CHAPTER VI

BODIES AND NATURE

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One of the areas that feminism has investigated is directly related to nature. The politics of care, which in the current state of the world has taken on a central role. It has rapidly extended to the care of nature, to a relationship with nature in which humans no longer have at their disposal the sources of reproduction and survival in order to plunder them, to exhaust them, but rather to develop their lives in coexistence with nature to ensure the continuity of life. The recording of María Teresa Hincapié’s performance in which she installed a tree inside a church; the photographs of Jackie Parisier; Elba Bairon’s drawings; Nicola Costantino’s sculptures; and the photographs Florencia Levy took in China: they all use the image to invite critical thinking on the state of the planet. The friction between a dead lake in China and the turbulent wilderness in a sacred space raises the question: what are we going to do about the current state of an exhausted world?

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

The gesture of raising a tree inside a church—one of María Teresa Hincapié’s most recent works—documents a performance impregnated with the sacred environment in which it took place. Rodrigo Orrantia recorded this moment from afar. The monumentality of the tree standing upright in a context that is foreign to it, the reverberation produced by the foliage in that space surrounded by altarpieces and sacred ornaments, intensify the urgency that this exhibition presents: evidence of the need to rethink everything.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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My collaboration here was minimal. This was a moment in María Teresa’s work quite different from the one described by José Alejandro [Restrepo]. A much more refined moment that had a great deal much to do with her educational work at the university. But there was also something very resolute that she had in that chapter about finding the sacred, no less contentious than in that original moment. And it had to do almost with a militancy toward nature, in relation to the political and the religious. Because for her the search for the sacred was to compare it with other traditions.


That performance, in the context of the church, was made for the National Salon curated that year by Natalia Gutiérrez, who was my thesis adviser at the time. She invited me to talk to María Teresa and ask her if I could take some photos of her performance. I was interested in how this issue of nature, which she was so adamant about, somehow challenged all the art inside that church. What María Teresa was interested in was that those trees, which are the center of the performance, were trees from a park that had been felled by order of the city’s mayor. They were hundred-year-old trees that were at the center of a political struggle between their protectors and the city.


This was the end of a process María Teresa had been going through: first to defend them in the park where they belonged, and then a process of mourning. Dragging them, bringing them inside, raising them, and accompanying them in the last moments of the lives of the trees. So I tried to intervene as little as possible. María Teresa had withdrawn from the image. She wasn’t really happy about it being recorded or for it to be a collaborative affair. It was a rather distant recording. 

Rodrigo Orrantía, Rethink Everything, Talk #4, June 27, 2020.

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Jackie Parisier  activates a process that multiplies and dilutes the contours of the body in relation to nature. Her images emerge from double exposures made with old, repurposed cameras that assimilate the errors inherent to these devices. The result is an approach to life that both replicates and merges with its surroundings. A body that seems to erase itself in its contact with nature, and at the same time extends the limits of what is human. This reflection makes visible the expanded outline of a relationship that is examined in its zones of friction and interaction.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

I work with old cameras, with box cameras. I started the series with an Eastman Kodak Brownie, where there’s also an element of a time capsule: I’m photographing with modern rolls inside receptacles that don’t have the same format as the rolls available to me today. So I create all sorts of situations set up with plastic seals so that the drum and the roll match, so I can open a film roll made today and re-roll it in an old camera ...
The format of the camera gives me only six frames, or eight images—depending on which Brownie camera I’m using—and many times I get four ... that is to say, I get a result that is subtle, small, and that’s why it takes me so long to get to a series of fourteen images like the one I’ve produced over the years. In that time I stopped dyeing my hair, I started to feel a little bit in tune and in unison with all these cameras.

Jackie Parisier, Rethink Everything, Talk #4, June 27, 2020.

