by Adriana Almada*
“Arqueóloga de si misma” Anthological Exhibition, Fundacion OSDE, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2017
Cluster of lights. Erected between sea and earth, lighthouses have been an unequivocal signal pointing to the end of a road, relieving a shipwreck’s woes or fanning the desire for new adventures. Confronted by the advancement of the GPS’ and other localization devices, today these beacons of lights are blinking, dying. It is the end of an era, and Matilde Marín wanted to register this transition. Thus Proyecto Pharus (2005-2011) was born. Pharus in Greek means “The light that guides the destiny of man”. The artist has detected various lighthouses during her travels until completing a photographic series in black and white, occasionally intervened digitally with color. She has compiled a series of 12 lights, some of them mythical, some emblematical, because or their history or their architectonic characteristics. Among them is Alexandria’s lighthouse and that of the Island of Hercules, in La Coruña.
Two videos derived from this investigation. Atlántico Sur (2012) is the most recent and was filmed in San Juan de Salvamento, the remote Isla de los Estados -in most southern part of Argentina- and shows the lighthouse in broad daylight. Its glow is a slight beat on a background of still clouds and the constant roar of the waves. This is the lighthouse which inspired Jules Verne’s book: Lighthouse at the End of the World. The other video piece, No demasiado lejos (2005), was filmed in Cabo Vírgenes, were the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean’s clash. Here the eye is located at the lighthouse’s center and from there it orders the course of the gaze and the path of the light.
Diasporas and Exiles. During many years Matilde Marín fulfilled a ritual in the trips she took. As a roadmap, she photographed her body’s shadow upon each place she arrived. (…) She saw herself in that dark hole defined by the silenced contour, summarizing in that succinct form events and illusions which already spoke of a Diaspora. Not necessary the artist’s displacement but that of millions across the planet. It was during the Nineties when the identity debates and postcolonial studies dominated the art scene and globalization politics unfolded their inaugural artifices. That was the beginning of Itinerarios (1993 y 2001), a suite of 46 photos which won the Grand Prize of the VII International Biennale of Cuenca (2001), Ecuador.
El manto de Próspero (1996-2013) also alludes to a trip marked by setbacks and doomed to be shipwrecked: it is a journey to exile from which the main character -in Shakespeare’s The Tempest– emerges willing to not only to survive but also to twist destiny’s forces. To achieve this purpose he uses a magical cloak which gives him invisibility and, with it, special powers which he cultivates until mastering them. Once his plan is fulfilled, Prospero leaves his cloak, and is symbolically recovered by Matilde Marín. In her hands the mantle reveals itself as potent and delicate, red from the passion of its light body -made of flakes of time reacting to the slightest stimulus- capable of conjuring cosmic calamities and individual passions, not by magic but by virtue of its extreme beauty.
Travesía (2002) is a video which also draws a horizon of exile: a pair of black-and-white eyes and the laconic expression of bewilderment, fear, amazement. They are women’s eyes looking for a place to rest their gaze and maybe start life anew. They are children’s eyes, later adults and then definitely old, who for five minutes challenged us with an unbearable meekness.
Restructuring the findings. After the political and economic conflicts that culminated in the uprising of December 2001, the crisis came crashing down on Argentina. During the next year, the social and moral consequences were fiercely felt. This is when Matilde Marín started making these photo performances, color photographs and videos. Motivated by the country’s social and economic crisis, Marín created Bricolage contemporáneo, a video-performance which derived in one of her most renowned photographic suites. Here she appeals to a simulacrum to recreate a primal human act: the recollection, the search for survival’s basic elements. Thus bread and fish may also be multiplied in the hands of the artist as if they were able to give shelter to a world flooded with conflicts and miseries. Remains of meat, vegetables, cartons, papers, threads, branches, stones, packing tapes, bags, are an urban universe in times of deprivation.
These aesthetically exacerbated images shake the viewer precisely because of their distance from any documentary representation. To these signs of precariousness the artist adds the image of the lightness of any promise: the perfect and immaterial soap bubble. This last picture connects with a street videoperformance, El día de Karina (2005). It’s the story of a street vendor offering devices to make soap bubbles. The bubble is that ultra-thin membrane that separates air from the air. The tension of the limit: the world ready to break at any instant, is that tiny fraction of time between what is standing and what will be falling.
Registrating the fumes. To record images of fumes is to stop the course of history and make all bonfires one. In the same way that Bertolt Brecht extracted from newspapers maps and scenes of Second World War and mounted them in his Arbeitsjournal (Labor Diary), or as Aby Warburg long before did with his Atlas Mnemosyne, inviting a re-reading of European civilization from free association of images, Matilde Marín collected (2005-2011) hundreds of photographs of different “fumes” -with their respective legends- appearing in the press. To read them is to get an overview of our convulsive times. (…) Smoke is usually the rubric of a catastrophe; the list is endless. The epigraphs change, but the smoke remains.
Other and more recent fumes are shown on the move -also confirming the end of an era-, such as the spectacular implosion of Kodak Building 53 (July 18, 2015) -which manufactured the acetate base of photographic film- in Kodak Park (Rochester, USA ). (…) Briefly: the story in terms of outburst, explosion, as Didi-Huberman would say.
*Writer, art critic and independent curator. Vice-president of AICA International and president of AICA Paraguay.