1999 Beyond the principle of pleasure – Maria Alice Milliet

1999 Beyond the principle of pleasure – Maria Alice Milliet

Solo exhibit – Far beyond de apple

Nara Roesler Gallery – São Paulo/SP


“Sublimation is a search in the outside world for

the lost body of childhood.”

Norman O. Brown

The human body mobilizes art creation.  In contemporary art there is a trend rooted on mental life conditioned by the body’s responses.  Unconscious infantile fantasies provide the subliminal script for works of these art representations.  Secret stories of love and hate, that initially involve the mother and later the father to form the classical child-mother-father triangle, emerge in these works.  Mother and father are seldom featured in whole, for they are victims of the recurrent metonymical practice that turns parts of the human body – breast, mouth, genitals, abdomen, entrails, excrement, etc. – into objects of child desire.  These objects of affection or repulse maybe replaced with others to which they are connected one way or another – as, for example, the womb is associated with seed, crust, abode, box and so forth – on which the child projects contradictory feelings of love and/or aggression.  This mode of critical interaction yields the ambiguity of the signifiers it elicits.  Identities are created, emotions are transferred, and correlations are established without the least observance of convention.  In the realm of fantasy and art anything goes.

This art production reaches far beyond narcissistic reverie.  It deals with experiences that, having preceded verbalization, are still stressed or mitigated by events that take place later than in the early childhood period.  In short, it addresses a subjectivity the existence of which inevitably depends on the other, hence the feelings of anguish, pleasure, and pain. The plunge into the child and family realm – the source of all human social relations – has in Louise Bourgeois its greatest expression.  One cannot possibly fail to recognize the drama she enacts in her objects and installations.  In her transpositions from the ordinary life to the symbolic, from the anecdotal to the mythic, a constant mode prevails, that of conflicting relationships.

When Maria Villares began to work with the apple her deep-rooted motivational contents were not yet manifest.  In retrospect, the archaic is clearly evinced in her earlier works, particularly in the enormous drawings of 1994 featuring records of driftwood and twigs collected along the seashore and turned into totemic beings floating in a non referential, atemporal space.  Earlier yet, she arranged seashells, snail shells, and corals in glass tanks she called dry aquariums.  In this case, the organic world was to be observed in vitro, the same detached posture Villares assumed when she first started dealing with the apple.

For along time a discipline typical of science prevailed in her work. After selecting the apples she submitted them to a series of operations to collect information about their various conditions.  She examined the fruits, in whole or sliced into thin slices arranged on paper sheets as if they were microscope slides.  She noted down any organic and visual alterations such as change in color, staining on the support, peel wrinkling, and pulp dehydration, hardening and mummification. After that Villares took up a series of trials that included photographing and photocopying this material, intervening with registers, and reproducing them through successive operations.

This “objective” approach conferred a pseudoscientific character on this first series of works.  However, despite her diligent concern with formal and technical control,  a ludic streak came forth in her work.  Thereupon Villares discovered that the superimposed imprints of apple slices on transparent acetate allowed compositional sets.  This possibility allowed her to create objects the observer can handle. On the other hand, the apple slices transferred onto acetate evoke X-ray images of the human body.  Getting to know the inside of the human body has always been a fascinating experience.  Going through her personal belongings, Villares found radiographs of internal organs that she hung up on the window-pane, against the light.  At that same time she was producing erotic drawings.  Rather than explicit, they were rendered as the topological apprehension of the erotic sensation, continually displaced from one region of the body to another.   A seasoned sensibility cropped up in the quality of these drawings.  However, due possibly to its high-level sophistication, the graphic medium itself no longer sufficed.

Having sliced apples so as to reduce their original format, flattening them, Villares suddenly reinstated volume in her work.  Here her previously behaved creative processes took to daring and even certain impudicity.  The apple acquired volume, turning into a semi-spherical object on the wall, boasting a translucent button on its center: a large, tumescent, fleshy apple-breast of hauntingly outside dimensions.  At his point it seems appropriate to recollect infantile fantasies whereby, despite finding in the maternal breast their source of satisfaction, babies also nurture aggressive impulses toward their object of pleasure.  Prompted by frustration and anxiety of loss, infants indulge in fantasies of sucking, gnawing, and devouring the breast, ultimately possessing the nursing mother, whose omnipotence can be oppressing.  An all-time predecessor, Marcel Duchamp singled out the female breast in his work (Please Touch), of 1947.

The cruciform object comprising five coupled segments appears as an even more amazing unfolding of Villares’s art production.  Estive aqui (I’ve been here) is the suggestive title she gave to this piece.  The Kleinian model that accounts for unconscious infantile fantasies as the prime mover of human social life is also applicable in the reading of this work where the apple – the forbidden fruit – and the womb – the place of gestation – share a same format and color.  The smooth and padded red fabric that makes up the cross confers carnality on the Christian symbol.  In this representation, obscenity derives from the combination of the idea of sacrifice and that of triumph of the flesh.

Finally, at the center of the flag Villares positioned a halved apple under an inscription from the Genesis,” … on the day you eat thereof }the fruit}, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil “  The banner cut up into strips is hung in such a way that observers can walk through it.  A symbolical violation, Passagem (Passage) is the road of access to knowledge as enunciated in the biblical excerpt.  Despite the aggressive impulses implicit in these works, we must admit they reveal something like Pop-Art irreverence.  The larger-than-natural size of objects taken from real life, the filled volumes, and the brilliant colors bring to mind the soft sculptures by Claes Oldemburg.  In her travels between eatable and erotic, banal and symbolic, apple and breast, cross, and pub curtain, the artist adds humor to her work – an indispensable ingredient for the balance of this visual equation.



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