LA MEUTE
Jean-Baptiste Del Amo ‘La Meute’ 2021
Text for the series Los Afortunados

The Fragile Look
Carlos Skliar. ‘The Fragile Look: Lua Ribeira’s Subida al Cielo’ Essay for the book
Subida al Cielo. DALPINE 2023. Translation by Maitén Vargas and Jennifer Moule. 2019-2020. LA MIRADA FRÁGIL

My Wounds are Fertile
Beatriz Quijano. ‘My Wounds are Fertile’ ‘Mis Heridas son Fertiles’ Hot hot hot magazine, Issue 2 special guest Lua Ribeira. SMAK PARIS September, 2019: p. 116-133

On loving
Lua Ribeira  -Selected Fragments on John Berger and Susan Sontag To Tell A Story 1983 aired on Channel 4’s Voices, “about story telling, photography and ethics”








To J.G.F.
My Dear,

Good sense tells us that earthly things are rare and fleeting, and that true reality exists only in dreams. To draw sustenance from happiness—natural or artificial—you must first have the courage to swallow it; and those who perhaps most merit happiness are precisely those on whom felicity, as mortals conceive it, always acts as a vomitive.

Simple souls will find it unusual or even inappropriate that a portrayal of artificial pleasures should be dedicated to a woman, the most common source of the most natural pleasures. And further, it is evident that even as the natural world penetrates the spiritual and serves as its fodder, thus together moving to bring about that indefinable amalgam we call our individuality, so it is she who throws the strongest light or deepest shadows in our dreams. Woman is inevitably suggestive; she lives from a life other than her own; she lives spiritually in the imagination, which she haunts and nourishes.

I care little or nothing whether this dedication is understood. And, moreover, is it necessary to an author’s satisfaction that a book such as this be understood, except by those for whom it is written? Must it have been written for someone? But I myself have so little love for the world of the living that—like those idle, sensitive women who are said to post letters to imaginary friends—I would gladly write only for the dead. And yet she to whom I dedicate this little book is not dead; she is, though ill, still active and living within me, her gaze upturned to Heaven, place of all transfigurations. For only man enjoys the privilege of drawing as much new and subtle pleasure from pain, suffering, and disaster as he does from a potent drug.

You will see in this picture a lone, melancholy man who wanders, who plunges into the perpetual flow of the multitudes. He sends his heart and thoughts to a distant Electra, she who once wiped away the sweat from his forehead and refreshed his lips when they were parched with fever. And you will perceive the gratitude of another Orestes, you who so often bore him company through the heavy watches of the night and who banished his troubled slumber with a gentle, maternal hand.
C.B.

Charles Baudelaire, Artificial Paradises. Translated by Stacy Diamond. New York, Citadel Press, Carol Publisghin Group, 1996.

Carlos Skliar. ‘The Fragile Look: Lua Ribeira’s Aristocrats’ Essay for the book Aristocrats
Translation by Maitén Vargas and Jennifer Moule. 2019-2020.

LA MIRADA FRÁGIL, A PROPÓSITO DE ARISTÓCRATAS DE LUA RIBEIRA




1


The act of looking, as we know it, is neither naïve nor neutral, it is not even a natural organ, and it seems to be an unavoidable function, even though it is often held with pins between the eyelids. Separating the visible and the invisible, there is no longer just a tension or an opposition, but rather an immense screen that slides open anywhere and allows us to see everything, absolutely everything. Indeed, the power of sight is granted as the world’s machinery is available all the time, but images last just fractions of a second, in a constant and fleeting acceleration to make way for the continuous impression between static and continuous movement, that often results in a chaotic balance, caught up in an almost indistinctive loop.

The question now seems to be not so much about what we see, but on how we take a closer look at something, in a way that gives us a lasting perception more than the insistence of a visual habit and more than the obsession with an adaptive custom. What is intended to be seen or not seen, the things that go unseen, whatever forces the eyes to see what we do not want to see, forms part of the visual landscape as much as the banality of the preconceived image. Attempting to look at what parades before us in complete harmony and total satisfaction, is not only impossible, but, worse still, in a way it is cruel and indifferent, or it is cruel by its very indifference.

At first it is the face that attracts the gaze and synthesizes the body’s unity; it is there, in that mysterious place, where everything gains some meaning, although unstable and most likely misunderstood or in constant reconstruction. Faciality, according to Deleuze, enables us to think about a difference between the face as a power of expression but also as a limitation. And it provokes that first sign of otherness, allowing us to be together or apart, love or hurt, smile or cry including all the possibilities in between, even those nameless feelings, that neither imagination nor experience can support.

The face is the part of the body which prioritises the beginning or the precipice—the look—and the gain or loss of affection—the language. Perception comes before the conceptual, indeed, but standardizing cultures have invented for themselves the despotic artifice that inverts that sequence, insisting on a moral logic of dubious origin and an even worse conclusion: to smell, touch, look, listen, make physical contact, in short, to perceive have become substitutes or obstacles for an anticipated and immediate judgement, disrupting our most political, poetical and cherished phylogenesis: that of desiring before judging, that of loving before attacking, that of looking before offering an opinion.

However, to eliminate judgement is no easy task and, despite this, it is exactly what should be done, everything that would have to be done from now onwards so the world could be different and become pure childhood—or pure abnormality. That is: it doesn’t inevitably progress towards self-destruction, but rather, it would lead to the freedom of time and the precious uselessness of the actions undertaken, those actions that lie far from the benefit of profit-making and the trade of bodies and souls.

The suspension of judgement is therefore, in these times of rapid information-opinion and the imposition of ways of looking through an absolute vision of the whole, the most decisive and crucial rebellion. By no means this implies abandoning the power of opinion, but rather the need to refresh it in accordance with the experiences of otherness; that is to say: to continually submit our own judgement—and no longer doubt the existence of others, the other beings—to the ways of feeling and thinking about the shared life that we all lead and the world we inhabit together, with its presences and absences.

The world, in spite of its appearance and the imposition of the global, is merciless with those lives that look small or dwarfed, with those bodies that believe they are incapable of fending for themselves, supposedly useless or too weak to learn and experience life, and a view much meaner still, that these individuals cannot earn a living from their resources.

But who can be the first to throw a stone of a clear look, and not humiliate or taint others at the same time? How is it possible that the human gaze cannot fit the full range of animal in humanity? And what is the use of such a perspective, if it does nothing but bare its claws and bite the already mangled flesh of those who have been violated, frowned upon and are almost dead?

There are men who as soon as they open their eyes, stain with their gaze,i Nietzsche said. Stain in the sense of leaving a mark on something but also in the sense of damaging the opinion or honour that people have of something or someone.

Well, certain people or communities have been tainted and it has been hidden or disguised that the stain came from specific or specialized ways of looking. Stains impossible to eradicate that have been left on the bodies of others and the whitish cleanliness of the neutral gaze has been celebrated. And it has been done to such an extent that the world is now presumably divided between the immaculate and the dirty, a life divided between purity and impurity, perfection and imperfection.

There where the eyes see the blur, there is some kind of death, wrote Georg Lichtenberg. As certain marks never disappear, because some stains remain forever. And not only do they begrime or tarnish. They also kill. They cause massacres. They are murderers.


Looking is like breathing, but with profound and long-lasting consequences on the outer surface of the observers. There are breaths—looks—that are flustered, hoarse, tight, hurried, almost without air, ones that stifle us and stifle others too. There are breaths—looks—that are forceful and forced, soft, almost fading, weakened. And there are open, lush, thundering, generous breaths—looks. In short: there are ways of looking that prevent and prohibit, and other looks that clear the way and facilitate.

There is a history in the ways of looking that at first may seem insignificant, but as we start to listen—to see—certain biographies, we realise they breathe inside the body of each one. A history written and engraved in blood, muscles, skin, tissue, arteries, heart and stomach. A history construed by every millimetre in which we offend and are offended, for every second we attack and are attacked, for every step whereby our fates are disrupted, for every shortness of breath.

In the words of poet Anne Michaels:

In your hands, all you’ve lost,
all you’ve touched.
In the angle of your head,
every vow and
broken vow. In your skin,
every time you were disregarded,
every time you were received.


