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Observations from the inside out


Mónica Bengoa. L’envers de l’observation. María Berríos, in Exhibition catalogue Chili,l’envers du décor, p.13, 34-35. Paris, France. 2010


Mónica Bengoa’s extremely precise, almost obsessive, methodology could very well place her in the realm of formalism. Her work is configured by rigorous manual experimentations with color and materials in relation to photography as an exercise towards a way of seeing. Nevertheless, what we are presented with in her work, what we as spectators see, is drawn from the remote and intimate sphere of the everyday. The materia prima of Mónica Bengoa’s work and of her formal reflection, comes from studying the configuration of transparency in everyday life, the familiar closeness that makes things imperceptible. The artist has enduringly examined the serial action in the quotidian, classifying certain rituals of domesticity (as in works related to her children’s tooth brushing routine, their sleeping positions, and the residue of activities in certain canonical “private” spaces of the domestic sphere: the bathroom, the kitchen and her own bed). The artist’s interest is focused on the limits of observation and use in the everyday, which the artist turns into systems of production to materially explore these restrictions. In this sense, the wearability of the domestic everyday is not for the artist only a subject matter for art, but the very means and substance of formal experimentations on observing the invisible.

The fragile materials of her work –dried flowers, paper napkins, threads and textile– are all things readily available on the more or less industrialized market related to popular culture. The flowers are those used in funeral arrangements, and the napkins are of the cheapest kind, to be found in food kiosks everywhere. These things are taken into the work through procedures that echo the technologies of the handmade, where each medium imposes different ways of conceiving an image. Mónica Bengoa uses the modular and the serial to amplify insignificant details of the mundane to an almost monumental scale, as in the case of her mural works, or to underline these details by creating life-size reproductions, as in her embroidery series. Her work with pigments and color somehow follows the same logic of methodically exploring the limits of color restrictions.

In her present work, Mónica Bengoa once again deals with the use of the undisclosed private as working matter. Her project, conceived for the window of the Espace culturel Louis Vuitton, plays with a fictitious transparency: we are exposed to the invented back of the inner display in the form of a large-scale relief, which is actually made up of dyed wool felt in different tones of red. The requirements of a classic trompe-l’œil are reworked through the resistance posed by the felt material and the color palette. Again, Mónica Bengoa forces herself to “see what is there, and not what I know is there”, by creating small-scale industrialized systems of artisanal processes on order to depurate and intensify the observation of a photographic image, in this instance a display case for Louis Vuitton products. For the current exhibition, the artist has created a long-distance seeing methodology, where the model of the images of the space allows her, through the opacity of the wool felt dyed in different shades of red, to take an extremely detailed look at the reverse of things.

María Berríos

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