Cibrián has invited the duo This is Jackalope to take over its space during the summer 2022. In this third issue of Atalka Atalka, Cristina Anglada and Gema Melgar talk to us about Fervor, and start a conversation with the participating artists Trisha Baga, Celia Hempton and Ana Martínez Fernández.
This is Jackalope is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation, dissemination and management of contemporary artistic practices founded and directed by Cristina Anglada and Gema Melgar. TIJ is conceived as a platform that aims to develop international action from which to produce cultural projects that experiment with formats and discourse and generates a place for exchange and dissemination between existing discourse in different artistic communities. It also seeks to promote partnerships and encounters between people, in order to produce and disseminate knowledge.
They have collaborated with institutions including La Casa Encendida, Thyssen Museum, Institute for Postnatural Studies, Community of Madrid, ARCO Contemporary Art Fair and Index Book Art Fair amongst others.
“…Everything matters because everything
hurts someone somewhere as it is mattering we became all we carried into the mast
migratory patterns given to the love again a way to end this secrecy of suffering …”
Excerpt from the poem Camisado
“ That women understand one another’s language best, and that my sisters affection for me would make them pay special attention to my words ”
The Interior Castle, preface
Teresa of Ávila
Fervor proposes an exhibition set-up created around the work of three women artists. We present an itinerary intermingling remnants of stories in which intimacy enables us to address issues of memory, the body, relations, identity, the disruption of time and the nostalgia inherent to our contemporaneity.
Something fervent (from the Latin fervens, ferventis) is something that is ardent, that bubbles, which is boiling. It defines a state of great enthusiasm, passion and dedication. Feeling fervor can serve as the catalyst for things to happen. We situate ourselves in the scope of emotions, affections and their effects, traditionally associated to the intimate, the domestic and the feminine. How and what happens in this meeting between the political and the everyday gesture is rather complex and full of contradictions.
In her essay The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2015), Sara Ahmed points out that emotions do not reside in subjects or objects, but are shaped by interaction between bodies, by relationships between people. Emotions are not, therefore, only individual states, but culturally mediated.
Today’s world can be defined by emotional capitalism, where the media constantly inherent to our contemporaneity. Something fervent (from the Latin fervens, ferventis) is something that is ardent, that bubbles, which is boiling. It defines a state of great enthusiasm, passion and dedication. Feeling fervor can serve as the catalyst for things to happen. We situate ourselves in the scope of emotions, affections and their effects, traditionally associated to the intimate, the domestic and the feminine. How and what happens in this meeting between the political and the everyday gesture is rather complex and full of contradictions. In her essay The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2015), Sara Ahmed points out that emotions do not reside in subjects or objects, but are shaped by interaction between bodies, by relationships between people. Emotions are not, therefore, only individual states, but culturally mediated. Today’s world can be defined by emotional capitalism, where the media constantly manipulates affections, with the clear purpose of keeping us in a permanent state of anxiety where only two states are possible : that of consumption and that of production, in turn accompanied by that of continually interchanging sadness and happiness. We become victims of persistent systemic affliction. The three artists gathered here work from the basis of the everyday gesture, applying diverse strategies to addressing this complexity. Vulnerability, ingenuity, intuition, poetry, honesty and science fiction are some of the manoeuvres with which they test new manners of formally coping with the day-to-day in conversation with the political with a clear intention of changing the ways in which the world functions from the closest experience. Intimacy is understood in many cases as a rich place of resistance, from which to decide and experiment with other ways of meeting, being, touching or moving one another.
Trisha Baga seeks to connect us with some of the myriad sensory layers of her works. Often in these works, Baga includes personal stories and objects, as well as friends who take part in her videos; here little importance is lent to the narrative, but rather to our ability to connect with the genuine side of that daily life and how the strength they convey has the ability to move something inside us.
Totally mundane aspects, such as a car at night or a dog, combine with more surreal and ironic scenes, like Gore 2000, where a cup seems to melt before the scene of a fire ; functional ceramic lamps represent different chapters of a story where a UFO comes to Lesbos island. Science fiction is presented as a rich opportunity to tip the norm towards progress. Imagining other futures through exercises including the change of scale, space-time collapse, or the pre-eminence of emotion within the abstraction.
The series of paintings by Celia Hempton are based on everyday images, often mediated by technology (scenes viewed through chat random, CCTV cameras…). This is the case of Marian and Pakistan: extreme close-ups appear in both paintings, revealing the focus of the interlocutors’ camera. These are virtual meetings in which we are aware that the gaze is registered and monitored and where real identities are hidden, hence the relations established are complex, giving rise to imbalances and exchanges of power. Painting in this way enables Hempton to detach from or break down ‘the observed’ in such a way as to dissociate from its meaning and reference. The palette of colours she cleverly uses is another tool that takes us away from a figurative image and leads us to the contemplation of a landscape, inducing us to a state of mind.
