Eulàlia Valldosera

Art is a play of light and shadows from whose tangle arise precarious human relations—or so Eulàlia Valldosera seems to be telling us. With the exception of the photographs, installation, and performance that make up El ombligo del mundo (The world’s navel), 1990–2001, which chronicles the artist’s efforts to give up smoking, her production is an immersion in the universe of illusions, transparencies, reverberations, and reflections.

Valldosera’s first photographs were of mattresses covered by wrinkled sheets—traces of the body—or of fragments of her own naked body (“Burns,” 1990–92). The body gradually acquired greater prominence, and in the action Bandages, 1992, Valldosera pushed dong two rails a hospital bed supporting a 16 mm film projector that ran a film of her own body slowly being traversed by the camera as she lay in the bed. The projected movement and the real one paralleled each other but were never in sync, creating a discordant, fractured vision of the body.

Over time this primacy of the body was superseded by that of objects, which Valldosera used as metonymies for persons and also as signs of their obsessions, fantasies, and neuroses. Thus, some of Valldosera’s installations incorporated cleaning and hygiene products, among them Shelf for a Hospital Bathroom, 1992, which consists of objects from a medicine chest illuminated by a beam of light. According to Valldosera, this piece is an ironic metaphor for the corporeal; the light reveals what would be the head (made up of medicines), followed by the spinal column (cleaning products, ordered by size), and finally reaching the extremities covered by pants that are filled by a prosthesis; all of this ending in a bedpan.

But of whose body does Valldosera speak? The carnal and the sensual shine through their absence: The body is a beam of light, a reflection, a shadow that dematerializes the real, producing a sensation of living space occupied or replaced by objects. Still. one wonders whether Valldosera’s vision is critical of consumption or instead conforms to a society that pays tribute to the incessant production of objects. Her position seems ambiguous. The passion for objects has prompted Valldosera to produce “Interviewing Objects,” a series of videos begun in 1999, in which people talk about their particular curios and thereby reveal certain aspects of their lives. She treats of another life, the artist’s, in one of her most successful installations, Provisional Home (Provisional Living #1), 1999. Here Valldosera plays with the tricks and theatricality of perception, in a chaotic display of objects (mirrors, medicines, furniture, books, slide projectors, fallen bookcases) and projections that transmits the pulse of an agitated existence. Unfortunately, she falls into a Jungian discourse in the series that opens this exhibition, “Vessels: The Cult of the Mother,” 1996, in which the reflection of light hitting a series of plastic containers and cleaning products throws shadows whose shapes evoke feminine forms. But the vessel as a symbol of the female body and the supposedly universal value of maternity is obsolete. Luckily, contemporary women no longer depend on their uterus for their identity, and a critical iconography of women would look elsewhere for its references.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from Spanish by Michèle Faguet.