2


In the beginning it was the fragility of the body and the word. There was not only the normal and abnormal, nor the native or foreign, nor the centre and the periphery. Or if there was, it was in terms of expulsion from Paradise, the destruction of the tower and a universal flood. Mythologies started weaving imagery to order the chaos. The emerging sciences centred their attention on remote areas and they observed the unfathomable in the skies and the revulsive in the seas, there, where it was not possible to see or understand. Philosophy first pondered the passage of time and the imminence of death.

Fragility is that attribute that has always been there, from the beginning, at times unnoticed, or ignored, almost always underestimated and often misinterpreted, with the imminence of cracking, the inability of a body to resist its own breakage, for not being able to stand up, because it is on the verge of bursting into a thousand pieces. Fragile children; fragile women; fragile old men and women; fragile people with disabilities. Fragile those who barely survive, those who wrap themselves in silence, those who stumble with their own shadow, the slow, the lazy, the bizarre. Fragile those who neither queue, nor move in a hurry nor follow the path to death like ants. Fragile life and fragile death.

Who could look at fragility differently, without ceasing to be fragile? What form of looking is capable of such uniformity? And how could it be possible to be stone and glass at the same time?

Fragility is not necessarily breakage or its imminence and could appear as a common starting point, the hesitation, the doubt, the stuttering condition, that lucky ignorance so rare yet beautiful that leaves us speechless, not knowing who we are, or when we could become something else, what will come next, whether we can be or do what we want. And above all, it is that mysterious and quiet confession to others that unveils the most essential and profound bonds between human beings.

Fragility is the breakdown of our own certainties and those of others, as this creates the necessary distance for two to confide in one another. Sharing our secret frailties opens the way to friendship, love, and communion. It is impossible to say that there is one who is fragile and that the other is robust or complete, but rather pure otherness. Without frailty essential relationships are lost, they vanish, lose their smell, taste and skin, and are capsized in desperate waters of dull virtuality.

Fragility as a unique charm, remarkable, the source of life, in the words of Gilles Deleuze:

Life is like that too. In life there is a sort of awkwardness, a delicacy of health, a frailty of constitution, a vital stammering which is someone's charm. Charm is the source of life just as style is the source of writing. Life is not your history—those who have charm have no life, it is as though they are dead. But the charm is not the person. It is what makes people be grasped as so many combinations has been drawn.

The images presented in Aristocrats break the norms governing the act of looking, they remove it from its comfort zone and offer the possibility of broadening and enlarging the human perception.

The story of these images is not simple. Under the pretext of focusing on the extravagant, the bizarre, and the exceptional, in fact, they bring to life and give support to the outsiders, those on the periphery, and who would otherwise fade or be non-existent. Some choose to obsess over the mainstream and thereby become sworn enemies of the marginalised, engaging in a battle to the death with the sole purpose of not looking out of the sides of their eyes.

So… To look only at what is in front of you or look to the sides? Look at the goal, the finish line, the means to profit, the result, or to notice humanity and animality that springs up in all directions including the margins? Is life linear and the world a straight path, or is life a sideline and the world a mere crossroad? And who is to solve the enigma? And with what science, philosophy, poetry and images will they depend on?

As is the case with certain constructive arts that fight to uphold an aesthetic and not a legal or moralizing point of view towards otherness, and, at the same time, introduce the singular and plural dimensions of individuals, likewise good photography would be part of those texts or narratives that improve the world as they multiply the human potential without disguising or hiding their weaknesses.

Far from the times in which good art was eclipsed and overwhelmed by a monstrous, ambiguous and bizarre world, and subjected to the illogicalities of complacency of attaching to others a negative solitude, an unhealthy solitude; far from those images that only admitted the freak aesthetic as a proof of the circus way of life; and with the purpose of distancing itself from the complete and crude visibility of vacuous social media that just illustrates an overflowing insensitivity, now contemplation may take a different path. One that is neither straight nor slightly winding, but hard and complex, in order to show other presences and other existences.

It seems as if there is little room for those on the outside. Current images sink in the dark waters of the mirrored self-portrait, the self of oneself. The self, saturated in repetition with no story to tell, the ephemeral mark on a muddy and boggy terrain full of on-demand comments. Neither image nor language living in the depths, but the superficial identity story that only wants to reveal the ego, entangled in its self-sufficient happiness, waiting to be instantly recognised. The private is public. The public is private. It is all void of otherness.

However, in the light of day, under the ochre afternoon and in the closing of night, anyone may offer their own fragile story, something that moves them, that hurts, the restless search for love and solitude on equal levels, the discomfort, the illusions, the desire for the impossible.

For the story to be offered to others as a sign of support or help, to share our common frailties, to remove the simplistic indifference of the quiet, smiling and deceiving face, it takes more than just adorning oneself in front of the mirror to capture an immediate image, as dreamy as it is fleeting.

We need to journey and dig through time and space. Stop rushing. Create moments to stop, pause. Talk. Be, stay, remain. Develop a time that is not owned and a space that cannot be filled. Capture without capturing the lives that are often pushed aside and forgotten by those in the mainstream. Lifting the bodies that are thrown to the ground and trampled on. Give a specific name to generic nouns, remove destructive adjectives, cherish without choking the lives of others, acknowledge they exist here beyond fashionable definitions.

It is essential that we do not fall into the trap of believing it is possible to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, which of course, is their experience, in fact, it belongs to them, it is their refuge and shelter always. The place of the other is his or her own and it depends on the relationship, the emotional ties, for the shared destiny or its infeasibility.

So it is not a question of putting yourself in someone else’s place which will always end up as a fake show of violent outrage and underestimation, but it is more a matter of desperately finding places to share, proximity and distances that no scientific discipline may measure or evaluate. It is the arts which might be capable of intuition, sense and constructiveness.

And the journey consists of nothing more than the conversation between two or more intimacies, those intimacies that know not only about fragility but also about untranslatability, mystery and trying to stand up even in unknown territory. A non-linear journey, with images that are incomparable, that make no reference to any hidden section on stand by for another part to light up, with no natural or cultural counterpart that might calm the gaze.

Images of fragility.

When fragility simply means weakness, those that are fragile are stripped of their name, their face—their body—, and their personal stories, as if they could not be named without assigning mean labels, or as if they couldn't be seen face-to-face, as if they had no story to tell, or if they did, they were not worth listening to. Living beings thought of as pitiful, orphans of all desire and passion, meandering robots that need to be led back onto the path of normality.

And there is nothing more deceptive than the image of a supposed diversity in the other, and whose etymology points towards those who have strayed from the path and must be redirected again and again onto the right track.


3


The artifice of normality creates abnormalities on a daily basis—either in a subtle or uncontrollable manner—with the sole purpose, tragic though it is, of feeling safe and protected and of drawing the dividing line and thus preserving the seemingly comfortable and safe haven of the good, the right, the intact, the civilized.

Disability is not a personal attribute but a social category, that is, a construction of normality whose purpose is, as already stated, to proudly claim for oneself a place in divine normality. It is true that disability should not be attached to a particular individual—as a lack, emptiness or a loss—, regardless of that, the suffering is real and affects certain bodies and destinies more than it does others. Its future is surrounded by a shadow of hard-to-resolve doubts; the fierce and pretentious doubt of science that only the fragility of art could crush.

As if somehow the normal was the standard and the abnormal the exception that confirms the rule, the deviation affirming the supremacy of righteousness, the repetition preventing any kind of difference. There are no norms. All people are exceptions to a rule that doesn't exist, Pessoa said. Normality is an invention of those who lack imagination, wrote Alda Merini. Once I wrote: Every time someone says “it's normal”, a fruit dries up and falls from the top of a tree, a child reluctantly falls asleep and a conversation is interrupted forever.

However, stating that normality does not exist is not good enough and seems like a weak argument opposing the adversity of a certain diversity. To put it in other terms, following the poignant words of Herta Müller, “the tic toc of normality”, in her book Hunger and Silk. In it, the writer implies that in each era, despite its abysmal differences, three types of individual appear: the unbroken, the damaged and the broken.

We should doubt the existence of beings that are whole and unbroken, or rather I doubt their obsession to appear so. Yet we could think of them as people who despite existential, social, economic and cultural crises continue to make a universe in their image and likeness, they rule under their own whims, accumulate speculative money, persistently create currencies, take over the media and define standards of normality and abnormality.

