Iñaki Álvarez
Cover to see, or “the lazy eye”
Cover to see, or “the lazy eye”, catálog, Ed. Sala Rekalde, Diputación Foral de Vizcaya, Bilbao 2011.

“Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see The winged Psyche with awaken’d eyes?

Ode to Psyche, John Keats[1]

Throughout the course of time, the eye, the sense of sight, has been a constant in all artistic manifestations. Since time immemorial, the gods, the myths, possessed huge eyes that invested them with power -both protective and destructive-, in addition to the ensuing right to an eternal life. All Western culture has trembled at the existence of the so-called “third eye” as the maximum representative of chastisement and omnipotence.

The demonstration Marina Núñez offers us, however, is that of a power, but this time not part of a superior category or God, but within the actual human being and, by extension, within all beings, where the sense of sight, as a primordial sense that connects and relates us to the exterior world, is a neutral thing, consubstantial with life, like the alternation of breathing or any other pulsion and physiological function even.

The eye traps but also returns, boomerang-style, what is trapped. There is no halt, no interpretation; there is no language, there is emotion and reverberation; there is no response, but there is awareness of life. It is the eye that multiplies itself to connect with the world and reproduce what it sees, without filters, without mental sifting; as a child does, with purity and amazement, with a contradiction that represents no dilemma but the certainty that all is One: thus the savant is a beggar, and the crazy man sane.

As the Tao puts it: “Because all deem beauty to be beauty, ugliness appears. Because all admit good as good, the not good arises”.[2]

Unlike the third eye, castrating and judging of human conduct, the pupils that multiply with each new blink, with each new visual experience, lead us, with no solution of continuity, to the liberation of the psyche, understood not as an object of rational or interpretative study -the central axis of psychoanalysis- but, very much to the contrary, as a meeting place of dreams, visions, of the non-evident, of fears and contradictions, of suffering and love, of the tangible and invisible.

Even the position of this eye has now changed, it is not situated in the centre of the forehead but, like Bataille’s pineal eye[3], from the upper part of the brain it is directed towards the cosmos, in an attempt at expansion, at interaction, at universality, at fusion, in fact, with what it never ceased to be.

In the video Multiplicidad, 2006, every time the eye that Marina Núñez presents us with blinks, the Universe moves and, with it, arise a multitude of visions that are at one and the same time abstract and real, which once more reproduce and swallow themselves in a kind of “phagocytosis” that nourishes and constructs the identity of the being, the psyche, the soul, and the body-matter as an independent single entity that charts its own map throughout its trajectory.

THE WORK CITED. Un chien andalou (An Andalucian dog), 1929

In the opinion of André Breton, Luis Buñuel’s Un chien andalou, without needing to resort to words and syntax, constitutes the perfect example of cinematographic surrealism, which has contributed, within the Hispanic Vanguard scene, to implanting this movement within different spheres, and not just in the celluloid arena.

The film emerged from the confluence of two dreams that Dalí and Buñuel shared and later developed into a screenplay, in a matter of only six days. In Buñuel’s, “a cloud cut the moon, while a shaving knife slit an eye”, and in Dalí’s there appeared “a hand full of ants”. Under the fascination that the irrational exerted over Buñuel, he began to shoot the film in the Billancourt studios in Paris, finishing it after fifteen days.

Benjamin Péret -Breton and Buñuel’s favourite poet- asserted that he wrote poems “as one sneezes, always geared to dream and to letting his unconscious speak. It is no surprise, therefore, that Buñuel remembered him “constantly” during the shoot, just as he did the comic Buster Keaton, because of the necessary interference between amusement and the absurd, laughter and pain, shaping pictures of black anarchic humour.

Sublimely, the deepest foundations are moved and shaken, and an end is put to the anchylosis of reason. The film champions a definitive break with all the previous realist tradition, outstripping traditional forms of expression. This transgression has had a notable influence on great directors since then; in more contemporary terms we only need to cite David Lynch, who at least in his early stages was able to say that, like Buñuel, he was free of symbols, as he showed in his first full-length film Eraserhead (1977), “a dream within a dream”.

