The journey has occupied a central place in the myths and fictions of all cultures, from the Egyptians and Homer in the ancient world to Conrad, Joyce, Cèline, Sebald or the contemporary graphic novel. In each story the transit, the departure, the return, the exile or the path towards the interior of oneself is linked to complex plots of skills and adventures. It is not surprising then that it became the argument and the main reason for the two series of recent works – Indeterminate Landscapes and Kasimir Malevich’s Imaginary Journey that Matilde Marín now presents at the Del Infinito Gallery. Fundamentally because it coincides with a moment of singular maturity in the artist’s work that condenses the varied interests and concerns that throughout her entire career contributed to shaping her gaze.
The set thus stands as a metaphor of the intimate journey that at certain moments of life embarks every being in reflection on itself. Marín is a traveling artist and, although her images are born from the real world, there is nothing in them that can be identified with a particular landscape. Theirs keeps a reasonable distance from the chronicle modality that popularized the 19th century and lit up the overflowing imaginary of landscapes that crossed scientific ambitions, detailed notation and romantic fantasies. Rather, she is part of the metaphysical course that in the mid-nineteenth century was aimed at rescuing the potential of the uncertain and the enigmatic that later fascinated the surrealists.
Thus, in the Indeterminate Landscapes, one of the two series of photographic collages, climates of restlessness similar to that of Arnold Böckling’s series of paintings Die Totenisel, known under the name of The Island of Death, are perceived. The same solitary atmosphere of serene fatality in the mystery that some immense rocks cut out against the light against threatening skies enclose.
All in all, these landscapes that from a distance evoke that imprint of symbolist or surreal tradition have been built based on a superimposition of photographic records made in diverse geographies. The artist gives no clues. Her journey is both visual and eventual inquiry.
Research intended to involve the viewer in some way. Hence, the rocky promontories that take center stage in each image can settle on a desert land or emerge from the shifting surface of the sea. In this framework of uncertain and similar circumstances, geometric figures slide as shadows or supernatural projections and some forms of close up as clues that are difficult to decipher. The consequence is the suspension of time in an unrecognizable space. An ideal space-landscape that will remain unchanged only in the record that the artist had or imagined. A challenge to becoming? Indeterminate Landscapes shows nature with scant data from the real world and for this reason they are not enough to become a testimony of the artist’s presence, not even to question whether she will wait for them when she returns in the same way, as she suggests.
With this series, Marín closes a trilogy of photographic landscapes that began in the 1990s – which includes Horizontal Landscapes and Intervened Landscapes – basically made in South America.
Perhaps this experience and the elaboration of her images placed the artist before a reflection on nature and the question of its representation.
Probably this same itinerary installed the interesting figuration-abstraction relationship that later appeared in her work. Thus, it seems inevitable that the trip itself, as an event that facilitated a plurality of experiences, would emerge as a topic and reflective space, linked to that remote tradition of culture that we evoked at the beginning of this text. But fundamentally to the construction of a look.
All the images that make up these two series of 15 and 16 photographs each result from a combination of analog photographs and a digital editing that transforms the traditional strategy of composing photographic images into something different. Something similar to the experience of the painter, or the draftsman who can put this here or add that there. In the course of these procedures, Marín distances himself from the enormous flow of images that lie in wait for us and which they could lay their hands on. She chooses to limit herself to her own file and records.
In this endeavor she glimpses the metaphorical displacement of the journey as the construction of a gaze. In the end, it is the very cuts and shots of it that reveal its own trait in a transformation whose beginning or end
They are difficult to define. Where and when did this itinerary begin and how long will it continue?
Ana Maria Battistozzi
Excerpt of the text of “Travels without any certainty”
Ñ Magazine, 08.29.2015
“When you set out on your journey, pray that your path be long (…)
Always keep Ithaca on your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for; but don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better that it lasts long, better having anchored when you’re old.
Full, with the experience of the trip.
