Poétique de la disaparition
Tortured, repressed, violated and manipulated all over this conflictive planet, the body irrefutably becomes transformed from a mere object to an everlasting bearer of speech. The very “speech of speech” urges us to speak instead of speaking about it, speak right up and out loud, speak against it, speak for it, let it speak. This is how French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy describes the sensorial and expressive omnipotence of the body in its interference with the external world, and this is how the body emerges in the work of Ixone Sábada, a young visual artist, performer and photographer based in Bilbao, Spain.
Sábada first gained notoriety in 2003 with “Ciceron”, a series of site-specific twin apparitions of herself. Further notable projects were to come in the following years. “Leviathan” (2007) suggested life’s conspicuousness in its absence from the devastated hurricane landscapes of the American West, and “Expulsion from Paradise” (2006) established duality as one of the artist’s recurrent motifs. Contrariwise, “Poètique de la Desaparition” shifts away from the clear filmic narrative construction of her previous series, in favour of a markedly abstract and introspective approach that pushes the whole work to its limits, both formally and conceptually. To use Sábada’s own words, “my new series does so much more than just bringing up a more complex, mature and tough vision of the body. It pushes the very same photographic image and all the meanings it carries towards full deconstruction”.
In the series, Sádaba, the ever performer, recurs once more to her own body to negotiate the idea of a naked body that is and is not. Somewhere before the final departure, the self and its alter ego, present or implicit in many of her previous oeuvres, are fused into one. A fading “me” emerges before our eyes, under the most tense and dramatic physical conditions. Multiple exposures and a body which cries, laughs, begs, enjoys -one and all at once- on the verge of hysteria and collapse…
Alarming and discomforting, Sádaba’s posture arguably serves as a metaphor for the condition of total expropriation, destruction and nihilism the body is subjected to today, as much as it brings into the foreground the existential right of not to be, in terms of placing oneself -in this case, Sádaba and her female being- within an alternative non-space that lies beyond codified language, politics and culture.
Sádaba’s discourse displays great affinities with the Lacanian view of femininity as a state of negativity existing outside the hermetically constructed male world. Such an interpretation allows a feminist reading of her work that the artist herself fully welcomes. “I am not a feminist in the strict sense of the term”, she explains, “but I happen to be a woman who works in a very close relationship with her body. In various occasions, I have had to reflect on how this is to be represented and where I place myself at the time of representation”.
“We perceive our bodies as the most common thing in the world, but has it ever occurred to us how socially limited the margins outside exhibitionism for a sustained engagement with the body are?” wonders Sádaba. For her, exposing one’s own body and self, speaking volumes through it, implies a fundamental political attitude as the most unmediated way to express identity. In her own words, “I try to explain that my body is face and hands, but it is also butt and vagina. I do not tend to show it off if I do not consider it essential, but if I reflect exactly on this -the body, its representation and signs- I am sorry but I just have to do it”.
“Poètique de la Desaparition” was originally performed before the camera as an unpremeditated response of personal exorcism. Yet, it could not have resulted less political. Just the presence of a suffering naked female body between the sheets of a double bed makes up for the absence of the politically and socially charged landscapes of Sádaba’s previous oeuvres. The political statement running through all this self-exposure is too explicit…
Somewhere between the material and spiritual realms, being becomes no-being, and so does representation. In Sádaba’s visceral response, movement, feeling and time are employed as tools for a wide-ranging critical analysis and formal deconstruction of the granted space that defines the photographic frame, rendering obsolete devices such as the unique still image, the representation space and the frozen time. Why all this? Is something wrong with photography, as we knew it? “To my point of view”, she explains, “the slavish dependency of photography on documentary has kept it aloof from art for such a long time that it has wasted too many of its possibilities on a conceptual level”. There is still too much purism left, there is still too much of this vain discourse of representation going on and it is a pity and it is unfair. Is there actually anything that is not representation?”
Ixone Sádaba brings an extraordinary fresh approach to the notion of time and the transcendence of the photographic medium. One of the most interesting elements in her work is the way she incessantly integrates movement, real time and performance into the still frame, as if she wished to show the movement and perturbation constantly present below the skin. Repetition, rhythm and eclipse… So many bodies, so many expressive possibilities; as if time were dilated into many parallel moments; as if time were comprised not from a unique moment but from millions of afters and befores within an eternal present in an infinite emotional and conceptual expansion.
“I have to say I don’t like Cartier Bresson. I don’t believe in the instant”, Sádaba once declared. “But I do believe in an event’s capacity to generate a different tempo, in which our perception contracts and expands”. What does narrative matter then, when everything is here, in the veins that enclose our blood, in the flesh that echoes the palpitations of our heart? Within one single frame, the manipulation of time creates a bridge between material and spiritual means, a spiral emanation of life in all its million possibilities.
An uncanny, magical process helps the body finally come to terms with itself. Body moving, body protesting, body breathing in La Poètique de la Desaparition…
View of the exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum