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Romina Rivero is a sensitive woman in the purest sense of the word. The word comes from the Latin –sensibilis– and refers to “what can be perceived by the senses”. Her ability to perceive changes is expressed in relation to other bodies, individual or collective, past or present, material or spiritual. The result is a work that conveys all this potential in an aesthetic of subtlety and intuition. From this perspective, it is only natural she felt deeply challenged upon her arrival at the Konvent artist residence (Berguedà, Barcelona). The centre occupies the buildings of an old abandoned textile colony, Cal Rosal, whose history dates back to the mid-19th century when the Rosal brothers built a factory next to the Llobregat River to harness the energy of the water.


The industry expanded and the settlement incorporated buildings and services around it: housing for the workers, the church, the convent, the hospital, the cinema, among others. At the end of the century, the Carmelite sisters took over the administration of the convent, which served as a workers' residence for young workers, a school for children, and a dining hall. During the civil war, the colony's management was taken over by a committee of the CNT (National Confederation of Labor), which reused the space as a refuge and a place for Republican assemblies. At the end of the war, the teachers, the nuns –and religious teaching– returned to the site. The colony experienced a period of labor splendor until a crisis in the 1980s led to the definitive closure of the factory in 1992.


This group of historical and human elements served Romina Rivero as an immediate revulsive and ground to carry out the current project where all her interests unfold around the forms of control of life and bodies. On the one hand, the colony's structure refers to the paradigmatic Foucauldian model of disciplining divided into institutions of power. The artist selects and photographs four places –the factory, the houses, the hospital, and the chapel– all representative of these authorities to locate the wounds, heal them and dignify them through art. Let us not forget that spaces are bodies that contain other bodies –visible or invisible– and their energy is communicated and felt. The wounds of the people who have lived in them over the years are revealed: The wound of work, full of endless hours in which the subjects become machines; the wound of war, made up of hundreds of victims who led the fight; the wound of gender, full of women who suffered injustice, persecution and the curtailment of their rights and freedoms; the wound of religion, the origin of Christian guilt and tool for the manipulation of thought; and the wound of health, inflicted through deceit, medical corruption and the hegemony of pharmaceutical companies.

All of them were perpetrated centuries ago but are still open and unhealed. Romina Rivero unveils them and brings them to light to raise awareness and alleviate them.

In the images of the Anastomosis series, the artist symbolically seals the wounds with a surgical suture procedure, with the utmost care and respect, leaving the remaining space visible through lace fabric –a tribute to the invisible work of women– that ennobles the memories contained. However, the best way to restore the natural balance of the bodies is to avoid the need to be cured. The principle Primum non nocere/First, do no harm is to take care –a Latin phrase attributed to Hippocrates and one of the four basic principles of Bioethics– emphasizes prevention and the preference not to act without first assessing the possible effects. The use of surgery or drugs can have worse consequences than the natural development of a disease. Most Western medical practices follow strategies that have little or nothing to do with real health. Their way of proceeding is just the opposite: first operate, medicate, solve, patch up, cover up a problem that will eventually become entrenched or will sprout in a more virulent form within time. This is a clinical discourse based on power and the subjugation of bodies that is far distant from bioethical praxis. Fortunately, there are alternative medicines and philosophies of Eastern origin that acquire an unquestionable weight within the exhibition, offering another possible alternative.

In Romina Rivero's work, the wise advice that inspires the exhibition´s title extends to the social and political sphere to make us reflect on the problems of our present. To do, to work, to maximize time is the productivist mantra that rules the present age. We think we have overcome the slavery of the factory, but it has only changed form. Control has moved from outside to inside, from the programmed schedule to the programming of minds. The levels of self-demand and the priority of relentless action lead bodies to exhaustion. In a society that seeks quick and easy solutions, it seems logical to treat only the symptom and not the source of the problem, or that aggressive methods should prevail over proactive ones. The proverb Primum non nocere should reverberate in the heads of all individuals, especially those who perpetrate violence. Invasion and attack are always ways of loss: of lives, of ethics, of balance, of nature, of humanity.  It makes no sense putting them into practice.