Is the place where you want to arrive idealized? How do you get there? In what ways do you arrive? The Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy shows us a route, probably a path that contains wisdom; a trip is always a change of location and there are always different trips… pleasure trips, lifelong dreams, work trips, but all of them are finally learning exercises and in all cases they put us to the test, because if experience is allowed to enter into one, it allows us to know ourselves and there we return to Cavafy.
In my life I have made many trips and of all kinds, except for one imagined in childhood that has not yet materialized and judging by the geographical location and the current political situation of that country, it is very likely that I will never reach it and it will remain as the pending dream of my life.
In my early childhood I used to read adventure magazines and in one of them I found a fascinating story of the French Jean-François Champollion who, without reaching Egypt, managed to decipher the hieroglyphic writing of that culture, thanks mainly to the study of the Rosetta stone (currently in the Museum of the Louvre) reading that genre historical adventure in me the first genuine desire to travel.
After several years and already as a formal student at the National School of Fine Arts, I came across Jean-Léon Gérôme’s painting “Bonaparte devant le Sphinx” made between 1867-1868, a magnificent confrontation that exposes two moments of world culture, on the one hand, Bonaparte on horseback observing the great sphinx of Gizeh, and on the other hand the sphinx observing and being observed by a traveling conqueror.
When this work appeared before me, travel was again presented as a life and work option, and searching for information I began to read the journeys of some cursed poets such as Arthur Rimbaud’s “Letters from Africa” that reveals that long and voluptuous journey in dangerous lands, exotic and sensual where everything can supposedly be experienced. There is a recent and beautiful edition of “Letters from Africa” published by Gallonero in 2016. At that time, travel had no certain destination and was also synonymous with freedom. When Rimbaud writes to his parents “… we will travel, we will hunt in the deserts, we will sleep on the cobblestones of unknown cities, without care without sorrow…” he marks a style as a continuation of the historical journeys of adventurers and expeditionaries that were always in force in the different times.
I am a visual artist, this is my profession and in 1975 for various reasons I left my country Argentina, it was a complex departure but it led to one of the magnificent adventures of my life as it helped me broaden my perspective, learn about different cultures and recognize my profession, visit towns and cities where the teaching was the “journey and travel”, and feel multiple reasons for inspiration that were later deposited in various series of work.
From the understanding that travel was going to be part of the profession and that it is intertwined with life, I began to read literature by some writers such as Bruce Chatwin and his desire for the freedom that travel provides him. The place is remote and not very well known at that time, Argentine Patagonia emerges in Chatwin’s life and prompts him to leave a very simple note of resignation to his boss at work that says “I’ve gone to Patagonia”, this departure marks a desire, a fantasy and a destiny that he will adopt for the rest of his life and his book “In Patagonia” published in 1977 and read by thousands of people continues the literature of traveling writers.
I would like to mention other very valuable writers inscribed in this genre, writers that I admire and from whom I have learned through their literary images that have later invaded my work.
Ryszard Kapuscinki and his wonderful book “Ebony” where the title and content is a play on words about black Africa and its stoicism. Kapuscinki traveled extensively throughout the African continent and tells big and small stories, the title of the book is the synthesis of it. Ebony that tall, black tropical tree that rises above wars and misfortune as its inhabitants do.
Another great book is “The Last Train to Zona Verde” by Paul Theroux, this epic writer is well known to many as a “living monument to travel prose”.
Antonio Tabucchi and his beautiful little book “Indian Nocturne” where the excuse of the true story or not, makes him travel through deep regions of India thinking and looking for the woman of his life, this beautiful book was my company on a long journey through Asia where he completes the photographic trilogy of Indeterminate Landscapes.
“Can we really travel to the other side of the world? If we travel to the other side of the world, will we be able to understand the place we arrived at?
Indian Nocturen, Antonio Tabucchi
Currently traveling has become an important production resource for many contemporary visual artists. An artist travels to document regions, record ecological situations, photograph cities, travels to participate in exhibitions and biennials, in short, travels….
All of this, that is, “travel” as a means of production probably began with the long walks of Richard Long and his “A line made by walking” of 1967, that artist enrolled in Land Art who for five decades has walked the world to building his work and leaving a legacy of spirituality defines his journey as:
In each walk, not by conceptual definition, a particular idea appears.
