Contrary to the desire for possession, the caress is a voluptuous gesture that “nothing catches”, nothing retains. Emmanuel Levinas took the poetic image of the caress as a paradigm of the right distance between the self and the other, that distance that embraces alterity without annulling it.
In the hand-painted porcelain statuettes by AES+F the caresses abound, but here the promise of future announced by Levinas is completely distorted, with stylized advertising choreographies
With kitsch refinement, each sculptural group recounts a rescue, or rather the relaxation after the rescue in speedboats, on fluffy mats or surfboards: a woman in a swimsuit caresses the dark face of a castaway between licking and licking of an ice cream; an Arab with a turban touches the belly of another blonde beauty, two African beauties prostrate themselves with concupiscent gratitude before a burly surfer …
These are choreographies of salvation in which one can guess a certain parody of the devotional iconography, although the “passion” attitudes are “warmer”.
The waves of the Mediterranean, on which each of the scenes ride, curl up like graceful curls bordered in gold. The sea can be confused with heaven if we have in mind the traditional characterization of immaculate virgins on fluffy clouds, but here we see dolphins and octopuses instead of half moons and cherubs.
The intention of placing the actions in a celestial or limbic Mare Nostrum can be related to other works of AES + F, where the idea of limbo or purgatory is recurrent. They are non-places that can take the form of paradisiacal islands, airports or any other metaphorical free zone, where everything remains calm though tense, in a state of suspense. In them, the relations between masters and vassals, between the nouveau riche and the Nuda Vida (naked life), become ambiguous through a suspicious erotic choreography.
Here, in this sea of porcelain, fragile as a mirage, the sensual touching between redeemers and redeemed seem to freeze in a single gesture those other slowed movements of the impressive audiovisuals that AES + F has accustomed us to. The language is very similar although the technique is so different: from high technology we turn to a bourgeois eighteenth-century craft.
The choice of this artisanal technique allows them to enter the houses of the upper classes, which reveal their humanism of postín, their pompous gestures of charity with a “celebrity style”.
The contrasts from each other are expressed with meticulous detail: between dark skins wrapped in rags that arrive with their rotten woods and the blondes in a wetsuit or tasting champagne. It seems that the latter were waiting for the arrival of the former ones between dive and dive.
The eroticism accumulated in these well-built bodies seems to neutralize those polarities, to destroy the hierarchies. Certainly, these caresses “nothing catch”, but not in the sense of detachment that Levinas said but because they are just smoke.
AES+F, Mare Mediterraneum
Galería Senda, Barcelona
until 23th March 2019