Published in Droste Effect Mag, Jul 18, 2019
Dora García (Valladolid, 1965) is a Spanish artist whose research-based practice draws on a range of different media — performance, film, sound, literary and scientific texts — using the display as a tool to investigate the conditions of reception and subjectivity. Curator Maria Lind wrote: “García is a contemporary Sputnik—a fellow traveler whose approach to feminism and love takes dissidence, deviance, and marginality as guiding lights.”(1)
We asked her something about the tension between the performative mode and the cinematic one in her work, with a particular reference to the staged documentary Second Time Around(1h34m, 2018). It is part of a wide analysis project based on a key figure of the Argentine avant-garde: the artist, critic and psycho-analyst Oscar Masotta (Buenos Aires 1930 – Barcelona 1979).
This is the result of a montage, a re-editing work of different films: 2 re-enactments of politically controversial happenings held in the 1960s by Masotta — To induce the spirit of images (1966) and The helicopter (1967); the long-take sequence Segunda Vez, inspired by Julio Cortázar’s homonymous story on the surveillance and control practices of the Argentine military regime; the anti-happening The ghost message (1967); and the short film La Eterna (2017).
Second Time Around also gave the name to García’s personal exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (18 April – 3 September, 2018).
ANNALISA PELLINO – The exhibition, designed around this central focus, also includes works from 1997 to 2018, chosen because of their relationship with the movie. To what extent do they relate to each other? Does the relationship have something to do with your interest in psychoanalysis?
DORA GARCIA – The choice of works was done in conversation with the curators, Teresa Rodriguez and Manuel Borja-Villel. We grouped the works in three sections – performances, texts, and films – and tried to present, in an intuitive manner, how texts, performances and films influenced each other since 1997, touching as well on subjects that are important in the film, such as metafiction, language, politics, the subconscious, the body… subjects that have been there for 20 years.
AP – The literary and sound component is very important in your work, inasmuch as it is not a disciplinary trespassing, but a strictly intertwined relation. I think for instance of Instant Narrative (2006-08), as well as the installation you realized in collaboration with the musician Jan Mech. How do they combine with the whole project?
DG – Instant Narrative is a work from 2006 that has belonged to the collection of the museum since 2010, I believe. I wanted to have it present in the exhibition because it is an important work, linking together performance and text, the idea of infinite narration and audience and author sharing a moment of text construction. The piece developed with Jan Mech is a site-specific sound piece. I saw the basement of the museum and it immediately made me think of the character Odradek, from Kafka. I wanted to do a sound piece as a sort of memory of that character, and asked the complicity of Jan Mech, an actor and musician and a good friend with whom I have worked for many years now.
AP – Performance has a central role in your practice. You conceive it from the point of view of the choreographer, as a “durational and delegated performance characterized by an overlapping between the viewer and the performer.” What were your references in developing this approach?
DG – I have many references in my performance work. Maybe the main ones are Allan Kaprow, Auguste Boal, Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud: I like very much the relation between fiction and action – the idea of metafiction, very present in the work of Julio Cortázar, for instance, or even Borges.
AP – What’s your idea of post-performance?
DG – I guess it is what comes after performance? But I never use that word.
AP – How did you get in touch with the story and the artistic research of Oscar Masotta?
DG – By coincidence, in a conversation I had with a writer, Ricardo Piglia, who mentioned that name and his work, Oscar Masotta, as an archetypical crossover between performance, politics and psychoanalysis, three things I am very interested in.
AP – According to Ágnes Pethő, “the poetics of intermediality in the cinema takes the form of an intermedial mise en abyme in which one medium reflects another as if in a mirror” in terms not of a simple inscription but of a transfiguration, as a figure of ‘in-betweenness’ that reflects on both the media involved.”(2) With reference to Segunda Vez, but also to the previous The Joycean Society (53’, 2013) and The Deviant Majority (From Basaglia to Brazil) (34’, 2010), how do the cinematic dimension and the performative one affect each other?
DG – To me, very clearly – a film is a format that allows me to develop a very complex thought, and guide the audience by the hand along that complex thought I’m trying to develop in the film. There is no other medium, for me, that allows that moment of prolonged intimacy with the audience. And yet, all my films are performance documentaries: I do not use a story board, and I do not use a script; I devise a situation – a performance – and I document it, as it happens. I never repeat a take – whatever happens, it is good. So, I guess that is how the performative affects the cinematic.
AP – In the staged documentary fictional parts and spontaneous occurrences are arranged in order to affect the communicative dynamics within the filmic device. Its mechanisms generate a “tension between performance and document,”(3) embodied and disembodied in a paradoxical overlapping between the real and media levels. The bodies themselves are like living media, they act as if in a ritual ceremony to “recall the spirit” of images, performing them. Does the challenge to stay and act in such an in-between space symbolically represent the effort to confront the blind spots of history and culture with all their unanswered questions? I mean, does Segunda Vez work in exorcising the trauma of a repressed past, namely of the so-called “Infamous Decade” in Argentina?
DG – I suppose that is correct. I believe poetry is not a luxury, but a matter of sheer necessity, the most powerful tool of thought and understanding. So I am trying to use poetry and poetics to understand and represent history.
(1) Maria Lind, Soon, e-flux Journal #93, September 2018.
(2) Agnes Petho (ed.), Cinema and Intermediality: The Passion for the In-Between, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011.
(3) Bill Nichols, Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.