Ana Martínez Fernández presents three sculptures; at first glance they are three more or less recognisable household items; two Venetian blinds and one hat. If we look more closely, the strips of both blinds have a common shape referring us to a similarly familiar object, a sports jacket by a popular brand. In Give up the ghost the blind has completely lost its functional nature; it is the fabric-like strips themselves that are now translucent and allow us to see through them. As if identity and desire were not hidden, but had come timidly out into the light. She uses the subtlety of the possible hollows and spaces occurring in the context to find that feeling of belonging and draw strength from intimacy and ingenuousness. On the other hand, in com/post_desgaste mud and net fabric lend opacity to these strips. They compose multiple layers of information, details and complex compositions. Present once again is the reference to a jacket sleeve that becomes the strip of a blind, without it being of any apparent use for concealment. What we see is not simply an ‘object’ but myriad essences of objects that are no longer what they were due to having lost that functional nature, but from which their origin continues to seep through. Becoming something new from the essences of the past. Identity and desire are not easily sensed this time or perhaps they are felt more than ever. The idea of uniting the work of Baga, Hempton and Martínez Fernández was born with the intention of turning the focus on the vulnerable and ordinary rather than the strong and the extraordinary. Lending a prominent place to these two concepts, traditionally portrayed as weak, is to recognise their importance in the world for what they are, a complex multiplicity of layers that enrich our ways of being and doing.
(Venice, FL, USA, 1985). Lives and works in New York, NY, USA. She received her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY in 2007 and her MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in 2010.
This is Jackalope : At the beginning of your artistic practice, you started off working with installation. Tell us about how it has changed until the moment you are now. Do you think there is a turning point that is the beginning of a change or is it gradual ?
Trisha Baga : There was a definite turning point, which was the pandemic. It obviously became harder to be anywhere but the inside of my studio and apartment. But in a way, my work has always been very adaptive to its conditions, and part of the fun of that approach is seeing how different conditions are reflected in different forms. Like evolution on a smaller scale. When the pandemic changed and separated every environment from each other, my work adapted to that too. WHen everything moved onto the screens, I wanted to balance that by making things with my hands. There’s a new sense of autonomy in my work as it’s less dependent on specific conditions. I know everything will change again.
TIJ : The idea behind this group exhibition is based on everyday gestures that turn political. Could you tell us, from your point of view, how you would connect this statement with your work ?
TB : The experience of being an artist, in a daily way, is not separate from the experience of being a citizen, or a friend, or a person in a shared space. Making art is important because it exercises idiosyncratic thinking, which is the only way to change the ways the world works.
TIJ : Science fiction is a recurring element in your personal universe that enriches the everyday narratives of your pieces. Could you tell us more about this aspect of your work ?
TB : I guess I always think of making art as this process of constantly reenacting nature. And science fiction is traditionally like an imagination of the future. As a mode, sci fi helps me surround familiar “present day”interfaces and conveniences (screen graphics, virtual assistants, etc.) with a moody narrative amidst the non-fictional constant push of technological “progress.” Also I just love how sci fi messes with scale, like there’s so much collapse of time and space within the genre, and for me that collapse helps foreground emotion within abstraction.
(Stroud, UK, 1981) lives and works in London. She graduated from Glasgow School of Art with a BA in Fine Art and from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Painting in 2007.
This is Jackalope : How do you think your artistic practice has changed since, let’s say, your beginnings after your time at the RCA ? Throughout these years, do you think there is a turning point that marks the beginning of a change or is it gradual ?
Celia Hempton : At art school I spent a lot of time visiting various outdoor spaces, often industrial, at the edges of cities, or places where the built environment met unoccupied space. I often thought of them as “gendered places” in so far as ideas of gender were, to me, heightened there, both by the people working in those spaces and by the landscapes and machinery themselves. Heaps of earth and materials often looked like naked body shapes, and machinery took on masculine identities. I was interested in questioning these contradictions and understanding the presence of my body in that context.
They were also sometimes derelict places, territories of failed or terminated enterprises and industries, and so there was a socio-economic interest, as well as a sense of threat that I wanted to think about. Probably the ideas inherent in my work have not changed a huge amount since then, though they may have become more specific. What has developed I suppose is the imagery and the way I apply paint. I made paintings in thin layers before, often working from photographs or from drawings over many months. Now I pretty much always work directly in situ. I think this realization came from making paintings of naked people, where I wanted the experience to be present in the work, and I realized the paintings became dead as soon as I tried to work on them outside of the situation in which they were started. I edit the work retrospectively, so I might make one or more paintings on top of a previously discarded one and they can sometimes become very thick, but the final image is one take.
TIJ : The idea behind this group exhibition is based on everyday gestures that turn political. Could you comment on, from your point of view, how would you connect this statement with your work ?
CH : Online our politicized gaze becomes cemented and recorded and that gaze is surveilled. A different kind of gesture or exchange happens between people in video chat rooms, and it is not easy to unpack because it becomes complicated by all the hidden identities at play. I am increasingly suspicious of (my) claiming any definitive agency or rebellion. I am, however, interested in confronting and understanding the complexities or lack thereof in these power exchanges and imbalances, as well as what I see as a sort of sometimes presented only with a reflection of yourself.
