Ungraspable, posible, imposible: something falls / something rises.
Luis Felipe Ortega
1. Pendulum is the title of a sculpture by Daniela Libertad. Moreover: Pendulum is the title of a photograph by Daniela Libertad. The image dates from the year 2010. On a tabletop that is stained and marked with use, (perhaps a worktable?), two drinking glasses are close enough so that a paintbrush is able to balance, resting between them. The glasses—common enough—are empty, they are only a support. In the center the paintbrush, and at the center of the paintbrush is tied a thread, a thread that falls and holds a wad of chewing gum at its end, creating a ‘pendulum’. For some reason the sculpture (image?) seems silent (or solitary?) to me, it’s a gesture that reminds me of many artists between the 60s and the 80s who made works whose inherentquality was their immediacy (and the possibility to comment from there on the sculptural gesture). I’m thinking of Charles Ray, also I’m thinking of Michael Craig-Martin (An oak tree, 1973), an important work in contemporary art, an enigmatic piece, a work whose symbolic/non symbolic power allowed to be put into play the notion of content in the work of art: that which it is, that which it could be, that which is felt . . . perhaps: the sculptural and visual fact are an act of reconciliation with a multiplicity of meanings that anything can have at a certain specific time (although at another moment it can return to be what it is).
2. This sculptural image of Daniela’s is a piece that synthesizes many of the preoccupations that have been a fundamental part of her visual, bodily, and material processes in the last years. Objects that, for whatever reason, are on hand in her studio are transformed into art materials, used for an action that will be defined by its temporality, for the time in which they are, can be or are add to a work, employed in a delicate and uncomplicated way: later it will have to be observed, asking what occurred or what is happening. It seems to me that from this point the work’s intent is formed, every edge is observed and the idea begins by stating that which it is. For Daniela, this manner of production appears, at least to me, fundamental and distances her manner of making from artists that designate —always— a priori a given function to objects in a pseudo-intellectual eagerness to believe that they already know. As a form of punishment, they oblige the object to “make a statement”, to “say something”. It seems that this act reverses what are apparently good intentions: “for all that I know, I am the one in the position to say so”. Exercise (again) for making a demonstration of power: “since the others don’t know, I’ll tell them.” In Daniela’s processes (and I insist: this tendency demarcates her production from the way in which the majority of the artists of her generation operate), that which “one knows” can only happen through a long and strained relationship, in the moments when she moves closer to the object, the subject, or a specific place and begins to read it, to transform it by way of personal rituals, rituals that she have been inherited from their trade (ways of doing, of saying, of behaving visually, of recounting, of withdrawing, of drawing, of editing, of utilizing the body, and also ways of naming things). The rituals that Daniela has appropriated, fittingly, are assembled and linked to other types of rituals, to specific cultural traditions, to ways in which certain communities and groups tie material production to cultural production, which is the origin of creative symbolism. It appears that Daniela asks herself: What I am making, what is it? Not only what does it signify and how is it embodied within this or that discourse, but what is in it and of itself as an offering of a specific time and space, as something that is done for someone else—offerings that in their nature have their own name and therefore their own identity: A de Alicia 1, 2012, O de Obatalá 1, 2012. This identity, none-the-less, opens itself unto the Other that is many Others.
3. If contemporary art must understand itself as a place of events, of what happens ... it is worth it to ask ourselves how we are to understand the work that Daniela Libertad presents in un cuerpo de luz, un punto de polvo (a body of light, a speck of dust). I believe that the question makes a case for itself because even the materials that appear in the show’s title are already elusive: light and dust. A weight that in Daniela Libertad’s case, seems to define a good part of her intention with, and positioning to, art.
I am interested in reading the relationship of these two materials from the classic (light) to the contemporary (dust); on the one hand the rigor and precision of a drawing (the light) graphite, geometry, intensity, density, etc., and on the other hand the dust, which one can only control with difficulty: it falls, it collects in corners, we watch it drift through sunlight, it’s there but we can’t really manipulate it until it has accumulate in a certain quantity. It is in a space between these two (similar to the Duchampian infra- mild) that Daniela can enter build / edit that sequence of images generated by an action in which we do not know at all what happens . . . it just happens and has vanished already. . .
4. For example in O de Obatalá 2, 2012 we have the description of a ritual, of an offering to Someone, but we never know what it is that is being offered. Hands fold rice grains in raw cotton while we listen to something like a prayer, a certain kind of mantra. One can know what is happening o describe this action but the significance is only understood in conjunction with the action. When the action is finished it becomes hard to decipher it. Like every ritual, the offering (the object being offered) has a higher symbolic value while at the same time it is actually the least important physical part, rather, it’s the action, the body, the space made for the silence that becomes central in this work.
