Initial Games

The hands are the exclusive protagonists of the photographs. The artworks show the hands of a woman who, imperturbable and harmoniously, performs a series of movements that fascinate and demand the attention of the viewer. Beyond any budget, poetry is imposed.

Initial Games
Concept and direction: Matilde Marín
Edition: Daniela Muttis
Recording and audio editing: Nicolás Diab
Running time: 4 mins.
Buenos Aires, 2006

Concept of the video:
Initial Games, a penetrating video portraying the artist’s hands, that with apparently indelible neon marks and to the sound of inspiring music, try to write in the air suggestive shapes, incandescent geometries. The artist appears attempting to develop ethereal sculptures with rays of lights that pierce her open palms.
Bursts of brightness sneak in between them.

Concept and direction: Matilde Marín
Edition: Daniela Muttis
Recording and audio editing: Nicolás Diab
Running time: 01:30 mins.
Buenos Aires, 2008

Concept of the video:
A fleeting light moves over the horizon in a sunset over the American mountain range. The light briefly illuminates a landscape with little geographic reference, to tell that someone (the artist) was there in her personal experience with nature.

Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA), Argentina, 2006

Initial Games
Del Infinito Gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2001

A matter of intensity

By Adriana Lauría

The magic that lines and points – basic units of any visual proposal – can contain, is the theme of this series carried out during 2001. Here sleight of hand is played, and from the passes of hands parallel lines appear joined by perpendiculars, rows of points or circles levitating over an invisible horizontal. The process necessary to create this illusion leads to simulating the attitudes that are later completed with the drawings executed freehand, either as a positive line in space or as a luminous trace rigged with the help of the sensitivity of photographic paper.

Every creator knows that part of the effectiveness of art is in these fictional resources, but is also aware of how real they can become. Problematic and elusive at times, they sometimes become invaluable accomplices. Putting them in the center of the scene does nothing but reveal it.

Initial Games

The hands are the exclusive protagonists of the photographs. The works show the hands of a woman who, imperturbable and harmoniously, performs a series of movements that fascinate and demand the attention of the viewer. Beyond any budget, poetry is imposed.

Produced during 2001, the photographs of the open palms of some hands appear intervened by the artist’s drawings, captured in the final image by superimposing negatives. Thus, these lines appear as lines of lights, indelible marks that cross the space that is presented as impossible to catch, frame. They are the hands of someone who has the charm of the years and knows what he or she wants. Far from the exercises of a conjurer, the hands shelter, clap, play. They write incandescent geometries in the air. Frank, the hands seem to contain the trace of some hopscotch, the balance of some board or the field for a game of which only Marín knows the rules.

In the photographic series, the movements appear frozen in an image, in a single instant, true, although misleading? It is a moment that also slips away because it is no longer and because it shows itself powerless to grasp the figures, the fleeting stelae, designed by the artist.

The works now presented by Marín –a multi-award-winning artist who trained as a sculptor and is synonymous with contemporary engraving in Argentina– derive from her artistic research, from her tireless attitude towards experimentation. Thus, these outstretched hands are linked to her previous series, Playing Hands, the one where the battle for personal memory appeared in a privileged place.

The first language of children, an ancient territory of the sacred, the game becomes serious, but also tender, in Marín’s work. Like the traces left by ancient civilizations in the Peruvian desert, the lines of the hands invite us to think about the traces of the past. The forms and signals that tend to come and go seem to compete for a place in memory. Works make a difference. They express a space that is difficult to access and at a time that you do not want to stop. Nothing appears as unalterable, everything slips away like sand through the fingers, even when the sepia colors of the photographs announce the promise, the illusion of the eternal.

What is hidden behind these dissimilar exercises that these hands draw, these firm and feminine fingers? They are always the same hands, those of the artist herself, which in their muteness announce the vibration of the unknown; the haunting shudder of a revelation.

Victoria Verlichak
Buenos Aires, 2006

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.