However, there are no predetermined destinies.

Thinking about it in those terms would force not only fatalism, but also an unforgivable complicity with the power of the undamaged. Those of us who devote our lives—whether we do it rightly or wrongly, better or worse, full or part time—to the artistic, educational and political task of standing for the damaged and broken, we know that our ethics are based on the following set of principles: support the diversity of human life, enhance languages, usher in one’s own voice, love others, and as Hannah Arendt reminds us: in the sense of not abandoning others to fend for themselves, to try their fortune—misfortune.

Fortune here does not imply that like a game of chance it dictates once and for all that how you are born into the world inevitably leads to an unchangeable journey. However, it does mean that some things must be done for others in order to attract good luck, other futures, and to not simply surrender to the misleading and hypocritical barrier dividing the supposedly well born and the low-born.

For I am the size of what I see and not the size of my height, Pessoa wrote.


4


What does Lua Ribeira see, what can she perceive in this reexamination which is, at the same time, a process of being, lingering, dwelling and realising? What is the size, extent, dimension, extension and fragility of her vision?

First of all, to stand up against the warnings, the precautions, to go against everything that others deem as a delicate and complicated issue, and in any case, is impossible to be addressed, it rises like a web of contention, to pursue a clear vision, to look with good eyes, as neatly summed up by Ángel de González. As if it were impossible to get straight to the point, to advance towards the encounter, to present yourself as you are, and accept others as they are, as they can be. In fact, it would seem to be a challenging task, if not impossible: trying to be anyone and consider others as anyone and relate to them frankly, free of labels, suspicions and introductions.


This anyoneness, as pejorative as it may sound, is nothing less that the need and will of some people not to be reduced to objects of ongoing surveillance and control, to shake off the obsession of the gaze that never leaves them in peace. A scream, or a howl: don't look at me like that, don't look at me that intently. And the impossibility of anyoneness results in notorious intermediaries, specialists of all kinds, custodians of excessive distance, from up high.

But, of course, there are others who desire or know how to remove the distance, or make this distance a matter of closeness as opposed to divergence, they consider that entering into a relationship is stepping into affection. Such affection is a special art and not a widely known technique: a complex, and never solidified, artform, that changes with every relationship, adapts to the flow, finds common ground or conflict by looking into the eyes. Relationships that no longer pertain to one as normal—and the other as abnormal—, but rather a relationship of two othernesses, where both dive, swim, drown, take a breath and breathe, in the conversation.

Then, little by little, with the patient and passionate task that can only be accomplished with willingness and attention—being present, being attentive—, Lua finds her own limits, with those seemingly ineradicable, absurd, historical boundaries, and in confronting these there is nothing else to do but reimagine the prejudices that make up our life and our world with a force of law. According to the great empire of prejudice, we should seek that moment in which people transform into a certain homogenous group to which they are assigned a unique identity: women and men with disabilities, from which little to nothing is expected.

To make a portrait of these women and men, but not just that. The eyes open, and they begin to show something that is not only women and men with disabilities. To photograph freely. Changing the place and the power of boundaries, angles, the perspectives. To see and be seen. Looking and helping others to abandon their monotonous ways of seeing things.

What initially may seem like an individual experience, which leaves little room for subtlety beyond a certain self-reflection, in the art world ends up finding, alongside patience and artistic passion, a voice-image that speaks to others, to those who have not lived the experience, those who fear and stand aloof, those who did not confront it due to a lack of contact or apathy. Such voice-image lets us live lives we have not lived and gives us a glimpse of what otherwise would remain ignored and thus, locked in the clumsiness of affection and unavoidable indifference. It makes us more noble.

If the words of the philosopher Lévinas are true, that all ethics is a perspective, then looking is not a mere natural or naturalized gesture, but, above all, a response and a responsibility for the observer The response and responsibility involved in looking, as a gesture of hospitality and kindness, a fair and balanced look, that does justice even without directly trying to.

There seems to be a connection between Aristocrats and Soul Attack, that poetic journey towards insanity and love photographed by Paz Errázuriz and with words from Diamela Eltit. But unlike that lucid and shocking landscape of the Philipe Pinel Psychiatric Hospital in Chile—where images include couples who caress each other, embrace, fall in love and yet remain stuck in the closed corridors—here lies a different search and also another discovery, although in principle both share the same decision: that of deinstitutionalizing the image, removing it from its typified place, fleeing from the image of sorrow and the futile and false compassion.

To portray, or to return to the retractus: to visit the unspoken, that is the task of Aristocrats.

To revisit what has been mistreated. Or to treat with dignity those who have been always considered the useless, the forgotten, the worst cases, the dishonourable.

To do justice with your eyes. Look at those who see themselves as outcasts and turn them into the true aristocrats of this wretched world of hypocrisy.

(NT: All quotations, except that of Michaels, Deleuze and Pessoa, are ours.)





Carlos Skliar. LA MIRADA FRÁGIL,
A PROPÓSITO DE ARISTÓCRATAS DE LUA RIBEIRA.



1


La mirada, ya se sabe, no es ingenua ni neutra, ni siquiera es un órgano natural, parece ser una función inevitable aunque muchas veces se sostenga con alfileres entre los párpados. Entre lo visible y lo invisible ya no hay solo una tensión o una oposición sino una inmensa pantalla entre medio que se descorre en cualquier lugar y permite verlo todo, absolutamente todo. Ver, sí, porque la máquina del mundo está disponible todo el tiempo, pero las imágenes duran apenas en milésimas de segundos, en una aceleración y cambio constante y fugaz, para dar paso a la impresión continua entre lo estático y el movimiento continuo y que, por lo general, acaban en un equilibrio flemático, indiscriminado, absorto, delante de la repetición casi sin diferencia.
Hoy la pregunta parece ser no tanto qué es lo que vemos sino cómo hacer para mirar detenidamente alguna cosa, algo que nos provoque una percepción más que la insistencia de un hábito visual, la obsesión por la costumbre adaptativa. Aquello que se desea ver o no, aquello que nunca es mirado, lo que fuerza a los ojos a ver lo que no deseamos ver, forma parte del paisaje visual tanto como la banalidad de la imagen pre-construida. Pretender mirar únicamente lo que desfila por delante de nosotros en completa armonía y total satisfacción, no solo es imposible sino, peor todavía, en cierto modo es cruel e indiferente, o bien es cruel por su misma indiferencia.

En un principio es el rostro quien atrae la mirada y condensa la unidad del cuerpo; es allí, en ese lugar misterioso, donde todo encuentra algún sentido o signo, aunque precario y seguramente equivocado o en permanente reconstrucción. La rostridad, según Deleuze, permite pensar en una diferencia entre el rostro como potencia de expresión pero también como límite, y provoca ese primer trazo de alteridad que nos permite encontrarnos o separarnos, amarnos u ofendernos, sonreírnos o llorar con todos los matices intermedios, incluso aquellas sensaciones que todavía no tienen nombre, ni imaginación, ni experiencia que les de soporte.

El rostro es el cuerpo donde se privilegia el principio o el precipicio -la mirada- y la consecución del afecto o su final -el lenguaje-. Lo perceptivo es anterior a lo conceptual, sí, pero las culturas normalizadoras han inventado para sí el artificio despótico que invierte esa secuencia, haciendo de ella una lógica de moralismo de dudoso origen y peor conclusión: oler, tocar, mirar, escuchar, rozar, en fin, percibir, se han vuelto sucedáneos u obstáculos para un juicio anticipado e inmediato, trastocando nuestra filogénesis más política y más poética y entrañable: la de desear antes que opinar, la de querer antes que juzgar, la de mirar antes que opinar y tomar partido.

Sin embargo, suspender el juicio no resulta ser tarea sencilla y, aun así, es todo lo que se debería de hacer, es todo lo que cabría hacer de aquí para adelante para que el mundo sea distinto y se vuelva pura infancia -o pura anormalidad-, esto es, para que no progrese inevitablemente hacia su auto-destrucción sino hacia la libertad del tiempo y la inutilidad más preciada de las acciones emprendidas, esas acciones alejadas del beneficio del lucro y de la compra-venta de cuerpos y almas.

