During the Tavola Aperta at the Biennale, Liliana Porter stated that the only reality is our relationship with things. And she sets these relationships going, in her situations as she calls them, small installations made of everyday objects. Frozen – perfect – moments that fill that ambiguous space between reality and fiction, visual reminders of the human condition. Porter is an Argentinian artist living in New York since the 60’s, whose work has been exhibited worldwide and includes printmaking, painting, drawing, photography, video, installation, theatre, and public art. Yet in Venice she presents us an intriguing mix of memory and present, dream and reality, which requires all of our attention. In fact each viewer makes up the narrative, always a different one.
June 2017_ by Marcella Vanzo
Could you describe me briefly your project at the Biennale “El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves”?
I was very happy that the curator Christine Macel asked me to present for the Biennale a new version of the installation “ The man with the Axe”, a theme that I approached during these last years in various techniques that include photography, works on canvas, objects, prints and drawings. The subject, in the installation at the Biennale, is a small figurine, about 5 cm high, representing a man with an axe. In front of him we see a variety of things he has destroyed or maybe is in the process of destroying: broken plates, clocks, sailboats, tools, figurines, animals, vases, historical mass produced representations, Mao, Napoleon, Che, a minuscule Kennedy’s presidential car, Mickey, saints, musicians, workers, soldiers, heroes, and travellers. There are placed further away some larger objects: broken chairs, an upside-down piano. The viewers may discover, in a closer look of this installation, other “situations” among these series of catastrophes that seem to be more hopeful or maybe more constructive: tiny people sweeping, repairing, sewing and others disentangling an enormous mass of strings and ropes. There is also a group of figurines, dissimilar in sizes, precedence and materials, walking together towards an apparent same destination. All these objects and situations are presented on top of a shaped wide base, painted in white, designed specially for this piece. The subject could be perceived as metaphor of the passage of time among other open interpretations.
Time, memory and the present, how do you choose the moment where it all happens?
I am aware that reality is a concept very difficult to apprehend. That everything becomes past and memory in an instant. That the past comprises not only what already happened but also what we had imagined: the past is a space where the real and the virtual coexist. It admits a different, non-linear order of things.
How do you cast your actors?
I find them in flea markets, antique shops, airport stores. I “recognize “ them immediately and rescue them from the world.
Do you ever make any of the objects we see inside your situations?
Never. They all pre-exist.
What is the relationship between your work and live performance?
I presented already three theatrical performances all of them in Buenos Aires.
1) “Entreactos: situaciones breves” - March 2014, a production associated with the Universidad Tocuato di Tella, presented at the Teatro Sarmiento, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2) “El orden de las cosas; bocetos” - September 2015, presented within the series El borde de si mismo. Ensayos entre el teatro y las artes visuales, MAMBA, (Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires), Agosto 14 - Septiembre 27, 2015
3) “Domar al leon y otras dudas” in the B.P.17 (Bienal de performance, Buenos Aires) June 1-4 2017. Parque de la Memoria.
Where do you make your works?
I have a studio in Rhinebeck, New York where I make most of my work .
What can’t be missing from your worktable?
The market or your need to express?
Sorry. I don’t understand this question.
Lightness or depth?
A question you’ve never been asked but one you’ve always wanted to answer?
The most important questions for me are those that I ignore the answer.
Answer that question…
I wish I could do it.
Could you briefly describe one of your latest works?
The latest work is the piece I made for the Biennial de Performance in Buenos Aires, co-directed and written together with Uruguayan artist Ana Tiscornia. It was presented at Parque de la Memoria, in a special space (a tent) mounted specially for this event. There were 3 actors and two dancers and a wonderful group of technicians working on this piece.
It is composed by 14 fragments, each one independent in subject, but all of them addressing issues that are recurrent in my artworks: the concept of time, representation, the possibility of meaning.
What are you reading?
Marcelo Cohen, Borges, Graciela Speranza, Swedenborg.
The Italians : Visconti, De Sica, Fellini.
Where would you like to live?
I love to leave where I already am: in New York.
Do you have reference artists? Artists you’d like to work with?
I already worked with Magritte, Lichtenstein, Picasso, Morandi.
I included or intervened their images in some of my own pieces.
A project, related to art, that you’d like to do?
I will like to continue working with theatre performances.
If you weren’t an artist, what job would you like?
A different occupation that I would like could be to be a writer.
Yes or no to curators? If yes, who would you choose?
I had great experiences with curators. I worked with Ines Katzenstein, Tobias Ostrander, Cecilia Fajardo, Estrella de Diego and many more. I am open to new ideas and approaches.
A dream of yours?
To continue to have energy to work in new ideas.
Liliana Porter (b. Argentina, 1941, resides in New York since 1964) works across mediums with printmaking, painting, drawing, photography, video, installation, theater, and public art. Recent solo shows include those at El Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales in Montevideo; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires; Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Franklin Rawson in San Juan, Argentina; Museo de Arte de Zapopan in Guadalajara, Mexico; Sicardi Gallery in Houston, TX; Barbara Krakow Gallery in Boston, MA; and Galerie Mor-Charpentier in Paris, France. Porter’s installation Untitled (Shadows) will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston through 2016 and she debuted El orden de las cosas (The Order of Things), her second theatrical production in 2015 at MAMBA / Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, Argentina.