Universes in Universe / Columna de Arena / Nr. 28
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José Roca:
El Reino de este Mundo

On one occasion Mario Benedetti wrote about someone who always carried a building block along, to show people what his house looked like. It seems to me that this is a rather propitious image when writing this text about María Elvira Escallón’s installation: "El Reino de este Mundo" (The Kingom of this World). Just as in other works - which engage computer graphics systems or publicity painters in their development - this exhibition results from the interaction between the artist and other people distant from the arts. In this way, randomness and process contingencies have their room within the usually individual and controlled space of the artistic exercise.

Escallón’s work cannot be characterized by one single recognizable image, as each work is ruled by its own logic, consequently presenting a different formal appearance. Notwithstanding, there is a thread which remains constant: in a sort of archeological work. Escallón orchestrates complex sedimentation exercises to then unveil the different layers or stages of the process, so as to evidence the eternal unfinished quality of things. "To destroy in order to construct", or, rather, to recognize that that which is apparently unmovable, really travels through a transitory state.

"El Reino de este Mundo" includes a wall, built by the very same artist with cement blocks - in which debris is included - and, on the floor, its co-responding shadow, assembled with debris, just as it was collected in the demolition site: A specular image between "the real" and "the created", the domain of art and of daily life.

This work of Escallón has an evident sociological component, also expressed in the inclusion of Fanny’s presence in the exhibition (a woman who had lived in the house Escallón found demolished and who had, one by one, collected and hand cleaned pieces of debris, in order to build the house where she now dwells). Including her is in no way anecdotic. Her inclusion is an essential component of a work of art that would otherwise be excessively formalistic. It is a specular relation as well, between two women from different backgrounds and with different occupations, who build their vital space from the same debris.

The vortex at which what is real and what is constructed converge, has already been worked by Escallón in previous works. In "In Vitro", -an installation work with which the artist was granted the winning prize of the "Salon Regional-, 1977", Escallón placed a huge glass to obstruct the access flow into one of the corridors of the old Sabana Train Station, a place deteriorated by time and neglect. The glass - which completely closed the area that had been assigned to the artist -, set the limit between the building, - just as it was left, with dusty patina accumulated through years -, and the space that had been recently renovated and painted for welcoming the exhibition’s works.

By contrast, what was highlighted in "In Vitro" was the deterioration that negligence and oblivion meant for the place: But in doing so, the artificiality of the cosmetic renovation of the space for a particular event and circumstance, was also evidenced: contrary to many other interpretations, the work "In vitro" was not located at any of the two sides of the glass, but precisely within itself, as a convergence vortex of a work that established itself as a criticism of the artificiality of the artistic object, while at the same time highlighted the ability of art for making reality visible.

In "Shiva", a photograph attained through the digital manipulation of images of debris, surprising characters emerge among a specular structure which reminds us of the geometric ornamentations present in traditional Hindu art. But this reference is not merely formal; Shiva, supreme god of Hinduism, is the result of the fusion of different divinities into one single god and simultaneously represents the destructive and constructive forces that are present in nature. Through the beauty of the rubble materials, "Shiva" discloses the presence of the "breathings of destruction".

In "El Reino de este Mundo" Escallón advances a clear questioning to the exhibition space and to the production conditions of the work of art. Through an operation, the shifting of context, she so to speak transmutes the most humble materials into a beautiful object, destruction into finished work.


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Text and Columna de Arena: José Roca
Presentation in Internet: Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art, Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder