Some months ago two young artists, Marcela Antunes from Brazil, and Masha Perskaya from Russia, together presented their work in Galleria Paspartu, Gracia, Barcelona. The title of their show was ‘Between the Intangible and the Material’.
As a performance artist Antunes uses her own body as a tool of investigation and the site where objects and actions meet. Her actions are then exhibited in photo as the final work. Perskaya encounters objects and she carefully collects, organizes and subsumes them until they become installations that purvey her own memory and person. With a shared understanding of that ‘between’, between what you can touch and what you can’t, each artist pursued her individual process to make works that supported each other in subtle resonance.
On the walls hung Antunes’ larger than life framed photos of parts of her own body pushed in experience by outer entities, such as feather, stone and seeping pen. A set of stills also records one performance where self-thrown black and white paint streaks down her back like melting wings. Her photos document the performances but also become works themselves. Perskaya’s neat installations graced the floor in different forms. Two display cases made to museological standard held minutely shredded world maps and fragile seedpods. On a stool sat a pile of distressed fibres, once said to be a towel, and on a small table 16 green bottles, once said to be mere bottles. We are to be dissuaded by their titles. Into the 16 bottles Perskaya had whispered a memory, the title read; ’16 Bottles know I miss Barcelona (when I am in Moscow)’. The towel fibres read ‘Each obedient fibre drank him In’. Objects solemnly became more human than not.
‘ To live is to leave traces’. Those objects found in their works are traces found in the wake of their lives, gathered in processes that carefully examine and share the relationship between themselves and those traces in that teased out space. Where Perskaya uses personal insights to create autobiographical works, Antunes takes her personal and applies it to a universal level.
In ’81 seedpods leant me their shoulders’ Masha precisely laid out seedpods, raised upon nails. She had gathered them in on the long walk home after a parting. They sat in a display case, no longer just seedpods but companions of feeling. A rose must have become romantic when at some point a poet met with one and downloaded his feeling onto the visible, sealing it with words. Thus the seedpods became more than they are expected to be, and the beauty of their natural sublime was lifted as the work displayed the delicate changes from fluffy new to aging rusk.
The lightness assigned to the image of feathers is tried when sewn onto the skin of Antune’s back, caught in photo in ‘From the lightness that we carry’. They were wings of a heavy nature. Her discourse follows a very specific exploration of materiality and immateriality; she once explained that ‘a moving leaf gives winds materiality’. The metaphorical lightness and weighty dark we give and take through life is given materiality in Antune’s performances. Her performative experience tests that push and pull, and the images reinforce the dualities explored. For instance the back is a part of the body associated with bearing weight, of the past, whilst skin is a barrier and so much more. In ‘Passado’ her back is stained with ‘the past’ repeatedly written in pen. In ‘From the fragility that we shed’ a tiny metal globe that once sparked from hewn metal, is tied to her eyelashes and strains down her cheek. Neither carrying nor shedding is all good or bad but grasped in a pensive exchange. She handles and plays with images making full use of her body and the photo.
Without the absolute of the material, those lines drawn become fragile and their functions take flight. Perskaya and Antunes assume permeability between all things: thoughts, sensations, memories, actions and objects. Instead of a dull thud as one meets the other they push or let them drift together to slide and rise between fluctuating boundaries before clarifying into poesy of work. Bottles may listen, pasts are written and held and the unsteady earth torn to pieces.
Where reverie exists it allows an alchemy of that which lurks between the intangible and the material, person and object. I wonder whether because Barcelona too is a ‘space between’ for both artists, then their creative contemplation is given courage to expose the vulnerability that can push art.