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Atlas, allegorical strategies for a new anatomist

Friday, 07 March 2014 10:20 Written by Karen Cordero Reiman

September 2008

This exhibition by Adriana Calatayud compiles her production of photos and moving images from 2005 to 2008. These study the construction of the female body in works that overlap subjective, objective, social and artistic experiences. “Gender technology” in the words of Teresa de Lauretis, appears under various registers here, depicting the process of establishing it in cultural practices and representations, whose complexity and contradiction take surprising metaphorical forms in Calatayud’s work.
 
Here, the digital technology used by the artist is combined with visceral forces and varied cultural conventions to create works evoking enigmatic and worrying combinations, by skillfully using presences and absences or juxtaposing traditional references (proverbs and Renaissance body-maps) with contemporary elements with a distinct otherness and diversity.
 
These works are presented in three sections that represent various methods of this exploration. This construct presents female bodybuilding as a territory that maps out on the body of the woman the contradictions between the cultural definition of the female and this sport, based on a “fragmented portrait” of Norma López Castellanos, considered the greatest bodybuilder in the history of Oaxaca state. The second section, The Perfect Body, comprises three series, Stereotypes, Symmetries and Proportions, and Surgery, which use a personal and aesthetic perspective to interpret the mechanisms to symbolically isolate parts of the body, making us conscious of its disturbing implications. This section uses hairstyles and their erased bodily support as an expressive element, making a photographic exchange between three registers of three faces to produce three digital “mutants”, and referring evocatively to “voluntary tortures” conceived between the theoretical ideal and corporal diversity. The last section, De-figurations, addresses the natural corporal transformation during pregnancy as an experience between the internal and external, seeking to give a visual form to this dialectic and the simultaneous alienation and connection with the archetype that it produces.
 
Calatayud’s work on display is both a convincing body of work and a procedural work inviting continuation and interpretation. It creates a dialogue with feminist theory and practices while breaking away from the related conventions and expectations, forcing us to confront current and historical stereotypes at both  a visceral and aesthetic level, thus encouraging the questioning and reconfiguration of social, historical and psychological relationships.
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