I don’t know if you like it: The Bodywork of Hospitality
From December 9, 2021 to March 20, 2022
By JONATHAN OROZCOFebruary 2022
As part of “I don’t know you like it: the bodywork of hospitality”, Sylvie Fortin’s third and final exhibition as curator in residence at the Center d’art contemporain Bemis, Celina Eceiza, Argentine fiber artist, created a site-specific installation covering the gallery walls with semi-abstract images on fabric. Both pictorial and architectural, Eceiza incorporated temporary migratory architecture as a point to contemplate the ways a visitor might view art.
I spoke to Eceiza in a zoom meeting, as she is currently in Argentina. This interview exists somewhere between English and Spanish, and out of respect for the artist’s vision, I have kept the original Spanish it uses and provided an English translation.
Jonathan Orozco: I would like to say that your piece is probably one of my favorites in the series. It’s three separate constructed rooms that you walk through in space. It’s like a purification experience, it’s wonderful to go through and to be around.
I made a presentation of the show with Sylvie Fortin. and she said the following about your work: “It’s very much related to this kind of belief of an expanded universe that includes energies, that includes spirits, that includes physical matter that doesn’t make a difference between the body and other life forms.
Celina Eceiza: When I work, I am very interested in non-verbal language. I don’t try to conceptualize what the images say because I try to make the images work in a place where the images say something, like a new relation of symbols. I’m not interested in explaining what energy is for me, but rather that every person who goes to the exhibition can come with this energy and move with the energy that I offer. I’m interested like that.
It’s like judge with ambiguity (playing with ambiguity) and leaving the elements cobre vida (live again). This is the relationship with the images: they are made to be alive. For me, it’s not just images, but also architecture, and that’s important in my work because when I started doing textiles and I saw them on white walls, I I started to suspect that that wasn’t enough, and I thought, “Okay, what is the white cube as a political thing? By this I mean that the white cube offers a way of approaching works in space which, in the case of my work, seemed very strict to me. I found in soft architectures new ways of living and perceiving the work that were more vital to me.
That’s when I started to get interested in architectures and I took the concept of Oscar Masotta, a writer from the 60s/70s in Argentina and who developed the concept of Arrancar (to remove). I use it in the sense that in art I allow myself to freely take concepts and forms that do not necessarily correspond strictly to art: the construction of a tent in reference to migratory cultures, the techniques resulting from crafts such as patchwork, or the fashionable batik technique. I mean in this idea of moving things from one place to another, I let them provide me with new meanings and new systems of relationships.
JO: It’s really interesting because I usually try to literally interpret a work every time I see it. Why did you title this piece The language of the disraidos?
THIS : The title is a play on words because “la lengua de los disraidos” (the distracted language) means language but it also means Language. I like this ambiguity (ambiguity) between the two concepts. Distracted to me… distracted is a friend to me. It’s like a track (hint) for how to read the work. Maybe distraction is best aliado (ally) come to work.
And I also like funny words that don’t seem like the right thing to see in the job. Distraction is sometimes underestimated (underrated), but I think it’s potential on how to see art, not just my work. I try to see the works of others not exactly with distraction, but with the greatest freedom to see the works. Sometimes certain artists want to say something, but I also try to gauge my own appreciation of that, and try that with my work.
JO: What did it mean to you to develop this work in a different country from the one where it was going to be presented?
THIS : A few years ago, I worked in an office. I started using SketchUp, only learning the basics, but it really helped me when I had nothing to plan the work with. Sylvie sent me the floor plans and all the measurements and I worked with SketchUp. But I know from experience that places aren’t exactly like the measurements we take, so I tend to zoom everything in and then cut out. It’s like making a costume for one person.
This experience was really different because you usually go with everything planned, but I needed to do more things than I had planned, so I think the hospitality came back like, “ok, now I have to believe it’s gonna be like this I said so Maybe they were gonna make some decisions that weren’t planned It’s like someone else is working with my energy and I have to respect that. It was different, but what I did was work with Sketchup and make a custom costume for the place.
JO: What is your artistic/academic background?
THIS : I was going to a normal high school in the morning and the delay (afternoon), I attended a ceramics school in the city of Mar del Plata, and it was my first meet (encounter) with art.
I already loved art when I was little. My mother sent me to drawing lessons, and the person who taught the lessons made me copy other works for two years. I was crazy about it, but I think I started watching other plays a lot because I could copy a Mona Lisa instead of copying a piece I was given in class.
Then I went to Buenos Aires and went to the University of the Arts for about six years. I didn’t finish, but at that time I didn’t know anyone in Buenos Aires, so I decided going to college was the best thing I could do to get in touch with people who love same things as me. It was a very important moment. I started going to museums and exhibitions and then I did workshops.
In the case of patchwork, I started to dye, I started to sew, and in an instant, everything was linked, but also around three or four years old, I discovered that I was making drawings with buttons, so I think there’s like a conductor hilo (common thread) as a relationship at different times, and at a time when everything came together.
I am a person who takes a lot of time with my work. Sometimes I work and I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but work experience is really important to me. This is how I like to spend my time; it must really be fun. WM