A Woman under Influence

By Javier Villa

A Woman under Influence
Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes. I think of productive love. An explosive attraction that leads to fireworks and rests in circular gardens of iron shrubs.
Rowlands and Cassavetes were a couple, and they worked on several films together: A woman under the influence, Opening night, Love streams. He wrote, directed and sometimes acted. His subject was always love, and the leading character a woman in trouble. She played these characters.

Like all great stories, the one about magnetism has its myth and utopia.
The shepherd Magnes was taking his flock through the Greek countryside when he got stuck to the ground. The iron nails of his sandals had adhered to the rocks he was walking on. The zone came to be called Magnesia. In Law, after The Republic, Plato chooses the name Magnesia for his last ideal city, where there would be no corruption and the inhabitants would be guided by their godly sides.
And after came electrical conduction, the beginnings of hypnotism, psychoanalytic transference, the compass and commonplaces: opposites attract and we fight with those we love.

Myth and Utopia
In magnetism I found, as a child, a poetic representation of Kant’s das Ding an sich: the ungraspable forces of the real. At puberty, I felt like a source of magnetic fluid; I was an enthusiast of my own hidden powers and eager to hide my power. Adolescence made me weightless; in my Ford Taunus, I took off from the Panamericana freeway to cross Mars and reach the asteroid belt of a planet that never took shape due to the narcissistic draw of Jupiter. Now I like to think of magnetism as a territory.

Magnesia. The nails of all of our sandals drawn to the center of the earth. The moon and its tides. Amorous territories that draw magnetic fields. The disputed zones of painting and photography. Rectangular magnets that produce circular formations like Big Bangs.

All relations imply a territory

Magnetic Passings
This year, Rosana made two series: Entrevista (Interview) and Una mujer bajo influencia.
In Entrevista, she develops a map of affects; a polyphony of stories told through mirrors, where she attempts to tune into the energy produced between partners, friends, relatives, and subjects with their objects. The affective contexts Rosana works on here are much more intimate and close than the ones in Temporada (Season) and Kiosco (Kiosk), series from the year 2005.

In Una mujer bajo influencia, there is a tendency towards synthesis, towards the minimal. Under the canvas, two black, rectangular magnets. The subjects become invisible and what is usually difficult to represent is revealed. On top of the canvas, a sampler of relational energies. Magnetic fields drawn by iron shavings.

Willingness to be Magnetized
Una mujer bajo influencia flirts with abstraction and pure form by seeming to dissolve the allure of the figurative referent. Paradoxically, it involves a story –the story of magnetism- that might begin in Greece, stretch to include earth’s gravity, bend town to childhood to discover the magnet, and then continue with film references, putting the Cassavetes-Rowlands satellite in orbit.
Or it could be an altogether different drawing.

Saving Detergent
What happens if we put a magnet in the washing machine with our clothes? The rotation of the magnet in the washing machine’s drum releases electrons that ionize the oxygen. Oxygen in this form is a completely natural cleaner that dissolves dirt and organic compounds. Common detergents function on the same principle but use chemical products that might be harmful.

Art History
There is something of the Renaissance portrait in Kiosco and Temporada: the hieratism, the importance of clothing and the idea of social role. Entrevista, on the other hand, toys with the Baroque: Velásquez-like mirror plays, majas with their voyeurs, and groups of friends around a dim light, like those Dutch paintings. Rosana’s photographs always dialogue with painting. In Una mujer bajo influencia, they seem to converse with 20th century painting.

One can also think, though, of fantastic literature, the 19th century pseudo-science of Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The uses of fiction. Shakespeare makes Hamlet organize a play (within the play) to reveal the truth of the story: who killed his father. Fiction as a means to uncover realities.

Opening night is my favorite. Rowlands plays Myrtle Gordon, an ageing star who cannot accept her state. At the theater, Myrtle plays Virginia, an ageing woman who cannot accept her state. Virginia examines her relationship with Marty, her husband who is played by Maurice, Myrtle’s ex-partner who is played by Cassavetes, who had been married to Rowlands for years.

Halfway through the movie. Virginia to Marty, “Maurice, don’t forget that you are an actor and this is a play.” The curtain falls. Sarcastically, the director thanks Myrtle for telling the audience that Maurice is an actor in a play. The fiction melts. The film ends with opening night, where they all speak to one another: Virginia and Marty, Myrtle and Maurice, Rowlands and Cassavetes.

Like in Hamlet and Opening night, in Entrevista Rosana superimposes layers of representation. Many of the photographs she takes are mediated by a mirror. She inserts this second plane to capture angles and situations that would not occur directly in front of the camera. In Una mujer bajo influencia, she places a canvas between the magnets and the iron shavings so that the magnetic field is formed and the drawing can come into being. A two-dimensional slice gives rise to fiction. And fiction allows you to look.

Cut, yet continuous.

Text for the exhibition A woman under influence , Foster Catena gallery. December 2007.