Lawal Quilcas

« Obviously, there is no classification of the universe that is not arbitrary and conjectural. The reason is very simple: we do not know what the universe is ».

In Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952 Jorge Luis Borges University of Texas press P.104.


Lawal is the name of the thousand-year-old tree that grows in Patagonia, Argentina. It is a cypress (Fitzroya cupressoide) called Alerce in Spanish. In Mapuche language, the Mapudungun, language of the inhabitants living in this region for probably more than a thousand years, it means "the one whose memory does not die".


Quilcas is a name used to describe a rock graphic art between the writing and the ornament of the pre-Columbian civilization present in the Incas and always enigmatic when its meaning.

Lawal Quilcas

Lawal Quilcas aims to question our relationship with time and nature of which we are a part through an element essential to the life of all species including ours: The tree. This is the thousand-year-old tree of Patagonia, Lawal in Mapuche / Alerce in Spanish.

This one is considered by the scientists as an absolute "clock" that testifies in its rings, of the conditions of the life on earth and of major events of the cosmos. It has also been understood by ancestral cultures, the Mapuche Indians, as an entity holding the memory ... it is precisely on this correspondence that the project is based.

The Lawal Quilcas project was initiated following the invitation of an interdisciplinary research group called CHASCA, which includes scientists from dendrochronology and paleoclimatology laboratories -Valérie Daux-, climatology and environment -Christine Hattié-, terrestrial magnetism - Catherine Kissel- and astrophysics -Thierry Stolarczyk- (who was already involved in Aganta Kairos) based at the CEA Paris Saclay.

In March 2022 Laurent Mulot joined a scientific field expedition in the forest of Lake Menendez in Argentine Patagonia ( 42° 42’ S // 71°56’W). This expedition is composed of Argentine researchers from CONICET led by Ricardo Villalba, glaciologist and dendrochronologist and a French researcher in paleoclimatology, Valérie Daux. The purpose of the expedition is to observe the flora of the cold jungle of this region and to collect samples from the Lawal/Alerces thousand-year-old trees. These samples (non-destructive) are the materials used to date the tree rings and then analyze their composition to interpret the data revealing information on the past terrestrial climate, magnetism but also potentially bearing the trace of cataclysmic events of the universe. Lawal Quilcas focuses in particular on the year 1054, the year of the first observation of the Crab Nebula on Earth by Chinese astronomers.

Following this expedition which is the occasion for the artist to take sounds, still and moving images, Laurent Mulot goes to meet inhabitants of the region of the Lake Menendez. Among them are Mapuche Indians whose culture has been established for more than a thousand years in Patagonia, but also descendants of European settlers, notably Basques and Swiss, who arrived at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and newcomers who have settled in this region of Chubut to practice horticulture, including the Lawal nursery, and cabinet making.

The Mapuche (people of the land) have an inclusive conception of their living environment in the sense that the concept of nature is not separated from their own essences/existence, which implies a non-dominant relationship with their environment. The Lawal tree is seen as the holder of a shared memory, a shared life history with all those, humans, fauna, flora, even celestial minerals encountered during its millennial life. This is what the Mapuche of the communities Emilio Prane in Nahuel Pan, Mariqueo in Esquel and Cheuquehuala in Lago Rosario testify and show in their daily life.

For the descendants of European settlers the story was different and the encounter with the forest and the Lawal rather on the side of an attempt of exploitation of forestry that will prove impossible in view of the dimension of the trees and the topographic difficulty. Today it is sometimes the ecotourism which allied to an activity of subsistence agriculture makes these families live. On March 3, 2023, a human assembly composed of representatives of Mapuche communities, descendants of the first Basque and Swiss settlers, and inhabitants involved in the project met at the edge of the green lake in Argentine Patagonia in the Alerces National Park to celebrate Lawal Quilcas at the home of the Coronado family under the care of Bianca, Raul, their children and grandchildren.

Laurent Mulotmofn chrono
Paul Ardennecritical text