Two installations complete the exhibition. La estética de la pérdida (The aesthetics of loss) consists of a group of corporealities, suspended like chrysalises in the central hall, overwhelm us with their spiritual presence and the violence of being hung from iron hooks. They are those who resided in the disciplinary spaces; their torsos have been restored –physically and emotionally– and await a new awakening. From larvae to butterflies, from being fragments to flying free. The space of the dome is filled with scattered red incense, reminiscent of the red flowers (carnations, poppies) to remember the fallen and the fallen in combat. As in the East, the purpose is to honour not only the ancestors, but also the victims, to relieve their energy field. The scent of bitter orange has the therapeutic quality of healing the deepest sorrows of the soul.

They represent the pure and simple workforce, the result of a form of government developed from the 17th and 18th centuries onwards, which transformed the thanatopolitical model to adapt to the needs of the new capitalist system. It was a matter of exercising control over the population without prohibiting and activating mass production for growth based on regulated typologies.


                   «…The old power of death that symbolized sovereign power was now carefully supplanted by the administration of bodies and the calculated management of life. During the classical period, there was a rapid development of various disciplines – universities, secondary schools, barracks, workshops; there was also the emergence, in the field of political practices and economic observation, of the problems of birth rate, longevity, public health, housing and migration. Hence there was an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations, marking the beginning of an era of «bio-power»[1].

In human machines, forces are no longer applied to kill but to "make them live" and produce even more: their subjectivities have been accessed, their daily lives administered and expanded for the regime's benefit. Control is exercised through the power-knowledge binomial that dictates ways of being and encourages stealth intervention. Knowledge penetrates society's web of relationships and reorients it, getting into people's biology, taking their time and shaping them through the exercise of order. In this way, human beings mechanise their existence in the world and ensure stable conditions of existence according to certain norms. They become a herd that regulates itself, follows patterns, and works relentlessly to become "normal."


The most visible face of the labour force concerning the construction of capitalism corresponds to men. However, women have had a determining role that has begun to be recognised by philosophers such as Silvia Federici. In her magnificent essay Caliban and the Witch, the Italian researcher goes back to the Middle Ages to trace the roots of the mercantilist system and a type of reproductive labour that restructured the social forms of feudalism. In Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Marx discusses the defining moments of original accumulation that laid the foundations of capitalist development – colonial expansion, the slave trade, the expulsion of peasants from their land, etc. – but leaves out women's reproductive labour as one of the main sources of wealth. Federici criticises this absence, also present in Michel Foucault's theory of the body:



                         « Foucault’s analysis of the power techniques and disciplines to which the body has been subjected has ignored the process of reproduction, has collapsed female and male histories into an undifferentiated whole, and has been so disinterested in the “disciplining” of women that it never mentions one of the most monstruous attacks on the body perpetrated in the modern era: the witch-hunt. »[2]

Romina Rivero underlines this fact by giving it a central place in the conception of the project and the exhibition space. Behind the bodies of the men hanging in a row, a larger room opens up with women's bodies, three of them forming a circle that alludes to the witches and the knowledge their community held. Capitalism swept away their subversive potential and a whole range of beliefs and ways of life that threatened their development. Women considered witches were doctors, gynecologists, and midwives (although they are often given the title of healers to detract from their recognition) and had an excellent knowledge of plants and natural preparations, i.e., pharmacopeia and magistral formulation.


Control over their bodies and procreation was of no interest to the system. It accused them of being child murderers, sexual crimes, conspiracy, and rendering men impotent to justify an unprecedented massacre throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The impediment to owning their reproductive function facilitated the push for a more oppressive patriarchal regime:



                           «The body has been for women in capitalist society what the factory has been for male waged workers: the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance, as the female body has been appropriated by the state and men and forced to function as a means for the reproduction and accumulation of labor. »[3]

The shift from a traditional healing medicine involving women to a regulated one exercised by men is another of Romina Rivero's pillars of interest. In her research, she considers the stabilization of medicine that originated in the 18th century and its tendency towards somatocracy, which still survives today. It is a clinically based development model that establishes a new relationship between the doctor's gaze and the essence of the diseases. Some of the most significant transformations are the invention of codified laws based on scientific-technical verification systems; the establishment of the undisputed authority of the doctor; the emergence of a field of medical intervention that goes beyond diseases (air, water, earth, etc.) or the foundation of institutional places such as the hospital where the doctor obtains his discourse, pronounces it and finds its point of application. In the 19th century, medicine had gone beyond the limits of the sick and diseased. However, there were still aspects that still belonged to other spheres –bodily and sexual practices, specific hygiene– not codified by medicine.


