El Museo del Barrio – New York (NY)
27/10/1011- 26/03/2023

El Museo del Barrio is pleased to present Methuselah, a digital artwork conceived by the Cuban-born and Houston based artist Reynier Leyva Novo. Commissioned by El Museo with the support of VIA Art Fund, Methuselah virtually reproduces the 6000-mile transnational migratory journey of a single monarch butterfly, tracking its travel from southern Canada across the United States to Mexico. Embodied through the life of a virtual avatar, the epic journey is hosted and reproduced in real time on a specially designed, open-access, dedicated website. 

Methuselah launches to the public on September 22 at 7pm EST, coinciding with the Fall equinox and the start of the monarch’s migration. Beginning on this date, viewers can observe the virtual avatar 24 hours a day, as it makes its way south across changing terrain, weather patterns, and other variable physical conditions. To celebrate, Novo will join curator Olga Viso in an online conversation and project demonstration moderated by El Museo organizing curator Susanna V. Temkin. 

Opening October 27 at El Museo del Barrio in conjunction with Juan Francisco Elso: Por AméricaMethuselah will be presented as an in-person, mixed reality installation. Using holographic lenses, visitors will be able to observe and experience the monarch’s movements and behavior in a shared environment, where they can follow the butterfly as it flies around them. Up to three visitors are permitted to experience Methuselah at a time, with reservations required.

In tracing the monarch’s flight across the Americas, Methusaleh addresses larger contemporary issues related to migration, climate change, and the necessity of transnational cooperation, as expressed in the life of  a singular specimen. Calling attention to the false security of borders, the artwork offers a critical metaphor for twenty-first-century existence, made all the more poignant by the monarch’s recent categorization as an endangered species.

Reynier Leyva Novo (b. 1983, Havana, Cuba, and based in Houston, Texas) is one of Cuba’s leading conceptual artists. Novo’s practice challenges ideology and symbols of power, questioning an individual’s ability to affect change. His multidisciplinary practice includes mining historical data and official documents, the content of which he transforms into formally minimalist and conceptually charged sculptures and multimedia installations.