The Argentine artist Liliana Porter is one of the most lucid and original creators working today. Since the 1970s, she has gradually created a universe of her own, with solid and fascinating proposals for rethinking conventions by playing with spatial subversions, unexpected dialogues and disturbances to proportions. She is represented in the collections of major international museums and is an invited artist at this year’s Venice Biennale.
Porter works across a very wide creative spectrum that encompasses painting, installation art, printmaking, video, drawing, sculpture, theatre, etc. The personal world she depicts is astonishing and is permeated by her extremely refined wit, intelligent sense of irony and highly individual subtlety. She offers thought-provoking proposals for and about a world that needs to be narrated afresh. To this end, she shatters it, sets it awry, even attacks it, displaying extraordinary insightfulness at all times.
Her work reveals the need to rename every event and to retrace borders anew merely to disrupt them. There is a need to pursue the space, to run after it and dwell on the edge of an account in which everything is in disarray beneath the appearance of infinite ordinariness. It is the world drawn with an internal order that evades and exasperates us; powers of language capable of evoking a place constructed around this formidable and insurmountable divide, capable of evoking new ways of approaching space and time that are fracturing and tearing themselves apart.
Even so, the associations in Porter’s works are deliberate and hence we are never on safe ground in her pieces, in her rewritten territories. We are always exposed: underlying her brilliant plays of narrative, that world of seeming trifles, is an unyielding subversive line that interrupts the gaze and shatters the calm, that announces at every step a certain luminous possibility of disobedience among the spectators as well.
It is an unceasing assault on the comfort zone behind which Porter frequently camouflages herself when she alerts the observant visitor to the elusiveness of the line, and hence of the rigour of geometry as a science. Kandinsky indicates as much in his classic book: the line never stays still and ends up turning into a point. In Porter’s work, this point is a fascinating bruise inflicted on the order that does not emerge by chance but is part of a precise and detailed plan…
Similarly, the protagonists of her accounts—small figures that acquire a life of their own and constantly wander about in search of a displaced home, the house on the other side, a trap and a disguise—present spectators with a repeated question that points them to a mirror that does not reflect but rather distorts in an operation resembling Freud’s notion of the ‘uncanny’. Photographs, paintings, prints, videos and installations are a kind of realm of resistance for a back-to-front world; a world in which everything—especially oneself—is precisely the opposite of what it ought to have been. What seemed to be a harmless story ends up disclosing its ultimate stratagem: to make the gaze waver.
This is the narrative formulation that Porter—a good storyteller—uses in her ambiguous scenes of objects and unexpected situations: that which ought not to have been there. The works look at us through the characters and they shatter us: the line extends beyond the frame—sculpture or overflowing outside the photographic surface—and forces us to think for a moment about how the boundaries between inside and out, reality and fiction, the familiar and the unknown were not as immovable as we might have thought in this meeting of inanimate beings, humans and animals that make up Porter’s rich universe. She shows an infinite respect for her characters that makes them so human, a compassion and recognition of differences in the face of the mass-constructed. As mentioned earlier, nothing in Porter is there by chance.
This exhibition, which takes some of these premises as its starting point, will feature around a hundred public and private pieces, among them videos, installations, photographs, drawings and paintings, offering a Liliana Porter retrospective that gives an overview of the development of this artist who, with her plays of scale, her unexpected combinations and her sense of irony vis-à-vis the world, is capable of building a parallel universe in which the lines break up, the dialogues spill over, the proportions are distorted and things are never what they seem.
The show is divided into three sections that sum up some of the central questions in Porter’s work: Rips and Tasks, which begins with her early installations of wrinkled paper and continues with her Trabajos forzados and the breakages and repairs; The Route and the Line, which looks at her fascination with lines as a territory for displacements and as ways of bursting out of the confines of spaces and realities; and Conversions and Doubles, in which the characters engage in dialogues and duplicate themselves, reply and bring each other to a close.