Paratext #29 by Laura Benítez

Paratext n#29
September 26th 2018

By Laura Benítez

May Parlar (International residence)
Julia Varela (Short-term residence)

When you attend Paratext you get the impression that Rod Serling is waiting on the other side, an impression that moves halfway between fascination, fetishism and terror, I suppose this is due, at least in part, to the recreation of a story. Or perhaps it is a mere longing, but no less terrifying.

No no-work on the discourse

On this occasion the two artists they presented, Julia Varela and May Parlar, approached issues related to the discourse and the narrative. Obviously in a very different Rod Serling style, or perhaps not so much.

In the unknown dimension it was common to use metaphors to explain sociopolitical problems, using the power of science fiction to address critical approaches to specific and complex issues present in everyday life. Problems that otherwise could never have been exposed without passing through (other) censorship filters. Problems that aimed to generate a story through the possibilities opened up by the allegorical tool of other discourses.

It is true that in the case of Julia Varela and May Parlar, the proposal focuses on not working on the discourse and on the generation of non-linear pieces, but there is a materiality of the image that remains oppressed by the narrative of the presentation, by the narrated presentation that names the potency and exhausts the possible ones.


During the first part of the presentation, Julia Varela guided us through her practice. She introduced us to it by quoting Roland Barthes with his all-fascist language, a statement of why he does not intend to work on discourse but focusing on the materiality of destruction, on the power of the image. A materiality present in Hijacked which reveals the return to the device, how we cannot ignore the apparatus linked with the medium as a mediated image.

Through the presentation, in which the twisted screens appeared in an attempt to show their physicality, the image played as an active agent that led us from image to image. We sensed the power of converting audiovisual images to another physical dimension through the installation but placing ourselves in an abstraction through the representation of physicality in the audiovisual medium.

The materiality of destruction was also present in Mehr Fantase’s narration in which particles become devices. A disarticulation of extractivist logics through the seizure of the material dimension of electronic waste, where the destruction of the device allows a subdivision of multiple archaeological layers, forming a complex set of discursive relations that escape through the cracks of invisibility.

And hand in hand with invisibility we went to the collaboration he made with farmers in Ciudad Real, where once again we were faced with the fact that, as Eric Hobsbawm pointed out, there is no record of the peasant counted by the peasant. Returning to Hobsbawn, one of the revolutionary potentials of the peasants resided in its diversity, something present in Julia’s collaboration in Ciudad Real, working on the imposition of the discourse and the dichotomy of the violence of occupying a space and the power that occurs there. Of the dichotomy of how the power of destruction or what we could call the “negative” in Saussurian theory is multiple but can be condensed in a crucial point: the tendency to ontologization and reification of the structure (Martin-Barbero, 1978).


In the second part of the presentation, May Parlar projected some of her recent works.

Starting from a proposal that seeks the non-linear composition of video projects, May guided us to a dimension in which, what she came to name as traditional aesthetics, were mixed in a game full of connotations and symbols.

In her projects May works with the power of the nomadic, of what she described as a rhizomatic experience as human in relation to the multiple layers of materiality of the image, of that mediated image.

She proposed an escape through the generation of performative images that serve as an escape point to the imposition of narratives, to the static imposition of normative structures, a sort of untimely power that through dreamlike recreations invited us to enter the multiplicity. In that multiplicity that Rod Serling invited us to enter through science fiction not only as a metaphor but also as a power populated with figures, as a strategy and counter-strategy. As a possible discourse that confronts us with how to stop enjoying touching ourselves through language, through the narratives that we impose on the desire for explanation to what has already have an explanatory agency.

Categories: Paratext report |

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