“to know is simply to work with one´s favorite
metaphor… because the construction of metaphors
is man’s fundamental instinct.”
The war has not stopped for two millennia. Apollo has riddled Dionysus all this time. The battlefield is where every man is. The culprit in the war is Socrates; the accomplice is Plato. Power is always the motive. The Apollonian are considered strongholds of a supposed Morality, Truth and Beauty; the Dionysian are strongholds of Ecstasy, Debauchery and the Passions. The war will continue as long as there is no dialog between the two armies.
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The work of the artist Miriannys Montes de Oca (Matanzas [Killings], Cuba, 1993) provides a rich repertoire of images to the state of this war today that is more ineffable and existential than empirically verifiable. A conflict that today takes place in more subtle and effective ways than the bloody sword of the crusader or the fire of the Inquisitor, since it is found in the veiled discourse of the kid´s cartoons, in the publicity, in the remarks of the family, in the game with the friend, in the lesson of the teacher… Apollonians and Dionysians have sophisticated their methods. Their battlefield today is ideology. Their messages are increasingly effective and spread over man an alienating avalanche of which he is only able to experience its consequences, synthesized under the diagnosis of sustained anguish. Today there is a silent war going on.
Miriannys Montes de Oca is affected by the indifference of her generation, of her country. She feels the sadness in the eyes of men and represents in her paintings those subjects who, like her father, have been forced to bury their dreams in order to adjust to the requirements of the social fabric.
Miriannys’ eye is set on the man. She is motivated not by the great stories of heroes or leaders but by the micro story, which she can learn through direct dialog with its protagonists or which she spies from the window of her house or in her cautious walk through the city. Observe the vital becoming of different subjects. Each of her pieces forms part of a great narrative where she reinterprets from art a perennial dilemma in which the subject finds himself: the fracture between the social ought to be of Apollonian sign and the expectations and needs of the Self. Thus, in each of her series, on the one hand, appears the man meeting himself, in his individuality, and on the other hand, the social fabric, the threatening wave of the others.
The story behind the creation of the series “Los soportables pesos del ser” (The Bearable Weights of Being), which also meant her graduation from the University of the Arts (ISA), was that of her own father, the typical utopian hippie and dreamer of long hair of the Cubans seventies who listened in secret to The Beatles. Childhood, adolescence, youth and adulthood are recorded metaphorically by Miriannys in a purely cinematographic painting that unravels in a symbolic suicide, representing the death of utopia. Alongside the father as the central signifying element there are also other characters who refer to the subjects who accompany his in his life: the wife, the children, the neighbors and the friends of his children and neighbors, who would come to symbolize the others.
Miriannys Montes de Oca is affected by the indifference of her generation, of her country. She feels the sadness in the eyes of men and represents in her paintings those subjects who, like her father, have been forced to bury their dreams in order to adjust to the requirements of the social fabric. In Nietzschean terms, the apollonian dimension intrinsic to western metaphysics has condemned these subjects to a perpetual prison on themselves and, therefore, forced to simulate as a survival strategy in the face of the pressures of society, they have slowly stripped themselves of their authenticity, of their transparency.
The visualization acquired by the others in the series Escenas y Decadencias (Scenes and Decadences), which were born from photographs taken by the artist from theater and contemporary dance performances, as we can see in the works Escena II (Scene II) or La revolución (The revolution) was essentially phantasmagorical. Their caricatured and cadaverous bodies reeked of death, bile and ruin. The Others threw themselves at the subject like a devouring, phantasmagoric and chilling machine and visually found themselves related to the codes of German expressionist cinema, which would not be gratuitous if we drew lines of contact between the aesthetic theses of Miriannys and those of the German movement, which was born in a Europe immersed in a sharp existential crisis at the same time as the great metaphysical meta-stories crumbled when word spread that its God had died, the same God who for centuries moved the spirit of his people towards transcendence condemning to the confines of hell every subject who pursued a Dionysian path. The expressionist cinema, like the work of this young artist, has screamed out the consequences of a “perverse modernity”, which has as a veiled consequence the deep existential anguish, the constrained and exclusive hegemonic exercise of Reason and the automation of the subject in terms of a hysterical career for significance.
The others of The bearable weights of being also have an expressionist dimension, but not of a negative sign, a fact that is produced as a consequence of the process of creation itself. They are here the representation of family, friends and neighbors that Miriannys gathered, dressed, made up and inserted in scenes and environments that she herself had built in a theater. They were photographed and taken as a motif for the construction of the paintings. The others, that mass that his painting configured as phantasmagorical, threatening and inquisitive in other series, reaches here more naturalistic and kindly hints. He knows that they and his father are also victims of an apollonian state of affairs.
They too have suffered and lost their authenticity little by little. Hence, these pieces become less ghostly than the others. The others like the ones in La marcha de las antorchas (The March of the Torches) and Amanda, la niña vecina del frente (Amanda, the neighbor girl across the street) , have stopped being that threatening avalanche on the subject while they have also become wounded.
The theater and the theatricality itself work in a metaphorical way to allude to a life, the western one, which historically takes place as a great staging, where man has to constantly play a role, he has to simulate behaviors, ideologies, feelings in order to fit in with the requirements that the social fabric, the others, demands, which on the one hand generates frustration, a fracture between the Apollonian/Dionysian impulses, and on the other hand, it is a survival instinct because “sometimes we need blindness and we must allow certain errors and articles of faith to remain intact in us as long as they keep us alive”, explains Hans Vaihinger in “Nietzsche’s Will to Illusion”.
Man has to resort to the artificial to mask his weaknesses and keep himself alive, which is precisely what the artist alludes to in her series Aderezo (Dressing). The subject is armed with coatings, decorations and gadgets that mask his shortcomings. The artificial disguises decadence, deterioration, rottenness. In particular, she considers that the plastic flower, a decorative object present in almost all Cuban homes, replaces the natural element that every house should have. In the Aderezo series she borrows the visuality of the artificial flowers that decorate homes and takes it to art. Sometimes, not only its image, but also the flower itself, as it breaks it down and scatters it as an abstraction on the canvas.
Many supposedly artistic proposals have the same kitsch, hedonistic and decorative sense of the plastic flower and many subjects do not experience purely selfless aesthetic experiences in front of them. Art for them is only a material possession to be exhibited, a sign denoting a high power status, a commodity to be marketed. Art, like the plastic flower, also masks the scarcities of the subject and becomes as empty, cold and artificial as that one. In Aderezo, he uses printed fabrics and flowers in his works that he collects from his family’s house or from his friends. It takes the popular element, kitsch, to the “temple” of art and, on the one hand, a questioning of its arcane sacredness, its auratic character and its affiliation with “high culture” appears; on the other, the proposal to try to de-automate an aesthetic perception dull by an art that lacks surprise and that works with hackneyed formulas.
The visual elements of all her work is marked by a dual condition: on the one hand, the gloomy, the dramatic, the asymmetrical and the theatrical of some deeply disturbing and enigmatic characters; on the other, the “beautiful”, the arabesque, the flowers and the tender detail of a type of painting that could be misinterpreted as decorative. But, be careful, what might seem beautiful in her work is just a simulation that alludes to all the artifices that man uses to cover his scars, his misery, and the frustration that comes with being riddled by Apollo over and over again. Dionysus loses once more. It’s always Socrates’ fault. Man has to endure his being.