Contemporary Bricolage / Recollection

Cardboards and papers, twine string, branches, stones, packaging tapes, bags, food, soap bubbles and even lines in space, are summoned by Matilde Marín in these series of photo performances.
The artist’s hands, the common denominator of all images, protect the inclusion of objects and activate them factually and semantically.

Bricolage Contemporáneo
Adriana Lauria, Teresa Macri, Pastor Mellado, Buenos Aires, 2005

De Natura (Altered Zone)
Curator: Mercedes Casanegra, Sala Cronopios, Recoleta Cultural Center, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2008

La acción y su registro
Curator: Adriana Lauria, group show on performance, F.J. Klemm, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009

TODAVÍA, Pensamiento y Cultura en América Latina
Guest artist: Matilde Marin, OSDE Foundation Publication, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009

Arte Argentino actual en la colección de MALBA, obras 1989-2010
Malba Colección Costantini, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2011

Contemporary Bricolage (Recollection)

Concept and direction: Matilde Marín
Photography: Matilde Marín
Camera and edition: Daniela Muttis
Audio recording and editing: Nicolás Diab
Format: MP4
Codec: mpeg
Dimensions: 1920 x 1080
FPS: 25
Sound: Stereo
Running time: 4 mins.
Buenos Aires, 2004

Concept of the video:

“Contemporary Bricolage” gives an account of the new codes and situations in the city of Buenos Aires from the break suffered between 2001 and 2002. Its marginal inhabitants, their activities to survive, the needs of the people, beyond the materials. The circumstances that life implies in a big city in crisis.

A matter of intensity

Cardboards and papers, twines, branches, stones, packing tapes, bags, food, soap bubbles and even lines in space, are summoned by Matilde Marín in these series of photo performances.

The artist’s hands, the common denominator of all images, protect the inclusion of objects and activate them factually and semantically. They hold them, play with them, offer them, caress them, emphasize and transform them.

A concrete plastic product does not come out of them –a sculpture, an engraving, a book, a construction on paper, according to their training and trajectory–, but rather their gestures and the expressiveness of their physical appearance create images with a strong symbolic charge that they replace the artisan workmanship and underpin the aesthetic power of an idea. It is primarily a matter of intensity.

Her staging comments, almost better than in any other way, the relationship between being (artist) and doing (artistic), that still surprising indifference, which she amalgamates in the creative act, object and subject.

Procedure: the path to the image

The complexity of the method, which implies teamwork, speaks of the poetic position involved. After the development of the script and the tests carried out with her assistants, it is a technician who takes the photographic shots in her studio. In this way the necessary distance is created for the artist to sharpen “her gaze” on elements and postures, on how what she imagines really looks like. And in this double and dialectical intervention –exhibitionist and voyeur–, she chooses, adjusts, frames, defines, both at the time of selection of tests and in the laboratory process. There the peripheral darkening effects and the accentuation of the lights that bathe and enhance the images are completed. The size and number of copies are determined with the same criteria that she has adopted for her engravings. Limited editions or with special characteristics for each copy, limit the profusion to which the multiple would give rise, contradicting this condition and transforming it almost into a unique piece.

The sepia tones, achieved with color film copied with a black and white process, reinforce forms and attitudes, and cover them with a certain nostalgic patina of antiquity. The compositions refer to the genre of still life, which is treated with the chiaroscuro and theatricality typical of Baroque painting, a period in the history of art in which this typology is consolidated.

Contemporary Bricolage 

After the political and economic conflicts that led to the outbreak of December 2001, the crisis overwhelmed Argentines and the social and moral consequences became cruelly evident during the next year. It is then that Matilde Marín begins this series that she continues to this day, trying to capture a delicate and painful subject, without renouncing the poetic metaphor –as any well-born artist should do–, carefully avoiding mere pamphlet protests.

Fragments of papers, cardboard and plastics, packaging items such as the rubberized tape with the word “fragile” –which seems to allude to more than one reality–, bags of the kind that have been used lately in the waste selection and recovery campaign with legends in green – the color of recycling, of ecology, but also of hope – they start this set.

The beautification of the waste used, achieved by careful lighting, as well as by the different technical steps involved –from the taking to the final copying–, is singularly confirmed by the bodily gesture, which shows them in a subtle offering attitude.

This aestheticization seems to correspond to an assessment of these waste materials that can be transformed into “precious” merchandise, the product of which, obtained with effort, feeds a family. Parable of the alchemy of art that transmutes into beautiful images the most depreciated elements, the most trivial attitudes, the most everyday gestures, here the focus is on the possibility that these kinds of conversions transcend the social good. The ethical implications of this type of proposition, resignify the scope of aesthetic action.

