The ability to reason abstractly distinguishes human beings from the animals. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to interact and coexist with animals in ways that are mutually valuable. “Affection without ambivalence, the simplicity of a life free from the almost unbearable conflicts of civilization,” wrote Sigmund Freud to Marie Bonaparte about his dog.
In her video piece Training, Claudia Fontes shows the route she takes with her greyhound through a suburban park in Brighton, in the South of London. The camera encounters and follows the animal. It depicts who looks at whom, who follows whom. It records the space in a way that viewers can tell what’s in back and front, where’s left and right. At a certain moment, though, the camera leaves cinematographic conventions aside and the relationship changes. The camera pans the dog, and then the animal fixes its eyes on the lens. From then on, the greyhound leads the way along the twists and turns of the park and ends up carrying the camera on his body. The animal becomes part of the cinematographic apparatus and of the artist’s, both absorbed by a mimetic process that fuses together the object and subject of the look.
This becoming is linked to affection and not to rationality, as in Franz Kafka’s The Desire To Become An Indian, in which all distance between the horse and the rider gets erased. A small porcelain sculpture in the corner of the room where Trainingis projected suggests the same thing — a boy hugs a dog, and vice versa.
In another room, a map of the greyhound’s path has been marked on the floor with a black thread. It continues onto the wall. Horizontal on the floor and vertical on the adjacent wall, animals and trees, the thread now traces the route. We observe it from above as a bird looks at it from the sky, as an animal that can only perceive contrast, but also as a human being that has the capacity to reconstruct a path through memory and then to represent it in a different space, at a different scale.
In any case, if Training shows a sort of communication that brought man and animal closer through the creation of a shared language, these twists and strokes seem characteristic, at first glance, of a more pure animality, of stranger movements, apparently guided by a strong sense of smell. However, if we could find the logic of this toing and froing, it would challenge the most immovable and mathematical conventions about location, placement, ways and strategies to reach and move in space.
At the center of the exhibition, stands the sculpture Montaña (Mountain). Made up of 1,400 pinewood rods interweaved to form a complex and rational if meaningless structure, it serves to support a phrase, written with the same wooden lines:“El momento del derrumbe revela puntos clave de su construcción” (The moment of collapse reveals key points of its construction). Two projectors light up the room from a low angle. They throw a circular beam of light on the rod structures standing on the floor, and in turn they project shadows on the background wall. The shadows form a two-dimensional net of lines that resembles the vertiginous turns and rails of a roller coaster, but also of Vladimir Tatlin’s never constructed Monument to the Third International. The phrase indicates that no contradiction exists between construction and destruction, that unveiling the mystery involves the collapse of the object as it’s known and conceived.
Everything on view at El Sonido Del Árbol Caído (The Sound Of The Fallen Tree) is constructed to turn into something else, displace itself, mutate the logic and sense of things, even the ones that have ancestral roots under the earth and belong to the most ancient nature or culture. Their origins, images and longevity, far from consolidating certainties, turn them into the objects of diverse and mysterious looks.
El sonido del árbol caído
Monday – Friday, 11 AM – 8 PM
Saturday by appointment (info at ignacioliprandi dot com)