Playing Hands

Matilde Marín organizes the entire staging prior to taking her: she decides light intensity, contrasts, frames, she contributes her own hands as the subject for each record. The inadvertent theatrical ritualization indicates the beginning of the game. But the meticulous assembly of this ritual does not pretend a single result, rather multiple, and many small photo proofs are obtained; each one providing minimal or significant variations.

Begun in 1999, the series takes place mainly during the year 2000

Movement 1

Movement 2

Movement 3

Movement 4

Playing Hands
Concept and direction: Matilde Marín
Edition: Andrés Denegri / Paz Encina
Text: May Lorenzo Alcalá
Original recording format: VHS PAL
Running time: 8 mins.
Buenos Aires. First version: 1999. Second version: 2000

Concept of the video:
Matilde Marín organizes all the staging previous to the shoot: decides intensity of light contrasts, frames, puts her own hands as subject for each register. The unpredicted theatrical ritualizing points to the beginning of the first game. The games link to each other with a character which is transitive and reciprocal at the same time, one is a consequence of the other and all are mutually incidental.

Green Light
Concept and direction: Matilde Marín
Edition: Andrés Denegri / Lorenz Bender
Original recording format: VHS PAL
Running time: 8 mins.
Buenos Aires, 2000

Concept of the video-installation:
“Luz Verde” is the vision of a historical moment, where words gave way to excesses. During the 1970s Argentina was shaken by a brutal form of politics and a missing generation. This video shows with images and words that intense moment of destruction. At the back of the video room, children’s hands are exhibited playing the “eternal and universal game of hands”. The game is accompanied and interrupted by the appearance of phrases that bear witness of a child and the plans of the detention centers.

Juego de Manos
National Fine Arts Museum, Santiago de Chile, 2000

El camino hacia la imagen
Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2003

Alon Foundation, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006

Playing Hands

Begun in 1999, the series takes place mainly during the year 2000. When crossing the limit of the century, it seems a good idea, within the obligatory balances and the anticipated uncertainty before any end, to retake certain principles.

From a string tied at its ends and manual action, all kinds of figures can be woven, from the simplest to the most complex, depending on the skill of the participants. Recalling an elementary game may not simply be the symptom of a nostalgic state, but an attempt to find the foundations of an activity to which a lifetime has been dedicated. The hands take center stage here in the urgency to show themselves as instruments that have remained faithful to the service of a creative will, and that have developed the skill of expressing emotions and concepts in works. Through it, the idea of ​​what art possesses is rescued, as an activity that develops within its own rules, which does not have, at least at the time of its gestation and elaboration, any interest other than satisfying a spiritual drive.

The childhood evoked, suggests that the “cat’s cradle” is not only “villains’ game”, but that it can, and from time to time it is convenient, to recover the almost naive freshness and the illusion with which artistic activity was once faced.

The meaning of the series is mostly introspective, but it also opens by inviting the viewer to take part.

Adriana Lauría
Buenos Aires, 2000

From playing hands to other games

Initial games

      Every work of art supposes a manifestly or subtly playful approach. In that perfect simulation configured by any true artistic image, the ability to play is a must-have budget. Always, even to exorcise anguish and desolation, even to establish contained or overflowing instances of the dramatic. Particularly when, as in this case, the proposal chooses to convey a gesture that is pure and determined game. Rather, a fascinating display of concentric games, conjugated or that overlap strategies.

It is not by chance, therefore, that Matilde Marín chose to start from a photographic record. After all photography supposes, through the irruption of the cut, a final game capable of definitively altering all certainty about space and time. But, in addition, since the issue to be photographed constitutes an act of sleight of hand, the cut plays mischievously, more than ever, to fix instants. It plays on the “playing hands” trying, in vain, to catch secrets. “Photography is a game always in play in which each player (the photographer, the spectator, the referent) risks trying to hit a good shot. All tricks will be valid. It will be necessary to take advantage of all the occasions. And each time it has been played, a new blow is repeated (the compulsion to repeat is essential to the photographic act; a photo is not taken, but out of frustration; a series is always taken – we shoot first, we select later – only It produces satisfaction to photograph at that price; to repeat not this or that subject, but to repeat the shot of that subject, repeat the act itself, always start over, start over again, as in the passion of the game or the sexual act: not being able to stop giving that blow). And with each hit, all the data can change, all the calculations can be redone: in photography everything is a matter of blow by blow. It is the logic of the act: local, transitory, singular ”. (1)

