A friend called my attention to Ana Teresa Barboza‘s work (Lima, Peru, 1981). A good friend, I should say, for she knows how I’m drawn to mixed techniques applied to photography, specially when it involves some sort of sewing. Ana Teresa’s work is anything but simple, though the objects and imagery we’re showed in the end are easy to look at, easy to relate to. In a short interview with my homonym from Le Fil Conducteur Ana Teresa says something fundamental to understand the greater value of such a work:
“Both embroidery and crocheting are techniques that require time. I use these techniques in order to make a connection between manual work and the processes of nature; creating thread structures similar to the structures that make a plant for example. My aim is to create pieces of work that simulates experiments, aiming to reconstruct nature, teaching us to have a new and fresh look at it.”
The relation between manual labor and authenticity in art is something I’m very interested in. I’ve written about it in this blog and there’s a beautiful text by Michael Hardt on the topic that is very much worth looking at – Affective Labor (1999). Works that require time, as Ana Teresa says, allow for a very particular connection to develop between the author and the product of his/her creation and the faithfulness of such a relation is of immediate perception. That symbiosis cannot be forged. It is inherently authentic. And why is authenticity such an important value? Because artists are expected to relate to their work in an honest way, to relate to the materials chosen in a way that is sincere to their purpose, their potential and their context. If they do not compromise with the creative process, that will be evident in the product’s lack of “soul” and I’d say these creators should not be called artists but instead image-makers, decorators and so on.
Photography and sewing are my two passions. Although the way they came into my life was quite different from one another, they both relate to the realm of affects. I often question why they mean so much and tend to conclude it has to do with the value of affective labor and how it relates to time, patience, love and death. When applied to photography, embroidery works on an opposite pole, creating a sustainable tension between the two. Photography is flat and it’s about the killing of a moment that is then awaken in the form of a fake representation; embroidery is a work of patience and it’s about bringing things to life, its forms are never determined. Together, they clash in a three-dimensional struggle where the two mediums may or may not flow together in two major aspects: 1) their inherent capacities to function as symbols, either of the object represented or of the subject’s intentions; 2) their materiality.
There’s also a tendency to be reminded of Barthes and Benjamin when looking at these works. The former because of the concept of punctum, the latter because of the (ever changing notion of) aura. Punctum is of the order of pain. Something like a stinging quality a photograph may or may not have, the way that photography penetrates and hurts you. The aura is an unspoken truth. Something that happens here and now but somehow has to do with the there and then of the memory of the author and our own. So the way sewing acts upon a photograph seems to me like a brutal dialogue, like an attempt to awake the death images by inflicting them with pain. As the needle penetrates the photograph there is potential for an auratic mode to arise. From the continuum of little moments spent between the author and the work to the originality of the photographic imagery created, there is an open field from where autonomous memories emerge.