Bernardo Pinto de Almeida
«Marina Nuñez: the creation of potential spaces»
«The fire of vision», Ed. Comunidad de Madrid y Artium, Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2015, pp. 23-26.
Having been used from the most tender childhood to decoding extremely complex images, the interpretation of which still has neither strict codes nor much less clear languages (nor will there probably ever be) and to dealing with the flows of laborious meshes of pixels which are in themselves abstractive, as well as with the digital universe in which the images differ infinitely in random variations, the artists of the new generations would have great difficulty in being able to find the serenity and the time for contemplation required in order to perpetuate the valorisation previously brought about by the major forms of art of the past. Whether they come from the classical or the modern period. Unless they are set within mediatic forms of reproduction and circulation, which obviously changes the images themselves in their nature due to their immediate collocation and re-inscription within the imaginary museum of the cultural industry, transforming them into readymade images whose material auratic or presented thickness from the outset is extinguished in the purest indication of reproduction.
Thus, the powerful images from cinema and from video games have also been making their entrance into the visual field of the contemporary condition, supporting the creation of new landscapes and above all of new landscapings. That is, the invention of new configurations of space that indeed correspond to a deep intuition in relation to our dealing with new dimensions of time that only the most advanced sciences are able to make comprehensible. We would thus inevitably tend towards an apocalypse of sight, saturated as it is by these hysteria-made images that compete for their fleeting moment of appearing in the great contemporary virtual museum.
The fact is that — to give just a brief but enlightening example — the imaginary of Ancient Rome no longer comes to today’s young people through reading Ovid or through a critical observation of the models that can be verified through some classical paintings or sculptures, barring the cases of erudite specialisations for elite students, but instead are formed in popular terms, particularly through gladiator films (the animated sword and sandal stories of which film director Ridley Scott made a recent appropriation in The Gladiator) which are shown on TV or on a war game made up in some programming centre for computer games.
Yet taking another example from another film by Scott, but this time instead of the past operating on what would be allegories from a near future, Blade Runner presents us, using an enormous capacity for media diffusion, with many of the most essential questions that have dealt with the contemporary condition since then, particularly in the field of aesthetics. On the one hand the film is an appropriative recuperating of the anxious imaginary of science fiction (the film is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick) raised to the category of an exemplary narrative form. Camp and kitsch make their first major appearance there no longer as signs of a sort of ingenuity, but, on the contrary, as figures taken à outrance from a new cool aesthetic and susceptible to be superimposed over the contradiction between classic cinema (that of John Ford or Anthony Mann, for example) and modern cinema (Bergman, Antonioni, Godard). Just as in Mad Max.
The actor Harrison Ford, until then with a habitual presence in mass-audience roles, plays the character of a sort of futuristic Bogart, in which the signs only serve the purpose of referring him back to a legendary figure in the history of cinema, now lost in the labyrinthine plots of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, but who is a ruthless and aimless policeman until his love for a mutant replicant turns him into an outlaw clearly flouting the law.
The mutant replicants take the place of new urban figures created by genetic engineering as the motor of the work force — appropriately presented in the form of a collage, as contemporary punks — like those we may find in the urban make-up of any major city, with their beautiful multi-coloured hairstyles or bizarre haircuts — with references to the world of nineteen-fifties comic strips, and recognisable as such, suddenly capable of feelings and emotions, and thus, in that almost schematised manner, embodying that old Western phantom, a mixture of Goethe’s Faust and of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in a setting that is somewhere between Jules Verne and Walt Disney. That is, it is a matter of simultaneously playing with elements recognisable as basic cultural clichés, (Bogart, the film-noir detective, the love that saves, etc.,) and others, the projection of which into the future make them equally recognisable as well.
If these films give us signs of that which might be a near future, they above all exemplify a constructive model and a narrative programme that suddenly locates us within the process fitting the contemporary condition as we see it in differentiation to other paradigms. As McLuhan wrote in 1967, “In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained — ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.” (The Medium is the Massage).
And if it is true that information cannot be assimilated or equalised to that which we once called true knowledge, the fact is that over a fabric of information as dense as that which operates in contemporary societies — and in this aspect the more developed they are the stronger they are — the possibilities of sampling, of re-reading, of interpretation and even of playing that such a fabric authorises allow derivations and reinventions of the fabric that must be seen as legitimate, albeit apparently wild, forms of knowledge.
Possibly being hybrids, possibly functioning as unexpected association, possibly even marked out by the signs of a certain euphoric technological primitivism, but which, like the so-called Cargo Cultures studied by anthropology, they integrate elements external to that context into unexpected other contexts, making up new significations. Yet what is most interesting to note is that it is the first time that this operation of generalised appropriation of a culture by a technique and vice-versa takes place within the very fabric of Western culture, in an autophagic process, and no longer in relation to other cultures. The subject of post-modernity thus corresponds to the need to figure and even draw up another experimental subjectivity — a problem that will be significant for the psychoanalysts of the future — with its degree of playfulness that plays down the condition of anguish to which this only apparently irreparable loss may equally compel it, from the referential of the great matricial narrative. Precisely in relation to Marina Nuñez, José Jimenez has already written: «What is ‘appearance’? Or ‘simulation’? What is ‘real’? Those old questions whose formulation supposed the birth of the Western philosophical tradition are today no longer the territory of meditation for a large number of privileged minds but rather a global and inter-communicating space of reflection that is now growing in density and complexity.”
Fredric Jameson, for example, argues highly pertinently that “we need to introduce a new piece into this puzzle, which may help explain why classical modernism is a thing of the past and why postmodernism should have taken its place. This new component is what is generally called the «death of the subject» or, to say it in more conventional language, the end of individualism as such. The great modernisms were, as we have said, predicated on the invention of a personal, private style, as unmistakable as your fingerprint, as incomparable as your own body.”
Yet the first question returns once again: but is this what art «does» in our time? Or, consequently: is this still art?
One thus expects art, as I have already stated, to be capable of integrating something new, as its own matter, into the experience of the real. Removing it from its abstract dimension to what I have earlier called another, figurative zone, susceptible of being identified. Yet we know that experience of the real — just like that of art — no longer refers to a universal experience. It is conditioned by cultures, the processes of symbolisation that underlie them, the semantic codes that frame them.
Looking at Marina Nuñez’s vast work from now over two decades, the first impression one gets is, clearly, that of enormous elegance. The fields flow and the lines become almost imperceptible, being diluted within them. And, almost like in Chinese painting, a certain watery, liquid quality seems to help everything low as if in a sort of uncertain mist, and we are amazed by the firmness of that hand that was behind such precise gestures, which even so find time to modulate tones and colours in unexpectedly luminous gradations. In that impression, then, the forms flow simply and it may even manage to seem to us that Marina is another of those artists who has devoted herself to an art of decorative, almost literary and narrative reference, in it using her recognisable talents.
However, at a second glance the joint presentation of her several works and fields of research may help to accelerate our perception, and it becomes clear to those who look carefully that in fact this apparent flowing only serves to show something else, something that is much more deserving of attention. Beneath these almost androgynous beautiful faces and bodies, which are almost always very young and surprisingly beautiful, what Marina shows us are deep and in themselves uncertain possibilities of the human in their infinite metamorphoses and in their multiple becomings towards an uncertain post-humanity, converging with memories that seem to evoke the painting of Hieronymus Bosch and other forms like survivors from the medieval imaginary.
Like in the android replicants of Blade Runner (the film that perhaps best announced the coming of post-modernity), there is a dim beauty in these figures which, for this very reason, bring us to a feeling of strangeness. Or rather, to a disturbing strangeness, as Freud termed it, in relation to fairy tales, in which the strangest things are revealed to us precisely through the most familiar ones. Generating a landscaping that at the same time alludes to the phantasmagorical stagings of Max Ernst and to the delirium-inspiring configurations of Cronenberg, in a setting with references to Dali. Faced with these, which as a whole seem to be forming an army, and which are different to each other, we are led to think about the future form of another, more perfect humanity, even if the somewhat disturbing presence, or at least one with different codes, made up of implants, prosthetics, choreographies and experiences of space and of time. Or about the arrival of beings from other galaxies, of a sophistication as yet unknown to our species. And then facing them, facing those figures that paradoxically seem so close to us and so far away, we do not know whether we should welcome them or fear them, as what is postulated in them is a fundamental difference. Too much beauty, as well as monstrosity, are forces that make us aware of a distrust towards what is the right thing to do to face up to them.
Here is that excessive strangeness that affects us. Eyes that eye us up, but which seem distracted from us, seeing through our bodies. Perfect configurations of the heads, hybrid formations and the gestation of new forms of appearing in the world. Or bodies that allude to other models of performing, etc.
And almost all of a sudden we realise that we have already come across people like this, have already seen them around, on our beaches, on the busy streets of our cities, in the groups of teenagers who move around in discos and in the non-places of the suburban outskirts. And we are left perplexed to think that such beauty, which is after all close but which escapes us, may well be already among us. Acting on a parallel path, but alongside our own…