Jesús Martínez Oliva

Miró Foundation, Espai 13

Whiteness. A clean, blinding space painted white enveloped Jesús Martínez Oliva’s installation, Flúidos discontinuos (Discontinuous fluids, 1994). At the entrance to the gallery, a horizontal piece, made of institutional-white power cables, broke through the floor, presenting an engorged form that resembled a penis. In the back, in a room built for this occasion, Martínez Oliva placed three wall pieces made of electromagnetic tape that slowly rotated on rollers and pulleys. The central, penile-shaped piece, and the works around it depicting ambiguously gendered copulation, were decidedly sexual. This mechanized atmosphere was enhanced by the artist’s unusual choice of wall paper for the room: a series of pages taken from old magazines of ads for phone sex. There were no names or other humanizing signs. Outside this room, across the exhibition space, accentuated by the room’s excessive whiteness, were groups of perforations in the walls, reminiscent of the holes for telephone jacks or cables. Finally, the recorded voices, altered by sexual desire, broke the silence.

This conglomeration of elements conveyed a disenchanted vision of the regimented mechanisms of desire, understood as a continuous flow from an insatiable machine. The body had all but vanished, except in the form of the above-mentioned, floor piece, an empty shell made up of power cables that have lost their capacity to generate energy. According to the artist, “the flow of interpersonal energy is a question of the self that is constituted and disintegrates when attraction becomes desire, consciousness is lost and self-consciousness flounders. You still exist, but you are energetically dispersed in what is not you (. . .).”

As in other works, particularly in a piece from 1993 pertaining to the flow of desire in the back rooms of gay clubs, Martínez Oliva, not himself a moralizer, sharply reflected here on the nature of sexual desire. He called attention to the aseptic nature of depersonalized, mechanized sex. The only human element came from the barely audible recording broadcast over a P A system that spoke of sexual stereotypes and common places for sexual communication, using the sighs, coos, and made-up phrases proper to a professional phone-sex operator. The whiteness that encircled the room/chamber (almost icy in the way it foregrounded the frigidity of the works) was more evocative of clinical, canned sex than of the joyous burst of sperm. These are bad times for pleasure.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from the Spanish by Gladys Segal.