September 21 – December 1, 2019

A swarm of 104 robotic monarch butterflies are programmed to respond to seismic frequencies. Monarchs, which have suffered rapid decline, are the only species to migrate between Mexico and Canada annually. Palma Rodríguez’s installation, Cihuapapalutzin, questions our unwavering faith in technology and the perception that it will save us from catastrophic climate change. Tocihuapaplutzin in the Nahuatl language means “our revered lady butterfly.” Divided into two groups of 52, the installation references a ceremony marking the completion of a natural cycle, linking the secular and sacred calendars (365 and 260 days, respectively) in Mesoamerican society.

Production Assistance: Fidel Edgar Espinoza Martinez.

Commissioned by the Toronto Biennial of Art.


Fernando Palma Rodríguez (born in 1957, Atocpan-San Pedro, Mexico; lives in Mexico City, Mexico) combines his training as an artist and mechanical engineer to create robotic sculptures that utilize custom software to perform complex, narrative choreographies. His works respond to issues facing Indigenous communities in Mexico, addressing human and land rights, violence and urgent environmental crises. Fernando lives in an agricultural region outside Mexico City where he co-founded Calpulli Tecalco, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Nahua language and culture.

Exhibition Site

259 Lake Shore Blvd East

The life of this nondescript building reveals the area’s economic history. Its first tenant in 1945, the Standard Chemical Company, produced methanol, formaldehyde, and charcoal. A railway line to the south tethered the site to the movement of goods. By 1954, the building was divided into a warehouse and a showroom, a configuration that remained intact over the course of various leaseholders, including oil and electrical supply companies and a series of car dealerships. (The advertising of its most recent tenant, Volvo, is still visible on the façade.) This building’s fate is indeterminate, as real estate development is increasingly filling the voids left by industrial decline.

259 Lake Shore Blvd East
Toronto ON
M5A 3T7