In this sense, the position of the arms forms the concavity that could rock a baby, and the photograph in which this gesture appears empty, evokes the orphanhood of all resources. But it is also the place to install a promise. In each of the compositions a metaphor is progressively built in which it is shown, from the urgency of “not having anything in hand” or of “remaining empty-handed”, that there is also a world of probabilities. The gap is evident when the false promises that cover up plundering, to which Argentina and a growing number of its citizens have been systematically subjected for years, are broken and disappear. Dispeling the mirages are our arms to lull and build an uncertain future, harsh, but not impossible.

And that construction requires a first act of donation, of that offering that every catastrophe demands. The arms are filling up: with empty containers, with papers, cardboard and plastics, with all the things that those who make a living by recycling garbage. Marginalized by the growing unemployment that has prevailed for more than a decade, they resort to this job of “cartonero” that involves stirring and separating what for some is waste, and which for others becomes a resource for daily subsistence.

The offering attitude continues in successive pieces. Now the arms are filled with food: fruits, meat, fish, milk, all products that the fey nature of the country insists on offering and that, both the cultural and educational backwardness and the distributive injustice, turn into a source of community ignominy. Malnutrition rages on a land that has the capacity to produce enough food for a number of people several times that of its inhabitants.

This reality is opposed by the beautiful gesture of the act of solidarity, the miracle of transformation, the signaling, and therefore the awareness of the possibilities that we have at hand, if we are able to glimpse them, share them, seek their realization and defending.

Excerpt from the essay by Adriana Lauria for the publication “Matilde Marín, Bricolage Contemporáneo”, Buenos Aires, 2005

1. Very often the only tangible consequence of a performance – a genre that in the visual arts implies the presence of the artist performing an action – is a photograph or a film. This ends up leading to actions directly designed for optical recording, which give rise to photo and video performance. Although these modalities became frequent from the 60s, when performance turned into one of the manifestations of conceptual art, previous antecedents can be traced. During the first decades of the 20th century we find actions carried out especially for the camera, such as those of the Dadaists Marcel Duchamp and the photographer Man Ray, some of them carried out in collaboration. Argentine art has its own tradition, well represented in the 60s by Alberto Greco’s Vivo Dito, and in the 90s by the production of Liliana Maresca and Oscar Bony.

2. Bricolage ”is a French word that comes from the verb “bricoler” which means to possess great ability especially for manual work. By extension, it has been used internationally as a term that designates repairs and work that is done on your own in the domestic environment. Following the Spanish orthographic rules, its spelling is “bricolaje”, but in this case the French version has been preferred, possibly due to the resonance it has with the term collage, so deeply rooted within the plastic activity.

A hint of hope

The Need, together with The Collection and The Illusion are included in the Contemporary Bricolage series that began in 2001, motivated by the social crisis experienced in Argentina at the end of that year.

Faced with excess consumerism and identified with those who try to survive with the minimum, Marín resorts to humble materials and basic foods (bread, fish, beef) in her series of photo-performances, The Collection. She lovingly holds them in her arms, inaugurating an unusual aura ceremony of valorization of the elemental. A very careful play of light contributes to the “glorification” of the motif.

It is not the first time that Marín has involved her own body. She had done it in previous series, such as Playing Hands, and also in Itineraries, when she photographed her shadow on different territories from Latin America.

However, the counter-utopian vision that hovers over the recent work of the artist also reveals a discreet quota of hope. We see her in the video-performance El día de Karina (The illusion) dedicated to a young woman who walks through the streets of Buenos Aires selling dolls that she makes herself. She is one of many Argentines trying to survive in the midst of the economic crisis. Marín sees in her dolls a symbol of illusion: they are used to make soap bubbles that rise in the air and, ephemeral, disappear.

Not only hope is possible. So does beauty. This is, without a doubt, the dominant quality of the videos Cold River (2008) and Not too far (2005). With different shades, beauty is also present in Marín’s new photographic series. In some cases it is colder, as in Turbulence I (2008), a suite of 9 analogue photographs. In others, she takes on a more poetic tone that can become dramatic, as in the photo-performance Natural Care (2003), where she confronts the delicacy of the hand with the impiety of a piece of raw meat. There is also beauty in cardboard carts, the fruit of a natural creative spontaneity.

Elena Oliveras
Excerpt from the essay “The possible beauty”, Art Nexus International, 2010