BEAUTIFYING PAIN   by Nerea Ubieto

 

Bodies. Moulded bodies, defined, classified, standardised, cut to the same pattern: medical, political, social, religious. Disciplined bodies, restricted, subjugated, corseted in fixed forms in which they do not recognise themselves. Inappropriate bodies, pathologised, exposed, deviant, judged, oppressed, abused. Surrendered bodies, frustrated and sick.

 

But also: different bodies, malleable, chaotic, inhabiting the outskirts. Free bodies, protesting, dissident; collectivities that struggle to find their place outside hegemony. Bodies that overflow, shout, resist, manifest, heal their wounds, and rise from their ashes. Bodies that grow sideways, forge alliances, and turn their vulnerability into strength.

 

The materiality of the body allows for contact with the world and the other. It is through the senses that we can perceive and share our surroundings. We experiment, compare, contrast, and gain knowledge together. We generate bonds and relationships through common feeling. But, to inhabit this world means to be squeezed into rules and structures that affect and penetrate us, whether we like it or not. These are very precise frames that condition our lives: they can make us feel comfortable with what we are or feel like outsiders, excluded from what is socially acceptable, residual matter exposed to stigma and exclusion.

 

There are countless labels that form a kind of map populated with fictitious diversity. The mirage falters when we see that there are only two real positions: inside or outside the standards of normality for acceptance. A reductionist and dual division that reifies chronic binarism. As Paul Preciado points out in his latest book, An Apartment on Uranus, «Everything is heads or tails in this system of knowledge. We are human or animal. Man or woman. Living or dead. Colonizer or colonized. Living organism or machine. We have been divided by the norm. Cut in half and forced to remain on one side or the other of the rift. What we call ‘subjectivity’ is only the scar that, over multiplicity of all what we could have been, covers the wound of this fracture. It is over this scar that property, family and inheritance were founded. Over this scar, names are written and sexual identities asserted”.[1]

 

The scar indicates rupture with an earlier state, but it also demonstrates the existence of a previous stage, one that, therefore, belongs to us. The mark of struggle and the trace of resistance. Only by uncovering the wound can it be healed.

In these internal fissures, we may have lost part of our identity, genealogy, privileges, freedom… their presence brings segmentation: not always conscious; dangerous to ignore. The possible consequences are involuntary explosions or implosions, concealments that lead to emotional injury or sensitive secrecy. Faced with cosmetic imitations and containment, the proposal is to accept, teach, reconfigure by experiencing a life that questions stipulated parameters and closed identities.

 

Gaze through other eyes, beautify the pain.

 

This is the scenario that Romina Rivero proposes in her installation En Fuga (Vanishing), a set of bodies, represented by white manikins, from which threads emerge, projecting outward, producing a web of golden bonds that interconnect entities whilst at the same time transcending them. The standardised figurines, used as a starting point, show the normalising foundation that commodifies each of us in equal measure, forcing us to accept the models imposed on us since birth. So does gender assignment medicine: male or female are the options that will condition our thinking, ways of doing, and personality if we let ourselves be dragged along by the overwhelming current. The philosopher Guilles Deleuze understood the logic of identity as an arborescent model that limits us to vertical, predetermined, immovable growth. In contrast, he proposed another type of development similar to that of plants that grow horizontally, rhizomes, which would allow for free and collateral expansion, as far as the power of each individual might reach.

 

"Make rhizomes, not roots, never plant! Don't sow, grow offshoots! Don't be one or multiple, be multiplicities! Run lines, never plot a point! Speed turns the point into a line! Be quick, even when standing still! Line of chance, line of hips, line of flight".[2]

 

To embark on converging lines towards a vanishing point is to go beyond our own territory, but it also means knowing how to redirect that which does not interest us; to uproot and forge new connections. The rhizome can be interrupted, but it continues to grow through any of its parts. Rivero’s bodies are En Fuga (in flight): looking for other favourable portions of land, expanding their territory, and communicating with other bodies as natural movement, inherent to humankind. Interdependence is the key to a network of corporalities that nourish each other and can also be found in their pain. In this sense, multiple links are established with the reflections of Judith Butler, a philosopher concerned with the suffering of bodies, which she understands as "instances entangled in a network of social relations, enabling everything that, in her words, makes life worthwhile: friendship, passion, desire"[3]. However, this material network has its flipside, since they can also be assaulted, abused, manipulated.

