The French verb méduser retains the etymology derived from the Greek myth about the monster whose gaze petrifies, Medusa. Perseus resisted the temptation to face her and brought the shield so that the Gorgon, being reflected in it, would succumbe to fear of contemplating herself. The Gorgonea gaze, médusant look, is fascinating and lethal. Even at the risk of dying, who is magnetized, fascinated, will not want to look away.
Fascination is the perception of the blind point of language, writes Pascal Quignard, for whom the ancient Roman painting was developed from the obsession of that hypnotic, erotic, Gorgonea gaze. Greco-Roman mythology is fraught with tragic events due to contempt of interdict about looking. Tiresias, Orpheus, Narcissus, Actaeon, Psyche … saw what should not have seen and pay for it: some lose their sight, others their lover, or even life itself.
An artist must be like Perseus, said Caravaggio. Interposing mirrors so the terror being reflected in them and thus exorcise it. But Bernardí Roig doesn’t adopts the strategy of Perseus and yet conjures fears; his white men do not fear the frontal look, succumb to it with suicidal craving. As insects attracted by artificial light, these middle-aged spectra often end up with smoky or burned eyes, attached to light panels or fluorescent tubes. Have they reached a more acute level of vision, as Tiresias?
Forbidden vision has metamorphic effects. Actaeon, transformed into deer because of his offense to Diana, will be devoured by his hunting dogs. But before the final metamorphosis, as cuckold hybrid he will satisfy his desire, shall copulate with the haughty goddess, albeit through the imagination. Roig is inspired by the writings and drawings of Klossowski in Diana at her bath in his misrepresenting of the myth. Delight in Diana’s face melts into our memory with Roberte’s face in The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, palimpsest of images of desire, a mis-en-abisme of reflex nested into reflex, infinite gears of failed representations of what being irrepresentable becomes obsession.
One must have the courage to peek inside a hole to see what happens, Roig writes in his dialogue with himself (or monologue in different voices), compiled in Binissalem (2006): that hole is a metaphor for the inner self. Look at is the meatier erotic act. So gaze of person looking is not a look, but a pit in the middle of our securities. Something like peek at the glory holes of our cranial caves; think of ourselves as voyeurs of our inner demons.
Creatures avid of darkness, ones licking with lewd tongues our shameful dreams in the sewers of the city (Practices to suck the dark, 2016), but also those that cross the threshold of light to project in the inner penumbra his own film in loop. And between the two, scenes of mythical coitus, the goat and the faun, Diana and Actaeon … last glimmerings before the blackout.
We come from a scene where we were not (Quignard, Sex and terror), so we are committed to always look for that image we lack, to always see another image behind all things.
–Cuidado con la cabeza, sala Alcalá 31, Madrid, until 24 th July, curated by Fernando Castro Flórez
–Buenos Aires, Muntref Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, until 18 th September, curated by Diana Wechsler