by Adriana Lauria
Patricia Ready Gallery, Santiago de Chile, 2010
Cardboard and paper, strings, branches, stones, packing tape, bags, food, soap bubbles and even space lines are summoned by Matilde Marin in this series of photo performances1.
The artist’s hands, common denominator in all the images, entitle the inclusion of the objects, activating them factually and semantically. They hold them, play with them, order them, caress them, emphasizing and transforming them.
It is not a concrete plastic product that comes out of them -a sculpture, an engraving, a paper construction, a book following her background– but her gestures and the expressiveness of her physical appearance create strong symbolic images that replace the artisan manufacture and support the aesthetic power of one idea. It is mostly a question of intensity. The staging remarks the relation between the being (the artist) and the doing (artistic), that still surprising in differentiation that amalgamates object and subject in the creating act.
Procedure: the way towards the image
The complexity of the method, that implies teamwork, speaks about the implied poetic position. After the elaboration of the script and the rehearsals performed with her assistants, it is a technician who makes the photographic takes in his studio. In this way, the necessary distance is gestated so that the artist can sharpen ”her look” at elements and postures, at how what she imagines really looks. And in this double and dialectic -exhibitionist and voyeur- like intervention , chooses, adjusts, frames, defines, both in the moment of selection of samples as well as in the lab process There the effects of peripheral darkening and accentuation are completed to bathe and enhance the images. The size and number of the copies are determined upon the same criteria that she has adopted for her engravings. Reduced editions or with special characteristics for each issue, limit the profusion that the multiple would give place, contradicting this condition and transforming it into a unique piece. The sepia tones achieved with color film copied with black-and-white process reinforce shapes and attitudes and cover them with a certain patina of nostalgic antiquity.
The compositions refer to the genre of dead nature, that is focused from the chiaroscuro and the theatricality proper in the baroque culture, period in the art history when this typology is consolidated.
Playing Hands (Juego de Manos)
Started in 1999 the series mostly develops during the year 2000.On crossing the century limit it seems to be a good idea within the compulsory balances and the uncertainty sensed before any end , to take back certain principles. Parting from a string tied in its ends and the manual action, all kind of figures can be knitted, from the simplest to the most complex ones, depending on the participants’ abilities. Remembering an elementary game, may not be just the symptom of a nostalgic state, but an attempt to look for the foundations of one activity one’s life has been devoted to. The hands start here in the urge to show themselves as instruments that have remained faithful to the service of a creative will and that have developed the dexterity to mold emotions and concepts into works. The idea that art has something related to playing is rescued through them in reference to the activity that develops within its own rules, at least at the moment of its conception and elaboration ,no other interest than the one to satisfy a spiritual pulsing.
The evoked infancy states that the play of hands is not a play of villains but that it may, and sometimes it is convenient, recover the fresh ingenuity and the illusion with which the artistic activity was once embraced. The sense of the series is only introspective but at the same time it opens, inviting the spectator to take part.
Also started in 2000, it refers to her first youth, when the family moves to La Patagonia and she, settled in Buenos Aires, spends her holidays traveling from the valleys of the province of Rio Negro to Santa Cruz. There she discovers and begins to collect the fantastic branches and stones, that patiently the wind and the water have been devastating and polishing.
The objects found at random or at the bottom of the patagonic lakes and rivers, stand out in their own intrinsic beauty and lead to remember a breathtaking, fascinating landscape, having, for the artist all the attributes of the quiet: “it is such a placid image”-reflects-, “the woods are emptied out leaving a strong shell that makes them float” The great attractiveness and visual variety of each stone and each branch unfolds the whimsical formative power of nature and it does not hide the existential melancholy of what has been eroded with the passing of time, but their inclusion aims at, above all, taking possession of the quiet and beauty of the mutations produced during the vital cycle.