To every action (ritual, offering) corresponds a place, in Daniela’s case her actions relate to and take place in a visual space (video) articulated through cuts from editing, sequences, glances that cross each other, camera paths for filming a body, a movement . . . a light that envelops an object. If over time she had been using her body as the site of a ritual, now it is brought to a realm in which it approximates a cinematographic action, the image in motion: and it’s here where the ritual is created and exists, where it is possible to give an offering.
5. As in best cinematographic timing, that which is enunciated is completed in the silence of the characters, in the action that is prolonged until we are carried (sometimes reluctantly) to this slow, slow, slow time in which we are separated from that other time that is outside of the frame. I stop to look anew at the sequences: a delicate line divides these temporalities, I will have to decide at what moment I will go . . . or if I actually prefer to stay here. More than the image, more than the light (of that body of light), we have a time, and if something is central in the enacting of rituals it is time / another in which I / you/ they move in order to act upon that other time . . . silence.
6. While talking with Daniela the word, enigma, appears at regular intervals. I am obsessed with this word. For too long have we let it fall by the wayside in contemporary art. Everything is clear, we all know perfectly well what works are about, that “enigmatic” has become a word for other contemporary practices. So we say: this artist does such and such thing, this other this or that other, their subject is such and such . . . in a way that on very few occasions do we say: “I don’t know what this is about.” When I see Daniela’s works for the first time I always have that feeling, I don’t know what are they about. But I know perfectly well what the facts are. Up to and including that, although the material is dust—elusive—that is what all the works are all made of.
7. In this show there is not a single piece of dust. The "punto de polvo" (speck of dust) doesn’t have anything to do with the idea of brining together/accumulating this material. In fact, there isn’t a speck but rather two: between these two specks or points is where Daniela’s work takes place. Between point A and point B we can find her utterances, it’s just that they have to be read in the trajectory, in the pathway between A and B. It’s a trick Daniela works with tricks. Some artists like Peter Fischli and David Weiss worked (such a pity to have to say it in the past tense) with rules, they designed them with precision in order to break them, violate them, make fun of them. This allowed them to be very strict without being solemn. Daniela works by collecting tricks: in order to fall for them while in the process of making the pieces. Maybe it is because of this that she decided to create actions / cinematographic (ah! I had to say it at sometime!), intending to carry them to the other side: she goes forward subtracting from the script so that the image alone tells what it is, or what these characters are doing . . .of course this decision is destined to fail, it is destined to take us on a long journey to an enigma that becomes undecipherable: we will never know exactly what happened there, even though we stayed to the end of the film, the certainty of ‘history’ will leave us irredeemably empty handed. And in this way the failure of that truthful knowing turns into the success of the work: in the end there is something that we don’t know, in the end there is the possibility of transforming our silence into the ideal place for returning to one’s self (for starters, many rituals aim to arrive at this, even unsaid, even when there is a deity acting as intermediary).’
8. A large grey room, with high ceilings. There one finds the sculpture titled O de Oshún 3, 2013. Two glass jars. Pierced with a single hole in the bottom of each. One of them is on high, hung from the ceiling. Honey falls (a filament of honey) from this jar, draining into the jar below. Once one is empty having filled the other, the jars are switched. The action is repeated each day. Each and every day. Like many rituals, it becomes a ritual thanks to repetition. In another way it isn’t like other rituals. I’m referring to the ‘thread of honey’, a drawing that takes place in space, and a special tension that is implied by the objects (one jar hung from the ceiling, the other on the floor). Two points. And between these two points every 24 hours a pathway is created, the honey drains into the other jar, there is nothing to hinder the fall. A shifting weight, vo-lume, and density of honey: surely it looes a certain amount between the beginning and the end of the show. That is what the piece is about, that’s why it’s worth it, every morning to carry out this action: come into the room, set up the ladder, change the jars. The repetition acts like a structure by which something comes into being. For instance, there isn’t anything to show, just the lightening of weight . . . the drawing will be there when the honey is not falling because we construct it in our minds. The manner in which the work rest in time but does not rest in the imagination, it is continuous. Perhaps it is only happening in our minds, perhaps it isn’t necessary to see this strand of honey in order to know that it is in movement, that it is activated at certain specified hours. There is a looping but we do not see it. It is the opposite in the videos, depending on where we begin viewing the narrative, we orient ourselves in the story, according to the ritual of storytelling, the ritual of seeing one after another of the frames that turn into continuous action.
9. A few days ago I read, reread (many times as chance would have it) a notebook that Daniela gave me to accompany me during my time writing this text. Copying one of the pages, here I put down her words and my participation in this, her silence:
“Because there wont be anything else, that speaks of oneself, while we remain silent, than our work. And curiously, the work will speak for and from itself. Will change our words, will forget them, will laugh. The only thing we can consider of our own, will be our silence. “