 

Each of the manikins presented by Rivero has undergone some kind of intervention or procedure; we see sutures, scars, metamorphosis. These intromissions are associated with different motivations: operations for disease, cosmetic surgery, gender reassignment… but what the artist is really interested in is underscoring the emotional origin of all of them. She suggests a holistic vision based on traditional Eastern medicines, so the locations of the scars are by no means random, instead corresponding to emotional imbalances linked to different organs. We recall that, in Chinese theory of the five elements, anger is concentrated in the liver and gallbladder; excitation in the heart and small intestine; fear in the kidney and bladder; sadness in the lung and large intestine; and concern in the stomach and spleen. We are a reflection of what we feel, and nothing goes unnoticed in our personal physical receptacle, capable of turning mental disorders into organic functional symptoms. If we are to achieve optimal health, the three bodies – mental, emotional and spiritual – must be harmonised.

 

The neoliberal capitalist society in which we live strives to limit the morphology of the body, setting standards that constrain and deprive it of its freedom to be unique. Everything that spills outside of the agreed patterns is considered at best odd or inappropriate, but in many other cases, monstrous, abject, lacking in – what has been defined as – value. The consequence are individuals who do not feel comfortable with their own body and try to adapt it to their prefabricated desires. Noses, breasts, buttocks, cheekbones, hair… any part of the body is open to redesign. The artist speaks of partial anatomies when referring to the state of fragmentation in which we are immersed, the result of papering over the cracks, rather than dealing with inner depths.

 

On the other hand, frustrations, complexes and subsequent traumas can become cystic and lead to serious physical conditions that require surgery. To avoid such a build-up, we would each have to flourish within our own conceptions, without repressions, by deactivating – as far as possible – the stifling social pressure. It is a difficult task that requires courage, of the kind shown by people whose perceived identity is far from the one assigned to them at birth. The logical thing would have been to be born free and to develop “female” and “male” qualities indifferently, in the bodies of biowomen, biomen or intersex individuals. But as this is not possible today, many subjects feel an identity dislocation and need to head for an operating room to adapt to the “other” available gender and live in harmony with what their sensitive reason is crying out for.

 

These are tough situations that bodies endure constantly through their subjection to a biopolitical regime in which the government and institutions organise and manage lives through different mechanisms of control. The response to such tensions solemnly circles ahead over Romina Rivero’s installation: RESISTANCE, the figurines seem to murmur, anchored in an imperturbable arrangement. Leaving the place without solving the problems would be of little use, because the real world doesn´t take flight, in the words of the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska. Although networks can be projected and generated to form a solid foundation for the future. It is a form of resistance that looks beyond tolerance and alludes to the honour existing in torsion or deformability. In this same direction, the second central work in the exhibition, Flor de Espinas (Flower of Thorns), highlights the radiant glow of bodies in spite of difficulties. Four golden ribs allude to the powerful armour that protects our most precious organs. Formally, they are an allegory of the flower in the title of this installation – a flower of thorns – a shamanic variety that is used to work out feelings of guilt, repressed anger or degradation. From these bones, a multiplicity of subversive black threads emerges, ready to weave new stories, drawing the gaze towards a graphic sound representation of the word DIGNITY. A hopeful message that advocates empowerment and ethical freedom.

 

But this battle, though personal, is not waged in solitude, but by nurturing bonds, being aware of our vulnerability. Returning to Butler, for this author, the body cannot be understood as an autonomous or self-sufficient entity, but within a framework of relationships that enable life itself. From this perspective, the limits of the body are relative: "the skin contains the body itself, but the body exceeds the limits of the skin when it is given over to another life."[4] Our body does not belong to us completely, but rather continues in the other through bonds. Golden threads that enable a flow of consciousness, the hope of a common struggle protected in unity.

 

With remarkable aesthetic sensitivity, Romina Rivero draws us into her particular symbolic universe in which, in an exquisite but forceful way, she is able to transport us from the overwhelming socio-political reality to spiritual respite and calm. In her process, she never conceals, but rather elevates and dignifies. She undertakes the task of beautifying pain by allowing bodies to express their true essence.

