02.08.19 | 29.09.19
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Salta (MAC Salta) presented Problemas irresueltos, a solo exhibition of work by artist Soledad Dahbar (Salta, 1976). Its title makes reference to Combustibles (Problemas resueltos), the name under which sculptor Lola Mora presented her scientific findings in 1926. Mora had stopped making art to studying mining and, in the sixties, she published a 52-page booklet documenting her research on rock formations known today as shale oil and shale gas. Curated by Guillermina Mongan, Problemas irresueltos formulated what the artist calls “a journey of prospection, a space to search for precious minerals where each piece is a discovery.”
The show’s experience began on the museum’s sidewalk: the Spanish words for “IT IS ART NOT DECORATION” were written in an installation that stretched the length of the various windows to the museum located at the intersection of España and Buenos Aires streets. Printed on one of the braced wall panels displayed there alongside other remains of the second edition of Casa DIR19, the exhibition of architecture, interior design, and landscaping held at the venue in July, these words were means for the artist to question the relationships between inside and outside, between museum and city, between past and present.
On one of those windows, the artist stuck shattered panes of laminated glass to produce the visual effect of a window that had been hit by a projectile, thus generating debate in the Salta milieu: “It was not clear if it was a work or an act of vandalism,” Dahbar explains. From the street, through one of the shattered windows, the back of the gallery “with a Manifestación (Demonstration)” of geometric figures could be seen. A set of gold, silver, and copper triangles, circles, and squares reminiscent of signs held at protests represented the two trinomials proposed by the show. On the one hand, three simple geometric shapes and, on the other, three minerals traditionally associated with extractivism—gold, silver, and copper—and their relative values.
Manifiesto de la figura (Figure Manifesto), a visual poem inside the gallery, asserts, among other things, that “the triangle twists the binary dynamic and multiples (…); the circle is gathering, collective, subject, and impersonal (…); and the square is anti-essentialist, anti-fundamentalist, anti-fascist (…).” The three paintings adjacent to the poem consist of endless and absolute planes of the colors gold, silver, and copper. The next work was a “max” jewel—that is, a jewel of exaggerated dimensions—in black obsidian with a bronze pendent, a foot, and a very powerful lightbulb. In astronomy, eclipses can be seen by looking through obsidian stones since, despite their blackness, they are transparent. In this case, as Dahbar explains, “the lightbulb lets you see the inside of the stone.” From there, the Manifestación was once again visible, but this time without the intervention of the glass, its “signs allowing you to come up with your own slogan on extractivism, exercised on natural resources or on ideas. When I go to demonstrations, the slogans I see are very personal, yet we appropriate them and the street becomes a place for impersonal utterance.” The artist proposed taking the figures in Manifestación to the plaza to use them as signs.
Metales sonoros is the exhibition’s only acoustic work. Made out of a metal detector and a motion sensor, it generated, with delay, different sounds depending on the metals people were wearing on their body when they walked into the detection zone. The work activated by museumgoers enveloped the gallery in sound.
Fundido a negro (Fade to Black) delved into the space, the shades of its paint going through a scale of grays to get from white to black. The darkness at the end of the work’s approximate eight meters is like the darkness of “a tunnel, a cave, or a mine,” the artist explains. The work appeals to tactile intelligence, to the body’s ability to garner information with all the senses—not only with sight—in order to move in what constitutes a “very complex and global reading of the space.” On the other side of the cave was another jewel work, this one in standard dimensions. Gold, silver, and copper in the shape of a triangle, a circle, and a square respectively. “It is worn as a ring that goes from ear to ear through the mouth, which it holds taut like a brace or a muzzle, making clear speech impossible,” Dahbar explains. The gold is from the watch the artist’s grandfather gave her when she turned fifteen. “I melted it down so that the piece would be tied to the reuse of resources.”
In her curatorial text, Mongan asks a series of questions that engage the exhibition as a sensory experience: “What is a form made of? What makes a triangle bright and a circle dark? Where do those yellows and copper tones come from? What is a mirror made of? How well can a pane of glass withstand a blow?”
Content produced by arteBA. Annual Report on contemporary Argentine art.