Transverse Times

Agnaldo Farias

In the background, on the last wall of the third and last room that makes up the exhibition space, a large rectangle immersed in red. It consists of two hundred and eighty small canvases, ten centimeters by ten, arranged in regular order so that together they make up a rectangle of one meter fifty-eight high by two seventy-eight wide. When you’re distanced, it shows that the set has gaps. From close it can be seen that in each of the nineteen empty spaces there is a nail. A presence that announces an absence: a screen that has been removed or that is yet to be placed. In either case an incompleteness. As if the whole were to face its impossibility, a circle that does not close, perpetually doomed to be otherwise. Something in power but not happening. It remains on the threshold, although it tells us each of the parts meticulously worked out, the long way was there. A project that will be finalized, perhaps, by the look and imagination of those who contemplate it. A complex situation since the one who stops in front of the work, the one who lets himself be carried away by each of the parts, by each of the small canvases, analyzing them one by one at the same time as the gaze, as is inevitable in these cases, spreads out over the adjacent canvases, will fill the empty spaces as a logical extension of what he is seeing as well as what he already carries within. Finally, it will complete the whole from its own experience and memory. In this aspect the work, like everything else that we are given to contemplate, will be infinite at the same time in feeding on the spectator himself.

Time has always been Guita Soifer’s subject matter. The time of life which is also the time of death; the time which indistinctly subjugates all beings and things, but which is also incarnated in the way beings and things subjugate each other. In this sense the present exhibition by Guita Soifer is and is not an autobiographical exhibition. It is not because its pretension leads her to meditate on a wide set of events, questions that are generally transcendent and that concern anyone who stands before them. It is autobiographical because undoubtedly the silent and often gloomy halo that emerges from this set of works is also justified by the fact that the artist is Jewish, belonging to a family that was uprooted from Europe, and that by a series of fortuitous coincidences ended up settling in a city in the south of Brazil. Could it be different? Could it be possible for someone to suppress a family past so close and printed in such tragedy? In any case, I don’t think that the artist makes direct inquiries or references to it. Subtlety, oblique discourse proves to be an effective weapon. Even so, as has already been said, if her singular meditation on time works as a ladder towards the universe, this ladder, by its very nature, needs a floor on which it can rest.

From her stripped prints, of which in this exhibition she presents an expressive series of six, to this surprisingly diverse set of work, the artist seems to focus on time, to experience it in some of her manifestations, to passively perceive her peculiarities, as one who lets the wind blow her own face misaligning her hair, or, on the contrary, as one who proposes to sugar it, forcing it to move by the action of the gesture that furrows a matrix or by the hardening of liquid paraffin, whose viscosity disappears as the matter comes in contact with ambient temperature, or even as one appropriates an object any pair of spectacles, a bedspread, a suitcase, and knows, and counts on the fact, that this same object is inseparable from its function. Each object is inseparable from its ordinary use, from the spectacles that serve as support for sight, supposedly diminishing the abyss that separates us from the world; the bedspread that covers our bodies so that we may better navigate in our sleep; the suitcase, the portable house, with which we carry the things we do not want to abandon, things so indispensable that they travel together with us, close to our body, carried by the strap embraced by our fingers.

To the most distracted Guita Soifer’s engravings, an expression in which she built her remarkable career, perhaps they did not foreshadow the plural artist, the author of a varied work, which today travels naturally between painting and sculpture, between the appropriate object and the book, between the plan and the installation. But considering that her problem, the nerve of her concern, is time, and not this or that expressive support, this overflow is less of a surprise than a natural corollary of her inquiries. The curious thing, for sure, is that only now it has occurred, when the artist had already consolidated herself as a label. But, pondering the terms, it is a trivial curiosity, which derives from the taste that art historians have for the recurrent, for what, because it is stable, best fits the classification systems.

Perhaps because they belong to the vein that the artist has explored the most, the prints in this exhibition serve as an explanatory key so that one can understand the essential issues that permeate it. In these black planes with well-hidden outlines, they articulate among themselves to better challenge the white of the paper. In some cases, they seem to present plateau views of large buildings, such as those buildings that by the effect of light determine and from a very particular angle of view, abandon their volumetry becoming large shadows. Seeing them closely, one notices that the black shapes of some of them settle inside subtle low reliefs by the understanding of paper, and that these depressions do not coincide with the edges of these shapes, on the contrary, they surpass them, as if to the effort that made each stain there was another previous one that had opened its way, like these small pits that open in the earth for the seeds to be deposited. They refer directly to other works, other engravings belonging to the previous series, in which the entire white surface of the thick paper was interrupted here and there by a set of isolated letters, stripped constellations, fragmented and disconnected discourses, as an expression in the larval state, still germinating, and that at some time in the future will eventually emerge.

The prints presented in this exhibition bring another version of porphyria between the silence of white and all the expressive intensity of black. The zones defined by one and the other are mutually restrained as if they had reached a minimum stability. Apart from the equivalence between them, which in itself activates the quadrilateral that contains them, making it a zone of tension, the black forms, as if by the effect of time demanded in their contemplation, seem to suddenly detach themselves from the horizontal plane in order to rise – if in the air.

The other works presented bring this open discussion into an even broader spectrum. Already in the first room, the informal bedspreads hanging on the walls make us swing between the memory of our home life with this object and the fact that they are mutilated and soiled there. These are two pieces where one refers to the other. Two pieces of fabric which, like all bedspreads, one day fulfilled the task of covering the bed, the port to which one returns every night. Now they are blurred by rust, macerated by the hostile skin of the iron, which in them has left the stain that definitively violated the tactile docility of the fabric, its candor. One of the bedspreads had a rhombus torn from its center. The regularity of the shape suggests the premeditation of the violent gesture. The missing piece, in turn, was sewn on the surface of the other bedspread. That’s the relentless logic of the game. Through the various forms of contact, from friendly to tyrannical, otherwise much more frequent, things, over time, contaminate each other, change irremediably, lose their purity.

What these works insist on alerting us is that time does not exist itself. It exists in things. And as things are infinite, so are the modalities of time that inhabit them. The common denominator to all of them is that what they unlock in each matter and object is an impulse that will lead them to confrontation and modification, the alteration of their original features and essences towards transformation.

The most touching presentation of this problem, which is directly connected to the parable of the bedspreads, is at the entrance of the third room, in a small suitcase in whose interior, tangled and overflowing, one can see a film printed on paper. In it occurs the progressive succession of the same image: a flattened hand that frame by frame is being scratched by an instrument that cannot be seen. As it is presented to us, the hand makes us think of nodding or despair; in both cases, it acts as an index of fragility, even more accentuated because it is the target of a growing incision and which is also manufactured by an invisible agent. The hand lines, which the most varied cultures claim to be the printed lines of past destinies and of the steps that will still be traversed, are opposed to other lines, tortuous and painful risks. What paths are those dry lines on the skin and for which there seems to be no defense?

In this same room, fixed on a side wall, a mosaic composed of 36 photos, 36 variations, repetitions and inversions of the same motive: the artist seen from the back. Ranging from a shot at a distance where it is recorded from the waist up, to a vision focused on the back of her neck and head, the result places the viewer in front of someone who is distant from him. Someone who fearlessly presents himself in a vulnerable pose, which on the other hand amplifies his condition of an enigma, to which besides not making his face known, he contemplates a place for us unattainable. A place where, according to the inverted photographed heads, the laws of the right and left, of the above and the below, are not worth the marks that organize our movements around the world, this world of ours. Is it the future? And what if it’s left for us, the spectators it so jealously cares to avoid? Are we doomed to the past? Are we to be stuck in the now as she drags towards the horizon?

The convergence of the times finds an even more complex version in the various books placed on the table right at the entrance to the second room as well as on two shelves located at its exit. Lines and letters follow each other as we leaf through them.

Lines and letters are applied on colored surfaces. There is, therefore, a moment of exaltation within this silent exhibition. But, although cheerful, it is a melody sung at half voice. The colors magnetize the environment with their warmth, with the rhythm with which we turn the page, a way of savoring time, since the book is an object that is necessarily enjoyed slowly. Each page is a work in itself and there one realizes how much these books are a field of autonomous experiences or target of the transposition of experiences obtained in other supports. Here the rhythmic tangle of lines as well as the constellations of letters printed on translucent papers intertwine as borders of their possibility of language. The lines behave as if they wanted to abandon the chaotic state, a mere seismograph of subjectivity, to reach the sphere of meaning. On the other hand, the letters, tired of being submitted to the order of sentences, to the yoke of language, dream other configurations, abandon the horizontally in which they live, one next to the other, to float back and forth, like certain astronomical photographs that portray stellar explosions.

In this same second room are still twelve objects arranged in two groups of six tables. Some groups can be distinguished from them: there are those arranged in jewelry boxes, placed on delicate fabrics such as silk and satin. However, they are nothing more than trivial objects, which contrasts with the hardship with which they are treated: an old hoax of those that the old houses brought to the entrance so that the visitor could make himself known. Also worn out “butterflies”, small fins that were used in the stops of the vertical leaf windows. Besides these, other indiscernible objects, always worn out when not rusty, deposited in iron and glass containers, attract attention. The common denominator to all of them is that they appear to be the spoils of another time, shards of missing lives, vestiges of social patterns and domestic rites, capable of evoking the visits that perched on the doors of houses or their inhabitants that raised the window so that air could enter through it at the same time as they supported their elbows in the raised contemplation of the movement of the street and the landscape. And that is why, because it alludes to a time that deserves to be conserved, that should not be erased like the other things that were integrated, under the risk that a little of us are also erased, is that they are treated like pieces of a reliquary.

Another order of objects deals with words. In them, the artist makes use of prefabricated letters: “Letraset” or letters – masks, cut into small metal plates and obtained by fixing them on any support and filling their voids with ink. The option against handwriting poses the problem of survival of personal expression before the strength of the various discourses enunciated by the power, the forced obedience to the words and senses that are imposed on us. Inside a box, even the metallic letters abandon their impersonality as they are vitalized by a thick skin – paraffin. Here the letters gain flesh. The personal, non-transferable pronoun “I”, engraved in black “letraset” that floats on an immaculate white film, seminal liquid or placenta, comes to life. A work of infinite delicacy, with it Guita Soifer, while courageously unveiling herself, shows us with her poetics that possibly the submergence of the sign in time will make another being germinate within the being.