[1] PRECIADO, Paul. B (2020). An apartment on Uranus: Chronicles of the Crossing (Charlotte Mandell, Trans., p. 27). London: Fitzcarraldo Editions. (Original work: Un apartamento en Urano, Crónicas del cruce, published in 2019 by Anagrama)

[2] DELEUZE, Guilles and GUATTARI, Felix (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizofrenia (Brian Massumi, Trans., p. 27), University of Minnesota Press. (Original work: Capitalisme et Schizophrénie : Mille Plateaux, published in 1980 by Les Editions de Minuit)

[3] LÓPEZ, SILVIA (2019). Los cuerpos que importan en Judith Butler, p. 38. (Paragraph translated by Anna Moorby), Dos Bigotes, A.C.

[4] LÓPEZ, SILVIA (2019). Los cuerpos que importan en Judith Butler, p. 45. (Paragraph translated by Anna Moorby), Dos Bigotes, A.C.

SUTURING MEANS JOINING THE MARGINS   by Cristiana Tejo

An epistemology of the South is based on three orientations:

learn that the South exists;

learn to go south;

learn from the South and with the South

(Santos, 1995:508)

 

Prelude

 

This text was originally written in Brazilian Portuguese, my mother tongue. To think in a language is to bring all the historical and philosophical experience that it embodies. But thinking in a language of European origin is also a testament to a long colonial process of knowledge. As Anibal Quijano and Boaventura de Sousa Santos taught us, the coloniality of knowledge goes beyond the colonial period. It is a way of organizing and stratifying the world that is premised on the superiority of the European way of thinking. This process of hierarchization encompasses even the internal differences in Europe, because although Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world, it is subordinate to the languages spoken in hegemonic countries. I could have written this text in English, but for some years I have been reflecting on the issues of decoloniality and how I can contemplate it from a perspective of coloniality in Portuguese and its semi-peripheral position. It is from this place that I write this text.

 

*****

 

The world contains countless narratives that seek to account for its existence and which can be traced back through time immemorial. These narratives have been constructed with pigments, stones, words passed orally from generation to generation, written words, instruments, dances and flavours. As long as there is a human being on earth or on any other planet, his/her experience in the universe will be reported and will take a different form. But as the social beings we are, we create these narratives because we are not enough. We need others: those who have passed, those who are currently inhabiting this world, and those who are yet to come. But we know that these stories are partial, since none can single-handedly explain the world.

 

However, over the past few centuries, one world narrative has endeavoured to nullify the others. With European military and economic domination across the globe, the knowledge engendered in Europe has become central, the parameter by which reality is apprehended. Other epistemologies, since they are not Science, are disregarded as beliefs. As Boaventura de Sousa Santos notes, Northern epistemology excludes, even though it is not enough to give all the answers and results expected by humans, like the scientific knowledge that compartmentalizes the aspects of life in such a way that there is often no intercommunication between these parts. The human body is seen as a machine with its interdependent gears, but without understanding the whole of human existence as its energy and its emotions. In turn, human bodies are separated from nature as distinct spheres, with humans feeling superior to other beings, the centre of the world. Nonetheless, this centre has a hierarchy at the top of which are heterosexual white (European) men whose knowledge is understood as universal. And in this process of organizing the world, any knowledge that does not fit into this logic is left out, that is, the knowledge generated by women and non-white societies, whose epistemologies are disallowed, their methods declassified. Authors such as Anibal Quijano have shown us how intertwined the axes of coloniality and capitalism are. Authors such as Silvia Federicci clarify the link between capitalism and patriarchy. And authors such as Angela Davis, Rita Segato and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, among others, explain the important relationship between race, gender and social class.

 

The order of the Western world, therefore, is to consider as unique the truths produced by people who pass through the sieve of scientific institutionalization, such as the health sphere, mentioned above. In countries like Brazil, birth and delivery can only occur at the hands of doctors. Midwives, women with decades of experience, are marginalized. As medicine has a great relationship with capitalism, the country has one of the highest rates of Cesarean sections in the world. In order not to waste time, doctors prefer to schedule surgery, having several births in one day instead of maybe one… It is not a question of opposing doctors or surgery, but of not considering other possibilities for giving birth to a child. Sousa Santos brings us two powerful concepts to deal with these issues, namely Epistemologies of the South and Ecology of Knowledges. Since Epistemologies of the South are the "set of epistemological interventions that denounce the suppression of knowledge carried out in recent centuries by the dominant epistemological norm, they value the knowledge that successfully endured and the reflections that this has produced" (Santos, 2009, 5) and the ecology of knowledge that seeks a horizontal dialogue between knowledge and wisdom/know-how.

 

The discussion raised by activists, sociologists, thinkers has recently arrived very forcefully at museums and international fairs. Movements such as "Me too" and "Decolonize this place" have demanded structural changes in the art world, a markedly capitalist, patriarchal, racist, and colonialist field. But there are many artists who not only think about these issues, but also integrate theory into practice. Romina Rivero is one of the artists whose work addresses not only the subjects mentioned above, but also whose life practice fuels her works. She is an artist who for years has been devoted to studying Chinese medicine in parallel to the creation of her art works and whose attention has turned to multiple forms of knowledge. I learned from her that being from and being in the Canary Islands means being much closer to Africa and the Americas than to the European continent. Not to mention that a thought generated in an archipelago context can lead us to imagine that it is more conducive to building bridges if compared to a continental thought, which seems to be more concerned with building walls.

 

In the research presented in this exhibition, Romina shows a series of works that are a kind of culmination of a long in-depth investigation about the historical role of women as doctor. As mentioned previously, patriarchy created very efficient tools to de-authorize and erase women's knowledge and concentrate space, authorization and conditions for practicing medicine in the hands of men. Women were relegated to the margins of healing and care work. Initially only in the domestic sphere and then, even with their entry into the world of work, less important positions. To enter the professional world of medicine, women need to prove that they think and act like men, since male knowledge is universal and any female knowledge is considered particular. Romina brings the act of suturing as a gesture of confrontation, since the needle when associated with women refers to sewing and not to the act of sewing parts of a human body.

 

En Fuga (Vanishing) is an installation made up of 14 sewing mannequins, in which the artist uses the suture technique to make small lace patches on various parts of the pieces. Each of these sutures occurs in different parts and is made in different colours. The location and colour of the intervention reveals which chakra is being activated, because in Chinese medicine these points are related to emotions and organs. It is a link created between the obliterated place of women in the construction of knowledge about healing and ancient Chinese science, which is seen as suspicious by the Western world. Suturing means joining the edges. In Romina's work, we can also interpret the edge as the margins of the world that she brings together in her works through embroidery. At this junction, a third end appears. The simple act of sewing is reframed by medical sewing, since there is a predisposition to think that sewing is harmless, and the suture is powerful and important. It reminds us of the invisibility of the importance of housework and caring for others.

 

The use of mannequins brings us other interpretations. Their silhouettes explain the normativity of female beauty: thin but curvaceous and proportional. Chaining women to their image and to an almost unattainable standard is another efficient weapon of the patriarchal structure. Without hegemonic beauty, a woman is not worth much. The sutures end up tarnishing the perfection of these desirable bodies. With the exposure of these interventions and what they represent, are these bodies still coveted? The criticism made by Romina Rivero is very subtle and certain, as it points to all these contradictions of what is meant by feminine, including the beautiful and the acceptable.

 

Another aspect of the woman's place that is addressed in this exhibition is her position as the world's structure. The expectation for women is that we not only have children, but that we take care of them. The naturalization of unconditional love for children, for the husband, for the parents imprisons women and underlies their own sense of existence. Thanks to the thinking generated by feminist scholars and activists, there is a growing questioning of the role of care. Black feminists have pointed out that white bourgeois feminists use the cheap labour of racialized women to continue their professional journeys. If we look closely, black / indigenous women are the ones who clean, cook and care for white children. In the social pyramid, the base is composed only of non-white women, which leads us to conjecture that women are the structure of the world, as the bones are for the human body. Flor de Espinas (Flower of Thorns) is a work that originally connects to the shamanic power of Mexican cacti and refers to the beauty that emerges from adversity. In addition to the condition of hardship, this work also ends up suggesting the weight of the structural issue that the female body occupies in the social space. Instead of presenting a cactus flower, Romina works with human bone formation (breastbone and ribs), made by clay and covered with gold. Although gold is a resistant metal, the result of this piece points to exceptionality and delicacy. Again, the artist plays with the contrasts and frictions of signifier and signified.

   

Upon learning about the work of Romina Rivero, in February of this year, I immediately connected with her. I realized in an instant that the discussion brought by this body of work is fundamental to pave a new world born a long time ago. However, this belief was very restricted to certain sectors of society. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and laid bare the exhaustion of the world built by white heterosexual western men. I believe that what Romina has been bringing to light with her works is intelligible to an increasing and broader number of people; that the knowledge of women in all their diversity is welcomed and valued; that it is possible for an ecology of knowledge to exist, and that convergence and respect can be more present than exclusion and erasure.

VANISHING CATEGORIES   by Blanca De la Torre

 

 

(Resistance)

 

 

It is hard to tame the beast without the complicity of those who feed it, although an effective alternative might be to resist beyond the reach of its guardians, in the space provided by certain artistic practices. Resistance is also a matter of developing alternative poetics from different angles, through a bifocal lens: one that corresponds to the act of creating itself and at the same time to the very superstructures we are seeking to resist, if you will forgive the entelechy.

 

Romina Rivero's approach to categories, which runs through her work (resistance, the social, power, freedom, otherness), walks that line, which I will sketch here through certain key figures. In turn, both these figures and Rivero's work offer us certain constants to guide us through an interpretation of our current moment in time.

 

 

(Social)      

 

In Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour points to the inaccuracy that besets the word “social” due to its excessive polysemic use. According to the French philosopher, the term “social” has come to refer, at one and the same time, to a process of assembly and a particular type of material. By rejecting this conception of the social, he invites us to recover the original objective of the term so that we may redraw “social assembly” more precisely.

 

Like Latour, Rivero's work also invites us to embark on a journey of recovery: both are interested in the idea of power, although the search takes different angles of approach.

Latour’s book points out how sociology has been marked from the outset by the existence of other agencies that take over, and that this discipline has been driven by the ethical, political and empirical discovery that there are hierarchies, asymmetries and inequalities; that the social world is a deeply pitted landscape. According to this author, the interest lies in analysing such asymmetries, so that we do not simply repeat them, much less continue to haul them around unaltered. Our aim is not to confuse cause and effect, explanandum with explanans, as the philosopher points out: “This is why it is so important to maintain that power, like society, is the final result of a process and not a reservoir, a stock, or a capital that will automatically provide an explanation”.[1]

 

(Power)

 

To speak of power inevitably forces us to refer to another “common place” of cultural studies, and one of Rivero’s main references: Michel Foucault.

 

In “Les mailles du pouvoir”, a conference given by the French philosopher during his tour of some “minor” centres in Brazil in 1976[2], Foucault begins by noting that he would be attempting to analyse the notion of power outside the prevalent realms of Freudianism, where instinct is opposed to both repression and culture. Instead, he invites us to think of instinct as a “complex game between the body and the law, between the body and the cultural mechanisms that ensure control over people”[3].

He also points out that a society is not a unitary body where one single form of power is exercised. Society, he adds, is a juxtaposition, a link, a coordination, and a hierarchy of different powers that, nonetheless, remain specific[4]

In the case of Rivero, it would be fitting to speak here of “powers”, for as Foucault states later in the aforementioned text, if we wish to conduct a genuine analysis of power, we cannot speak of power but rather of powers. Furthermore, we should be seeking them in their historical and geographical specificities, a topic that would make for an interesting chapter at this particular moment in time, where movements such as Black Lives Matter and the spontaneous decolonial iconoclastic outpourings would allow some of these specificities to be established and transferred to the present moment.

 

(Freedom)

 

To suggest another of the key concepts of Rivero's work, I would like to touch upon another relatively unknown but equally relevant work: Reflections Concerning the Causes of Liberty and Social Oppression, by Simone Weil, which marked a turning point, an interstitium between the French philosopher’s militant phase and her rethinking and reflection on the social problems that led to radical activism. This is a lucid timeless reflection, which first came to light when Albert Camus included it in the 1955 anthology Oppression and Liberty.

Beyond criticism of the failures of Marxism and questioning the society of the time, Weil speaks of freedom to shape the characteristics of a free utopian society. She points the finger of blame at factories as culprits in the alienation of the working classes, a bitter conclusion fuelled by her time working at Renault, which, although short-lived, was a traumatic experience for the philosopher, one that would leave deep scars.

