The absence of the paternal and maternal figures, or more specifically their physical distance as a child, and the consequent virtual relationship when the technological virtuality did not yet exist has marked, in a sense, the work of María Ruido.
In her film essays, however, we could almost say that the feminist motto “the personal is political” is reversed because intimate only appears in her work in an indirect manner, through complex webs that weave the social with the emotional.
On the other hand, only one of her video essays (La memoria interior) has dealt with the issue of Spanish emigrants, who like their parents, were labor in European factories during the Franco regime. Unwinding the ball of memory from her own experiences, moved in space and time, the only way to recover it in the face of collective amnesia.
But her personal history has led her to interrogate ceaselessly History with capital letters and their deceptions. Family albums are the false testimony of domestic happiness, the media support a consensual truth and the patriarchal discourse reshapes the world from its own linguistic formulas. Maria’s audio-visual language has been based on multiple reverse shots to confront the single view offered by these frameworks of biopolitical control and media manipulation. Her montages juxtapose heterogeneous sources whose joints “spark”, and by adding voices, by suppressing authorities and highlighting censorship, democratizes an anti-democratic medium.
Pasolini dares to say it this way in a television interview: television is an anti-democratic medium. His words are reproduced in “Electroclass” (Bilbao 2011), a work in which Maria contraposes the speeches of ministers praising the conversion into a brand (Guggenheim) of a “decadent industrial city” with fragments of Pasolini’s Mundane Poems where he laments for the destruction of the past. She also opposes propaganda speeches with demonstrations for the closure of the shipyard, she contrasts the epic of triumph in the eighties series “Fama” with a gloomy social reality, and inserts film fragments of terror (Murnau, Franju) with Berlusconi signature of an agreement with Basque television.
The sound collage contributes to dismantle the media theatricalisation, and as the film unfolds the irony becomes sharper: the punk theme of the Lendakaris Muertos (left! You are not from the left, right! Nor from the right, from the center! you are from the shopping center!…) accompanies the images of consumers queuing at the Corte Inglés. The voice of Godard whispering that “we live in a great comic strip”, that “there are more and more interferences between image and language” is put in relation to the politician that talks about teleworking as the panacea of freedom (that is, always being available). The conceptual mosaic continues with news of workers’ suicides in Telecom, devouring screens (Videodrome), ghosts coming out of them (Poltergeist) … and, finally, we ended up dancing “radioactive flesh” with the devil Silvia Pinal (Buñuel’s Simón del Desierto), swallowed by the electric night.
In her way of dealing with any topic, Maria always starts from a premise, which is the one that lends its title to another of her pieces: “That which cannot be seen must be shown” (2010). The phrase was taken from George Wacjman, and can almost be read as the reverse of Wittgenstein’s aphorism, “whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.” Wittgenstein was referring to metaphysical themes, to abstractions that cannot be verbalized, although the truth is that he was not faithful to that principle. María, in this documentary essay, refers to historical memory, always layered with micro-histories that are ultimately the ones that move the world.
Fragments of militant films of the seventies are interspersed with the official history of the Spanish Transition, focusing on different aspects that were hidden: Helena Lumbreras giving visibility to the workers’ struggles, Fernando Vergara daring to denounce the murders of miners (Rocío), Cecilia Bartolomé satirizing endemic machismo even among the most progressive people. They were filmmakers who suffered exile and censorship, even within the leftist groups, as Maria reveals in her film. A Galician worker, outraged by the informative lies about the Prestige, closes the film asking the camera: “What I say is going to be published? It will be broadcasted?”
Of course, it will not be broadcast on any official television, but María believes in the transformational capacity of the audiovisual medium.
The body as a production tool, as a territory of struggle or subordinated to each market niche, has worried María Ruido, but it is in “Mater amatisima” (2017) where she focuses directly, in particular, the woman’s body and her role as a mother. The recent case of the parents that killed their own child, in Galicia, and the media sensationalism around it and the demonization of the mother (prejudged and condemned before the trial) was the starting point to Maria’s audiovisual reflection about the concept of nuclear family and the ideological burden upon motherhood.
The film begins with a sequence super 8-images of the artist’s childhood, while a female voice expresses her feelings about the “maternal instinct”. It is taken for granted that there are no fissures in the mother’s love, that a child is always desired. Sophie Rois (in conversation with Alexandre Kluge) reinterprets the Medea myth in a feminist key: this Euripides’ character does not kill her children because of Jason’s infidelity but because of the subaltern condition to which she is relegated. Fine arts also provided us the image of a nurturing and protective mother, a stereotype that the Dead Mother of Egon Schiele with the child in her uterus is opposed. But the main reference of Maria Ruido in this work comes from the experimental cinema, the deconstruction of film melodrama by Laura Mulvey in “Riddles of the Sphinx”. Do we really choose to be mothers? Mulvey asks herself. And if so, why submit to an unreal model with which we don’t identify?
Mulvey analyzes how the domestic tensions that can not be expressed in the cinematographic narrative move towards the staging, the gesture, the color, the tempos. This can be appreciated in the film “Nathalie Granger” by Marguerite Duras, full of eloquent silences in the complex maternal-filial relationship that María Ruido also recovers.
It is not trivial that in her first work, a video-performance entitled “The human voice”, María put on the stage a process of self-imposed distancing of masculine linguistic models. As she covered her mouth with adhesive tape as she read a text about the presumed ways of speaking used by each gender (excerpt from “The origen of the subject woman”, M. Cereceda), the progressively muffled voice ended up unable to articulate a word.
She thus placed herself at a zero point from which to articulate her own language, against the patriarchal model, but also against the model of historical truth. “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” said Wittgenstein. To cross those limits, those frames that only let me see “your world”, goes through deconstructing and rebuilding them from the ruins.
María Ruido. Profundidad de campo.
in Matadero, Madrid
comisaria: Ana Ara
until 5th May 2019
Programme: Mater Amatisima (2017), ElectroClass (2011), La voz humana (1998), Lo que no puede ser visto debe ser mostrado (2010).
In Cineteca Madrid: Estado del Malestar (2019)