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The drawings Elba Bairon made in the 1990s cross human bodies with animal life. A heightened sexuality runs through these intensely feminine extensions of life, expanding the drawing into bodies, snails, and joyful excrescences. Today, Elba is known, above all, as a sculptor, but she was also an engraver and drawing has acompanied her since adolescence, when she studied Chinese painting. In a sense, everything that we in the West consider Asian appears, in distinct forms, in different periods of her work.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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It was during my early teens, when I lived in Montevideo. I was twelve or thirteen years old. My family asked me if I would like to enroll in some Chinese painting workshops. I said yes, that I would love to try, and it fascinated me. It was an extraordinary encounter. The first thing that drew me in was the most superfluous, so to speak: the brush, the inks, the absorbent paper, the small slate ... but then, as time went on, I became fascinated by the subtlety of the line, the delicate pressure that has to be applied. It was very, very beautiful. But learning it is arduous: you began by making only small, minimal strokes, almost as if you were writing an ideogram, until you achieve a smooth line, with nuances, tremendous precision. At the beginning, it was like writing, and after a while you started to work a little bit more, but it was all a question of repeating and repeating until you achieved what you were looking for ... and that was what I found fascinating.

Elba Bairon, interviewed by Mariano Soto, Palabra grave, artista aérea, Sauna. Revista de arte 2, no. 30 (n.d.).

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In Chanchobola, Nicola Costantino compresses an animal shape into a spherical shape. A biopolitical approach to the ways of arranging bodies. In its distributions you can feel the animal skin that is replicated in a mimetic way. In a photo Nicola arranged its forms in the landscape, on the green grass, equidistant. You can feel the human intervention that is what also controls and exploits nature. We can bring to the analysis the debate on the anthropocene, on the human impact on the planet. When I saw it, the image replicated to me the preception Lucio Fontana's Naturas in the sculptural park of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. I saw them there two days before the attack on the twin towers. Many other echoes of representations of art, of experiences of time, resonate in an image.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

I made these works in 1998. They were really one of the first works I made and they are the result of a very rare, very special combination, which begins with the mummification of the animal’s body, then a tracing on the actual animal with a silicone mold, and then a resin casting with aluminum that copies this imprint left by the animal. And to make an association with the photographic, for example, I think the essence of photography is in maintaining the illusion that one is seeing the real object.
I bought the animals at the supermarket; I would go to the supermarket and order the biggest piglet they had and I would take it with me. A piglet on a tray in a butcher’s shop or hanging on a hook doesn’t attract attention, it doesn’t move you too much, but you remove it from there and put it in a totally different place, as the raw material for a work of art, and you begin to see lots of other things. I found that really interesting.

Nicola Costantino, Rethink Everything, Talk #4, June 27, 2020.

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The visual arts would make visible forces that are not. I think there is a kind of key. Behind our consumption there are monstrous forces of animal annihilation and processing. These forces are invisible, and they acquire a visibility in Nicola's work that they usually do not have and that one would hope they never had.

There is a logic, which is what allows us to organize everything based on your identity as a whole. There is something that escapes, to that logic, something that is there for the first and last time. A pig is not something that one can reduce to an identity, it is something that one sees for the first time and possibly for the last time where it is found. The possibility of achieving success, an art that is produced despite the culture of liking and despite the culture of invisibility, hopefully constitutes a form of legacy.

Florencio Noceti. Los Visuales: Nicola Costantino. Canal Encuentro.

The relationship between the body and nature reaches a liminal register in Florencia Levy’s images made in China during an artistic residency. She traveled to the north of the country and photographed an artificial lake with radioactive waste. Here, she was arrested by the police, who accused her of being a spy. The artwork, created from the only photograph she managed to preserve and the shaky video of the police interrogation—they did not believe she was an artist—provide us with a picture of high-surveillance societies and sites of extreme contamination on our planet.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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(...) Baotou means in Mongolian "Land of deer" but it is almost impossible to imagine a group of deer jumping around in that landscape. People from the area who used to be farmers still can remember the watermelons fields, eggplants and tomatoes that used to grow where the toxic lake stands now.

Florencia Levy

BIOGRAPHIES | CHAPTER VI

Jackie Parisier (b. 1968). Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Visual artist based in Buenos Aires, but a significant part of her career has taken place in New York City, where she received her BFA. Her work explores the way in which we relate to both old and new technologies for storing and processing visual information, focusing on the somewhat mysterious influence they have upon our memory, our sense of loss and longing, our self-perception and the manner in which we experience time. Her latest projects include the photographs and objects of Days Old (2016), a solo show curated by Valeria Gonzalez at Rolf Art, Buenos Aires; and The Other’s Eye (2019) an installation in Lima Photo that is part of her ongoing Expired series.

Elba Bairon (b. 1947). La Paz, Bolivia. Lives in Buenos Aires since 1967.

She has lived and worked in Buenos Aires since 1967. She studied drawing, Chinese painting, engraving, and lithography, and in the 1990s, she began to work on sculptural pieces presented in installations. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions at Centro Cultural Rojas, National Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Argentina); Art Basel (Switzerland); ARCO (Spain); Cándido Méndez Cultural Center (Brazil); Sculpture Park Museum (Chile); and Nube Gallery (Bolivia). She participated in the 33 Bienal de São Paulo (Brazil). In 2012, she received the New Supports and Installation Grand Prize of the National Hall (Argentina) and the first Federico J. Klemm Prize for Visual Arts (Argentina).

Nicola Costantino (b. 1964). Rosario, Argentina.

She works with sculpture, clothing, installations, photography, and video installation. In her works she denounces the violence exerted on the body, the axis of her investigation. During the last years she has composed scenographic productions of episodes in the history of art in which she is included, embodying paradigmatic female subjects. Her pieces combine sharp beauty with hard-to-resolve discomfort. Some of her recent projects are Unfinished Rhapsody (Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Art Collection, 2015), Eva – Argentina. A Contemporary Metaphor (55th Venice Biennale, 2013), and Monographic Exhibition (Daros Latinamerica, 2011). She lives and works in Buenos Aires.

Florencia Levy (b. 1979). Buenos Aires, Argentina.

She studied at Central Saint Martin's College of Arts in London and at UNA in Buenos Aires. She has won international scholarships to carry out art residencies in the Netherlands, Japan, the United States, Taiwan, Cuba, South Korea, Malaysia, Poland, Israel, China and Switzerland. In 2020 and 2015 she won the Pollock-Krasner Foundation scholarship (NY, USA). Her work has received numerous awards and has been exhibited in national and international exhibitions such as the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow (Russia), Frankfurter Kunstverein (Germany), Arko Art Center (South Korea), National Museum of Fine Arts of Santiago (Chile), POLIN Museum (Poland); Run Run Shaw Creative Media Center (Hong Kong), among others.

María Teresa Hincapié (b. 1956 - 2008). Bogota, Colombia.

Pioneer artist of performance and a very influential figure in Latin America. She began her artistic career involved with theater and was part of the group Acto Latino. In 1987, she was introduced in the field of performance based on Parquedades, a work by the artist José Alejandro Restrepo, which completely removed her from the theatrical forms and from the conventional notion of “spectacle”. She won the first prize at the XXXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas, Colombia in (1990/1996). She has participated in international exhibitions and fairs such as I Bienal de Valencia (2001), 51st Biennale di Venezia (2005), and 27th Bienal de São Paulo (2006), among others.

Rodrigo Orrantia (b. 1975). Colombia / UK.

He is an art historian and curator. He has a degree in Fine Art from the University of Los Andes (Colombia) and Goldsmiths College, London. He has a Master’s degree in History of Art and Architecture from the National University of Colombia, and a Master’s degree in Historical and Contemporary Photography from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. He lives in London, where he currently works as a photography curator and consultant. He advises artists, private collectors, and public institutions in the development of photographic projects, exhibitions, and publications. Lately his practice has focused on commissioning and producing print and online content around artistic photography practices in Latin America and the UK.

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