Therefore, walking-as art-provides a simple way
for me to explore the relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement. These walks of my travels are recorded in my work in the most appropriate way for each different idea: a photograph, a map, or a text work.
All these works feed the imagination.
Another cult artist is Ronie Horn, his long stay in Iceland resulted in a unique place in the world “The Water Library”, a space built for the future where she collected water from 25 glaciers in extinction, traveled through the entire country and all the water collected from those glaciers deposited them in columns of water for posterity
facing the Bay… in a building that had previously been a Library.
I want to make being here enough.
Maybe enough is enough. I won’t have to invent enough.
I’ll be here and I’ll do nothing and this place will be here but I’ll do nothing.
I’ll leave it here.
Going back to the work I do in the visual arts for several years now, the journey has deeply marked much of my production.. I often photograph almost without a subject and I can work on my works that were generated from paths.
In a very anonymous and perhaps somewhat nomadic way, I travel to different cities and towns around the world in search of images and cultures that will later give rise to my various series.
Since 1995, I began to take photographs of the landscapes that crossed the Latin American soil, thus facing a new journey, I am interested in capturing the horizon in deep Patagonia, those strips of inexhaustible atmospheres that run through our country, “Horizontal Landscapes” began the trilogy which was followed by “Altered Landscapes” and “Indeterminate Landscapes”. This series of photographic records in the southern part of the American continent emerges in some way as an involuntary landscape, something that arises outside the viewer who contemplates. The whole series of works had a post-photographic work that somehow while I was doing it reminded me of the Impressionists and their own look towards the experience with nature.
The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening.
To the lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
During the year 2005 I read in the newspapers a strange news item that caught my attention: “The lighthouses in the world will be disconnected because there is a GPS”. I looked up the etymology of the word lighthouse and found that in ancient Greek Pharus means “the light that guides the destiny of men”, it seemed to me something intense, perhaps romantic but real. I imagined this time and this current world so complex, without that light that guided so many destinations through the centuries.
The origin of the lighthouses has its most remote antecedent in the stepped tower built by Ptolemy II in honor of Alexander the Great, which with its monumental presence –measuring more than 100 meters– and the enormous pyre that burned on its top, visible from a great distance, marked the location of the city of Alexandria; and was considered by the ancients as one of the seven wonders of the world. In fact, this surprising building -destroyed in modern times by an earthquake-, was located on the island of Pharos, very close to Alexandria, and from it, by extension, all those constructions destined to mark different geographical milestones took their name, which for centuries they were an indispensable guide for generations of sailors.
I am an artist and I know that art will not change the world, but artists can and have the ability to show and point things out in a different way.
This is what my project started in 2005 consists of; a work in progress that I don’t know when it will end. Since then, every work trip has served me to get closer to some lighthouse that I identify, document and film.
I selected ten lighthouses from different countries, which for me are emblematic. They are lighthouses that contain a history that has marked the collective unconscious of a people, in some cases of humanity.
As the project progressed, I discovered not only the location of each lighthouse but also its aesthetic-architectural variety, its significant history and the link with art and poetry that many of its locations generate. Many of these meanings reflect ideas of freedom, of utopias, and I thought of the difficulties that, in the age of generalized technology, human beings still suffer, needing the light of a beacon to make themselves visible and fully understood.
In the summer of 2008, I navigated the Rivadavia River making the video Cold River filmed in the Los Alerces nature reserve, Chubut province. This video records moments of the total course of this river, one of the few protected ones left on the planet. The total filming tour was 6 hours and the video Cold River is a fragment of that tour.
It is necessary to be attentive to what the landscape can tell us,
the landscape needs to be read, to be traversed by a delicate look
that includes all the life that is in it.
All things have an ideal landscape.
Among many definitions of landscapes that we can find in manuals or dictionaries, this one proposed by Javier Maderuelo: “the interpretation of what is seen in the country (territory) when it is contemplated with an aesthetic gaze”, would be the most accurate.
