Margarita Andreu  /  Textos
Margarita Andreu and the Poetics of Space English
Henry Meyric Hughes
I have chosen to call my short piece for this exhibition, ‘The Poetics of Space’ after the celebrated essay of 1958, by Gaston Bachelard (1964), with its subtitle ‘The Classic Look At How We Experience Intimate Places’. When I started to write, I had yet to see, experience and explore at first hand, the spaces of the Espai Ubu, that have been modulated by Margarita Andreu’s desires, but Bachelard offers us a way in, through his gentle reminder of the phenomenological, psychoanalytic and psychological aspects of space (‘inhabited space transcends geometrical space!’). For him, the point of departure is his reflexion that ‘... every corner of a house, every angle in a room, every inch of secluded space in which we like to hide or withdraw into ourselves is a symbol for the imagination’, which we best encounter in a trance-like state. We bring our lives with us, and our memories; this domestic space is both a refuge and point of encounter with the outside world. As another writer, Georges Perec, who was also obsessed with the poetics of space, put it: ‘You have to have the password, have to cross the threshold, have to show your credentials, have to communicate’.

In the main gallery space, Andreu has placed thick sheets of opaque polycarbonate from floor to ceiling in front of, and partially covering the main apertures of the windows. These serve as screens for her variously paced videos – visible from both sides, but also filtering the natural sounds, sunlight, shadows and dusk. The videos themselves further dissolve the barriers between the inside and outside and set the entire space in motion with a series of mental and temporal evocations. The images that she shows us, and the uses to which she puts them, might almost be taken for a shorthand rendering of her work of the last ten to fifteen years. These fragmentary ephemera, she calls ‘samples’ (‘muestras’ in Spanish, ‘mostres’ in Catalan) or ‘demonstrations’ of what she wants to display (‘mostrar’ or ‘mostrari’). They are projections of a remembered life, in real time and real space, destabilised by tricks of light, movement and sound. Their basis is provided by apparently banal images of objects and details of objects that are, however, laden with personal significance. They are taken from ‘retakes’ of locations, such as the view of some grating at the back of the former Lenin Library in Moscow, or a detail of a landscape in the Pyrenees, that have personal associations for the artist, but are, in both cases, scrambled, in close-up, or enlarged, almost to the point of non-recognition: natural and artificial elements come to resemble each other, and the grating, or grid, comes to represent an organic net of some kind, in connecting invisible objects and memories; or the stones on the ground might almost be pixilations that you see on your television screen. Grids, nets and pixilations are, indeed, themselves metaphors for the interconnectedness of the visible and invisible worlds, and of the natural with the artificial. They are skins and structural elements that can also perfectly well serve as metaphors for the social sphere, very effectively used by an artist such as Helio Oiticica, with whom, in aesthetic terms, too, one might suspect Andreu to share certain affinities! Thus the disparate, and minimal, motifs that Andreu employs in a seemingly casual way are distorted, abstracted and made surprisingly concrete, through a range of technical devices. They move beyond the point of immediate recognition, to the point where they spontaneously start to generate unexpected correspondences, both to each other and to the surrounding web of associations. To enter the room, then, is to experience the very opposite to the ´death’ implied by Brian O´Doherty, in his notion of the disembodied eye that is all that remains to the spectator entering the white cube. We are drawn in by a multitude of gentle alterations, additions and superimpositions to the physical fabric, such that we have difficulty, at first, in gaining our bearings in this ´world in a box´.

For Andreu, movement is meaning, the paintbrush that generates the image from the limited material on her palette, or rather, to speak in a much more literal way, the camera that substitutes for the eye is a window to the soul, as it explores he surrounding space, extrapolates the different elements and is drawn into, or withdrawn from, the objects on which it alights. The artist, seeing but unseen either moves the camera, that fixes on its subject, or moves the object into and out of focus. Either way, it is her hand, unseen, that consciously manipulates the image. At a further extension still, it may be her hand on the computer mouse, that gives free, and physical, play to her imagination. And we, as observers, are drawn into these movements of the hand, the camera and the object, and the movements of the soul that set these processes in motion.

So what are we left with are not so much ´mostres´, or ´samples´, as ´prises´(´prises de vue´, ´prises de conscience´), which might be rendered in the almost unworkable translation, ´captures´(´captives´, maybe? Or the more transitive ´capturings´?). Thus, the hand holding the camera of the mouse captures the movement with the sweep of a gesture, as an image whose very prolongation in time generates new meaning, both in our perceptions and in our interpretation of these. (The artist sees a literary equivalent to this in one of her favourite works of literature, Lawrence Sterne´s Tristram Shandy, where all the elements of the narration undergo a constant process of transformation, as its forward movement generates fresh, and surprising, meanings.

Finally, in addition to these syncretic methods touched on above, we find a constant shifting of meaning and displacement, from one object to another, of one idea to another, and of one technique of representation of reality, to another, almost by a process of contagion, in accordance with arbitrary, but predictable rules. A comparison for this might be found, again, in literature, - in James Joyce´s Ulysses, for example, - where words take on a life of their own and assume new meanings that are beyond the conscious control of the author, but rich in texture, sound and evocative associations. At a deeper level, we are reminded of the interrelatedness of everything, and the way this serves to bring out the underlying unity of the creative process. Through her virtuoso improvisation, the artist lays siege to the possibility of deeper significance. In Bachelard´s evocative phrase: ´The world pulse beats at my door´.