However, over the centuries and up to the present day, drugs and interventionist treatments have taken over, to the point that it seems impossible to access or implement a de-medicalized way of life that addresses issues such as nutrition, emotional care, stress management, and relationships, work rhythms. The leading cause is the constitution of a neoliberalism Western medicine that responds to economic interests, to the medicalization of life, to the body as a clinical record, and not listening to patients. A paradigmatic moment of this unusual and commodified development was the drafting of the Flexner Report in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century: a document commissioned by the oil magnate John D. Rockefeller (who owned 90% of the refineries at the time) to the pedagogue Abraham Flexner to assess how medicine was taught and practiced and to formulate a future course of action. Considering the scientific discovery around 1900 of petrochemicals and the possibility of manufacturing pharmaceutical drugs from them, the objective of Rockefeller's funding of this study was clear: to direct the treatment of diseases towards pharmacological procedures.


The transformation was radical and led to more than half of the American Colleges [4] disappearance. Medicine was departmentalized into specialties as opposed to holistic treatment; there was a separation of body and mind in the care of the sick; and, of course, the leading solution to ailments became the indiscriminate supply of petrochemical-derived substances that reproduce the active ingredient to alleviate symptoms and mask the disease, but in many cases without actually producing a cure. In addition, medical schools and hospitals were to adopt all the recommendations in the report, such as eliminating women and racialized people from the medical service.


It is logical that with all this breeding ground, we have arrived at the current situation of medical subjugation that Romina Rivero puts on the table and critically questions. Faced with the dominant techno-pharmacological dependence, the artist claims the autonomy of bodies to heal themselves with the help of non-invasive techniques and care. A healing luminosity emerges from the fragments of wounded men and women in the central installation, materialized in gold leaf. The healing process is holistic and comes from the hand of oriental techniques –acupuncture– and from looking inwards.

                         «Since the spirit is Light, the realised being is always in good health. As for the sovereign being, conscious of his inner divinity, he needs no physician; he is the physician. It is the principle of all healing. That is why we can say that the sick person is the only one who can be healed».[5]

The space of the dome is filled with red incense, reminiscent of the red flowers (carnations, poppies) to remember the fallen and those killed in combat. As in the East, its purpose is to honour the ancestors and the victims, to alleviate their energy field. Victims of corrupt medicine, exploitation, war, manipulation and, not to mention, pandemics.


The title of the installation, Mujō, of impermanence alludes to the Japanese concept that translates as the beauty of the fleeting nature of things. Hundreds of incense sticks, allegory of individualities, display the potential to be activated. Their presence in this world is transitory, but no less beautiful and important. Each one of them deserves a life experience without being taken away from them.


Finally, the scent of bitter orange has the therapeutic quality of healing the deepest sorrows of the soul. Romina Rivero invites the spectator to let themselves become enraptured by the scent to re-establish their equilibrium. The victims she speaks of do not only belong to the past: today we continue suffering the effects of the contemporary panopticon and it is necessary to continue healing.



[1] FOUCAULT, Michel. Historia de la sexualidad I. Voluntad de saber. Siglo veintiuno editores, s.a. HTTP://BIBLIOTECA.D2G.COM P.84

[2] FEDERICI, Silvia. Calibán y la bruja. Mujeres, cuerpo y acumulación originaria. Ed. Historia. Traficantes de sueños. Madrid, 2018. P.21

[3] Ibidem. P.33

[4] Medical schools in the USA used to be called colleges.

[5] LANCTOT, Ghislaine. La Mafia médica. Ed. Vesica Piscis. Granada, 2007. P.52


« To create is to live twice»[1]


When asked about the ever-present question of the role of creation for the artist today, Romina Rivera answers: creation is generated by the need to revert the order imposed on us.


This vision, not intuitive but corporeal, is a murmur. Romina never presents it categorically; on the contrary, her work invites us to try to understand how the bodies –which we inhabit in this violently implanted order– debate, slide, and try to navigate new lives. The artist is nourished by the idea that «the only knowledge that helps us is that of the poets [...], of movement and forms. In short, a goodbye to the category. A goodbye to essences»[2].