TIJ : In previous interviews you have commented that an inherent idea in your paintings is: “When does looking become an act of trespass ? How long are you allowed to look at something, and how does looking at something for a long time change the experience ?” How do you think prolonged gazing changes that experience, and do you think it moves us away from objectifying what we look at by abstracting us from its meaning ?
CH : You could say abstracted or dismantled. It enables me to think about and question a given idea and my relationship to it in a very focused way. In my opinion, painting from observation is a unique way of understanding what you see. It enables (anyone I suppose who wants to do it) to observe almost all parts of a given thing rather than taking a snapshot in your mind. When I work in this way I’m forced to slow down, and I am always referring to and contrasting my varying emotional responses to the subject. In the Chat Random series it is sometimes a means to control, to an extent, the pace of the conversation.
Ana Martínez Fernández
(Madrid, 1982), studied Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country, and Theory of Contemporary Art at Goldsmiths College University of London. Since 2021 she has coordinated Pradera, an independent space in Madrid.
This is Jackalope : At the beginning of your artistic practice, you started off being very much linked to clay. Tell us about how that has transformed up until now. Do you think there is a crucial moment that marks the beginning of a change or is it gradual ?
Ana Martínez Fernández : I have never considered my work to be related to a specific material. If I cast my eyes back and think of the times when I was starting to test the waters of the practice, in retrospect I see that there was always a tendency towards sculpture, even with sound, but the decisions regarding the material to use were made by the actual evolution of the work. I believe that the beginnings you refer to in the question are related to a time of change, of intermittence in the practice, rather than to a beginning in itself. When I arrived in Madrid in 2016 I had been returning for some years to more constant studio work following a period when I had been more related to academia. While the way of doing things before this return concentrated on other places for whatever reasons, I understand that the practice doesn’t disappear, but rather that different ways of formalising are discovered. When we met each another, in that 2016, apart from other materials I was using mud quite a lot and it had a stronger presence in the pieces, it’s true. That choice was perhaps related to a time in the practice when you do more than ever without knowing (or that’s what you feel), surrounded by uncertainty. At that time mud was a relief, because it reduced the possibilities of having to choose a material to work with (which I needed to reduce at that time) and simplified that distraction or insecurity so that I could concentrate on and take care of the formal and personal relationship that was appearing in my work. In that new start you approach the process almost discreetly, but I believe it is brave to act from that vulnerability, trusting in the possibilities and the conviction that there is something there. That dynamic remains highly present in the way I work today although its intensities vary, and the mud too (to continue mentioning it) is still there, not only in the process for example of making moulds, but even explicitly in pieces like “com/post_desgaste” which I am showing here at Cibrián for the first time.
TIJ : The idea behind this group exhibition is based on everyday gestures that turn political. Could you tell us, from your point of view, how you would connect this statement with your work ?
AMF : Addressing the encounter between everyday and political expression is a complex exercise, and even more so in our context, where these issues are weighed down with widespread injustice and contradictions. I am interested in finding or generating that relationship (with more or less determination, more or less intuition) from a process where gestures of resistance are strengthened, or at least trying them from the place I am in or can allow myself to be. And that process in my endeavour generally starts with apparently small gestures (in my practice, at Pradera), without too many expectations distracting from what may perhaps occur in that doing, while it is being done. It is a push steeped in intimacies, formal tests, wanting to do, being ingenious, being strong and struggling with the empty spaces that the context sometimes provokes, through finding that feeling of belonging to something; the strongest act of resistance that I have felt in order to continue forging ahead.
TIJ : Your latest sculptural works derive from figurative elements, the everyday and the recognisable, from which diverse interpretative and perceptive mechanisms are activated. Could you tell us a bit more about this ?
AMF : Here at Cibrián for Fervor, “Give up the ghost”, “com/post_desgaste” and “Sorbe” start from objects that somehow cover or mask on the one hand, and on the other allow you to see through spaces or transparencies of the material itself. A fabric frays, a piece of wood disintegrates into sawdust, the leg of a tracksuit bottom marks and the shape becomes disorientated, the support transitions towards something which, while recognisable (hats, curtains), is also somewhat ambiguous. For me that ambiguity in the finding interests me; the triggering of references different to my own although the intention is similar. From “Give up the ghost” to “com/post_desgaste” as well as with “Sorbe”, there is an exercise of reusing a mould time and again. The transit from pulling out the clean blade (“Give up the ghost”) to when the mould sticks to it and gradually falls off (“com/post_desgaste” or “Sorbe”) opens a space that affects the action and, although the interest in the material quality is still there, makes no search for an unpolluted finish when telling/narrating something. One element common to my practice is that I tend to work with figurative objects, but there is something contradictory between the control and lack of control of the object that I like. An intention and projection in the object, but at the same time an autonomy that distances itself from the particular tale and builds on a discarded item.