Initial games Juegos iniciales
The magic that lines and dots -basic units of any visual proposal– may contain, is the topic of this series made during 2001. Here prestidigitation is played at and from the passes of the hands parallels united by perpendiculars, lines of dots or circles levitating over an invisible horizontal. The necessary process to create this illusion leads to simulate the attitudes that later, are completed through drawings made at raised hand, like positive line in the space or like a trace faked with the help of the sensitivity of photographic paper. Every creator knows that part of his effectiveness of art lies in the fictional resources, but he is also conscious of how real they may become. Both problematic and evasive sometimes, they occasionally become precious accomplices. Setting them in the center of the scene is to reveal them.
After the political and economic conflicts that led to the outburst of December 2001, crisis overcame in an overwhelming way over the Argentineans and the social and moral consequences became cruelly evident during the following year. It is then when Matilde Marin begins this series that continues until today, trying to mold a delicate and painful theme, without giving up the poetic metaphor –like any good-natured artist must do-, carefully avoiding the mere pamphlet protest.
Paper fragments, cardboard and plastic, packaging goods like the glued tape with the word “FRAGILE” on it- that seems to refer to more than one reality , those bags that are lately used in the campaigns of selection of trash with writings in green – the color of recycling, of the ecology and of hope too, give a start to this whole.
The embellishment of the used waste, achieved by careful illumination, as well as the different technical steps implied –from the start to the end-, is singularly ratified by the body gesture , that shows them in a subtle attitude of offering.
This aesthetics seems to correspond with the appraisal of these waste materials which may become “precious” goods, the product of which, obtained through effort, may feed a family. Parable about the alchemy of art that transmutes the most rejected elements into beautiful images, the most trivial attitudes, the commonest daily gestures, here the focus is set on the possibility that this kind of conversions extend into social welfare. The ethical implications of this type of propositions give a new meaning to the range of the aesthetic action.
It is in this sense that the position of the arms forms the concavity that could rock a baby, and the photography in which this gesture seems empty, evokes the lack of every means. But it is also the place where a promise can be installed. In each one of the compositions a metaphor is progressively built to show from the urge of “not having anything between hands” or of “being left with empty hands”, that there also exists a world of probabilities. The whole becomes evident on breaking and disappearing the false promises that cover the exploitation which Argentina and an increasing number of citizens have systematically been subjected to since years. Faded mirages our arms are left to coo and build an uncertain future, rough, but not impossible.
And that construction requires a first act of donation ,of that offering claimed in a catastrophe. The arms start to be filled, with empty packages, paper, cardboard and plastic, with all the things used by those who live on recycling trash. Left out by the growing unemployment that has reigned for over a decade, resort to this job of “cartonero” –cardboard man- that involves stirring and sorting out whatever is waste for other people, turning it into daily subsistence.
The offering attitude continues in successive pieces . Now the arms are filled with food: fruit, meat, fish, milk, all products produced by the nature of that country where the cultural and educational backwardness as well as the distributive injustice convert into a motive of community ignominy. Malnutrition devastates in a land capable of producing enough food for a number of people much bigger than that of its inhabitants.
This reality is opposed by solidarity, the miracle of transformation , their awareness of the possibilities that lie in our hands, as long as we are able to identify them, share them and work for their fulfillment and defense.
Curator and art critic. Teacher and researcher of History of Argentine Contemporary Art in the Facultad de Filosofia y Letras de Universidad de Buenos Aires. Member of the Association of Art Critics and the International Association of Art Critics.
She has lectured, taken parts in conferences, and has been member and coordinator of round tables. She has also published numerous works in books, catalogues of exhibitions and other specialized editions. In 2001 she is part of the international group of researchers that wrote the catalogue of the collection of the collection of Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba) and in 2002 prologues the catalogue of the show Argentine Abstract art presented in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea de Bergamo, Italy. She is researcher ,narrator and coordinator of Centro Virtual de Arte Argentino (CVAA), web page made for the Secretaria de Cultura del Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires.