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Topographies and other fictions

«[...] art "copying from life" and life itself, 

life and the memory of it so compressed 

they've turned into each other. Which is which?»

– Elizabeth Bishop


What role does the image play in our formulation of truth? How many of our foundational truths are based on the fragility of an image? Historically, photography has been positioned as the irrefutable medium to represent reality. In a matter of a click, the shutter automatically captures a system of symbols and associations that originate the notion of what we regard as true.


Through her artistic research, Anna Berenice Garner perceives the image as a trace of truth. Between digital and analog, plane and volume, absence and corporeal presence, the artist constructs her visual language through constant translation processes. For Garner, photography and its methods are organizing tools that allow us to question what she describes as the "agreed upon logic between land, truth and image." Contrary to the certainties attributed to it, the photographic image is essentially a collection of fictions that support our beliefs. From this perspective, the photographic assemblages displayed in the exhibition Topographies and other fictions, far from instituting truths, they propose "hypothetical worlds where reality is not replicated, but reimagined."


Part of the inspiration that these photo-sculptural compositions emanate are the theatrical sets created for Small World at Disneyland, as well as the nature landscapes designed for natural history museums around the world. These fluctuations between reality and imagination remind us of the "poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real" that Jean Baudrillard suggested more than 40 years ago in Simulacra and Simulation. Scenarios to be seen from a distance, volumetric postcards that, like the photographic image, fragment reality while making us believe that what we see authentically shares space and volume with us. Faced with this construction of landscapes, threatening the difference between “true” and “false”, “real” and “imaginary”.


The concept behind the landscape encompasses both physical characteristics of the area of land that can be observed from a site, as well as its symbolic, cultural, historical, social and even poetic aspects. Interestingly, the term landscape is used "to refer to both a natural setting and the representation of a natural setting." As the researcher Irene Artigas Albarelli highlights in her book Gallery of words: The variety of ekphrasis, even with painting, the word landscape describes what is represented, as well as the representation. What remains constant between the natural and the built is the notion of what is framed in a given space. Like the photographic image, the landscape is a point of view, with a beginning and an end, that manifests a way of seeing reality, but not reality itself. Then, the image, like the landscape, is a fiction of appropriation. Nothing we see belongs to us.


In search of making visible and tangible connections between earth and body, the series Parallel Topographies and Composing Landscapes reveal superpositions of textures that transport the production of landscape to the artist's terrain. In these compositions, the body-landscape is observed in the close-ups of the skin of muscular bodies in contrast with the edges of sediment that separate the mountain from the sky. The landscape as a body and the body as its own landscape: a cyclical existence that is constantly fed by imagination.


Through the photo-sculptural compositions presented in this exhibition, Garner invites us to read the montage of photography as a form of sculptural documentation. Rosalind Krauss describes sculpture as a medium that "is situated at the junction between stillness and movement, time stopped and time passing." From this understanding, sculpture is not reduced to form, but is molded by the forms of the space that surround it. Therefore, the sculptural transcends staticity and becomes a dynamic dialogue with its environment.


Taking this corporal and spatial logic as a basis, the photographed landscapes generated with blue and green backdrops offer spaces that adapt to the artist's forms and result from her needs for movement, presence and expansion. Each image presents a space modified by layers of matter intervened by the body or suggestions of its presence. Subtle hints of movement in empty settings, of a body that transforms the landscape and is a landscape at the same time. In these environments of reinvention, space is shaped and rethought through a negotiation between body and contour, between layers of paper that wrinkle, break, fold, tear and, in some cases, disappear. In these spatial experiments, sculpture manifests itself as a search and creation of a space of her own.


The collected works in Topographies and other fictions emerge as the artist's response to a world where spaces delimit the mobile potential of our bodies, offering an approach to the landscape as a possibility of flexible construction. As Gaston Bachelard proposes in The Poetics of Space, in these scenarios "the inhabited space transcends the geometric space", opening sequences of redefinition and reconstruction of the space we are and the space we inhabit.


Janila Castañeda



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