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In this exhibition Mónica Bengoa goes back to her files in order to compose a summary of eight years’ photographic work. This is a retrospective exercise far removed from the Retrospective format: Mónica Bengoa’s aim is not to re-situate the work of a period (1990-1998), but to bring a certain quantity of material, which served as the basis for earlier works, up to date in a new work.

In a first approach, what defines the exhibition is its way of using the space, the direct use of the walls as a backcloth for the presentation. Previously when showing photographs, the artist had preferred more restricted quantities and arrangements. In203 photographs, she re-makes her reticle, overflowing her own limits, which is saying a lot; with this exhibition, Mónica Bengoa could be closing a cycle which was defined by minimalist mountings and the autobiographical theme.

As a result of this sum, in 203 photographs, she produces a saturation of references to the body (her own) and family scenes. The exhibition is made up exclusively of fragments of the body and portraits of the author, but this mound of reference is worked on in such a way that the segments offer differing speeds, levels of depth and arguments.

Let us say, as regards speed, that the movement of the eye is one thing when it runs over the bluish area of the ears, and another when in does the same thing to reconstruct the homely scene of the young girl in a white shirt, or when it tends to skate over he golden zone of epidermic folds. In the same way, the levels of depth of these folds contrast with those of a complete back, or with the scarcely perceptible ones found in scar tissue. And the argument of those cuts (explicitly stated by her in a catalogue, on the occasion of a 1996 exhibition) is different from that of the author lying on a hospital bed, recovering from a broken nose.

It seems to me that this scene of the recovery from the broken nose –placed in the very center of the exhibition, and given pride of place in the “object-catalogue” published on the occasion– is symptomatic of the state of affairs in Mónica Bengoa’s photographic work. The moment of the fracture has already passed, and now the sufferer is resting so that the bone can solidify and achieve its new firmness. The montage, 203 photographs, revolves around this argument. The fracture is shown at the moment of convalescence, in transition towards the recovered shape. And let us no forget that “recovery” refers to a state or thing which has been out of range and returns, as in the renewal of tissues and strength after an illness or accident. The photographic language of Mónica Bengoa recovers energy from her files in order to recover from the internal fracture to which she has submitted herself and take up the creative process ones again with renewed vigor.

It seems to me important –as a sign of the recovery which is going on– to pause for a moment on the austerity of the title of the exhibition, compared with the always metaphorical references in the titles of earlier exhibitions: ‛To be made at home’ (1992); ‛Living as we dream’ (1995) or ‛Magnetic Field (Scars)’ (1996). 203 photographs comes out of these works, but assumes its condition as quotation or re-articulation, avoiding literature, and preferring as a title simply numerical and material information.

The 203 photographic fragments overflow the perimeter of the walls which hold them. One might say that they flow out, forming an inconclusive image, in a clear questioning by the author of her own procedures; at the same time, the title of the exhibition, by avoiding metaphors and the language of the poetry-book, reaches out in search of other ways of naming the work.

With this exhibition, Mónica Bengoa explicitly states a considerable degree of reflection and puts herself into a frontier zone, where the possibilities of accident and recovery are great; as great as the strength that this adventurer may have.

Ricardo Cuadros

  1. © 2019 monica bengoa

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