Returning to Un chien andalou, the initial image of the cutting of the eye, an aggressive beginning to be sure, as it involves and determines the mutilation of our most intense relation with the outside, nonetheless promises and announces the appearance of something new (although already in existence), different, imagined, fresh (yet tortuous even so); championing the ineffable and marvellous -in the sense of inexplicable or magic-.

A year later, Jean Cocteau treated us to the same magic in Le sang d’un poète (The blood of a poet, 1930) when a man’s hand brings to life a defenceless statue in which, preceding even the primordial act of breathing, two eyes appear, awakening into existence.

Tearing in order to heal. As in early medicinal bloodlettings, Buñuel cuts so as to begin. From the cut will issue new sap; on numerous occasions, tearing is required to be able to cleanse-regenerate.

But the paths to regeneration are not always acceptable. Let us recall, relocating ourselves once more in time, the shocking scene in Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange (1971) -which was based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess-, where, in the manner of a demiurgic operator, Serum 114 and the observation of horror, forcing the opening of his eyes with complex instruments of torture, attempt to lead Alex to redemption and change, in a vain attempt at suppressing individual liberty for the sake of the social good, curbing his will, depriving him of the power of decision between the exercise of good and evil, and thereby proposing that he integrate within the established order.

In a very different manner, in the oil painting Sin título (locura), 2006, by Marina Núñez, the separation of the huge eyes, in appearance certainly one of pain, encourages the hope of constant regeneration, which nothing and no-one can interrupt, making new pupils emerge from the distance, as they enlarge and become juxtaposed with those nearest them; new gazes, originating in the furthest depths of dark and swamp, that interrelate with the nearest and most familiar, dynamically constituting the new identity. Here is where the individual wins the match.

After the vision of the sectioning of the eye that Buñuel shows us, nothing will be the same; we have entered something unknown, a disturbing and exciting universe. We will never be the same again. Connecting with the ego-other, letting ideas flow, dreams fly, is not necessarily a departure from reality. What is reality? “There is no room for interpretation”, in the words of the poet Pierre Reverdy. It is about questioning the established order. There is no single signification for each action. What Dalí termed “imagination without strings”[4], and then mentioned in an article, saying: “What we could hardly dream of breaking is smashed with the most absolute lesson in mutilation… Things that cannot be confounded are idly interchanged”.[5]

Let us begin…

CONSUBSTANTIALITY OF THE GENUINE: NO MORE ARTIFICES

The secular conflict that has persisted down to our times between word and meaning, instinct and reason, emotion and analysis, is a problem that people have tried to resolve through successive beliefs, religions and/or political-philosophical systems. They have all proposed an endless stream of replies and different theories, where each contradicts the one that came before and supplants it, while the latter does the same with the next, in an infinite loop of disillusionment and uncertainty, leading human beings to lose the immanent perspective of their sensoriality and to run the risk of becoming confused and disintegrating into a magma of letters, ideas and thoughts that drown their spirit and identity.

What constrains us within uniform, indivisible, rigid concepts is integrating society, the creator of the univocal alphabet and corseted definitions. In spite of this, and through that dark tunnel, we managed to see and comprehended, without the need of speech, that the mystery that would wash over us and its discovery, was going to constitute a titanic and thrilling endeavour, a challenge that only a few would dare to take up.

An affirmative answer would seem to be given to that challenge by the embryonic eyes that Marina Núñez reveals to us pulsating within their uterine grotto, anxious to make their outwards exit, in the videos Visión (1) and Visión (2), 2007. Consubstantiality of the sensorial, the trap of language has not yet been born: sum of signs, creation of insecure man in the cogs of the machine that desires the same for all. The signifying totality will attempt to impregnate all, but will not make the essence of the ego or of the other more intelligible: who will know how to utilise these tools and in the name of what? It is in this garden of well-placed words that the sublime sense of seeing lies, the end of the joy of experimenting.

It is not a matter of eliminating language, however, but of making it non-significant, just another medium, that does not determine inexorable categories beyond which one feels devoid of qualities and on the fringe of existence:

“For non-signifying language anything will do: whether it be phonic, graphic, gestual, etc., no flow is privileged in this language, which remains indifferent to its substance or to its support, inasmuch as the latter is an amorphous continuum; the electric flow can be considered as the realisation of such a flow that is indeterminate as such”.[6]

Primitive man knew this fundamental connection with the electric flow, with primordial energy; rite and magic were lacking in taboos; the different manifestations of being that we find so shocking today, enjoyed a higher category and there was an acceptance of the body and its correlates, entrails that had a force of their own and a place of privilege. (But observe the way that, today, the quakings of a shaman, for instance, resemble specific disorders of a psychosomatic or other nature).

Marina Núñez’s characters will desperately seek to integrate the eyes that connect with the initiatic flow, which have been stripped of their body and teem in the air with no apparent master, as occurs in the oil painting Sin título (ciencia ficción), 1998.

Today, too, the figure in the crowd who possesses more vision, and who is, in consequence, different, will never submit to the rules of the restrictive norm created by language; she will parade her otherness and place no barrier in the way of her senses. It is true that this courage will probably make her pay a high price, turning her manifestation of being into “sickness”, “deformity”, or whatever label the “integrated” impose on those who cannot but above all do not wish to speak; upon those who, through this individual micro-resistance, (in Foucauldian fashion), protest in silence.

If some kind of class consciousness were acceptable or held as valid, many would perhaps place themselves in the class of the so-called “crazy” or “deformed”-in the sense of having a different form-, of those who see beyond what we receive as imposed.

The latter are afforded plenty of space by Marina Núñez in her work; just check out her painting Sin título (locura), 2007, where the woman’s face seems to scream “Enough!”, making an enormous effort so as to be able, in a kind of painful delivery, to make her real pupils come forth, her genuine gaze, hidden for so long behind the thick layers of skin.

It is as if the artist gave a sudden turn and left the loop mentioned at the beginning, dancing above, representing the complete work with all the characters, respecting the meanders of the mind that slide over surfaces that are more or less turbid. What might cause fear-shame within the context of society-convention-system, is normalised and can thereby interact (a highly desirable utopia). It represents the entire being, the sinister that inhabits it, the unsettling in an unforced way; seemingly a necessary conclusion, a gently certain transition among all the opposites.

Judith Butler asks: “is the ‘common’ in this instance then not instituted precisely through the production of what is uncommon, through what is outside the common, or what disrupts it from within, or what poses a challenge to its integrity?”[7]

The otherness that Marina is attached to, that empathy, far from resigning herself to being marked by limits, to being shifted to the fringes, becomes a multiplied identity in constant change. Anchylosis is banished and the dynamic takes place.

This is when the secret, the arcane, is established in our comfortable living room and in the midst of the prosaic daily routine our mind makes out unsurveyed routes, half-concealed visions, universes in store for us. It is the familiar oneiric room in her work Sin título (siniestro), 1993.

“I believe in secrecy – in the power of falsehood rather than in accounts which bear witness to a deplorable belief in accuracy and truth”.[8]

They are journeys to the other world, the kind of trips that Lovecraft talks to us of in such an extraordinary way, which point to the identity he had a premonition of, between dream, madness, the child’s world and the numinous primitive universe.

It is as if we had recovered the key to the gate of dreams that Randolph Carter lost:

“They had chained him down to things that are, and had then explained the workings of those things till mystery had gone out of the world.”[9]

“So Carter had tried to do as others did, and pretended that the common events and emotions of earthy minds were more important than the fantasies of rare and delicate souls”.[10]

Fortunately he retrieved the key and passed through the gates. Day by day, that key is stolen or lost, our multiple being subjugated and/or strangled, even by means of systems that are widely consolidated and accepted; we have only to look at the totalising categories employed by the psychoanalytical method or at all the stereotypes created around what is supposed to be a “different” personality.