Matilde Marín organizes the entire staging prior to the shot: she decides light intensity, contrasts, frames, she brings her own hands as the subject for each record. The inadvertent theatrical ritualization indicates the beginning of the first game. But the meticulous assembly of this ritual does not pretend a single result, many and many small photo proofs are obtained; each one providing minimal or significant variations. Second game, then: the repetition of the shot, the persistent repetition of the cut. Thus, later, starting from the multiple photographic records provided by the game of stopping time, of subtracting a parcel of space, organizing a third game, choosing, deciding which of those shots will best contribute to the establishment of the following games, In pursuit of the ultimate game, the desired one. The games are linked to a character that is both transitive and reciprocal; that is to say, each one is a consequence of the other and all influence each other.

It begins to fertilize the overlapping of games by blurring rules and clear identities: for now, the ritual of ready-made shots, the game of photographic cut, the game of choice. In addition, in all the games already considered, in the games to be considered, chance, an elusive and ungovernable player, has contributed and will contribute its random quota. Everything is ready to dare with the foundational games. The sum of intentions, skills, findings and chances that make up the creative prodigy.

Primordial games

      At the root of the creative game is the idea. The precipitator of that idea is inevitably a feeling. It has already been said: the creative game exorcises fears, unravels omens and unravels fears. “At the origin of everything is fear”, proposes Roland Barthes. (2) “Placing it at the origin, fear acquires the value of a method; an initiatory path starts from fear ”. Barthes is talking about a fear that does not impose self-absorption, that does not paralyze action. On the contrary, he speaks of a fear that is a vital affirmation: while we fear, we know that we are alive. A fear that even provokes the rituals that will end up domesticating him.

Before art was called art, when the image was an intermediary between man and his gods, the sum of fears and anguish, the defenselessness before the omnipotence of those invisible gods, everything was conjured through the creative game. The image was the dimension of the human in the face of the elusive magnitude of the divine. In contemporary art it is the dimension of the close, the affective votive offering, the emblem wielded against the arbitrariness of the life course. Examples abound. Louise Bourgeois has recognized that the excessive intensity of the emotions implicit in the memories of her can be terrifying. To avoid this overwhelming degree, her entire creation strives to master such emotions, to organize them by choosing a series of metaphors and symbolic images. “In some way, each work is modular, but each one contains a proportion of the emotion that comes associated with that place or that situation; without trying to add more, because adding more would be unbearable. Building a house and then dividing it into rooms is a way of placing the necessary emotion in each one, making such placements make sense. The repetition of the gesture acts as an emotional embargo and turns what would be a chaotic feeling into a rhythm, an arrangement, into something manageable, ordered ”. (3) At one time, José Luis Cuevas told me that in all of his work there was a fear of dying germinated in a long childhood ailment. Also, and at times with greater vigor, the fear of going blind increased; then, the line displayed dazzling visual virtues, an expressive vigor close to opulence. Surely, at the root of these “playing hands” was the presence of that fertilizing fear, either as elusive apprehension or as clear evidence.

Some time ago Matilde Marín had to surrender to the need to operate on her wrist. With her decision came fears about what the operation could cause to the mobility of her hand. A craftswoman who had known how to turn her hands into irreplaceable tools, she felt placed in an approximate apprehensive situation. Although fear did not have the constant and almost compulsive character that can be found in the statements of Bourgeois or Cuevas, it began to act as the source of an “initiatory path”, it began to nurture the remote layers of the great primordial game. Without a doubt, for any artist who works with images, vision is important. It is also important that these images give a system to emotional chaos. But: what happens to the vertigo of thinking of an immobile hand? To think the hand that guides, that agrees, that decides, that executes as paralysed. To think of her stripped of her skills. For this reason, beyond the photographic cut, all this “game of hands” is a consecration of the movement, of its consequent abilities.

The celebration, again a game, again a ritual, is produced through an artifice surprisingly close to illusionism. A thin rope, a lanyard, is looped between the two hands. Then, with elusive movements, she weaves and unravels warps beautifully. It is impossible for the observer to capture the instances of the enchantment. Not even the moments removed by the photographic record manage to unmask it; they hardly offer similarly amazing sequences. Essentially, the dissection of the spell does not matter, what matters is the seduction of the manual game, the wonders it displays. The celebration does not try to verify a mathematical hypothesis, it plays with the mystery, threatens the impossible possibility of revealing it and, resigned, wisely, preserves it. She prefers, again, another game, the playful exercise of poetic emergence.

Culminating games

     The poetic emergence, one of the culminating games that converge towards that “game of hands” conceived by Matilde Marín. Poetic emergence that penetrates the total atmosphere, which gives slightly different fragrances to each of its components. It may be the stripped and suggestive grace of the small photographic register dialoguing with the curved line, reminiscent of a soft, almost melancholic gesture. It can be the luminous force of the hands tightening or softening the rope, appearing in the dark, that is to say, in a scenography of the indecipherable, defined by the large landscape backgrounds. It may be the warmth of the box-altarpieces, where a distant refinement alternates with a harshness of immediate flavors. Matilde Marín divides her proposal into modules, but these modules do not have a regulatory value, they are not intended to act as emotional embargoes. Conversely, there is no content act of constriction but rather an enthusiastic, recuperative assumption. The diversified poetic emergencies, in essence, always refer to a common intention. At the same time, through each of these poetic emergencies, the creative act sublimates and transposes its origins: instigating, triggering fear. “The poetic image is not subject to an impulse. It is not the echo of a past. It is rather the opposite: in the glow of an image, echoes of the distant past resonate, without it being seen to what depth they will reverberate and disappear. In its novelty, in its activity, the poetic image has its own being, its own dynamism ”. (4). 

The being of these poetic images is a second culminating game, a new celebration: that of movement, its absolute affirmation. And self-dynamism entails the celebration of freedom. Movement is not only being able to do, it is also being able to choose, being able to decide. The hands trapped by the rope can undo their fragile traps when they want, after all they have been the ones who have been threading them. This celebration has something of an adage executed by a tuned string quintet. The deep, thick sound, barely lit by high notes, of a double bass, in the large wall engravings. The baritone tone of a cello in the delicate and melodious variations of the boxes-altarpieces. The simple, warm tone of a viola on predominantly white engravings. The rhythmic filigree of a violin in the friezes of small engravings. The video, participating with the same ambivalence of a piano, virtualizes that “game of hands”, denying it by transferring it to a reproduced reality. In the execution required by this quintet, the technological aid contributes its virtues to the fullness of the game. Digital processes that cleanse graphic qualities to a truly astonishing level; what is better, without authoritarian impositions, supplying tangentially rather than claiming prominence, with efficiency and ductility rather than with the irresponsible fascination of insubstantial finding. Above all, without blurring the serene beauty of the images.

Third culminating game: the rescue of a sense of beauty; rigorous, gentle, lilting, measured. Distant, very distant, from the advertising stereotypes, from the superficiality preached by the media paradigms. Matilde Marín intends, and manages, to reinstall it in the depth of the singular, of the different. The overworked word is once again a credible fact. Attending to her persuasive power, to her multiplied and changing nuances. Where the delicate balance of formal features, of selective chromatic accents, acquires substance through the constant interaction with the delayed musicality of the climate and the renewed poetic emergencies. The delight does not stop at a purely sensory level, it seeks intimate impregnations; subtly, without mannerisms and without rhetoric. In these “playing hands” beauty also distances itself from the functionality claimed by the modernist creed. It is functional to the extent that it knows how to seduce, that it has the ability to move. It is useful insofar as it ventures the beholder into the last and most significant of games: sensitive and reflective communion; then the unpredictable flight of the imagination.

1) Philippe Dubois: The photographic act. Editorial Paidós. Buenos Aires, 1986.
2) Roland Barthes: The obvious and the obtuse. Editorial Paidós. Buenos Aires, 1992.
3) Mercedes Vicente: The body of emotions. Conversation with Louise Bourgeois. Revista Lápiz, N ° 117. Madrid, 1995.
4) Gastón Bachelard: The poetics of space. Fondo de Cultura Económica. México DF, 1986.