Je t’aime… moi non plus // Self vs Other at Sicardi Gallery

Then was not non-existent nor existent…That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever…Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.  – Rig Veda, “Hymn 129: Creation”

Distanciando // Ansiando || Creating distance // Anxious longing

Diana Menestrey’s simple black and white animation, “Dist-Ansiando,” begins with the title fading into a grid that divides the screen into six squares.  Then, a black ball of yarn sprouts in the lower left square.  The yarn’s loose end sprouts another yarn ball–the Self now has an Other.  This proves problematic–they remain tethered to one another, so the two-that-remain-one pull in opposite directions, against one another.  Tension arises.  The cord snaps and both go reeling for the edges, then bounce back and collide before coming to a rest.

They form two clocks–one square and one round–which do not keep time in concert.  The round clock collapses on itself into a puddle of yarn while the square clock continues keeping time for a bit before it reconstitutes itself as twine ball and rolls up to top left square.  The puddle exits by rolling off the edge of the screen.

In the top left square, the loose end of the ball sprouts a butterfly.  The newborn butterfly flaps its wings and flutters about before learning that it is tethered to the yarn ball from whence it sprang.  It strains and pulls the yarn taught.  The yarn ball becomes a butterfly net and swallows the butterfly, then turns back into a yarn ball and rolls rightward to the top center square.

In the top center square the one yarn ball traces two outlines of trees.  The two trees stand apart before bending toward each other.  The tree-tops mingle, and this tree mingling sprouts a third tree, from the ground up, between the two.  The elder trees shrink and whither into two yarn balls and make their exits.

The remaining, offspring tree detaches from its roots and becomes a balloon, then floats off-screen, leaving an empty horizon.  The horizon line drops down to the lower center square.  Its ends curl up into two balls, hearkening back to the first square.

They play a game, vibrating the string between them, creating waves like kids holding two ends of a jump rope.  Tempers flare, their play escalates to static which manifests as barbed wire dividing them, though it, too, is made of the same stuff and the three still remain as one.

This is not what they wanted.  One attempts to leap over the barbed wire while the other attempts to ram through it–both are unsuccessful.  Despondent, both set off to circle the fence in search of the other, but they remain at opposite ends, even in their seeking.  Fortunately, their wanderings untangle and disintegrate the barbed wire and they are reunited as one ball.  This is a happy moment.  The singular ball rolls to the lower right square.

In the lower right square, the loose end of the yarn traces the form of a chair.  From nowhere, a perforated line drops down and severs the chair in two.  This cleaving forms two identical chairs–clones–but they are divided by two walls and the space between the walls. One chair lightly kicks the wall to test its mettle; the other leans against it to hear what’s on the other side.  Both swing their tethers around, which land in the void between them.  The tethers unite and both chairs pull to bring themselves back together, but one collapses under the stress and returns to a puddle of yarn on the floor.  The wall pushes the remaining chair into the lower, center square.

There, the wall becomes a string that dangles from the ceiling.  The chair tugs at it, sheepishly, with its foot, and the string tumbles down.  The chair leans over, forlorn, and looks at the puddle which then gathers into a ball and sprouts another chair.  The two chairs gaze at one another, surprised, and then a small table rises between them.

They lean forward attentively, like lovers on a date.  They lean forward and kiss over the small, intimate table, which makes it explode into a large, long, more formal table, pushing the chairs to its opposite poles. They sit, gazing across the chasm, like Vicky Vale and Bruce Wayne in the first Batman, then one turns toward the viewer and continues turning until its back is to the table (and its partner).  The partner turns toward the viewer and then turns again, away from the table and its partner.  The chairs slouch, sadly, facing away from each other at opposite ends of this long, formal table, then dissolve into balls of yarn.

The table melts into the floor, the two balls of yarn roll toward each other, then one morphs into a mouth or pincers and encloses the other.  The imprisoned yarn ball bounces around the edges to test the limits of its enclosure, then realizes it can drag its enclosure around like a turtle or a hermit crab.  It drags it across the divide to the upper center square.