This essay by Weil, clearly relevant today, appeals to what I like to call the “political present” because it seeks to analyse a fractured civilisation that, even with little  – or no – hope of a possible revolution, recognises a new starting point and a different social attitude: “Good and evil. Reality. That which gives more reality to beings and things is good, that which takes it from them is evil”. Such a “political present” could be understood as a set of political circumstances and the analysis of the circumstances that take place in virtually the same way at particular moments in any historical period, and which are supported by certain authors who become timeless, without detracting from the lucidity of their analyses at that particular moment. Weil is one of those examples that make us think of the present: “Never has the individual been so completely delivered up to a blind collectivity, and never have men been less capable, not only of subordinating their actions to their thoughts, but even of thinking.”[5]

 

After this very brief tour of some of the key concepts that sift Rivero's work, it is time to delve into the exhibition that has led us here, En Fuga (Vanishing), developed across two large site-specific installations, one video, and a series of drawings. The artist presents this whole body of work with characteristic chromatic austerity, on this occasion reduced to a palette of white, black, red, and gold.

 

The first installation, En Fuga, after which the project takes its name, presents an astonishing arrangement of white mannequins from which gold threads emerge, tethering them to walls and columns. The lattice that appropriates the space, tied to the mannequins’ bodies, effectively suggests the categories analysed above.

The surgical sutures of the mannequins reveal the idea of trauma and wound, in clear dialogue with the natural silk and lace fabrics used in this medical procedure.  The choice of these materials, which constitute their own unique formal grammar, highlights the contrast between their everyday ordinariness and their fragility, and the rawness of their contents, picked out with scraps of black leather. A deliberate confrontation, which pursues a similar antithetical feeling: the bitter but invigorating taste behind left by the idea of beautifying pain, akin to that of the next installation.

Flor de Espinas (Flower of Thorns) comprises four gold-plated ceramic ribs, out of which countless black threads emerge that trace the walls and floor of the exhibition space. This lattice work leads to a graphic representation of the sound made by the word “dignity”, which appears to be drawn on the floor, although it is unclear whether it is in the process of being created or erased.  It is mute, silent.

The black vinyl with which it is inscribed, emulating thread, refers us to mourning, an allegory of constant grief that engages with the tensions and resistances of our social context, which is still far from being inclusive and tolerant.

 

Rivero is interested in the interstitium between these tensions – threads, bodies, and fabric – forming the backbone of a discourse that alludes to otherness, to the false dissolution of the borders between society and those “other bodies”.

Both installations, En Fuga and Flor de Espinas, are intertwined in a dance of opposites, in a Ying (or more correctly Inn) and Yang, in line with the artist's interest in Taoist philosophy.

 

(Otherness)

 

The theoretical ecofeminist Ynestra King points out how the domination of men over women is only the model for other forms of oppression, both ecological and social. Within this line of enquiry, the focus of her analysis is on women with functional diversity. In The Other Body. Reflections on difference, disability, and identity politics, she talks about her own mobility impairments, derived from partial paralysis in one leg. King presents her observations on the reactions of others, more common among white middle-class men in developed countries, and their obvious fear of being excluded from normativity, something that becomes particularly evident when they are working hard to mind their manners and pretend that nothing is wrong.

The philosopher insists on the fact that being disabled is not a social construct but a condition that cannot be changed, unlike, for example, gender.

In the article, she rightly points out: “of all the ways of becoming other in our society, disability is the only one that can happen to anyone, in an instant, transforming that person’s life and identity forever.”[6]

 

These continuous spaces of negotiation, typical of the "otherness" that women have to face, are alluded to by Rivero in her two installations.

 

With the restlessness of both works, the artist places us in the presence of bodies that are in tension in the space of everyday life, in which Althusser's “Ideological State Apparatuses” are not a distant concept but instead permeate our daily lives.

 

Indirect, immersive, low-intensity lighting emphasises the disturbing component that counteracts the hope, faith, and living pulse of that tense space of negotiation. Just as the threads are in a tense, taut dialogue with the code on the floor, with the very walls and ceiling of the exhibition space, in a powerless attempt to break free from the social construct in which they are inscribed.

 

The kind of thread woven by Arachne is connected to the series of drawings, in which the white-black-gold chromatic triad is broken through the drama of red, which leads us to a much more intimate and personal set of works.

Here, the surgical threads of the previous bodies now “suture” the skin of delicate drawings, to bring us back to Taoist aesthetics through the idea of “repair”, so characteristic of Eastern culture.