La suspensión del juicio es pues, en estas épocas de rápida información-opinión y de imposición de formas de mirar a través de la absoluta visibilidad del todo, la rebelión más decisiva y crucial. Lo que no significa en modo alguno abandonar la potencia de un punto de vista, sino más bien la necesidad de reelaborarlo en función de las experiencias de alteridad, es decir: someter permanentemente el propio juicio -y no ya la existencia de los demás- a los modos de sentir y pensar la vida que llevamos en común y al mundo que habitamos en conjunto, con sus presencias y sus ausencias.

El mundo, a pesar de su apariencia e imposición de lo global, es impiadoso con aquellas vidas que se ven pequeñas o empequeñecidas, con aquellos cuerpos que se piensan incapaces de valerse por sí mismos, que se suponen inútiles o débiles para emprender bajo su propia cuenta y riesgo ya no el aprendizaje y la experiencia de la vida sino, algo mucho más mezquino todavía, el de tener que ganarse la vida a partir de sus propios recursos.

Pero: ¿quién puede arrojar la piedra de una mirada limpia y de no humillar o manchar a otros al mismo tiempo? ¿Cómo es posible que no quepa en la mirada humana la absoluta extensión animal de la humanidad? ¿Y de qué sirve un punto de vista de tal espesor si no hace más que mostrar sus garras y morder la carne ya maltrecha de quienes han sido violentados, mal vistos y están casi moribundos?

Hay hombres que en cuanto abren los ojos manchan con su mirada, escribió el filósofo Nietzsche. Manchar, literalmente, significa “Ensuciar una cosa dejando una señal o una marca”. Y también significa: “Causar perjuicio en la honra o el honor de una persona, familia o linaje”.

Pues bien: se ha ensuciado a personas o comunidades determinadas y se ha ocultado o disimulado que la mancha provenía de modos específicos o especializados del mirar; se han dejado manchas imposibles de borrar en el cuerpo de otros y se ha celebrado la blanquecina limpieza del neutro mirar. Y se lo ha hecho así hasta tal punto que se da por supuesto que hay un mundo dividido entre los inmaculados y los sucios, una vida partida en medio entre la pureza y la impureza, entre la perfección y la imperfección.

Ahí donde el ojo ve borrosamente, ya hay una especie de muerte, escribió Georg Lichtenberg. Porque ciertas marcas no se borran nunca, porque determinadas señales permanecen para siempre. Y no solo ensucian o manchan. También matan. Provocan masacres. Son asesinas.

Mirar es como respirar, pero con consecuencias profundas y duraderas en la exterioridad de los observadores. Hay respiraciones -miradas- atolondradas, afónicas, estrechas, apuradas, casi sin aire, que lo ahogan a uno y ahogan a los demás. Hay respiraciones -miradas- forzosas y forzadas, tenues, en vías de desaparecer, debilitadas. Y hay respiraciones -miradas- abiertas, frondosas, caudalosas- cargadas de generosidad. En fin: hay miradas que impiden, que prohíben, y miradas que abren el paso, que habilitan.

Existe una historia de los modos de mirar que en principio puede parecer periférica, pero a poco que se escuchan -se ven- ciertas biografías singulares nos damos cuenta que respiran en el interior del cuerpo de cada una, de cada uno. Una historia escrita e inscripta en la sangre, en los músculos, en la piel, en los tejidos, en las arterias, en el corazón, en el estómago. Una historia construida por cada milímetro en que ofendemos o nos ofenden, por cada segundo que violentamos o nos violentan, por cada paso en que se interrumpen los destinos, por cada respiración entrecortada.

La poesía de Anne Michaels lo expresa así:

En tus manos todo lo que has perdido,
todo lo que has tocado.
En un rincón de tu cabeza
cada promesa y
cada promesa rota. En tu piel,
cada vez que fuiste rechazado,
cada vez que fuiste aceptado.



2


En un comienzo era la fragilidad del cuerpo y del verbo. No hubo solamente lo normal y lo anormal, ni lo nativo ni lo extranjero, ni el centro y la periferia. O sí que lo hubo, pero en términos de expulsión del Paraíso, destrucción de la torre y diluvio universal. Las mitologías fueron tejiendo imaginarios que cumplieron la función de ordenamiento en el caos. Las ciencias nacientes centraban su atención en lo lejano y miraban lo insondable de los cielos y lo revulsivo de los mares, allí, donde no era posible ver ni comprender. La filosofía primera se interrogaba sobre el porqué del paso del tiempo y la inminencia de la muerte.

La fragilidad es ese atributo que ha estado desde siempre, desde el origen, a veces desapercibida, otras ignorada, casi siempre subestimada y muchas veces confundida con la inminencia del resquebrajamiento, la incapacidad de un cuerpo para resistir su propia rotura, por no poder sostenerse en pie, por estar a punto de estallar en mil pedazos. Frágiles los niños y niñas, frágiles las mujeres, frágiles los ancianos y ancianas, frágiles las personas con discapacidad. Frágiles quienes apenas sobreviven, quienes se envuelven en el silencio, quienes trastabillan con su propia sombra, los lentos, los perezosos, los bizarros. Frágiles quienes no forman filas, ni andan de prisa, ni siguen como hormigas el derrotero de la muerte. Frágil la vida y frágil la muerte.

¿Quién podría mirar de otro modo la fragilidad sin dejar de ser frágil al mismo tiempo? ¿Qué mirada es capaz de congruencia? ¿Y cómo sería posible ser piedra y cristal a la vez?

La fragilidad no es necesariamente la rotura ni su inminencia, y podría pensarse como un punto de partida común, la hesitación, la duda, la tartamudez, esa suerte de ignorancia tan raramente bella que nos deja boquiabiertos, el no saber qué seremos, cuándo podríamos serlo, qué vendrá, si acaso podremos ser o hacer lo que quisiéramos. Y es, sobre todo, esa confesión hacia otros, misteriosa y sigilosa, que inaugura los vínculos más esenciales y hondos entre los seres humanos.

La fragilidad es el quiebre del molde de lo uno y lo otro, pues provoca la distancia necesaria para que dos digan o hagan algo que los aproxime. Contar el secreto de nuestras fragilidades es dar inicio a la amistad, al amor, a la comunión. No es posible decir que hay otro frágil y uno entero o completo, sino pura alteridad. Sin la fragilidad, las relaciones esenciales se pierden, se esfuman, pierden su olor, su sabor y su piel, y naufragan en las aguas desesperadas de la insípida virtualidad.

La fragilidad como encanto individual, como lo singular, como la fuente de vida; en palabras de Gilles Deleuze:

En la vida hay una especie de torpeza, de fragilidad física, de constitución débil, de tartamudeo vital, que constituye el encanto de cada uno. El encanto, fuente de vida; el estilo, fuente de escritura. Pero la vida no es vuestra historia. Los que no tienen encanto no tienen vida, están como muertos. Pero el encanto no es la persona, el encanto es lo que hace que captemos a las personas como otras tantas combinaciones y posibilidades únicas de que tal combinación haya sido sacada.

Las imágenes presentes en Aristócratas quiebran la habitualidad de la mirada, la destituyen de su comodidad y ofrecen la posibilidad de ensanchar y alargar la percepción de lo humano.

No es una historia sencilla aquella de las imágenes que, bajo la apariencia de poner el foco lo extravagante, lo bizarro y la excepcionalidad, dan vida y sostén a un margen, a una periferia, que de otro modo desaparecería o resultaría inexistente. Hay quienes prefieren la obsesión de la centralidad y se vuelven enemigos acérrimos de los márgenes, trabando una batalla a muerte con el único propósito de no ver por los bordes laterales de los ojos.

Pues: ¿Mirar solo lo que está de frente o mirar hacia los lados? ¿Mirar la meta, la finalidad, el provecho, la consecuencia, o advertir la humanidad y la animalidad que brota por doquier a los costados? ¿Es acaso la vida lineal y el mundo un sendero recto, o la vida es lateral y el mundo una encrucijada? ¿Y quiénes han de resolver el enigma? ¿Con qué ciencia, con qué filosofía, con qué poesía, con cuáles imágenes?

Como sucede con ciertas buenas artes que pugnan por sostener un punto de vista estético y no jurídico ni moralizador sobre la alteridad, y que introducen al mismo tiempo la dimensión singular y plural de los individuos, también la buena fotografía formaría parte de esos textos o esas narrativas que mejoran al mundo pues multiplican la potencia de lo humano sin disimular ni enmascarar su impotencia.

Lejos ya de los tiempos en que las buenas artes quedaban eclipsadas y anonadas por el mundo de lo monstruoso, lo ambiguo y lo bizarro, y se sometían a las ilógicas de la complacencia y de atribuir a los demás la mala soledad; lejos ya de aquellas imágenes que solo admitían la estética freak como demostración de una existencia circense; y con la intención ya de distanciarse de la completa y cruda visibilidad de las redes sociales sin fondo que no hacen otra cosa que dar cuenta de una atiborrada insensibilidad, es posible ahora que la contemplación tome otro camino, ni recto ni débilmente sinuoso sino más bien arduo y complejo, para mostrar otras presencias y otras existencias.

Pareciera ser que queda poco margen para el margen. Las imágenes actuales se hunden en las aguas oscuras del autorretrato espejado, el uno mismo de uno mismo, el yo saturado de repetición sin ninguna narración a la vista, la huella efímera en el terreno pantanoso y cenagoso de comentarios a la carta. Ni imagen ni lenguaje habitando la profundidad sino la mera superficie de un relato de identidad, que solo desea mostrar un yo enredado en su felicidad auto-suficiente a la espera de ser reconocido instantáneamente. Lo privado, público. Lo público, privado. Todo despojado de alteridad.

Sin embargo, a la luz del día, bajo el ocre de la tarde y en la cerrazón de la noche, cualquiera podría ofrecer su relato de fragilidad, aquello que conmueve, que se padece, la infinita búsqueda de amor y de soledad en partes iguales, el desasosiego, las ilusiones, el anhelo de lo imposible.

Para que el relato se ofrezca a los demás como una señal de sostén o de auxilio, para que se compartan nuestras consabidas fragilidades, para quitarnos del aletargamiento simplista del rostro quieto, sonriente y falaz, hace falta algo más que adornarse frente a un espejo para obtener una imagen instantánea, tan soñada como fugaz.

Hace falta andar y horadar el tiempo y el espacio. Detener la prisa. Crear la suspensión, el intervalo, el paréntesis. Conversar. Estar, quedarse, permanecer. Tener un tiempo que no se posee y un espacio que no puede ocuparse. Captar sin capturar las vidas que los centros tienden a marginar y hacen olvidar. Levantar los cuerpos arrojados al suelo y pisoteados. Dar nombre singular a los sustantivos genéricos, quitar la adjetivación destructiva, amar sin amarrar las vidas que no son nuestras, saber que ellas existen más allá y más acá de las definiciones en boga.

Es esencial no caer en la trampa de creer que es posible estar y ser en el lugar del otro que, por cierto, es del otro, está bajo su soberanía, es su refugio o su intemperie, siempre. El lugar del otro es suyo y cabe a la relación de afección, a los vínculos de afectividad el destino de lo común o su imposibilidad.

No se trata entonces de ocupar ese lugar, que siempre acabará por ser un artificio de violento ultraje y subestimación, sino de buscar desesperadamente sitios para compartir, proximidades y distancias que ninguna disciplina científica pueden medir o evaluar, pero que el arte quizá sí sea capaz de intuir y trazar, de ayudar a construir.

Y la travesía no consiste en otra cosa que en la conversación entre dos o más intimidades, esas intimidades que saben no solo de fragilidad sino también de la intraducibilidad, del misterio, de intentar hacer pié aun en tierra incógnita. Una travesía de una trazado irregular, por cierto, de imágenes que son incomparables, que no hacen referencia a una parte velada a la espera de otra parte iluminada, que no poseen una contrapartida natural o cultural que apacigüe finalmente la mirada.

Imágenes de fragilidad.

A los frágiles, cuando la fragilidad quiere decir solo debilidad, se les despoja de su nombre, de su rostro -de su cuerpo- y de sus biografías. Como si no pudieran ser llamados sin nombrarlos con etiquetas mezquinas, como si no pudiesen ser vistos de frente, cara a cara, como si no tuvieran ninguna historia para contar o, aun así, como si no valiese la pena escucharles. Seres pensados como desdichados, huérfanos de todo deseo y pasión, autómatas sin rumbo preciso que necesitan ser reconducidos al camino de la normalidad.

Y nada más falaz que esa imagen de una supuesta diversidad de los otros, de los demás, y cuya etimología apunta hacia aquellos que se han apartado del camino y deben ser reconducidos una y otra vez hacia el camino correcto.


3


El artificio de la normalidad fabrica a diario anormalidades -de un modo sutil o bien desbocado- con la única finalidad, por cierto trágica, de sentirse a salvo, de guarecerse, de trazar la línea divisoria y construir así el refugio en apariencia confortable y seguro de lo bueno, lo correcto, lo intacto, lo civilizado.
La discapacidad no es un atributo individual sino una categoría social, es decir, una construcción de la normalidad cuyo propósito es, como ya dicho, apuntar, señalar hacia otros y así poder jactarse de estar uno mismo en el lugar sagrado de la normalidad. Es verdad que la discapacidad no debe ser adosada a un sujeto particular -en tanto falta o vacío o pérdida-, pero no deja de ser menos verdadero que el padecimiento existe y que afecta ciertos cuerpos y destinos más que oros. Su porvenir se ve rodeado por una sombra de sospechas de difícil disolución; la duda encarnizada y pretenciosa de la ciencia que solo la fragilidad del arte podría pulverizar.

Como si en cierta manera lo normal fuese lo habitual y lo anormal la excepción que confirma la regla, el desvío que afirma la preeminencia de la rectitud, la repetición que impide toda diferencia. No hay normas. Todos los hombres son excepciones a una regla que no existe, decía Pessoa. La normalidad es una invención de aquellos que están faltos de fantasía, escribió Alda Merini. He escrito alguna vez que: Cada vez que alguien dice: “es normal”, un fruto se seca y se arroja desde lo alto de un árbol, un niño se adormece sin desearlo y una conversación queda interrumpida para siempre.

Sin embargo, afirmar que la normalidad no existe no es suficiente y parece un argumento de poca monta frente a la adversidad de cierta diversidad. Lo diré en otros términos, siguiendo aquel texto conmovedor de Herta Müller: “El tic-tac de la normalidad”, de su libro Hambre y Seda. En él, la escritora da a entender que cada época, más allá de sus abismales diferencias, arroja al mundo tres tipos de individuos: los intactos, los dañados y los rotos.

Habría que dudar de la existencia de seres completamente intactos o dudo, más bien, de su obsesión por parecerlo. Pero podría pensarse que se trata de quienes pese a las crisis existenciales, sociales, económicas y culturales, continúan haciendo el universo a su imagen y semejanza, gobiernan a base de caprichos propios, acumulan capitales especulativos, crean modas a destajo, se adueñan de los medios de comunicación y fijan criterios de normalidad y anormalidad.

Sin embargo, no hay destinos trazados de antemano.

Pensarlo de ese modo obligaría no solo al fatalismo sino también a una imperdonable complicidad con el poder de los intactos. Quienes nos dedicamos -mal o bien, mejor o peor, mucho o poco- a la tarea artística, educativa, política, de estar junto a los dañados y rotos sabemos que toda nuestra ética se funda sobre el siguiente conjunto de principios: sostener la multiplicidad de la vida humana, embellecer los lenguajes, dar paso a la voz propia, y amar a los demás lo que, en términos que nos recuerdan a Hannah Arendt, quiere decir no dejar a otros librados a sus propios recursos, a su propia suerte: la mala suerte.

Suerte aquí no supone que el juego del azar dictamina de una vez y para siempre que a una forma de nacimiento le sigue, inexorablemente, un derrotero inmutable. Significa, eso sí, que hay que hacer cosas con los demás para que haya otras suertes, otros porvenires, y no rendirse sencillamente a la frontera engañosa e hipócrita trazada entre los supuestos bien nacidos y los mal nacidos.

Porque yo soy del tamaño de lo que veo, y no del tamaño de mi estatura, escribió Pessoa.


4


¿Y qué ve, qué puede ver Lua en ese regreso que es, a la vez, estar, quedarse, permanecer y darse cuenta? ¿Con cuál tamaño, amplitud, dimensión, extensión y fragilidad de su mirada?

En primer lugar, el darse de bruces contra las advertencias, las precauciones, contra todo aquello que otros consideran un tema delicado y complicado que no puede abordarse de cualquier modo y que se levanta como una malla de contención para la mirada limpia, para el mirar con buenos ojos, como bien escribió Ángel González. Como si no se pudiera ir directo al grano, ir hacia el encuentro, presentarse uno tal cual es, tal como puede ser, y considerar a los otros tal como son, tal como pueden serlo. De hecho, pareciera ser que se trata de una tarea ardua de por sí, sino imposible, intentar ser cualquiera y considerar a otros como cualesquiera y, sin rodeos, relacionarse, sin tantas etiquetas, precauciones o presentaciones.

Esta cualquieridad, por más peyorativa que pueda resonar la expresión, no es más ni menos que la necesidad y la voluntad de algunas personas de no ser objeto permanente de vigilancia y control, de poder quitarse de esa obsesión de la mirada que no les deja nunca en paz. Un grito, o un aullido: no me mires así, no me mires tanto. Y la imposibilidad de la cualquieridad trae como consecuencia la presencia de los mentados intermediadores, especialistas de toda calaña, guardianes de una distancia excesiva, de una distancia de altura.

Pero, por supuesto, hay otros que saben o desean anular la distancia o que hacen de esa distancia una cuestión de proximidad y no de asimetrías, que consideran que entrar en relación es entrar en la afección, y que la afección es cuestión de un arte particular y no de una técnica consabida: un arte complejo y nunca solidificado, que cambia con cada vínculo, que se mueve con el movimiento, que se encuentra y desencuentra en el mirar la mirada. Relaciones ya no de un uno, normal, y de otro, anormal, sino de doble alteridad, la de dos otros que se sumergen -se zambullen, nadan, se ahogan, toman aire, respiran- en la conversación.

Luego, poco a poco, con el ejercicio paciente y pasional del que solo son capaces la disponibilidad y la atención -estar disponible, ser atentos-, Lua se encuentra con sus propios límites, con esas fronteras en apariencia indelebles, absurdas, históricas, frente a las cuales no cabe sino reelaborar los prejuicios que componen nuestra vida y nuestro mundo con fuerza de ley. En el imperio del prejuicio habría que buscar ese instante en que unas personas se transforman en un cierto grupo homogéneo, al cual se le atribuye una identidad única -mujeres y hombres con discapacidad- y del cual se espera, generalmente, poca cosa o nada.

Retratar, pues, a esas mujeres y a esos hombres. Pero no solamente. Los ojos se abren y comienzan a desfilar por los costados algo que no es solamente mujeres y hombres con discapacidad. Fotografiar con libertad. Cambiar el lugar y la potestad de los límites, los ángulos, los enfoques. Ver y dar a ver. Mirar y ayudar a otras miradas a salir de su monotonía.

Aristócratas es el resultado siempre precario, siempre inconcluso, de una experiencia de la mirada, pero también del cuerpo y del lenguaje. O de ese lugar único y sin nombre que reúne a la mirada, al cuerpo y al lenguaje. Aquello que en principio puede parecer una experiencia individual, sin más matices que dejar una cierta auto-reflexión acaba por encontrar en el arte, en la paciencia y en la pasión artística, una voz-imagen que habla a los demás, a los que no han vivido la experiencia, a los que le temen y le rehúyen, a los que no han podido tenerla por falta de ocasión o por desidia. Hace vivir la vida que no tuvimos, nos da a ver lo que de otro modo permanecería bajo el manto del desconocimiento y, entonces, encerrado en la torpeza del afecto e irremediable indiferencia. Los hace más nobles.

Si es cierto, como escribió el filósofo Lévinas, que toda ética es una óptica, entonces mirar no es apenas un gesto natural o naturalizado, sino sobre todo una respuesta y una responsabilidad de quien mira. Respuesta y responsabilidad de la mirada como un gesto de hospitalidad y de amabilidad, una mirada justa, que hace justicia aún sin proponérselo directamente.

Así, Aristócratas guarda un cierto parentesco con Infarto del alma, aquel viaje poético hacia la locura y el amor fotografiado por Paz Errázuriz y con escritos de Damiela Eltit. Pero a diferencia de aquel paisaje lúcido y estremecedor del psiquiátrico Philipe Pinel de Chile -imágenes de parejas que se acarician, se abrazan, se enamoran y que aun así permanecen en los pasillos cerrados- hay aquí otra búsqueda y, también, otro hallazgo, aunque en principio comparten una misma decisión: la de des-institucionalizar la imagen, quitarla de su lugar tipificado, rehuir de la imagen de pena y de vana y falsa compasión.

Retratar, regresar al retractus, en eso consiste la tarea de Aristócratas.

Volver a tratar lo que ha sido un destrato. O tratar con nobleza a aquellos que han sido considerados siempre los inútiles, los últimos, los peores, los innobles.
Hacer justicia con los ojos. Mirar a los que se miran como desterrados y convertirlos en los verdaderos aristócratas de este infausto mundo de hipocresía.



Beatriz Quijano. ‘My Wounds are Fertile’ ‘Mis Heridas son Fertiles’
Hot hot hot magazine, Issue 2 special guest Lua Ribeira.
SMAK PARIS September, 2019: p. 116-133




My wounds are fertile. They want to clean them, remove the pus and bacteria, suture, disinfect them. But that's not what I want. I have wounds, so I pick at them. Why would I discard the possibility to create wounds so deep, so lush, so beautiful? To disinfect them, rules, schedules, discipline and constant company are required. Time to eat, time to sleep. I know that routine is very important: it is what ties us to sanity. They also tell me that loneliness is my worst enemy, so we are told: "let's go for a walk," "let's go to the garden," "let's go to the beach." There is no self here, it’s always we. We get up at half past eight; we eat at two o’clock; we walk at six; We go to bed at half past ten, although sometimes we sneak up - we also do mischief - and steal milk with cookies from the kitchen. All this disinfects me, purifies me. But I would like to nurture my wounds. Add fertilizer and insecticide so that nests, worms or butterflies don’t appear. This way, stories and tales will sprout from them. I don't know why I think so much about my wounds, but I feel joy when talking about them, when I caress them and feel pleasure from the pang of my fingers touching them. After all, they make me who I am. When I talk about something else I feel it’s not my own voice. Even sometimes, when speaking about them I notice that someone puts the words in my mouth, with their fingers on the keyboard. They steal my voice. A refined and educated lady uses her pedantic vocabulary to explain what is happening to me, why I am so hurt, why I don't want to heal. What does she know? Instead I know everything about her: vain, insecure, pretends to know what she is talking about, but, in fact, knows nothing. Her wounds are like a groove drawn with a stick in the sand of the beach; mine are a deep and steep valley pierced by the erosion of millennia. She doesn't know anything about me, but I know everything about her. She doesn't know what my name is, because we don't have a voice or a proper name, we speak in chorus. Instead, she says what she wants and others must keep quiet and listen. They call her Beatriz Quijano. What would she know about anything?




Mis heridas son fértiles. Quieren limpiarlas, sacar pus y bacterias, suturar, desinfectar. Pero eso no es lo que yo quiero: tengo heridas, así que las hurgo. Por qué iba a desechar todo el poder de creación de heridas tan hondas, tan exuberantes, tan hermosas. Para su desinfección se requieren normas, horarios, disciplina y compañía constante. Hora de comer, hora de dormir. Ya sé que es muy importante la rutina: es lo que nos ata a la cordura. También me dicen que la soledad es mi peor enemigo, así que “vamos a paseo”, “vamos al jardín”, “vamos a la playa”. Aquí no existe el yo, siempre somos nosotras. Nosotras nos levantamos a las ocho y media; nosotras comemos a las dos; nosotras paseamos a las seis; nosotras nos acostamos a las diez y media, aunque a veces nosotras nos levantamos a escondidas -nosotras también hacemos travesuras- y nosotras robamos leche con galletas de la cocina. Todo esto me desinfecta, me purifica. Pero yo querría abonar mis heridas. Echar abono e insecticida para que en ellas no hagan nidos gusanos ni mariposas. Así de ellas brotarían historias y cuentos. No sé por qué pienso tanto en mis heridas, pero gozo con ellas, al hablar de ellas, al acariciarlas y siento placer con la punzada de dolor que me provoca meter el dedo. Al fin y al cabo, son lo que soy. Cuando hablo de otra cosa siento mi voz extrañada. Incluso a veces, hablando de ellas noto que alguien pone las palabras en mi boca, con sus dedos en el teclado. Me roban la voz. Una señorita fina e instruida usa su vocabulario pedante para explicar qué me pasa, por qué estoy tan herida, por qué no quiero curarme. Qué sabrá ella. En cambio yo lo sé todo de ella: vanidosa, insegura, finge creer que sabe de lo que habla, pero no sabe nada. Sus heridas son como un surco dibujado con un palito en la arena de la playa; las mías son todo un valle profundo y escarpado horadado por la erosión durante milenios. No sabe nada de mí, pero yo lo sé todo de ella. No sabe ni cómo me llamo, porque nosotras no tenemos voz ni nombre propio, hablamos a coro. En cambio ella, dice lo que quiere y muchas veces los demás callan y escuchan. Beatriz Quijano, la llaman. Qué sabrá ella de nada.



(My) Selected Fragments on John Berger and Susan Sontag
To Tell A Story 1983 aired on Channel 4’s Voices,
“about story telling, photography and ethics”


-For me the people come out of the language
-And for me the language comes out of the people




S.S. I am really loyal to certain modernist assumptions about art and about literature which I think you have come to question, and abandon the practice... because if I think about early work of fiction of yours like your novel G, you were doing then something that is closer to what I continued to do as a fiction writer, but the stories that you have been writing recently about peasant life (…) are on a very different mode or a very different model

J.B. Because the subject is different I think, is true...

S.S. But haven't you changed? You yourself changed

J.B. I don't know, I had to re-learn to write, that's true. Because the experience of the underprivileged or of peasants is very different from the experience of the privilege and G is a book about them

S.S. But do you consider yourself as a reporter of your experience? I don't feel that I am reporting on my experience at all

J.B. No, no I don't because I believe, I believe absolutely in experience being sharable, I believe the imagination is precisely that. It begins very early in childhood, it begins with the identification of a child, with a toy or with an animal. That capacity of empathy is, it seems to me, the first foot of that social creation which is imagination and in general today there is a kind of failure of nerve in fiction, what do I mean by that? I mean that …

S.S.. Yes, what do you mean by that?

J.B. I mean that most novels probably are really now disguised autobiographies and on the other hand people say, how do you have the right to write about peasants? You are not a peasant... how do you have the right, for you, to write about men? You are not a man, or vice versa. And these questions are very current and the crisis of nerve, a failure of nerve, is that is it not possible to write about what one has not lived or what one has not seen, but don't believe that...

S.S. you think that's why there are so many novels about professors ... or about writers

J.B. yes of course, yes

(...)

J.B. I think the novelist is someone who says come and I am going to show you what is happening inside that private house mmm that private heart and it is finally the novel, which is a very small period of the millennia of storytelling, that is about the private and the privilege, which there is not reason when I say there is a great novel, but I think is at the heart of its form, and actually whats happens there is not longer that important in the world anymore

S.S. I couldn't disagree with you more. I mean firstable all the traditions of nineteen century novel writing

J.B. It was important then, very important

S.S. But I think it is important now, I mean I don 't think Zola, or Balzac or Dickens are saying come, I will show you the private as opposed to the public. I think it is precisely that they thought that the private were interrelated in the sense...

J.B. and they were there

S.S. I think they still are
I mean human nature hasn't changed

J.B. No, but the capacity of choices has changed. Novels are about choices. Stories are often about been up against it, when there is almost no choice except how would you react to that... with courage, with cunning, with caution, those sort of choices …. but those big choices and their consequences which is the theme of so so much in novels, those choices are no longer open to most people

S.S. I never believe that, I would never thought that I would come out as a great defender of the modern age, but I don't believe people have fewer choices now, I think in many senses they have much larger choices, one could say that the sense of choice has been devalued , precisely by been so expanded, as perhaps our sense of art has been devalued by the very multiplicity of art products that we are surrounded with through various means of reproduction and dissemination and diffusion of art, but I don't think we have fewer choices, I think we are precisely suffering from a kind of a crisis of imagination or or crises of nerve but I don´t think is because we are more unfree now than we were or we don't make choices about our lives.

J.B. Who is we there? That is the important question (...)






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In 2015, soon after moving to the U.K. I started to listen to dancehall music - which originates in Jamaica but has a strong presence in the U.K.. I became interested in the sound and lyrics that were new for me at the time, but also in the movement as a form of resistance within the context of British colonial history. Coming from Galicia, a territory which holds a history of cultural oppression -most recently during the fascist regime that finished in 1975-  I became interested in the contestation and political values retained within Dancehall.

I started to attend dancehall parties in London, Bristol and Birmingham and soon became frustrated with the images from photographing the events as an observer. Through questioning the photographic medium and its potential, I began arranging encounters with people I had met at the parties, starting a process that would last for three years and which was allowing me to have an active part within the process - and establish stronger relationships which otherwise might not have taken place. The outcome was the documentation of both an encounter and a collision that became central to the series, as well as to my future way of working.

The work's title is in reference to Dr Carolyn Cooper’s book ‘Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the"Vulgar'' Body of Jamaican Popular Culture’. Through studying Cooper’s work ideas around femininity and its perception within the West became a further point of reflection for the series. I gained perspective from Eurocentric ideas of womanhood through encountering a different understanding to the canon of beauty that prizes fragility and prudence, in opposition to a more assertive role in relation to one's own body and sexuality. At the end, the images trascended the initial motivations to touch upon universal themes such as birth, love, sex, and death.

‘Noises’ was exhibited at Fishbar alongside a limited edition Leporello catalog of the work published by Fishbar Books.









 




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Esclavas de la Virgen Dolorosa (EVD) is a Spanish congregation of catholic nuns initially founded in 1935 as a residence for women with intellectual disabilities. Two of their centres are based in Galicia, a region in the north of Spain, which is also my homeland. I first visited the congregation in July,  2014.

The motivation behind the work was to reflect on disability as a social construction, determined by a historical definition of the ‘normal’, healthy individual. I became interested in the function that these groups have in a society's collective imagination and the repetition of similar formulas of exclusion throughout history. My impulse was to challenge the structural separation between the women in the congregation and myself, not by being there as a worker, carer or a photographer, but with the intention of sharing a reciprocal space that could result in both encounter and collision.

With the progressive secularisation of the institution, these photographs chart a moment where the habits and daily life of the community are changing. A conversation regarding where the limits lie in relation to social participation, both as individuals and as a group, was opening up within the organisation. In the summer of 2016  I started to find ways to make images in collaboration with the women that live and work there. It was through a series of theatre workshops organised as afternoon activities, that a common space for this encounter flourished. By playing and representing short scenes I realised the performances were usually related to social rituals and conventions that the group was somehow excluded from. With an approach that ranged from the more observational, to performative, the photographs ultimately aim to represent universal ideas, such as love, sorrow, joy or sacrifice.

Gracias Montse, Laura, Camila, Susi L., Susi P., Angelica, Mercedes, Concha, Celia, Margarita, Maria, Julia, Eva, Sandra, Emma, Pili C., Pili B., Dolores, Marta, Begoña, Ana I., Nuria y Vicky


 

The Fragile Look, 
Essay by Carlos Skliar







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Commissioned through the Jerwood / Photoworks Award in 2017, the series was made in Bristol (U.K) with the intention of trying to address the homelessness crisis taking place in the city.

In order to break through the drastic separation between passers-by and those that didn't have a home  at the time, I decided to photograph within the city parks, where urban pace breaks down and allows for different kinds of encounters to take place. The series, which incorporates people organically, aims to create a mythological atmosphere, of universal character, in which some portraits allude to visions, angels, guardians or Eden gardens; all lying in contraposition to the gravity of the body and its inevitable perishability.

In the process of making the series, I shared experiences and moments of certain intensity that didn't translate into images in that given moment. I started to experiment by creating images inspired by those memories. The result is the coexistence of two types of portraits in the series which somehow represent two dimensions: one that belongs to the most mundane reality, in which one suffers, thinks, looks and dreams; and another related to the object of those thoughts or dreams, the imagination, mythology and its creatures, the dimension that alleviates, soothes and scares (masks, visions). Both languages come together and mix until they cease to be distinguished.











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Las Visiones is a short piece commissioned by Magnum Photos about Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Puente Genil, Spain, made during the four days when the procession is led by the town's children.

Since my previous work, Subida al cielo, I developed an interest in making and photographing masks and costumes in relation to ideas of spirituality and transcendence. Two images in the Magnum archive first triggered my interest, one by Cristina Garcia Rodero in 1990, another by Josef Koudelka in 1975. In both appear children carrying the Virgin Mary and wearing eerie masks in a religious or folkloric celebration in the town of Puente Genil. I decided to trace back the event in 2019.

Puente Genil is an industrial town located in the south of the Cordobese countryside, and lies in the geographical center of Andalucia. Every Easter hundreds of biblical figures appear in the streets, representing characters of the Old and New Testaments -in costume and masks (rostrillos) are the apostles, evangelists, prophets, sibyls, Jews and Roman soldiers. The week after the official Semana Santa, there follows Semana Santa chiquita, for the children of Puente Genil so that they might continue this tradition with the same passion as their forebears. The celebration has been taking place since the mid-17th Century, however, the Catholic Church has always viewed with some regret these manifestations of popular religiosity, which grew beyond its control, perhaps existing in looser and more celebratory realms than the authorities might have wished.

The series belongs to an ongoing photographic study of my homeland and the functions that religious and mythological manifestations have in our identity.



“Do ye complain” says he, “of sudden death?” that have carried death about ye, ever since you were born; that have been entertained with daily spectacles of carcasses and funerals; that have heard so many sermons upon the subject; and read so many good books upon the frailty of life and the certainty of death. Do ye not know that every moment ye live brings ye nearer to your end? Your clothes wear out, your woods and your houses decay, and yet ye look that your bodies should be immortal. What are the common accidents and diseases of life, but so many warnings to provide yourself for a remove? Ye have death at the table, in your daily food and nourishment; for your life is maintained by the death of other creatures. And you have the lively picture of it, every night for your bedfellow.


                                                                                   Fragment of The Sixth Vision of Hell,
                                                                    from The Visions, 1927. Francisco de Quevedo

Full piece






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"Es algo difícil crecer sabiendo que la cosa de donde podemos agarrarnos para enraizar está muerta"

¡diles que no me maten!
Juan Rulfo


This series is the result of a short trip to Tijuana in 2019, as part of LINEA, a collective initiative to photograph the migratory crisis at the border between Mexico and the United States. I arrived in Tijuana preoccupied with finding a way to make work in a short period of time in a place unknown to me. Close to our accommodation was a 24h shop where I met Jose and Piraña, both living a few meters away in a semi-abandoned natural park, in Playas de Tijuana (Mexico), popularly known as the jungle.

The jungle is compressed against the border-wall with the US, known as being a spot to cross to the other side because of its dense vegetation. There was a group of men, known amongst themselves as the soldiers, living in the park, and who both survive and suffer from the intrinsic violence of the borderland and its hidden economy. Day by day we became closer to each other and I became interested in the relationship they had with the jungla ́ s land: the enigmatic, mythological quality that arose through their language, perhaps as a way of survival. Deportation, border-crossings, trafficking, addiction and murder became the daily background noise for well formed stories with more dignifed purposes.

My eternal gratitude to La Piraña, El Peligro, Junior, Adrián, la Chica de humo, Hector, El Azteca, El Grande, Jose Rintintin, Antonio, el Fu y Enrique. 


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An ongoing study of my homeland

In 2018, after more than twenty years living abroad, I tried to make work in/about Galicia. This is a mostly rural territory located in the north west of Spain -bordering Portugal- with an abrupt geography and coastline, dense forests, cliffs, and rias -generally different from what is commonly understood as Spanish landscape.

Alongside Cataluña and the Basque Country, Galicia is under Spanish law recognized as a historic nationality since 1981 -title given due to a sentiment of independence and political reclamation in a territory historically oppressed with a common language, history and culture.

In Galicia there was no Civil War in 1936, but there was a strategic extermination of the republican population and its local authorities. Under the fascist regime, that lasted from 1939 to 1975 - including my parents' generation- Galician language, traditions and customs were brutally repressed in schools and social life -amongst many other mechanisms to erase any cultural expression- . This has been the cause of shame, rage and trauma, having consequences in relation to the collective sentiment of belonging to the place. It is through the lens of this sentiment that I relate to the world.

The series blends childhood memories with a failed attempt to maintain some kind of distance. I photographed family and friends, but also travelled through the country to local celebrations and liturgies, peregrination and religious sites, seaside ports, military cities or remote hamlets. Yet an ongoing piece, I sense the work as the struggle to capture a particular resistance of ours - one that often is misinterpreted as submission.












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This series is made on the Spanish / Moroccan border alongside the young men attempting to cross into Spanish territory by their own means. The work started through a frustration of seeing the sensationalist imagery and narratives utilized by Spanish media to portray the Moroccan youth on the border.

Towards the end of 2018 I traveled to Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa bordering Moroccan territory, which holds a long past in Spanish military history. It was the place where the first movements of the Spanish coup that led to the civil war in 1936 started. The city is also currently one of the ‘special’ state territories of the European Union -which means that the movements to and from Melilla are subject to specialized immigration rules.

The youth that arrive at the border from different parts of Morocco, mainly attempt to travel as stowaways on ferry boats to cross into the Spanish peninsula. Soon after arriving at the border, I experienced the contempt and fear they received from the city inhabitants as well as the violence, corruption and abuse of power exercised by police and institutions which are supposed to protect them on both sides of the border. I started to spend time with them over the following months, struggling to photograph in such a charged, complicated and also stereotyped environment.

It was by sharing the time together that slowly the work began to occur during the moments where nothing much was happening; whilst cooking, gathering, sharing experiences, playing, or simply just waiting. Somehow these empty times and what was happening meanwhile, started to become an allegory of the situation they were going through.

It was important for me to produce images that were not sentimental, but that acknowledged the sacrifice of leaving a homelife behind, the risk, tension and adrenaline to face the police forces and that also reflected on the brotherhood, constant strategic planning and renegotiation that is required for the endeavor they have entered. The series would not have been possible without the help and love of my brother, Ayoub El Ghaouzi





















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In November 2021, I was invited to travel to Wilson, a small town in North Carolina, to give a workshop as part of Eyes on Main Street Festival. Thanks to the festival support I was able to  produce a short story after the workshop finished.


The photographs are taken over the period of a week by trailing the steps of local reporter Drew Wilson, from the Wilson Times. The work explores the chance encounters that emerge within the grey areas surrounding newsworthy events. The final set of images are presented alongside the four articles written by Drew Wilson published in the local newspaper whilst the series was being produced.



For reading the full piece








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A selection of photographs from Lua Ribeira's 2022 ongoin series Agony in the Garden, made in various cities across the Spanish territory in collaboration with people involved in the Trap and Drill music scene.

My work almost always starts with something that I am really close to. I listen to Trap and Drill music, observing how these cultural movements articulate the precarity of living through crisis after crisis combined with the euphoria of making everything in your own way and sharing it directly, without any censorship from intermediary platforms or global corporations. The "DNA" of this frenetic and raw expression-of hedonism versus nihilism, darkness versus joy, the glorification of wealth and banalization of violence- is resonating globally for a reason. I wanted to pay attention to a scene that came from somewhere honest and responded to what was really going on, and to think about how it released all of this energy and on such a scale.

If I'm documenting anything, it's the relationships I enter into with the people I photograph. I know that movements like Trap and Drill would have historically been labeled as a subculture by the media, photojournalism, and traditional documentary but it's important for me to be resistant to those conventions. I embrace the fact that my work comes from a primitive need for love and connection and try to transcend the anecdotal or pure testimonial. Photography and society can both be deeply contradictory; simultaneously erotic and violent, subtle and gentle. I believe that it's important to make images that have inherent contradictions and are open to interpretation creating a space where you can see yourself