Mexico City

Laura Lima, Homem=carne/Mulher=carne—Puxador Paisagem (Man=Flesh/Woman=Flesh—Landscape Puller) (detail), 1999/2013, nylon, dimensions variable.

Laura Lima, Homem=carne/Mulher=carne—Puxador Paisagem (Man=Flesh/Woman=Flesh—Landscape Puller) (detail), 1999/2013, nylon, dimensions variable.

Laura Lima

Laura Lima, Homem=carne/Mulher=carne—Puxador Paisagem (Man=Flesh/Woman=Flesh—Landscape Puller) (detail), 1999/2013, nylon, dimensions variable.

Homem=carne/Mulher=carne—Puxador Paisagem (Man=Flesh/ Woman=Flesh—Landscape Puller), 1999/2013, an installation/performance by Brazilian artist Laura Lima, was recently shown at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporâneo. It incorporated a motif that the artist has been working with for many years, most recently at the Biennale de Lyon in 2011. There, in Homem=carne/Mulher=carne— Puxador (Pilares) (Man=Flesh/Woman=Flesh—Puller [Pillars]), 1998/2011, a naked man with two straps on his shoulders pulled against a complicated network of long black belts wrapped around the gallery’s columns. Hurling his body forward in a classic sculptural stance, each puller “posed” for two hours straight before being replaced by another, evidence of the enormous effort involved in this pointless yet somehow strangely hopeful action. Lima exposed the carnality of the struggling body while turning it into a metaphor, placing its defenseless form in an interplay of unequal relations with symbolic figures of power—instances of social, economic, and political control as exemplified, for instance, by the institution of the museum itself—by which the individual is stripped naked and subsumed. Poetic acts produce vastly unequal power relations, tension, and work, reminding us of Sisyphus, as well as other mythical figures doomed to perform, and to keep performing, impossible feats.

In this recent exhibition, Lima introduced a third element into the strained relation between the human being and architecture. Homem=carne/Mulher=carne—Puxador Paisagem involved not only a feature of the MUAC building designed by Teodoro Gonz.lez de Le.n, namely its door, but also its site. With black belts hanging throughout the rather theatrical landscape in which the museum, with its volcanic rock and hearty vegetation, is set, Lima drew a kind of voracious network whose lines began beyond the building’s walls. The belts were joined together at one corner of a glass door that leads from a deck that overlooks the surrounding landscape. As they continued into the exhibition space, the belts restrained the shoulders of a naked man who simulated actually pulling the landscape, dragging it inside the gallery. I say that the body simulated this action because, unfortunately, the belts were not pulled tautly enough for the piece to be fully effective physically or poetically. The belts were tied to a pair of rings on the museum’s exterior, breaking the continuity between the landscape and the body of the handler; a second set of straps that began at those rings were the ones that actually reached the figure.

Lima’s work invokes notions of traditional genre—the landscape, the nude—while crossing boundaries among disciplines such as sculpture, architecture, and performance. And yet her approach is essentially Romantic, as we see in the heroic pose of the handler’s body. The exertion of this unique and solitary being in the struggle against a “constructed” world, a being determined to salvage his relationship with nature, amounts to an eloquent and somewhat melancholy expression of a longing for some lost bond with the sublime, a relationship that might perhaps survive denaturalized and commodity-ridden contemporary reality.

Marcela Quiroz

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.