There, the ball’s enclosure expands and it bounces within.  A door appears, then opens, which prompts the ball to trace steps leading out of the square.  The door becomes a suitcase, which then drags the ball of yarn behind it into the top right square.

The suitcase drags the yarn across the length of the top right square, stops, and opens.  From it spring multiples threads of yarn–DIFFERENT COLORS!–which meet and tangle and merge into a large, new ball of twine above it, a swirling multi-colored sun in the sky.  The swirling mass of yarn grabs the suitcase and morphs into a splendid, swirly-colored hot air balloon.  The balloon recedes into the distance.

The viewer takes a moment to reflect on what she has just seen.  She takes a step back, contemplating, lost in her own thoughts, when she is startled by the sounds of motors whirring, pulleys creaking, and the clip clop of shoes on the floor.  She has unknowingly set off Adriana Salazar’s motion activated “Samba”–reminder of an absent other.

Adriana Salazar, "Samba," photo courtesy of Sicardi Gallery

Adriana Salazar, “Samba,” photo courtesy of Sicardi Gallery

Here is my video of the video.  I had to kill the audio on account of the sound installation on the opposing wall dominated my audio track:

I think it goes well with the Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin song, “Je t’aime…moi non plus” (“I love you…me neither”), but I did not feel at liberty to merge those without the artist’s permission.  Feel free to make your own mashup.

Here is an excerpt of the same with the sound intact, which probably adds many more layers of meaning to those with better Spanish than me:

The show features seven shorter videos, allegorical variations on the theme of Self vs Other, also by Menestrey.  Capturing images of videos is harder than it sounds, so I’ll spare you my ugly photos (for the most part).

Other as Annoyance — The first video shows a pair of legs walking across the screen from left to write.  The figure pauses about 2/3 of the way across, lifts her leg and reaches down to remove her shoe, and shakes out a person before replacing the shoe and continuing on her way.  The figure which fell out of the shoe slowly rises and walks off in the same direction.  The scale of the disembodied feet is reminiscent of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Other as Co-Conspirator — This video depicts six figures, spaced equally apart around a circle on the ground, all facing inward.  The soundtrack is a metronome–click clock, click clock.  One figure holds a briefcase and dashes for the figure beside it.  The second figure takes the briefcase and dashes for the next, and the first takes her place in the circle.  This continues, from one figure to the next.

Other as Enemy — Set to the sound of a simple tune and shuffling feet, two figures engage in a tug of war.

Other as Tree (???) — Ok, there’s one I didn’t really get, at least not how it fits into this theme.  It shows a figure that has human legs but sprouts into a tree at the torso.  Leaves rustle footsteps patter as the human-tree wanders aimlessly, back and forth across the screen.

Other as Lover — A figure lies on its side with something tethered to its neck.  The figure takes deep, strained breaths as she struggles to stand.  She is simultaneously inflating a heart-shaped balloon. The balloon flies off and lifts the figure who is choking as she’s carried away by love.

Door 009 Door 008  Door 006 Door 005 Door 004 Door 003 Door 002 Door 001

Other as Obstacle — This video is pretty self explanatory.  The lines were heavy enough and the glare was light enough that I managed to capture some decent images.  Two figures stand on opposite sides of a door, both struggling against one another.

Other as Competitor — A music box plays a simple melody alongside underwater gurgles and deep, hungry breaths as two child-like figures wrestle and struggle under water whilst competing for air…in a water glass.

Swimmers019 Swimmers018 Swimmers016 Swimmers015 Swimmers014 Swimmers013 Swimmers012 Swimmers011 Swimmers010 Swimmers008 Swimmers007 Swimmers006 Swimmers005 Swimmers004 Swimmers003 Swimmers002

And finally, Cesar González’s “Modelo No. 3” is a really cool installation that takes up a sizable portion of the exhibition.  It seems like some kind of sci-fi, mad scientist, Icarus kind of narrative, but the viewer can’t be sure if it’s the same figure, repeated in different situations, throughout the composition or if it depicts multiple figures doing different things.  One thing is for sure, it takes the viewers eyeballs all over that wall and back again, many times.

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