Shades between Beauty and Cliché
On In the Absence, an exhibition by Patricia Bentancur
The law in most countries says that no one shall be judged in absentia. It is also said that silence is consent, which also explains the ban on trials without the presence of the accused, who cannot defend him- or herself if absent where he or she is being tried. In fact, what we think and believe and judge regarding people without giving them the chance to express themselves is subjective and, in a certain sense, also superficial. We judge people based on what we see, what we feel in view of what we see and what we know or have learned in other circumstances and previous experiences, perhaps similar, but inevitably different. To get to know another person, we have to interact with and relate to him or her. And to do that, we need to distance ourselves from pure subjectivity, set aside for a moment our certainties, judgments and personal prejudices. In the Absence deals with such beliefs, clichés and personal contradictions that, in each and every case, have a correlate in the collective sphere.
Patricia Bentancur showcases concerns that may seem merely personal, or even banal, in a tone that is neither grave nor altogether playful and in a wrapping that may, in principle, appear overly formal and aestheticist. In the Absence is an exhibition that requires time and patience. Time and patience to circulate among all the objects and images that to all appearances aspire to visual and external perfection and seem to be a series of commonplaces, situations and everyday occurrences but that, once removed from their contexts, shed their triviality and acquire a powerful symbolic charge, exposing, moreover, their strong collective resonance.
In the Absence also displays games and misunderstandings. One example is the untitled video in which two girls, whose shadows are all we see, play a classic clapping game and sing angelically and in a thousand ways about the love and hate caused by love and hate, operates according to this code. The girls say they love the way they hate, hate the way they love and other variations on the same phrase with that childish but semi-neutral tone that children adopt when they sing entire songs in languages they do not know. As in a meaningless game, or as if unwittingly learning to “be a woman”.
The Conversation, for its part, is a photograph depicting a game widespread among boys and girls from at least 30 years ago, when wires were still essential for communicating at a distance.
Once more, one might think of the nonsensical list the most obsolete – yet still living – form of patriarchy considers feminine characteristics: superstition and curiosity, or meddling in the affairs of others. The interesting thing is that the patriarchal version of these “defects” – such as fetishism and spying, manipulation of information and invasion of privacy, cyberharrassment and other present-day problems – are not considered masculine characteristics. And these are the not-so-obvious themes, the absent debates, that this exhibition showcases.
In the Absence is a work in progress. The collection of works that make up this exhibition has multiplied, been transformed and reformulated over time, and depending on the place where it is set. In each new phase, and in each new location, In the Absence acquires new levels of meaning. In Prague, the localization was done by adding to the exhibition a pink wall with the sentence about controlling oneself's emotions. It is a sign which is everywhere in public transport and which was very impressive for the artist, who comes from another place; one where no public sign, code or regulation would ever mention people's emotions.
Clio E. Bugel
Patricia Bentancur (lives and works in Montevideo, Uruguay) is an artist and curator who trained at the Faculty of Architecture of Montevideo, the Superior School of Architecture of Madrid and New York University. A researcher with the Fulbright Academic Program specializing in architecture and contemporary art, she conducted her research at the Guggenheim Museum, the Media Arts Center and the New Museum of Contemporary Art of New York. Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts/ACA-USA. She exhibits widely, among other venues, at Southern Latitude - Film Makers Cooperative, New York; and was selected to take part in the FIVA_Festival Internacional de video Arte_Argentina and the Festival Internacional de Cine eXperimental-DOBRA (Rio de Janeiro) Brazil; the Jordan National Gallery (Amman); the Cervantes Institute (Berlin); Matadero (Madrid); Rostrum (Malmö); the Museum of Modern Art (Bogota); Dello Scompiglio (Lucca); MUVIM/the Image Museum (Valencia); Tegen2 (Stockholm); the Arts Centre (Seville); the Contemporary Culture Centre, CCCB, the Museum of Contemporary Art, MACBA and Caixa Forum (Barcelona), and the Wilfredo Lam Centre (Cuba). She has been invited to the following biennials: Mercosur; New Media (Chile); Havana (Cuba); Ibero-American (Mexico); Belfort (France); JAFRE (Spain); Electronic Arts (France), and the New Media Biennial (Peru).
Exhibition by Patricia Bentancur in the Czech Republic is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Uruguay.
Patricia Bentancur's stay in the Czech Republic is supported by the Agosto Foundation.