For the first time, Argentinian artist Liliana Porter creates an installation specifically for the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Malba), on view until March 16, 2014. It is a miniature universe where time, toys and memory converge in a new dimension. In the exhibit Man with an Ax and Other Brief Situations, Porter defies time and overcomes it. Her intention is to demonstrate that there is no single timeline, but infinite possibilities.
A diminutive man holds an ax and faces a constellation of shattered objects, from toys, ornaments and pieces of crockery to a piano. The installation begs the question; did this little man just had a fit of rage or, instead, is he about to start reconstructing the chaos? On the white platform where he is located are also his fellow adventurers: a man holding a thread that is lost in a hellish tangle, as well as a woman with a broom sweeping a path that ends in a sea of red dust. This static image invites laughter as much as a it does reflection.
The aim of this tiny cast of characters is to point out, through absurdity, that time doesn’t have a before or an after. Everything is in constant dialogue with the elusive now. A sojourn through this constellation of stories reminds us that we are alone in front of the impossible and cannot understand what escapes our awareness. The little men and the collection of objects are part of a complex world of subtleties, characteristic of the artist’s oeuvre.
In a special conversation with the art critic Graciela Speranza, Porter´s smiling gesture and her nervousness before being presented to the public showed her sensitivity. Already on stage, sitting on a couch, her 72 years of age seemed to vanish, giving way to her childish side. Her attitude had an air of memory, imagination, freshness and freedom.
Speaking of The Man With the Ax, Porter seemed to be talking about a prank. She said the man broke everything, but nothing disappeared, in a way it was both hopeful and tragic because the task he undertook was beyond his small scale and at the same time it conveyed the feeling of having an explanation.
“It has an explanation, although I do not understand what it is. The explanation is obviously there, but I do not see it”, says the artist. For Porter, everything becomes memory, image. In her work, the topic of representation is central; however, faced with the depth of the message, she emphasizes, “it is better to laugh”.
Liliana Porter was born in Argentina in 1941, and her relationship with conceptual art started after moving to New York in 1964, the city where she has lived since and where she co-founded the New York Graphic Workshop.
Her work can be found in private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. The Man With the Ax and Other Brief Situations confirms that Liliana Porter´s stories exist in a more flexible time, where past, present and future open our intuition to live between oblivion and hope. ■