The series of installations in this exhibition Primum non nocere; first, do no harm, a motto that Romina uses to remind us of the importance that the first verb we need to conform to this new order is to look after. The first thing is to do no harm. The first thing is that in both spaces of life and creation, since they are inseparable, we must acknowledge the wound to live a second time from it.


To start taking care and healing, another verb is necessary: to look. That is why she turns this time to photography, understanding, as John Berger put it, that «its true content is invisible [...]. By its very nature, a photograph always refers to what is not seen»[3]. And this is what takes place in the five images that Romina shows in her work, five images that correspond to a very particular place in which many stories are superimposed but that she does not want to reveal at first glance. Instead she gives us small clues to delve into, if we wish, more deeply. We only see abandoned interior spaces; we sense the presence before the weight of human absence and glimpse a collapsed building wedged between trees. To this capture, for which she has chosen color, she has also added two elements that constitute her work in its double aspect of curator-artist: the use of surgical suture and lace, which not only weave the photographic paper with the symbolic matter but also connects different historical times.


The title of the series Anastomosis, for which she once again recurs to the medical vocabulary, was already a hint to suggest that the traces of the past still weigh and reverberate on the walls of what was once a textile colony located near the Llobregat River. These images thus refer to the segmentation of living spaces, to vertical structures, and invite us to perceive and decipher the consequences of domination, exploitation, the control of souls and bodies, everything that Romina viscerally wishes to combat. It leads us ultimately to understand that first of all, it is indeed necessary to look, but that «looking is not a competition, it is an experience»[4], which in this case also helps us to remember: photography as that switch of memory, so that from there, from that deeper past, we can then heal.

After looking, after gauging the roots of the wounds, the second step to draw a new scenario is to release these traces. To accomplish this, Romina transforms those absences, those shadows that we guess in the photographs, into silhouettes. She takes them out of that watertight frame, they leave the image to occupy the contact zone of the exhibition space. For her, this is a way of reconnecting.


The following installation of this exhibition, entitled The aesthetics of loss, is composed of fragments of suspended torsos hoisted on steel hooks but at the same time floating and embellished with tulle. Busts that accompany us in our wanderings and have been given a new present.


And the fact is that, in contrast to the Western configuration of classification, of what separates, of what divides, of what dissects man from the world, Romina -in the new tradition of artists of the in-between-two, of the peripheral islands– articulates a universe of re-bonding, of intertwining, using, in this case, scars embellished in gold together with embroidered tulle that adorns the bodies.


The final installation Mujo[5], of impertinence, a red sea of incense, questions us so that we do not forget one of the gestures that make us truly into a community: to be able to say goodbye. What is a community without goodbyes? As we have unfortunately seen it happen during the pandemic. The possibility of sharing without conditions, without price, is sustained in the common. To say goodbye is to get together to honor again, it is being able to remember what we have lived.


In contrast to an imposing logic, the devices presented by Romina invite us, therefore, to accept our fragility as human beings, our place in the «horizontal fullness of the living»[6].  Suturing to heal, suturing to embower, not only for oneself but also for the whole of what makes us what we are. A need to rebalance, to repair, which outlines an ethic based on reciprocity and respect for the other.


Romina Rivero does not seek to attract through grandiosity or provocation. It is a work of murmur, but once inside, it bursts into the deepest part of each one of us. Undoubtedly, going through the internal waves that provoke her works allows us to accompany better, care for and respect our-selves with more strength to reconcile ourselves with the other verb: to live.  To live twice, or even more times, for one, for all, for the community. 



[1] Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe dans L’abécédaire d’Albert Camus, Textes choisies par Marylin Maeso, Ed l’Observatoire, 2020. P. 48.

[2] Camille de Toledo, L’inquiétude d’être au monde. Editions Verdier, 2010. P. 48.

[3] John Berger, Para entender la fotografía. Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2015. P. 35.


[4] Georges Didi-Huberman “Regarder n’est pas une compétence, c’est une experience”, Interview with Jean Max Collard and Claire Moulène, Les Inrocks, 12 febrero 2014.

[5] TN: Mujō is a Japanese word of Buddhist origin meaning transience or mutability.

[6] Aliocha Wald Lasowski, Édouard Glissant, poète philosophe de la relation

Balises, le magasine de la Bpi, le 16/02/2018

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