In contrast to the West, which strives to mend scars so as to leave no trace of the original wound, the Japanese concept of kintsugi seeks to highlight the scar, rather than to erase any sign of traumatic past, to understand and accept it as such. This technique is usually applied to cracked pottery, mending breakages using a resin mixed with gold powder, seeking to incorporate the object's own history, rather than evade it. In the same way, Rivero's drawings speak of wound suture as part of the healing process and the understanding of history, both of objects and people. The vulnerability of both the social and physical body.

 

“I listened to the surrendering of my bones being deposited in rest,” said the poet Antonio Gamoneda, in an obsession with the corporeal that is similarly visible in Rivero’s work, in the inevitable disappearance of the body and its fragility, where traces of the artist's own personal trauma also nestle.

 

In this tense materiality, the bodily and the spiritual engage in a subtle interplay of material kinship – human hair/thread, ceramic/bone, fabric/skin –, thus connecting with the current of “speculative feminism”, where the patterns of string figures are a common feature in the imaginings of authors such as Donna Haraway or Anna Tsing.

 

Thus, Rivero appeals to the collective through the individual, by means of highly personal and intimate work, where lyricism is not at odds with political charge.

 

Similarly, the video presented in the exhibition shows the hands of a woman in close-up, suturing the strips of lace torn from the previous installation and working on the mannequins. They reveal to us that most of the project's body of work has been made with surgical tools, which is displayed on a bookcase next to the video installation: a specific suture needle with its built-in thread and scissors.

 

As a backdrop, the artist is questioning the normalisation of certain standardising medical techniques that have turned humanity into a clinical subject and object, after centuries of patriarchal domination also evident in a scientific field from a scientific perspective imbued with androcentrism.

 

The ecofeminist Maria Mies says that “the reduction of ethics, morals, and responsibility to the problem of application or non-application of the results of science is bankruptcy of all ethics”. For the author, this type of ethics, which she calls reactive ethics, will always be behind the inventions of natural scientists, seeking to regulate their most harmful effects. The author questions the hypocritical and schizophrenic segregation of scientists that turns them into supposedly impartial researchers who apply a different ethical code in the laboratory to the one they follow outside: “The taboo that is never touched on by such committees (in reference to scientific ethics committees) is the deeply immoral pairing between science and force, science and militarism, science and patriarchy.”[7]

 

Along these same lines, Rivero speaks of the coextensive relationship between power, resistance, life, and freedom as the legacy of 19th Century biological discourses that brought about the medicalisation of life, and in which biopolitics have taken the form of “new sovereignty”. 

 

Rivero's approach to the above concepts speaks to us of artistic practice as a gesture of resistance, through works that prefer to play with lyricism rather than with literality, and with allegory rather than the explicit, to trace with these threads the invisible languages typical of technobiopolitics.

 

There are silent works that scream. The exhibition En Fuga (Vanishing) refers to this tense silence, to social pain. It alludes to an inside and an outside: in flight towards a vanishing point to escape the conventionalism of society and a trapped body. Disappearing as an individual and disappearing as a social body.

 

Romina Rivero warns us that we might continue to sally forth to hunt down the beast, whilst all the time the beast is within our own home, when it would perhaps be easier to sit down and understand, as Trinh Xuan Thuan suggests, that nothing can exist for and by itself or be its own cause.

 

[1] Bruno Latour (2005). Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press Inc., New York, pp. 63-64.

[2] Michel Foucault (2017). “Les mailles du pouvoir”. Conference rescued, restored and translated into Spanish by the artist Alán Carrasco in the context of his research project "Las redes del poder I: Die Unterdrücker der menschheit" during his residence at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart in 2016. (Extracts translated into English by Anna Moorby).

[3] Ibid, p. 6.

[4] Ibid, p. 13.

[5] Simone Weil (1955). Oppression and Liberty (Arthur Wills and John Petri, Trans.). London and New York: Routhledge & Kegan Paul, 1958, p. 102. (Original work: Reflexions sur les causes de la liberté et de l’oppression sociale, published by Gallimard, Paris).

[6] Ynestra King, The Other Body: Reflections on Difference, Disability, and Identity Politics in Ms. Magazine; Feminist Theory. March/April 1993, p. 72.

[7] Maria Mies. “Feminist Research: Science, Violence and Responsibility” in Ecofeminism. Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva (2014), London, Zed Books, p. 36.