Elastic structures

he idea that some sort of connection exists between ideality —thought, rational behavior— and materiality —nature, the physical world— has been an essential assumption upon which knowledge and creation in western culture have been supported. Throughout history, these connections have taken different forms: they have been thought of as resemblances, conveniences, and equivalences, as a foundation and an arrangement; in this sense, “reasoning” has been found in the internal laws of the workings of the physical and natural world, and vital and productive operations have been used to understand the act of thinking and its constructions.

In fine arts, in the history of visual representation, these connections have played a fundamental role in figurative mimesis, as well as in abstraction, providing the necessary formulas to suffuse works with spirituality or to make them autonomous “places”, scenes of an imaginary reality. In modern art, they are especially decisive because, thanks to them, reality is understood in terms of order and rationality, and reticular schemes permeate all the realms of existence. In its different manifestations, artistic modernity conceived these connections “analytically”, in such a way that it was possible to find the structural substratum of what is visible, the foundation of the presence, in those rational orderings —in geometry and its regularities—, and was also able to transform such basis into a “spiritual” expression from which the “works” are turned into incarnations of creation and the power of subjectivity.

In this respect, ideality in modern art embodies a path full of expression that is capable of recounting the world from universal, permanent, and absolute instances, of transfiguring appearances into general and ultimate formulas. Hence, for modern art, appealing to geometric orders involves an exploration, an inquiry, that goes deeper into that which remains (the essence) of reality, whether natural or cultural, into that which is inalterable and endures changes and builds a unity of presences. Abstraction has been proposed as a “deprival” of sensible and variable qualities, of differences and divergences, a simplification or abridgement that allows the artistic object to enter the realms of subjectivity. Even Latin American abstractions, which in many occasions bend the reticular and rational schemes and make them sensual, appeal to the same idea of understanding geometry as the internal order of reality and presence.

Critically considering this modern, abstract and constructive tradition, “citing” and interpreting it, the works of Magdalena Fernández do just the opposite, they make use of geometry —the ideal— to explore, not the universal and permanent substratum of the bodies and presences, but their dynamic “condition”: their process of development, their changes and transformations, their movements. The structures created by Magdalena Fernández are mobile —moving— and transforming, they make others from themselves; as a result, they take care of the physis: the source or force from which entities or material elements sprout and grow, “nature” understood as the power of life. In her works, the structures or abstract images, in the case of the videos, acquire a sensuality that not only manifests itself by undulating or curving the reticular schemes, but also appears as the incorporation of what is unforeseeable, of fluxes, vibrations, or oscillations that dynamize and invigorate them and give them temporality as well. Indeed, her works rise in the frontiers of what is geometric or constructive, in their borders, in their limiting moments, for they explore the distinctive powers of the physis, of vitality. Thus, they open themselves to hold and foster their variations and transformations, their own (dis)assembly, intrinsically.

In the exhibition of Estructuras elásticas (Elastic Structures), displayed at Carmen Araujo Arte Gallery, Magdalena Fernández explores various dynamics to which the reticular structures may be subject to when their tensions are changed around and transformed, when the relationship of forces are thrown askew or slightly displaced both visually and physically. These works are suspended volumes, built as a meshwork of lines joined inter se through spheres, which remain in a variable balance, in an unstable relationship, due to the mobile forces that unleash at the very core of the structure. This set of displaced tensions, those off-center meshes, become vectors that are able to produce physical and visual alterations in the system, consequently, the “structures” expand temporarily by way of their constant mutations; they become “systems” that, shaped from a set of material points, incorporate movement to their own ordering as an essential variable.

Similarly, the drawings —created as a gloss of the temporary variations of volume— comment and recapitulate, expand and clarify —in the activations, oscillations, and agitation of the lines, in the hesitancy they introduce in the realm of the shapes— the dynamic understanding of the reality that takes up change and movement as natural, internal trends that allude to the idea of conatus: the primeval impetus that webs the transformations with time and continuity, potentially comprises changes, and understands the connection between what is ideal and the material as a “theological relationship” concerning what is natural and moral.

In this regard, it becomes visible, evident, in these works how —when displacing or modifying the relationship among the forces, when altering the tensions— the reticular structures disrupt and agitate, become flexible and malleable, and remain in a dynamic balance —repose—, that is, a balance that is always a power of movement as well as a possibility of mutation. The different pieces of work, whether suspended volumes or sculptures, drawings or meshes, are displayed as weaves of trembling, vibrant and agitated lines and dots, where the structures are put off-center and displaced, visually narrating the lively transit that constitutes the support of what is vital, of all those things that grow, that spring, that act.

In the same way, the in situ installation, displayed in one of the exhibition halls is a mesh of elastic lines and metallic spheres that seizes a place to make visible the mystery that rules the dynamics of the bodies —of the world, of the physis— and that brings about the transit between what is potential and what is kinetic, the concretion of movement and transformation, of the constant mutation and renovation that articulates reality and turns it into living and vital existence, into activity and outcome. This installation is a sort of “diagram”, an outline, a graphic and volumetric expression, where the complex systems of forces and tensions become present and create the alterations, mutations, and metamorphoses that come about in nature, in daily reality, in the world that surrounds us.

It is a mobile diagram, a ductile scheme, which moves when in touch with the human body and may be interfered with and altered. In the lines, the forces and tensions are present; in the spheres, the relationships and articulations materialize; in the weave —the meshwork—, the complex connection that rules and leads the transition from potentiality to action, from the possibility of being something else to the concretion of such change, growth, transformation, and development, becomes evident. These lines and spheres create a design that resembles an “implosion” and, therefore, allude to an imminent creation, that is, they aim at those transformations caused by internal forces, by inherent tensions, through which life is given, or exists.

In the Elastic Structures, provoking movement is not the ultimate purpose of the work, it is rather the “means” or the “metaphor” through which Magdalena Fernández understands and formulates the connection between ideality —thought, rational behavior— and materiality —nature, the physical world— in terms of force and power. It is an active force that is neither pure action nor a mere capability of movement, it is, rather than power to act that leads, on its own, to action —some kind of element that gathers, in a single time, the two ambits or orders, and weaves a world in constant transformation.

Sandra Pinardi
Caracas, 2019
spanish version