Sunday, April 22, 2007

Elvira Santamaria

Last 30th of March I went to Downtown Edmonton considering that the artist Elvira Santarmaria welcomes the participation of the public. It is called action-art and in her own words it means... "a larger term than performance. It's the art of creating experiencies, meaning through feeling. Not objects, although in the process objects can appear or create an experience. Action art is actions as art."

Some minutes after my arrival I took my jacket and my shoes off and gently I made myself at home in her temporal space at Latitude 53. Thoughts started to cross my mind while I was observing her in her actions. For some moments she was reading words from a universal history book while standing in front of a big spiral made of salt scattered on the floor. In fact, in different places of the room there were other patterns made of salt that she made during her hours of activity. In some other moments she laid on the floor, gradually blowing some of the spiral, traveling from the outside towards the centre of it. This combined action of blowing and reading gave me the impression that she was erasing the words because this spiral had for me the form of the glyph that Aztec paintings used to represent someone speaking. I thought that she was also remembering the past as her selected words from the history book were flowing. Was she contemplating the past? There were certainly people contemplating her work and taking pictures of her display while she was making her way through the spiral. Was she making the way or erasing the way that history has followed? A history of creation and destruction.

At the same time that I was observing her, submerged in my thoughts, one of her salt patterns was inviting me to let the impression of my hand on it. Of course I had a debate in my mind. Should I do it or not? I believed that her work invites the audience to participate, to act. However, I felt that putting my hand on her work, out of the blue, was somehow too childish. A child does these things without thinking, not an adult. The solution to my dilemma came when I realized that being an adult does not necessarily mean that I should not do some things but it means that the how I do things is different to that of a child. Obvious as it sounds, to put this in practice requires more than thinking. I can be watching Elvira, expecting a signal that allows me to participate, the "permission from the authority", while holding my wishes to act. I can hold myself only reflecting, like others seem to be doing.

"I am not proposing people interact with me. The way to people is through my actions, how I use the space, how people can be there or feel free to leave. That's the way I invite them" she clarifies.

I sat besides the salt pattern that was inviting me to put my hand on it. It was there, it was not mine and I was not sure that it was completely hers. I decided to let myself be part of the actions, not suddenly interrupting but spending some time watching what was the dynamics of the actions taking place in the room in order to act myself. Gently, I left an impression of my hand on the salt and it really didn't look well there. Being part of something brings responsibilities. I understood that one of the beauties of her apparent simple and futile pattern was due to the time that she spent doing it. As she pointed out in her lecture days before in the University, the stress is not in what to do but how to do it, completely present, with dedication and giving the appropriate time. I would like to eat my meals in the same way that she works.

My intervention in her space made me part of it, only in terms of how I wanted to be there. With the best of my intuition I inserted myself in the dynamics of the room starting to modified my hand print to better suit her pattern.

She and I speak Spanish and nevertheless, there we were, in an English speaking environment. Perhaps in her blows of the spiral she was erasing a language of words in favour of a language of responsible communitarian actions.

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