The moderns say that loving does not imply dependence, that true love only emerges between independent spirits, between autonomous beings. Sweden took this idea to the extreme of becoming the country with more people living and dying alone. The documentary by Erik Gandini, The Swedish Theory of Love shows how the family of the future (claimed by Olof Palme) has mostly taken the uniparental form of single mother self-inseminating at home.
The Nordic model has metastasized long time ago, in case it originated there. We born and die in aseptic environments, with don’t have support from the tribe (the one who Carolina el Olmo seeks in vain). No wonder that to find a happy Swede Gandini has to move to the other side of the mirror, the opposite model of that ideal of well-being: Ethiopia, cradle of homo sapiens.
Ana Alvarez-Errecalde, from art, urges us to relearn the most basic: to feel, to love, to give birth, to grow old. I move away from Eve (and from the divine punishment of ‘you will give birth with the pain of your body’) to see through the eyes of Lucy (one of the first hominids found to date), writes in relation to the photographic diptych Birth of my daughter (2005). The scandal that aroused showing the ecstatic moments that culminate a conscious labour without medical meddling, still attached to the baby with the umbilical cord, and then with the placenta already outside, speaks for itself of the corporate plot that denatures the body to the point we have repudiated it when is claimed as it is, emancipated from both pharmaco-surgical control and aesthetic standards.
Q- To give birth as it had always been done, and especially showing it as an art piece, is today subversive; as also can be motherhood when it dismantles stereotypes still in force that are polarized between the image of the self-sacrificing mother and that of the liberated one. Your art is inextricable from your life, primarily from the experience of being a mother. What is photography for you: an instrument of self-knowledge, a catalyst for internal processes, a tool to universalize experiences?
Photography allows me to show other truths, to record other stories that, although they are not the ones we were told, also deserve to be recognized and visualized in order to enrich the limited collective imaginary that we create around certain experiences. As I can only speak of what I know, I contribute wirh my experiences of childbirth, breeding, illness and duels …
I try to use photography as a controversial tool. To challenge the unique, preeminently capitalist, patriarchal, and successful history, the one with which we have grown. The example about Sweden with which you open this interview is relevant because precisely what I try to achieve with my work is to rebel myself against this suffocating and repressive idea of “social architecture” that certain systems exert.
Q- The photographic series The Four Seasons (2013-2014) are like visual haiku that sintetize the bittersweet beauty of an acceptance: a loss, an unconditional love, the maternal-filial symbiosis, the protective and cautious instinct of the wolf. They move between the wink to the fable and a patina of profane religiosity, as paying attention to the transcendence of the daily life, as if every season had some of hierophany.
I think that just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the possibility of reflection, transformation and inspiration is found in the bonds we establish and depends only on how willing we are to feel, to learn and to let ourselves be transformed by these experiences.
The viscerality and corporeality of some of my images may seem to oppose the search for the sacred, but perhaps the key is that we are more permeable to the hierophany when more naked we are.
Q- Since the seventies the art that has wanted to challenge the artifice of the closed body, without fissures, has claimed the flows and secretions that shapes us. As Kristeva wrote: “The artist is the socialized figure of the abject.” When you visualize the blood, in Three Bleeding Graces (2012), make ironic comment on the classic canons of feminine and pristine beauty. But what sets you apart from those artists is that the blood (and the organic in general) in your work ceases to be abject, is de-stigmatized without ritualistic or Freudian parapets. It is only source of life.
It may be that life, taken in its fullness, with its deepest complexity and all its mysteries, terrifies us so much that we prefer to pervert it and make it abject.
The Three Graces represented beauty, joy and charm, and with Three Bleeding Graces I wanted to give an irreverent vision to the voyeuristic and salacious representations in the history of art. The Three Graces is also a triad whose connotation involves giving, receiving and giving back, that is precisely the purpose of life, a constant exchange and a contribution to the common good. With three bleeding graces I give visibility to the blood and in this way I denounce the devitalization, domestication and exploitation to which we submit by isolating ourselves.
Q- You transgress the boundaries between the interior and exterior but you also stay in it, because is the skin that ultimately reveals our history, the epidermis as palimpsest of impressions: what time molds and marks, but also medical negligence, objectionable interventions. Cesarean, beyond the wound is part of the exhibition Cría that currently can be seen Vic (Escola d’Art i Superior de Disseny). The skin also becomes a metaphor of commodity with designation of origin in More store and calls for empathy in Histologies.
I am interested in the skin as an inescapable record of our autobiography. I have studied for many years ancestral medicine, such as Chinese medicine, for example, and I see with fascination the symptomatologyc map that is inscribed in the bodies with historical and emotional milestones, influenced by the environment or inherited…
But still, I try to remember that we are not ours autobiography. The skin is a real limit but also becomes flexible and even blurred in the moment we stop rejoicing in pain, we are able to change what they have made of us and we relate empathetically and lovingly with the “other”… The image that comes to me when talking about this is the series of the embrace of my parents or also the images of the series DSD, Migrant Islands … when we achieve a deep understanding of what was alien to us our consciousness expands. Only when we are able to exercise empathy and try to get in the other’s shoes, we see how big or how tight are those experiences we judge.
Q- In your most intimate series, such as Egology, you leave testimony of what is usually not included in the family album (increasingly infinite and false with digital platforms) despite being the substance of our lives: happiness that is born not from the event but from the inside, the intensity of an embrace, doubt reflected in a face … From the self-portraits I draw attention Dualities, that suggest the difficulty of being free. Is it possible to be? Is it the fear that holds us back?
We can not believe that it is possible to be free while walls continue being builded, while there are Internment Centers for Foreigners and the place of origin and purchasing power are considered as determining (i)legality…
In my opinion, it is not only the fear that limits freedom, but also the lack of awareness, the lack of commitment and the comfort of delegating to others our personal responsibility in what we do and we stop doing on a daily basis.
While the search for freedom has been a constant in my life (I became independent very young, I migrated to two countries, I have almost never worked in a relationship of dependency and I have given birth and raised outside the established institutional standards) I think it is increasingly difficult be free. The system wants us sorted, cataloged, controlled and each in its place. The omnipresence of entertainment acts as an opiate that hinders arousal and action.
However, I also believe that there is an intimate freedom, a small but very powerful freedom that we envisage when we are able to make decisions that are in accordance with our integrity. In these cases, although the system thinks to have controlled us, there is an elusive and incorruptible essence that is inherent to being: the essence that makes us bigger than our history.
Cria. Ana Álvarez-Errecalde, solo exhibition
Curator: Anna M. Palomo
Escola d´Art I Superior de Disseny de Vic, until 30th November 2016