Alberto Peral

Fúcares Madrid

Some of the most interesting theoretical work that has developed in the ’90s has been centered on the body as a social construct whose boundaries are permeable. The body is no longer perceived as a discrete physical entity but as the product of an intense relationship with the other—with memory, with objects, and with culture. The relationship between body and subject is denaturalized: the body is defined, in part, by its interaction with objects, which become prostheticlike extensions that endow it with a certain artificiality.

Alberto Peral’s work presents the body’s relationship with cultural objects as essential, emphasizing the libidinal aspect of subject/object relations, and evoking how the subject is constructed, through work that is highly autobiographical. (Autobiography as Paul de Man pointed out, is not so much an exercise in memory as in production, a process that simultaneously reveals and masks its subject.) Peral’s recent exhibition comprised photographs and sculptural installations. Many of these works reflected an emphasis on self-production; for example, a photograph, in which he raises his gold-painted hands to his face, which is covered with a mask, at once highlights his gaze and seems to erase his features. The show also included a series of photographs in which two figures spin around, enveloping one another so that their limbs become jumbled, as if they are simultaneously denying and producing themselves and one another. Similarly, in the main installation a series of phallic masks hung from the ceiling of the gallery, forming a line of faces that followed the very axis of the spectator’s gaze, while a sculpture in the shape of a keyhole encouraged one to imagine one was observing an intimate, private landscape. Thereby mapping the space of the subject in its relation to the gaze of the other.

Peral’s work always in one way or another speaks of the condition of self-production that has become inevitable in what Robert Musil called a time of “men without qualities.” He achieves this in a magical, disturbing, and seductive fashion, pulling the spectator into the heart of an experience that is darkly telluric, even religious.

José Luis Brea

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent Martin.