Una cosa es una cosa

10 February 2008
Una Cosa

Vlatka wrote me about a performance Una cosa es una cosa (“a thing is a thing”) by Columbian artist María Teresa Hincapié. She saw documentation of the work in a big show Arte ≠ Vida: Actions By Artists Of The Americas, 1960-2000 at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, New York. The show, which from reports sounds amazing, runs until May so I will get to see it before too long. For Una cosa es una cosa Hincapié took all of the objects from her home, except the furniture, and then spent a two week period arranging and rearranging them, according to a set of shifting criteria and principles.

There’s some material about Maria Teresa, who died very recently after a long illness, in the book Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas by Coco Fusco. I really love the text below which Hincapié wrote connected to the Una cosa es una cosa performance.

“…movement here. then. in the corner. in the center. on one side. near him. very far. further. very far. very, very far. here are the handbags. here, the pocket. here the bag. here, the box and over it, the pocket. at one side, the box. in the corner, the pocket and the bag; in the center the paper bags and very near, the box. leakage. dispersion. everything getting empty. everything disappears. everything scatter. disseminate. blend. stop. organize themselves in a cue in a random way. they mark a space. they separate in groups, one beside the other. common groups. where they are similar. because they are white. because they are made up of fabric. because they are dresses. because they are made up of plastic. because they are large. because they are covered. because they are ceramics. because they are jars. because they need one another as the toothbrush and toothpaste. but also because the paste is by itself and the toothbrush is with other toothbrushes or by itself. all the flowers here. the dresses are extended. the black ones are near me. the pink ones here. the towels by themselves. the coverlet by itself. the blankets by themselves. the bags by themselves. the pencils by themselves. the dresses by themselves. the colors by themselves. the broom by itself. the onions by themselves. the carrots by themselves. the corn by itself. the sugar by itself. the wheat by itself. the plastic by itself. the handbag by itself. the rubber bag by itself. the box by itself and empty. the mirror by itself. the shoes by themselves. the socks by themselves. the herbs by themselves. I, alone. she, alone. we, alone. they, alone. a space alone. a place alone. a line alone. one sock only. one shoe only. everything is alone. all of us are alone. a mass of rice. a mass of sugar. a mass of salt. a mass of wheat. a mass of coffee. a mass of different things”.

Reading about the piece also made connections to me with the first Jérôme Bel show Nom donne par l’auteur (1994) in which Jérôme and Frédéric Seguette systematically construct arrangements and imply temporary relations between a small group of objects culled from Bel’s apartment. At Bel’s the show must go on last night, seeing the piece for the 5th or 6th time in as many years, I was still completely sucked into its space, drawn in by its great blankness, by the sheer time it gives you to think. It’s a pretty devastating work, even now, when somehow it seems so much easier for audiences to deal with than it did back in 2001. Great to see it in such a big epic space as Sadler’s Wells too – the kind of space (all potential) that it really needs to stage the decisions of its vivid starkness. The programme note I wrote about Jérôme’s work recently is here.