Photography as taxidermy.
Curator: Eduardo Stupía
15.4.15 - 22.5.15
Hair, bones, claws, feathers and a short sequence of details
Nora Aslan photographs specimens of various species preserved in natural history museums. On the ironic mirage of embalming, on that eternity of straw, cloth and plastic, is superimposed an other life suspended in time, the documentary life that photography grants, more illusory in this case still, because a simulacrum, an appearance has been photographed , the untamed wildlife solidified as a pure external form, as if photography were a new form of taxidermy.
But the quarry in which Aslan drinks for the casting of the acting fauna that will star in his mysterious scenes is wider and more diverse.
It includes the palpitation of the animal portrayed live, the ornamental backgrounds very selectively extracted from the artist's bibliophile collection, the diorama register - one of Aslan's sources of inspiration for the general staging of the exhibition - of wallpapers that oscillate between decorative fantasy and gobelin, with details of pictures. And also appropriations of ‟domesticated natures: nurseries, gardens, and garden fragments of paintings from the 18th century”, in his own words.
But this enumeration is misleading. And unfair. It may lead to believe that we are in the presence of a mere archivist game, of a simple accumulation of images loaded with empathy about to be subsumed in a modest scrapbook or, worse, in the typical gallery of various formats with melancholic allegories to which sometimes zoological iconography is very prone. Nothing is further from what happens here.
A peacock receives visitors from their backs, walking at ease although inside an indefinable two-dimensional redoubt. A corporeal teddy bear looks at us with his eyes like buttons. They are the poetic extremes, or perhaps the essential, secret key, of the remarkable programmatic unity from which an illusionist Aslan regisseur will impose on the most recognizable element the other face of a new dramatic quality, an unusual expressiveness. One by one subtle arts and combinatorial skills are exhibited to extinguish any suspicion of exoticism and spread into the rigorous, ambiguous territory where the strange, the unexpected, the disturbing, that which bothers with blows of uncertainty, insists on being bizarrely familiar.
With the passion of a portraitist, the heart of a zoologist, the patience of a poacher and the imagination of a mischievous creature, Aslan does not resist for a minute the imperturbable temptation to orchestrate, with a humor not without dark flavors, this tremulous atonality of skulls, antlers , claws threatening or peeled to the bone, coarse or sensual fur, beaks, legs, feathers and fangs, which ring and resonate, enter and leave the scene in the middle of spaces, frames, areas and perspectives, findings of such a maniacal setting in its precision as a tightrope walk in artifice.
Through traditional collage, where it is cut and pasted manually, and its correlate of digital editing, counterpoint, superposition and transparency, in compositions so dynamic as to disjoint even the most balanced structures, Aslan rehearses this kind of anomalous version of some lost cabinet of wonders to put together his kaleidoscopic rhapsody of atavistic daydreams, of indescribable fables, hermetic episodes and expansive metaphors.