Contribution made to the volume Still by Argentinian artist Ayelén Coccoz. The book aimed at a critical and creative review, by 20 invited critics and artists, of her exhibition of the same name, held in 2015, which brought together a series of "sculptures of sculptures," works frozen in the midst of their own creative process. The English word that gives title to both the book and the exhibition refers to the capture of a photogram, but can also be translated as stillness, calm, or still life. Unlike the other contributors, I did not have physical access to the sculptures, and I base my review on this contradiction.

Source > independent publication Still, 2019 (Spanish)

« On dirait que pour Dieu le monde
n’est que l’occasion de quelques
essais de natures mortes »
Louis Aragon, Le paysan de Paris, 1926

                Ayelen made it perfectly clear in an email she sent to me over a year ago: the single rule to inviting contributors for this publication was that they had actually seen the works live. Thus, I should not be writing about STILL. However, that was an invitation email. I had not seen the show, it was true, but she claimed to have seen me there, nonetheless. I was there, in her dreams, staring attentively at the works. Not only that, but at some point I manifested my desire to “go around” the pieces, in order to look for the “structure lying behind them”.

                That is Ayelen’s phrasing of what seemingly were “my own words”. Knowing enough about myself as she does, she also knows I could not have used the word “structure” in its most literal sense. Not even in her dreams. Although I imagine it would have been possible to move the pieces around in this oneiric context, the “structure” did not only refer to the wooden frames holding them together on the walls. Rather, it pointed to something that cannot be seen, either when one’s awake or asleep: that is, meaning itself.

                Ayelen sent me some images of the show attached in that email, almost black and white in their palette. Looking at them, I could easily picture myself there, wandering around that huge depot, alone, absorbed in my own thoughts, exactly as portrayed by Ayelen on the account of her dreams. As a matter of fact, everything is so dark in those pictures that it almost feels as if I were the ideal viewer of the STILL. As if the actual pieces had intentionally been made not to be seen. To be looked upon, yes, but no to be seen.

                They all have a kind of evasive quality, which constitutes a “reserve” before the viewers’ gaze. But contrary to what one might think, that does not happen because some of the works depict veils in the foreground, suggesting thus the obliteration of an image in the background. Instead, I believe that happens precisely because they work as images, and more specifically as photographic images. That is, with absolutely no depth, no background whatsoever. Again, this flatness is already suggested by the quasi-two-dimensionality of Ayelen’s “veils”. But it is only when one sees them through photographs that they truly become part of the whole picture, part of the whole show. Hence the difficulty in determining whether or not, for instance, the black notebook resting on the table or the large black canvas on what seems to be the depot’s door; are part of the oeuvre.    

                STILL is indeed a perfect title for this exhibition because it seizes the “invisible” structure there in place. Although made of perfectly solid materials, the pieces all seem to work in a photographic manner: As semiologist Roland Barthes reminds us, photography is an utmost deceiving kind of imagery, for it ends up hiding that which it was supposed to reveal. It does not only show us a fragment of what there was, but rather, of what has been; pointing indirectly to the fact that it will necessarily cease to be at some point. And so will we; the viewers, in a haunting, mirrored way.

                Photography captures life, only to freeze it, to remove life from it it. And along with it, our ability to describe what is going on, to make sense of it. As the critic states in his Camera Lucida(1980), “I must therefore […] to this law: I cannot penetrate, cannot reach into the Photograph. I can only sweep it with my glance, like a smooth surface. The Photograph is flat, platitudinous in the true sense of the word; that is what I must acknowledge”. The same applies to these “photographic” works: their lack of depth resonates deeply with the thickness of our own lives. And when that happens, everything suddenly becomes lifeless, becomes flat, becomes perfectly still.

                Making us, viewers, ghosts in the exhibition; oneiric images in someone else’s mind.