artist in my native Ecuador. Those formative times were deeply shaped by working within collective environments. Throughout the years those experiences have remained alive in my practice in the form of collaborations with scientists and other curious minds. In 2011 I obtained an MFA in Sculpture from VCU—Virginia Commonwealth University, in the US; and, consequent fellowships have allowed me to be an artist-in-residence at Skowhegan (US), Jan van Eyck (NL), Ratti Foundation (IT), Delfina Foundation (UK), and Leiden Astronomical Observatory (NL). More recently, I have been one of the igniters setting ‘órbitat’ in motion, a platform for the encounter of art, science, and technology in Latin America.

Solo exhibitions of my work have taken place at MUAC Museum, Mexico City, MX; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, NL; Copperfield, London, UK; Fundación ODEON, Bogota, CO; Spazio Calderara, Milan, IT; Château La Borie, Solignac, FR; among others.

Group shows include LACMA, Los Angeles, CA; Yokohama Triennial 2020, Yokohama; NRW FORUM, Düsseldorf; SongEun Art Space, Seoul; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar; Zadkine Museum, Paris; FRAC Île-de-france, Paris; IMMA—Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX; Rochechouart Musée d’art contemporain, Rochechouart; Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City; Museo de la Universidad Nacional, Bogotá; Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Socrates Park, New York; among others.

bottom of page