The words of Javier Maderuelo (Madrid 1950) shed light on the interpretation and development that has followed the work of many traveling artists who have been working on nature in direct interventions or through photography and video since the distant 1960s.
As I mentioned before, since the 1990s I have been producing photographic work in open spaces. The suite of works Indeterminate Landscapes completes the trilogy mentioned above (Horizontal Landscapes 2005, Altered Landscapes 2007).
Indeterminate Landscapes, a work produced in 2015 during a trip to Vietnam with records in the beautiful and enigmatic Halong Bay deals with other landscapes. Images in unknown destinations, the feeling of traveling without maps with few geographical references in a non-specific timeless walk, with landscapes that emerge outside the viewer – an artist who continues to contemplate the horizon as the main itinerary.
In Indeterminate Landscapes I tried to show nature with few geographical references, only the photographic record and interventions, to say that someone (the artist) was there and to wonder if the landscape will always wait for us in the same way.
“Regardless of how you travel, the shortcuts you take, whether or not you meet expectations, you always end up learning”
In my latest works I have taken the direct travel-production relationship to extremes, the series The Imaginary Journey of Kasimir Malevich the work inspired by the Russian artist creator of Suprematism, was generated in sixteen destinations: Frankfurt, Melbourne, London, Chiang Mai, New York, Saint Malo, Warsaw, English Channel, Madrid, London, Guernsey, Barcelona, Berlin and Melbourne again.
In the text of the book The Imaginary Journey of Kasimir Malevich José Emilio Burucua writes: “The series of sixteen intervened photographs is the product of a multiplied search and discovery of Suprematist forms, beyond objects, their contours, colors and functions, in contemporary life. Our artist perceives figures in the outside world that trigger her memories of Kasimir Malevich’s painting. She takes a photo of the place and then draws, retouches, projects on the image some of the fundamental forms of suprematism -the black square, the black circle, the elongated rectangle, the white circle-, in such a way that we see them liberated from any tie to nature or to the previous work of human beings, even where they are inserted in a meadow, in an architecture, in the curved surface of a bridge, in the deck of a ship, in a blanket of snow. It is a geometry that comes from the mind and the sensorium of Marín, created in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a trip, of a movement that the spectators capture without difficulty”.
Today my trips have become visual inquiry, uncertain and sometimes enigmatic investigations, but always marked by the fascination of what the gaze reveals along the way.
In 2010 I stayed at the eccentric and unusual Hotel Bogota in the city of Berlin on the occasion of the exhibition Realidad y Utopía: Argentina’s Artistic Road to the Present, which took place at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, with the curatorship of the Argentine Diana Wescheler. A group of artists were invited to the installation of our works and to the colloquium that took place in those days at the Akademie. I arrived at that place on a rather cold night in early autumn and spent several days there. Upon entering I was surprised by the sensation of finding Marlene Dietrich or Iggy Pop in some armchair in the room. Marlene Dietrich imagined that I could see her smoking, sitting on the slightly worn armchairs and letting the ashes fall into the guides of the old ashtrays. The telephone booths from the 1930s were very well preserved and the rooms very austere with very discreet comfort. I was amazed by the art installations in the internal courtyards and the beautiful exhibition of photographs by the German artist Manfred-Michael Sackmannen in the main room. All the photos in this suite were taken in those days, I did not think about doing any art project, I just enjoyed photographing that strange and intense place, but its memory stayed with me and finally I present this suite that brings that trip to Berlin to the present.
Historically, travel has always occupied a central place in realities, myths and fictions. The departure, the exile, the adventure; the ancient world shows us from the Egyptians to Homer and my favorite Ulysses the transits of complex plots.
Sometimes the trips have clues that are difficult to decipher, they are often suspensions in time, testimonies and for me a tool that reveals possible images. Probably the ideal map does not really exist, but there is a sum of situations and sensations that build their own maps for each trip, to finish I choose again a phrase from Kerouac that concludes this text.
“Life is a foreign country.”
Essay for the book “De lo Visual a lo afectivo”
Biblos / Culturalia Publishers
Buenos Aires, December 2017