Here at Site-Specific Conversation, we have initiated a collaboration with Barcelona Gallery Weekend 2022, offering a series of conversations that will be published weekly over the summer.
The proposal takes Lucy Lippard’s novel, I See/You Mean, as a reference and uses its title to talk about affinities in the choices made by artists and gallery directors and about practices, projects and work dynamics. During the writing process, Lucy realised she was ashamed of being a woman. This same feeling has been experienced by many over the years, and still is to this day. For this reason, we have selected eight galleries exhibiting works by women at this edition of BGW. Throughout this series, we will be conversing with artists and gallery directors, focusing on the relationships generated in a field like this, where the creative is often mixed with the affective.
One artist who is currently tackling the conflict generated by the narrow definitions of woman and mother is Ariadna Guiteras. Her upcoming project uses patchwork to look at the most monstrous aspects of identity formation, the experience of being pregnant, and caring. We also talk to Cati Bestard from Dilalica about layers that lie one on top of the other, cuts, and stitches, along with social constructs and Frankenstein’s monsters. The resulting installation invites us to find out whether or not the dress tailor-made for us is a good fit.
Cati / It all came about through Cos i ficció [Body and Fiction], the exhibition involving Lucia C. Pino, Cabello/Carceller and Ariadna. The whole team had always been interested in her work. We started to think about the idea of patches, to be worked on with an artist. We had Ariadna in mind from the very beginning. In that exhibition, there were some collages of hers that dealt with the idea of Frankenstein, of overlapping things and creating something previously non-existent, a monster, from different pieces. And we were aware of her work with fabric and patchwork. We met up with her to see if she was interested. It became clear straight away that Ari was working on a project along these same lines.
Ariadna / When I received the proposal, I was already keen to produce a series of ideas that were taking shape but required budget and space. I had worked with Dilalica before, and everything is really easy with them, in terms of both financial support and their assistance, with incredible publications and great documentation. So when they called me, I didn’t think twice.
Cati / We define Dilalica as a curatorial team. We’re not a conventional gallery space in this regard. We’re more of a project space. One person from the team looks after sales; this way, there can be a division of roles, and the whole team doesn’t have to focus on the same things.
Ariadna / It’s based on a structure inspired by children’s modular toys, the ones where they build a fort. It takes the idea of the fort from different angles, as a space I want to be accessible and inaccessible at the same time, which makes it more complex. It’s not just the idea of the fort as a womb-like space for retreat. It’s a bit thornier than that. I’m interested in concepts like adultcentrism and seeing life through the eyes of a non-adult. There are also ambivalences around the pregnant person’s body and the stereotype of a mother… The basis for the work is a lot of discomfort and spaces of care.
At the same time, the project uses the traditional patchwork method. For a year now, I’ve been going to a patchwork workshop led by Tere Marias with a group of ladies on Fridays. The patchwork idea comes from earlier projects, where I was thinking about a porous body, a body that spills, but that still has a barrier holding it together: the skin. A body in relation. But, obviously, when you start thinking about the stereotype of the mother or gender stereotypes – in myself and in the first person – it becomes something much more monstrous. That dress doesn’t fit me; I’m much more multi-faceted than that. And there’s this feeling of cutting off and restitching, which was already present in the Cos i ficció collages.
Ariadna / Here, I chose something poetic. I wanted to look at the subject of motherhood, but I didn’t want to use the term mother, because it generates a lot of conflict in me. How could I evoke non-human pregnancy? I considered eggs, something more reptilian. And initially I had a shape in mind, made by two hands together in the shape of an egg. But I wanted something more monstrous, and that was when I thought of claws. They help me to express the experience I wanted to put across better.
Cati / Can I add two things? The first being the concept behind the textile part of this idea: sewing is an act of love, but before that you have to make a cut. The second thing I wanted to point out is that this piece deals with the issue of scale, which is very important.
Ariadna / I like playing with scale, with something that is too big, another that is small, and another that is just right. It’s connected to challenging the concept of adultcentrism I mentioned before.
Cati / The Dilalica space was born with the intention of accumulating history on its surfaces. Even now, they are still accumulating holes and layers, and this will all be kept as it is.
Ariadna / Yes, the body is always an important aspect of my work. Iconic work like Niki de Saint Phalle’s installation, where you had to enter the body through the vagina; Louise Bourgeois’ spider; and Lygia Clark’s piece that was a journey through a body are all references that have stayed with me throughout the process, even though you might not see the direct relationship with my piece. This structure could be seen as a body, but a multiple body.
Ariadna / It’s a very complicated subject, in my opinion. I’m a cis woman, but I don’t feel comfortable with the definition of woman. On one side, we have identity politics, with words and labels that have limitations. Then we have queer theory, which is more open to multiplicity. One of the risks when deconstructing identity politics is that we can lose the identification of a political subject who experiences a series of privileges and oppressions, and make all that violence that receives, for example, the female political subject, invisible. At the same time, it is urgent to rethink and free the categories of other violence, such as binarisms, stereotypes… I’m not talking about things that are exclusive to women: there are men who give birth, who do the maternal work, and who breastfeed. But if I just concentrate on this story, that contradiction comes back. It is about including different realities, not excluding them.
As for ‘woman artist’: I prefer just to be called an artist. Is this because of shame? It would be interesting to take a closer look at this. Perhaps I do still think that if I add ‘woman’, I’m talking about a second-class artist. There’s still work left to do. I don’t have an answer. I just know that it’s a very difficult place, and neither extreme is right for me. And the middle is tough, too. Haraway said to ‘stay with the trouble’. So here I am! Always standing out. My practice is based on the body and queer feminist theories. But from a first-person perspective, from situated knowledge.
Ariadna / It’s all very narrow. Feminisms and identity politics must expand, become more complex, and make sure they don’t forget the original struggles or present ones. Motherhoods and maternal work need another definition. Traditionally, the topic was discussed a lot. I’m talking about European feminism, because the Latin American perspective is very different.
Ariadna / Their genealogy is different, of course. We come from Simone de Beauvoir and support the woman with a room of her own, and there’s no space for anything else. There, meanwhile, they come from ecofeminism, where life is at the heart of things.
Cati / In the West, the construction of gender is extremely restricted, just like motherhood. Ursula K. Le Guin and Haraway say that things become real when they are named… But we’ve been naming things by how they should be for years now! There should be more versatility within these made-up, socially agreed-upon categories.
Barcelona Gallery Weekend seeks to reinforce and make visible the rich and varied artistic scene of Barcelona, promote art collecting and highlight the work of the galleries, as culture generating spaces open to citizens, and the artists they represent. From 15th to 18th September 2022, we celebrate our 8th edition in 33 galleries, presenting the work of more than 60 artists.