What a halo of hope that someone such as Marina should reflect and receive that inner multiplication without judging it, revising the system of atrophied concepts, and returning the sensorial to the place it deserves and which it should never have left.

It is certainly an arduous endeavour, as never before did we have access to so much information, though it be managed with so little clarity; information that weighs like a great millstone, transforming the individual into a creature on the run from itself, with a load impossible to digest that prevents it from making progress. Thus the mind becomes a vast organ that crushes all the rest, all the bodily fluids concentrated in the process. The women in the video Ingenio: Inés, Carmen y Ángeles (ciencia ficción), 2010, attempt to make that movement and cannot make headway against the thinking machine, with all the background of centuries; the body’s wish would be to metamorphose into an evacuating regenerating organ so as to get rid of all that is superfluous; it yearns after its physiological functions, its natural being.

This labour of regeneration must moreover be set in motion in this world we inhabit, where the terrible schizophrenia is signified, on the one hand, in surprising, dizzying technological changes (with Internet as its maximum representation), where everything can be supplanted and all kinds of lives might seem capable of being lived; and, on the other, in exclusive ideas that imply that any sign of individual definition induces fear and must be abolished. The only route of escape and consciousness would be art, not in the sense of an invention such as that of language, but like that represented by Marina, which allows us to breathe and emerge, rise up again from the ocean in spite of difficulties, -see Ocaso (ciencia ficción), 2007-, as the lotus that has its roots in the muddy water, with senses-eyes regenerated within a head devoid of ideas, but not of intentions, connections with a will to live (in the sense expressed by Schopenhauer: like the drive of the rest of nature). Otherwise, we will be engulfed by the tempestuous waters of the big collective.

We will no longer be able to explain, avoiding confrontation with our multiple-changing identity, that we are made in this or that form-way; thousands of fluxes are pulling through-within these limits of skin, struggling to express themselves.

As Deleuze put it: “The French think in terms of trees too much. Trees are the opposite of grass.  Not only does grass grow in the middle of things but it grows itself through the middle”.[11]

In the middle of this already razed forest of ideas, new grasses grow within female bodies undergoing regeneration, which will not take root, they will be reproduced –digital image Sin título (ciencia ficción), 2010-.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the loop too will once again reproduce itself, but there will always be beacons, unique guides of connection, territories unoccupied, grottos to be discovered; fiction will become real, and the real, imaginary. The perfect conjunction was always at our side, we just had to turn around to find it.

I wish to conclude this approach to the work of Marina Núñez by quoting from the end of an exquisite book, a genuine manual for survival in this jungle, which opened my eyes to other realities:

“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. Don’t bring out the General in you! Make maps, not photos or drawings. Be the Pink Panther and your loves will be like the wasp and the orchid, the cat and the baboon!”[12]


[1] John Keats. Poesía Completa. Translation Arturo Sánchez. Libros Río Nuevo. Barcelona, 1975-1976, 2 vols.

[2] Lao Tse. Tao Te Ching. RBA. Barcelona, 2002.

[3] Georges Bataille. El ojo pineal y Otros escritos. Pre-textos. Valencia, 1997.

[4] A motto that Dalí takes from the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature of 1912.

[5] Article by Salvador Dalí, “Realidad y sobrerrealidad”, published in La Gaceta Literaria, Madrid, 1928.

[6] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. El Anti Edipo. Capitalismo y Esquizofrenia. Paidós. Madrid, 1985.

[7] Elisabeth Beck-Genhheim, Judith Butler and Lydia Puigvert. Mujeres y Transformaciones sociales. Edit. El Roure. Colección apertura, 2001.

[8] Gilles Deleuze. Conversaciones. Pre-textos. Valencia, 1995.

[9] H.P. Lovecraft. Viajes al otro world. Ciclo de Aventuras Oníricas de Randolph Carter: La llave de plata. Alianza, 1993.

[10] Op Cit. H.P. Lovecraft, 1993.

[11] Op Cit. Gilles Deleuze, 1995.

[12] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. Rizoma (introducción). Pre-Textos. Valencia, 1977.