Marisol Plard-Narváez. Antropofagia, 2008. 3:40 minutes. Performance documented on digital video. Courtesy of the artist – ©2008 Marisol Plard-Narváez
“The body contained by a hole, as intimate and hurtful as the mother’s body, warm as the memory: like the act of coming in and out of the body, without permission. The memory is sitting still building a hollow that persists, that sustains us. Acting pain intoxicated by death. In an act that both mother/daughter befall remains: one.”
For centuries the idea of consuming flesh from our own species had been utterly censored; cannibalism, as is well known, involved the act of consuming one’s adversary- in many cases the most resistant to assimilation. Anthropophagy, in a more philosophical appraisal, means cannibalism. As can be interpreted from Brazilian poet, Oswaldo de Andrade’s manifesto on the subject- culture itself is allegorically replaced by flesh. ‘Anthropophagia’ becomes an act of social, economical, cultural and philosophical communion, which can only be achieved by ingesting and integrating strange influences into our own culture or body, as a way to understand and create a culture or otherness.
Embodying the anthropophagous act, as an imperative for consumption, greed, empowerment and even love is an even more complex subject to pursue- as video/performance artist, Marisol Plard Narváez, attempts in her latest deed documented on video, an act that involved the artist’s intake of her mother’s ashes. “ANTROPOFAGIA,” as the artist entitled this piece and process, was accomplished four years after her mother’s departure. The final outcome preserved in the form of digital video became one of the main topics of discussion of the exhibition “FEMINISMOS” at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC). The show which opened to the public on March 2008 mainly approached post-feminist theories, highlighting behavioral, sociological and somatic approaches to the body, language and the gaze.
Within the context of the exhibition, we pursued “ANTROPOFAGIA” performatively as an act of rapture, Plard’s personal relationship with her absent mother and her family being one of the main subjects of her work. Marisol Plard Narváez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1966, raised by her grandparents, and surrounded by leftist politics from a very young age. Marisol coped with her mother’s absence; her mother, a well-known attorney who struggled for legal rights and political activism most of her life, lost her battle with cancer four years ago. Within this conjuncture, “ANTROPOFAGIA” can emerge as well, as an inclusive transformation through the appropriation of external icons, in this case inverted- symbolizing the mother- and the context to which they belong; those become re-contextualized into something unrelated to their original purpose, in this case: caring, protection and nourishment.
“ANTROPOFAGIA” was accompanied by the video, “Cavando un hueco en el patio de mama,” created in 2004. The titles of this video art piece and action reflect one another: the artist’s process of digging a hole in her mother’s backyard- as a symbolic return to the consoling maternal cavity. Then the second act of “ANTROPOFAGIA” is preserved and enacted four years later, where the artist opted symbolically to return to close the opened concave in both her mother’s backyard and artist’s body. We can interpret and deal with it as a complement of “FEMINISMOS;” the questioning of motherhood and domesticity become both antagonized and idealized through her work.
Plard’s work mainly composed of video art and photography can be described at a glance, as a simple and minimalist photographic language, conceptualized into melancholic scenarios mostly domestic, the ephemeral and the corporal gesture, on which Marisol intends to address ritualistic and psychologically treacherous mindscapes in order to attend pivotal forms of transgression and endurance. Her work as said-engaged in showing as it is- working directly with the space (her home, her mother’s home-her body and her mother’s body), where the artist insists on reconstructing timeless domestic scenarios through everyday ordinary rituals, but, at the same time, impossibilities: from shaving with a toothbrush in the piece “Jugando con Papá” (Serie entre tiempos de ocio) 2004 which translates as “Playing with Dad” (from the series, between times of nothingness) through unearthing a hole in her mother’s backyard “Cavando un hueco…”(2004).
“ANTROPOFAGIA” alludes as well to a new contextuality, a possibility, if not a reality of alternative layers of sight and multiplicities of perspective, but in this case a transdisciplinary approach to psychology, human behavior and memory. As a piece of art, it certainly evokes a vast array of tensions, particularly those involved with death, consumption and transcendence. Marisol Plard Narváez attempted to perform the impossible: the embodiment of the anthropophagous act, through consuming what was left of her own otherness and distance, in an act of communion and of love. This piece certainly will haunt us for many years, as we search for the lost and found meanings of our day-to-day relationships or as we deal with the ideas of death and transcendentalism; or just as we give birth to new meanings and contexts to the contradictions or reciprocities around us; as we engage in embodying ‘anthropophagia’ as a way to understand and create our own culture.
Brenda Torres Figueroa, Interdisciplinary visual artist and worked as curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC).
Essay originally published in ArtPulse Magazine.
©2008 Brenda Torres Figueroa & Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC) April-May 2008, San Juan, PR