"The Best Art In The World"
I don’t know you like that: The Bodywork of Hospitality
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
December 9, 2021 through March 20, 2022
By JONATHAN OROZCO, February 2022
As part of “I don’t know you like that: The Bodywork of Hospitality”, Sylvie Fortin’s third and final exhibition as curator-in-residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Celina Eceiza, an Argentinian fiber artist, created a site-specific installation covering gallery walls with semi-abstracted imagery on fabric. Both painterly and architectural, Eceiza incorporated temporary migratory architecture as a point to contemplate ways in which a visitor can view art.
I spoke to Eceiza through a zoom meeting, as she is currently in Argentina. This interview exists somewhere between English and Spanish, and out of respect for the artist’s vision, I’ve kept the original Spanish she uses and provided an English translation.
Jonathan Orozco: I want to say your piece is probably one of my favorites in the show. It’s three separate constructed rooms that you walk through in the space. It’s like a cleansing experience, it’s wonderful to walk through and be around.
I did a walkthrough of the show with Sylvie Fortin. and she said the following about your work: “It’s very connected with this kind of belief of an expanded universe that includes energies, that includes spirits, that includes physical matter that doesn’t differentiate between the body and other life forms.”
Celina Eceiza: When I work, I’m really interested in non-verbal language. I don’t try to conceptualize what the images are saying because I try to make the images work in a place where the images are saying something, like a new relationship of symbols. I’m not interested in explaining what energy is for me, but instead, that every person that goes to the exhibition can come with this energy and move with the energy I’m offering. I’m interested in it that way.
It’s like jugar con la ambigüedad (playing with ambiguity) and let the elements cobre vida (come alive). That’s the relation with the images: they are made to be alive. For me they are not only pictures, but also architecture, and that’s important in my work because when I started making textiles and saw them on white walls, I started to suspect that that wasn’t enough, and I asked myself, “okay, what is the white cube as a political matter?” By this I mean that the white cube proposes a way of approaching the works in space that, in the case of my work, I felt was very strict. I found in soft architectures new ways of living and perceiving the work that were more vital to me.
That’s when I started to involve architectures and took the concept from Oscar Masotta, he’s a writer from the 60s /70s in Argentina and developed the concept of arrancar (removing). I use it in the sense that in art I allow myself to freely take concepts and forms that do not necessarily respond strictly to art: the construction of a tent in reference to migratory cultures, the techniques that come from crafts such as patchwork, or even the batik technique that comes from fashion. I mean that in this idea of remove elements from one place to another I let them provide me with new meanings and systems of relationships.
JO: That’s really interesting because I usually try to interpret work literally whenever I see it. Why did you title this piece La lengua de los disraidos?
CE: The title is a play on words because “la lengua de los disraidos” (the distracted language) means tongue but it also means language. I like that ambiguidad (ambiguity) between the two concepts. Distracted for me… distracted is a friend for me. It’s like a pista (clue) for how to read the work. Maybe distraction is the best aliado (ally) to come to the work.
And I also like fun words that don’t seem like the correct thing to see in the work. The distraction is sometimes subestimada (underrated), but I think it’s a potential on how to see art, not only my work. I try to see the works of others not exactly with distraction, but the most freedom to see the works. Sometimes some artists want to say something, but I also try to assess my own appreciation of that, and I try that with my work.
JO: How did it feel to develop this work in a different country to where it was going to be presented?
CE: A few years ago, I worked in an office. I started to use SketchUp, only learning the basics, but it really helped me in times I don’t have anything to plan the work. Sylvie passed on the floor plans and all the measurements to me and I worked with SketchUp. But I know through previous experience that the places are not exactly like the measurements that we take, so I tend to make everything bigger, and then we cut. It’s like making a suit for a person.
This experience was really different because you usually go with everything planned, but I needed to do more things that I haven’t planned, so I think that hospitality came again as, “okay, now I have to trust it’s going to be like how I said it. Maybe were going to take some decisions that weren’t planned.” It’s like someone else is working with my energy and I have to respect that. It was different, but what I did was work with Sketchup and made a custom-made suit for the place.
JO: What’s your artistic/academic background?
CE: I went to a normal high school in the morning and in the tarde (afternoon), I went a ceramic school in the city of Mar del Plata, and that was my first encuentro (encounter) with art.
I already liked art when I was little. My mother sent me to drawing classes, and the person who taught the classes made me copy other works for two years. I was mad with that, but I think that I started to look a lot at other pieces because I could copy a Mona Lisa instead of copying a work given to me in class.
Then I went to Buenos Aires and went to the University of Arts for about six years. I didn’t finish, but at that time, I didn’t know anyone in Buenos Aires, so I decided that going to University was the best thing I can do to relate to people that like the same things I like. That was a really important moment. I started to go to museums and exhibitions and then I did workshops.
In the case of patchwork, I started dyeing, I started to sew, and in one moment, it all came together, but also at around three or four years, I discovered I made drawings with buttons, so I think that there’s like an hilo conductor (conductive thread) like a relation in different times, and in one moment that all came together.
I’m a person that takes a lot of time with my work. Sometimes I’m working and I don’t know where that’s going to lead, but the experience of working is really important for me. It’s how I like to spend my time; it really has to be with pleasure. WM
Jonathan Orozco is an independent writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his art history BA from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2020. Orozco runs an art blog called Art Discourses, which primarily covers Midwest artists and exhibitions.view all articles from this author