BRIGHTON, England — An illuminating feeling that comes with being in a longterm relationship is the realization that you can no longer tell where you stop and the other person starts. After a while of living in a shared system, it gets difficult to tell which ideas and experiences are wholly your own and which are shared, if not appropriated, from your partner(s).
That idea takes shape in these sculptures by Argentinian artist Claudia Fontes. They look like fungal creatures, sprouting new growths and spore-like structures. It’s a little off-putting, almost like body horror in a way, but I think it serves the theme of unity. To me, fungi are the most alien-like lifeforms on planet Earth. Their life cycles are so unlike most other creatures. This gives Fontes enough of a removal from everyday life to make her point. I tell myself that my body is sacrosanct. I tell myself that my mind is separate from my fellow humans behind a wall of meat and bone and no one hears what it tells me. By altering the bodies of her subjects, Fontes starts to break down these barriers and show us a different way of being. That way was always there, but we’re so fascinated by our autonomy that we’re likely to miss it.
The sculptures reveal the possibility that my autonomy, not the shared body-mind of the figures, may be the lie. We share an origin, the mechanics and neurochemicals firing off in our minds come from a common place. The alien thing may be the sense of self. It evolved out of necessity, but it’s a later addition and should be treated with suspicion. Maybe my initial sense of revulsion upon seeing these sculptures is a defense mechanism from my ego. It’s selfish, fearing that just one drop of another’s consciousness would be enough to kill it. It’s probably right, but then again there’s safety in numbers.
This is just my read on the concept. I should also point out that Fontes often deals with the theme of decolonization. I’ll save that in-depth reading for someone who is more qualified on that topic, lest I embarrass myself. However, I think there are parallels. Colonization seeks to subjugate all that is external to it. It tries to lay its hands on that which it has no legitimate claim to. Its motives and the justifications it presents to act on them should be resisted. These sculptures, by radically bending the rules of biology, expose the lie. They show us, especially in the current political climate of hate and xenophobia, another way of responding to people. I felt like I was kicked in the chest when I realized that so many of the pieces were simply titled Foreigners.
Claudia Fontes, according to her biography, is a visual artist who explores objects through her actions. She researches the poetic space and alternative modes of perception of culture, nature, history and society that emerge from processes of decolonisation, be they personal, interpersonal, or social.
Born in Argentina, she has been based in England for the past 10 years. She studied arts at the National School of Fine Arts Prilidiano Pueyrredón in Buenos Aires and Art History at Buenos Aires University. She was awarded grants to develop her practice at Taller de Barracas in Buenos Aires and to be a resident artist at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she worked under the advice of Richard Deacon, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Joan Jonas, amongst others.
She has been showing her work since 1992, with solo exhibitions at I.C.I. (Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana), Buenos Aires Modern Art Museum (MAMbA), Luisa Pedrouzo Art Gallery and at Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporáneo. Her work could recently be seen in the Frieze Sculpture Park 2011 in London, and at The Wordly House, in Documenta 13, Kassel, 2012.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.