TALES OF CORPOREALITY:
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE SCULPTURE OF AURORA CAÑERO
The narrative or impetus required by modern art in its less tractable forms take us to the very edge of what can no longer be borne. Art is not just a "promise of happiness" (Stendhal), not a quest for that symbol always speaking of eternity, but rather an entry point to the upheaval of time that is nothing more than a fleeting fixedness. Outside of the moment there is only prose, whereas poetry comes into its own in the vertical time of a frozen instant, giving rise to a vertical unfolding in the time of shapes and subjects.
From its earliest origins mankind has felt the need to express itself visually, to represent the world in order to understand it, to create in order to imitate the original act. At the end of his seminar on love, Lacan was literally tied up in knots, the notion of the Borromean knot led him to the concept of writing as the footprints left by language, a scribble in which knowledge ends up pronouncing its name in the form of a conundrum: what is real is the mystery of the body that speaks, the mystery of the unconscious. Whatever is written or painted by the gesture that fractures that terrifying space of blankness is the condition of delight, the drive towards the profound that is so hard to accept. But out of that location (the here and now: Benjamin's definition of the aura) comes what fascinates, in the borderland between the sublime and the source of fear, the tearing up of the holy and the vital force that overflows its bounds. Our torn culture is that of a borderline being: the truth shines forth in the symbolic. The tenets of the first system of German Idealism, laying claim to a symbolic mythology, reverberate like a memory that remains standing amidst the wreckage.
Western thought in respect of space has held a position that has ruled out thinking about it, in that it is not reducible to grammatical forms; there is an enigma in the body of sculpture, that form that Hegel considered essential to Classicism, with which Aurora Cañero keeps up an ongoing conversation, even while it is removed from articulate speech. Sculpture consumes the shift in the tonality of thinking as a basic proposition, a background and an abyss arising from the essence of the interplay or, better still, of rhythmic matter. Sculpture can be the mark of a borderline space, that symbolic juncture that reveals the amazement of the word in silence, that tense presence of the numinous or that speaking of the unspeakable, what is left is a tremor, an emblem of the instant that is about to vanish.
A concern for statuary and the desire to use it to represent mankind form the backbones running through the work of Aurora Cañero, who has been able to modulate her postulates without being absorbed by contextual tendencies that either fall into crude academicism or give themselves over thoughtlessly to experimentation in a quest that seems to find its sole justification in that it is a feature of dogmatic contemporaneity. Javier Rubio Nomblot has pointed out that Aurora Cañero's sculpture enfolds a tension "between what has just happened - a past barely hinted at - and what is going to happen next - discovery, movement, metamorphosis. Each of her works relates a decisive event, that instant in which mankind, inhabiting the centre of the universe, comes up against its moment of truth." Through the especially subtle narrative tendency in her work, Aurora Cañero's pieces define a small world in which things that are on the edge of the fantastic, or at least the unusual, happen.
By way of examples, the presences in Hombre en el trampolín (Man on Diving Board) (1996), staring at a horizon that gives nothing of itself away, attaching a metaphysical depth to that simple gesture; or those female figures on the same board which, instead of diving into the water, are playing with a star or looking thoughtful, as if time for play and introspection would be a means of escaping from the daily grind. We can also think back on Lunático (Lunatic) (1996), walking on a metal hoop, like a symbol referring back to Soñador (Dreamer) (1996), in which a man is seated at the top of a ladder, gazing at the heavens in an attitude in opposition to the stubborn staring at the ground so characteristic of melancholy. Dreaming and curiosity are subjective states that define position in Aurora Cañero's sculptures, from the affable Tacones para asomarse (Heels for Leaning) (1996) to that allegory of a hiatus on a journey in the Barca (Boat) series (1996), in which a woman is shown shading her eyes with her hand as if to contemplate a distant reality while a bird sits perched on her head, or that other piece in which she holds a spyglass to her eye. The use of pedestals as part of the rhetoric of her works is particularly significant in Aurora Cañero's aesthetic system: ladder, hoops, diving boards, boats resting on their oars, rectangular shapes on which the figures stand.
In 1903 Alois Riegl pointed out that a commemorative monument had and has a need for clarity, to express what it is talking about, while at the same time maintaining its links to what we term the present. In opposition to age-value, which appreciate the past solely for its own sake, historical value had already revealed its tendency to pull out from the past one moment in the flow of history and to place it before our gaze with a clarity as if it belonged to the present: "intended commemorative value somehow has, from the outset, that is, from when the monument is first erected, the steadfast purpose of not allowing that moment to turn into the past, of keeping it always in the present and alive in the awareness of posterity. This third category of commemorative values is therefore a clear transition towards today's contemporary values." Riegl's ideas compel sculpture to define itself as a closed work, one that is modern and a part of the collective memory, or to put it in his own terms: the tension between instrumental values, artistic criteria, and the principle of newness. Aurora Cañero's poetic practice endeavours to reclaim that monumental dimension, in the awareness that the collective narrative has been completely dismantled but even so without giving rise to an overwhelming scale. What her work presents are not, of course, memories of historical events but bodily demeanours with a touch of fiction: monuments to imaginary forms of subjectivity.
One of the issues addressed by her current works is the question of nakedness, as is apparent in the splendid sculpture entitled Vestido de luna (Moon Dress) (1999), revealing the nature of our clothing as cultural artifacts, or in Odisea (Odyssey) (2000), in which a woman holds a sphere above her head as if bearing the weight of the world. Another of her visual artistic concerns is the attempt to reveal the relationships of couples, standing naked on two hoops, as in Deslizarse II (Glide II), sitting or reclining on a boat, in the pieces in the series Navegando juntos (Sailing Together). The man and woman are next to each other, yet deep down, they are far apart, the tenderness that keeps them in touch is something precarious, for the moment they dwell in silence, recognizing the state of exile of love. Nakedness, as Bataille realized, can be a "state of communication", a divestiture in which the essential is the only thing of substance.
Curiosity, as in Apuleius's Golden Ass, can lead to perdition, if some use the spyglass to dream of stars or reflect on celestial bodies, while their clothing seems to be formed of craters; in other instances man leads paranoically "guarded" woman amidst that optical device that in fact unites them. Aurora Cañero has completed her metaphors of desire with a series on the kiss, in which she imparts to that moment of overcoming the fear of contact a strangeness that reinstates the separation of the body: tongues may be knives or covered with sharp objects. Pleasure doubtless contains a hint of bitterness in the knowledge of pain as the fate of man. This sculptress's task is to embody mystery and furnish an outlet for the expression of emotion in her works, by means of a blend of strangeness and a refined sense of humour. Identity remains a puzzle, even when we have no other shield but our skin the subjective narrative continues to reveal its depth: the curious gaze discovers the abyss of passion and for that very reason needs to avert the fall, holding on to those ramifications we call tales, which are made up not only of words but of traces, objects, and fascinating figures.