Newsletter #8: Chronicle

Montaje de pared

Montaje de pared

Perspectives On Metamorphosis

By Silvia Piza-Tandlich, Costa Rica

After two years of intense work, “Metamorphosis, A New Cycle” has arrived on stage at the National Museum of Costa Rica, where it will remain open to the public until September 26, 2010.

As I saw my work sprawled within its exhibit space and I could finally relax—relieved to have finished it—my first feeling was that of dissatisfaction at the imperfections of the space that houses it. However, my attitude has experienced a positive transformation since the art pieces, and their Habitat, have achieved the goal of total domination of the former army barracks.

An austere and masculine space, with an echo that doesn’t allow conversation and, for many years left to the rot of its damp walls…the humidity is such that when it rains there are filtrations of drops that end up puddling any of the eleven ambiences intended as exhibition space. Indeed, since this is not the ideal place to show textiles, and due to the challenge to do it, Metamorphosis triumphs even in not allowing entrance to the bats that wonder every night, by my making an “anti-bat” curtain (knock on wood!).

“If there’s no bread, tortilla,” we say in Costa Rica, and the saying is applicable to the lack of spaces for artistic exposition in relation to the number of artists who want to exhibit. Lack of opportunity isn’t an isolated Costa Rican phenomenon, but it afflicts artists in other countries as well. There are galleries and museums but at least in my country they’re not always interested in showing textiles, or the artistic competition is severe, making it hard to find desired opportunities. In the case of Metamorphosis, however, from the beginning my idea has been a textile inter-building intervention, which is something never before seen in Costa Rica. Not being interested in white, elegant walls, at first I considered the possibility to rent a house or apartment for a few months. Luckily, the idea didn’t work out, and the old Bellavista Barracks at the National Museum, with all its historic force and defective walls, invited me to take “him” and transform “him” into an exhibit canvas, giving me no choice but to attack him with profusion and exaggeration of detail.

This type of venue demands to be the protagonist and therefore, any conventional exhibit there would be dwarfed by the magnitude of its surrounds. I, then, thought of intervening him completely so that “he” and I would have an equal measure of identity, if only for three months.

“Metamorphosis, A New Cycle” is based on the stages experimented by living beings, although at the same time it presents the stages of its owner, and takes occasion to project them to an all-type audience at the National Museum. Thanks to fantasy and multimedia, multi-sensorial elements, the work highlights the importance of the artist’s community work by way of the Platform, where she exposes eight works made with her Collective of neighbors. The music was composed by Costa Rican composer Mario Alfagüell, for classic marimba and harp, as nine high-contrast aleatory pieces.

The public and the press reacted in a predictable way. What attracts the most are the hundred sheets converted into chains, or “guts” that connect the exposition…or how many eggs there are…or how much money was spent on embellishments. In a way, I’m glad that people can respond to trivial details, which are numerous; otherwise, they would have difficulty taking it all in. As a first in its class, some people might not have a frame of comparison that can help establish an analytic point of beginning to discern all 102 works in various formats, techniques, and details.

Without getting into Dadism; much less Stuckism, by definition this type of interventions allow staging all sorts of political, artistic, and humanist performance anyone wishes to expose since they are, per se, a theatrical show. I think that in Metamorphosis I managed to present almost everything I carry within as far as personal philosophies—from religion and politics to my conviction with respect to community work—in an attempt to improve intellectual levels. Indeed, this work requires an intense social projection, which I accept as a personal achievement although for many people it might be art’s hot button.

The reaction of artists in mediums other than textile to date is unknown to me, with the exception of the initial disconcertment of Alejandro “Tarzáan” Villalobos, a painter friend of mine who expresses, “…But if the bad of many is consolation of ALL, let us understand that understanding textile art as a natural artistic manifestation, gathers few artists and less connoisseurs (myself not one of them,) it is necessary to have a very open mind, a magic eye, and a generous heart…all difficult qualities to find together, we know!…” If those words were to represent the feelings of others in the country’s artistic community, as Costa Rican textile artists we’re saved by the prospect to be able to expose the versatility of textiles as a tool for work and a conceptual tool, while at the same time we can use resources that allow us a greater link to the public.

Said focal points get us closer to having a new creation possibility within the traditional limitations in our field, because they allow us to explore a relatively unknown medium such as textile inter-building intervention.

The painter’s words continue, “…Far beyond the change per se that the term metamorphosis invokes and the dimensions of the present show, now more than telling us it screams to our face that a change is coming—a change of “rags”—as our first impression would be out of our unconfessed ignorance, barely disguised by the respective…’Very interesting…’…” When there’s no bread, tortilla. I would say the contemporary artistic intervention medium is unlimited, and offers alternatives to the traditional way to show textiles. It does require a lot of effort in its presentation, plus theatrical performance in its artistic side (this is not for minimalists!), but I have also confirmed the optimization of the sensorial resource as a trick to conquer obstacles in the intended venue.

In general, I feel very satisfied with the results of Metamorphosis despite my numerous moments of personal doubt. Having had to curate the work, and direct a number of people in its making and staging, made me appear not to be fearful of being wrong. It has been a great educational experience. The achievements of Metamorphosis are many, and they’re not this artist’s alone, but same as the work itself they sprawl thanks to the potential of an open mind, a magic eye, and a generous heart…with all the guts.

I invite all artists who have never curated their own exposition, to some day delve into it, because it offers new perspectives in terms of our creative work as well as the curator’s.


Translation: Silvia Piza-Tandlich