DOMESTIC GEOLOGY . NUNO RAMOS
If I were a fungus I would say to shut up forever, if I were a moss I would say it was cool, happy, someone was born, conjugate the verb, I was born, I will be born, I had been born, I would be born, and I put a stone, I would put it, you saw that smudged image, it has a little mark, if I were a stone that’s what I would say. It was worth it. An album of incredible photographs, something happened with it, from a distance it looks like a galaxy, a dirty puddle, a jism in the middle of the page. If I were a page I would say yes. If I were a smudge I would say no. You saw it, my veil got old, a yellow patch, a skin, my skin, a young female angel in the middle of the face, my face, not I, yours, not her, I don’t know what it is, it is a light that struck, a moon died, it would die. Save me. You will save. We would save. A light traveled from the sun, bathed the statues, swept the curtains and arrived at my only day, the best of my days, the day among all the days in which an angel learned who he is – I am or I will be, you will be, you would be, but not here, not the light, not my face, not the body of what preceded me, conjugate the verb, I came before, I passed before, I will pass before, like a past anticipates, and I put a stone. This day here. I did it to you, what happened, was it me? I lost, you lost, I found, or rather: I died and everything died together, it was good like that, under the sudden being below, covered by a thousand tunnels and the entire insect life that exists at the foot of each page and each stone. That is, the weight itself, the captured bird, the poor thing, what good are wings, on the floor of a cave. Enter there, right there, we enter, I will enter, you enter, you might enter, I entered. Penetrate the drawer. Did you see it? Next time, bring beetles and tangerines. I’m thirsty. Bring your own hair. Be the source of my rash, the new freckles, stars on the skin. My skin. Bring my skin, next time. Tell me the news. Don’t show photos, show facts, sources, children. I will be a moist one. I will be like an animal. We would be. I will sing a response, I would sing, transforming, I repeat, so much love in chemistry.
Here we were. Our faces. Here you were. Conjugate, conjugate. We will be. For you to be. They are. I am. You are. You would be. Conjugate more. You are. You are now. The two of us. We are. Like two stones set into the map of a spot of mildew. Listen. It is the sound of a spring. It will be, it would be, and it is coming from inside the cave. It is the sound of a photo. The voice of a dragged closet. Someone singing in the kitchen. Conjugate. Voice, outflow, a strong voice. I sing, I will sing. Conjugate more. I sing. You sing. If I were a fungus I would sing. A grain taking the paper, ripping the ray that strikes on the veil after traveling six minutes from the solar star and crossing the upper atmosphere, hitting the cumulonimbus clouds, ignoring thunder and refracting on the whitewashed walls of the house there, finally streaming in around a roof tile – all of this, the long miracle of a stellar voyage, to print a body. My body. Conjugate. Body, infinitive torpor.
It was like this: I went up on the roof on a beautiful day. I put a mirror under me and I laid on it very carefully. I waited. I was waiting. I’m still waiting. The day was not born, there was no moon, no cloud passed, no bird sang. It would sing. No one said anything. I didn’t wake up or sleep, no word. It was like this: I opened my eyes but it wasn’t eyes that I had to open, I lifted my arms but there was nothing to embrace. I kissed a cloud but there was no cloud. I planted a tree but there was no tree. I turned on the TV and no program was on. I passed. Past. I would pass. I was alone but full of people. I shouted full out, I asked for help, totally and loud, but none of the lifeguards saved me. He would save. Only the mirror under me became opaque, it gained thickness, history, texture, movement. Sometimes even happiness. The air entered within it. Perhaps it breathed a little. A day got up and went out around.
In the works by Marcia Xavier there is almost always a fluctuation between body and image. In her recent works, something happens when an image decomposes: made of, it gives way to material, to bacteria, to fungi. The photographic paper is not a mirror or a ceramic tile, it is not the map with a neutral background, it is not the calm sea where a man walks. It is not in keeping with her explicit proposal – to charge an image and disappear under it. An image, a contemporary madonna, look, a moss took you. Now you are also a piece of cheese. A texture. A labyrinth of grains.
In the series Geologia Doméstica [Domestic Geology], which lends its title to the exhibition, and which occupies the walls of the gallery (there are two other series, connected to it: Santa [Saint] and Fotogramas [Photograms]), the altar of her parents’ wedding album becomes a source of always-live lethal blows. The prospective photo of the ceremony is taken from a flat “aerial view” (used for espionage and bombing flights), of a fungal invasion. On this flat, involuntary image, which the moisture creates all by itself, Marcia overlays a second flat image: a stone, or rather, a real boulder, placed atop the original image, and rephotographed from above. Thus, the fungal moisture, the geologic solidity and the ideal scene of her parents’ wedding rub together, contiguous, metonymic and equivalent to each other, in a “geology of morals” which runs through all her work.
The immeasurable individual memory of the daughter, reweaving her own origin in the bottomless well of the marriage of her parents, runs up against a neutral and flat border. It is against the perspectival system of this scene of origin – the wedding album, the memory as a linked recollection, organized in a ceremony and in a vanishing point) that the planarity of the fungus and that of the stone are imposed. This double planarity is the scandal and the lewdness of these works. In their immobility, simply by being there, looking like a bacterial invasion of the moisture, the stone gains the power of a meteor. It is so different and absurd, and at the same time so similar to the ceremonial scene, that the memory, to cite a famous book, gains matter (the black-and-white of the original album empowers this operation). But, while doing this, it is as though it were corroded by it, yielding to its opposite. Not perpetuation, but disaster; not ceremony, but accident; not memory, but chaos.
I believe that there is a strong charge of destruction in this series of works, further accentuated by the lack of scale of the boulders. Are they giant? Minimal? Escarpments? Can they fit in our hand? This immeasurability transfers to the photos of the album something like the revealing of their trick, of their culture of the photo. Because the vanishing point is this same immeasurability inside out, ranking and hierarchizing each element. The construction of distance, with its Renaissance laws and achievements, the prospectival code that the photos of the album reiterate, plus the veils and the smiles, the dresses and the hairdos, everything seems problematized by the lack of scale of the stones – are they equally huge? Equally tiny? Do they belong to the whole or to the details?
This spatial question is also transferred to time, in a totally natural way. How old is each element? What is the origin of what, here? First the photos of the album, then the fungus, then the overlain stone, right? But don’t we know know that it is exactly the opposite – first the stone, then the fungus (bacterial life), then man (ceremony, culture, etc.)? And moreover, what to say about the fungal voracity? Okay, as a metaphor of the passage of time, of age, it soon calms down. We all get used to that. Naphthalene, the yellowing of the photos, the mildew of the clothes, the smudging of the portrait, are sweetened icons of ruin, a late afternoon melancholy. Nevertheless, here part of the grains appear, as though the photo where itself a bacterial compound that is still being revealed. The process is still taking place: by similarity, the moisture was transformed in this strange chemistry, which develops the photo while colonizing it. Schematizing a little, it can be said that the time of the fungus is the present, that of the stone is geological, and that of memory (the album) swings between the two.
To this fungal and geologic devouring Marcia presents two, let’s say, antibiotic rests. The first is cultural (Santa); the second is instantaneous and luminous, nearly immaterial (Fotogramas). The first begins with the photo of a cave standing on the floor, in scale with the gallery space. The same tectonic element of the other images, but without contrast with the ceremony or with moisture and, therefore, no longer planar, but perspectival. For this reason it touches the floor, creating a sort of trompe l’oeil that invites us to enter it physically. We thus leave the scene of origin, of the Oedipal veils, of the aroma of beauty and death. There is a corridor alongside the photo, the cave itself, now transformed into gallery space, that leads us to the image of the Saint, a strange sexual organ, something like a mandala or a kaleidoscope, a front-back where we can recognize arms and clothing and bellies but which forms another cave, now an anatomical one. It is an inverted superposition, of one image of a detail of the hand and of the clothing of a saint, taken at a church in Piazza Navona, in Rome. It serves to construct an “origin of the world” (to remember the famous painting), a cultural origin of the world, that relieves us a little from the devouring of the previous series. In a certain way, the perspective of the wedding album, which the stone and the fungus of the first series negated, is replaced through this Saint. We enter into the vanishing point of the cave, we walk until the mandala-uterus, dreaming about ourselves. We lose sight of the world (the beings, things, smiles, cars, bubbles, of the wedding album), vague and disembodied, but we return to ourselves.
We indeed return to ourselves, now duly disembodied, nearly emanations of light, in the third series of the exhibition, shown horizontally, on knee-high tables – the Fotogramas, nearly the symmetric inverse of the works shown on the wall. Antitectonic, closer to leaves than to roots, to astrology than to palm lines, to the luminous rose than to microscopic parasites, they liberate the light that the memory held back, or wanted to hold back, in a notebook, in the drawer, in a photo album. If in the series Geologia Doméstica the light imprisoned in the album was corroded by the bacterial life of the planet and by the geologic vastness, in the series Fotogramas it follows its flow without sticking. It seems to have quickly struck the paper (which it in fact did, for two or three seconds), and printed the body of the daughter at a remote distance from that album (it is the first time that the author, in some way announced in the wedding ceremony of her parents, in fact appears), following its astral path. Only the outline, the brief overpainting of this body, has stayed there for us – in real scale, as is proper to the photogram technique. But here there is nothing of that theater of shadows seen in Man Ray’s photograms. Rather, the light wants to remain light, as though the film were overexposed and the paper, free of the fungi and the stones, were a huge mirror. These works are so smooth and reflecting that, curiously, they end up being a nod to the world of the x-rays, like neutrinos shooting through memories, tulles, flesh, bones, exposing light contrasts and brief marks, in a material of soul, of pneuma, of angel. This is why they fly lying down and look upward – to leave behind, stuck to the wall, all the domestic and geologic weight from which we are made, and to find, beyond the gallery’s ceiling, our light and atmosphere.
Notes: Matter and Memory is a book by Henri Bergson; “The Geology of Morals” is a chapter of the book A Thousand Plateaus, by Deleuze/Guattari