Attempt at an Inventory
Retrospective exhibition at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, MNBA.
06 December - 13 May 2018
solo show, national, retrospectiva
go to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
At the beginning of the year 2014, I came across a book of which existence I ignored: Pere(t)c Tentativa de Inventario (Attempt at an Inventory). It was a catalogue edited regarding the homonymous exhibition, carried out at Luis Seoane of the A Coruña Foundation between October 29th, 2010 and January 16th, 2011 that included a series of works, films and documents both from Georges Perec and from other specialists and artists, that gave account for the undeniable and persistent relations between literature and image existing in his work.
Inversely —and at the same time complementary—, the presence of literature in general, and of Perec’s work in particular, have been a constant in my own visual investigation. His writings have been a valuable reference for the image study in my work, firstly in thematic terms —regarding the infraordinary—, but above all in methodological terms, while I’ve always worked with a series of restrictions or obstacles and, undoubtedly, on the exhaustive (but always inconclusive).
So, as many times before, I have turned to the harmless and simple theft of that title to name this new exercise in which I have decided to immerse myself: Attempt at an Inventory is above all that, an observation exercise, but not any observation, but the one given by distance, the passing of time. To look back at this set of works, produced between years 1992 and 2017, has allowed me not only to revisit the purposes that motivated certain decisions in terms of themes, materials, methods, but also to “set them down to talk” waiting for a new dialogue to emerge up among them, since for the first time they are all together in the same place.
Working in art is a solitary activity; at least, my work has been mostly that way. Consequently, I’ve found important to make the works’ selection for this retrospective exercise myself, convinced that to give this responsibility to others would not allow to make account for the sense I’ve look up in it.
Thus, I’ve included in this show two works that themselves have been a review of what was made until that moment: 203 fotografías [203 photographs] (1998) and transmobile (2005); both of this projects, in their own time, were considered as an emptying possibility hoping to renew the glance, always wishing to surprise myself again. 203 fotografías presented the entire archive of images that allowed me to create all my photographic works produced between the year 1992 and 1997; whereas, transmobile gave account on all those little elements —themes and materials— that were present in the works I made between the late nineties and until the middle two thousands.
Attempt at an Inventory tries to go through from a first period marked by the direct use of the photographic support, essentially focused on the temporary registry of little domestic situations, always insignificant; then, through the translation of photographic images to large murals using manual procedures, to give account on that that usually goes unnoticed —the infraordinary—; to the direct incorporation of literature —the book, the word— at the same time as a methodological and meaning’s articulator in my work. But this temporary organization, apparently simple is not such, since this periods have not have not happen orderly in time, but have been superimposed, pushed forward, going back time after time again, resuming the march once again.
Santiago, December 2017
 Edited by Alberto Ruiz de Samaniego, 2011.
[photography and the unnoticed]
Between the years 1992 and 1996, by then interested in relating terrestrial with corporal geography, I made a series of photographic works that showed different “geographic accidents” of my body. Thus, through the accumulation of all the photographies previously discarded, an archive of those topographies was built, the one that ended up on the year 1998 in 203 fotografías. In this installation images are displayed building a little corporal atlas, allowing me at the same time to look back at everything I had done until then.
During those first years and until the two thousands, the direct work with the photographic media, documenting different geographic accidents of my own body and of others’, lead to a temporary registration of usually unnoticed situations. On the year 1999 I started a project in which I proposed myself to photograph different domestic everyday-insignificant activities, those that are repeated in the same way, time and time again. Works like En vigilia 4 [Vigilant 4] and ejercicios de fortalecimiento del cuerpo: distensión [exercises for the strengthening of the body: relax] come from that project; in both of them, making use of the technique that was formerly reserved only to the memorable, I photographed some of those moments that become invisible to our eyes because of their constant repetition, the ones that, however, turn those same activities into the safe limits of our live.
[the infraordinary, the image’s translation, the restrictions]
A second moment in my investigation —that began on the year 2001—, is the one marked by the translation of photographic images to other materials and scales. From the direct use of photography and the interest in everyday and domestic matters, my work turned into subjects regarding the infraordinary, that which usually goes unnoticed. That was the moment when my first large scale works appeared, in which, without neglecting the photographic image’s reference, they assumed its reproductibility by means of materialities from different media, opening new technical possibilities in my artistic research. From this technical turn arise works like Sobrevigilancia (2001) [Overvigilance], a mural in which I recreated the enlarged image of the sink of a family bathroom, using 9.160 dyed thistle flowers.
The incorporation of new methods and production systems in my works, compeled me to work from a code and classification system that made it possible to make the chromatic translation from the photographic source images. Following the typical restrictions of a delimited palette, for example —the one of pencils or embroidery threads existing on the marked—, the challenge has been to find that color that comes closer to the one on the computer’s screen and not to the original model, trying always to work with what I see and not with what I know. This way, enero, 7:25 [January, 7:25] reproduces the photograph of a child’s bed in a 14 meter-long mural, formed by 2.600 paper napkins hand-colored with wooden pencils, one by one during eight months of work, in the company of a group of assistants takins turns on that endless task.
[the literature, the book, the word]
Natural wool felt has been present in my artistic production since the year 2009. Through the translation of photographic images to felt through the manual cut, I have intended to give account on the information loss of the reference image —and of some features characteristic of the technical media—, while I have used the chromatic restrictions of the source images and the particular characteristics of this material. Algunas consideraciones sobre los insectos… [Some considerations on insects…] reproduces the photography of an open book, whose first and last plane appear completely out of focus. In this mural, the ten layers of felt, organized in grey scale, had the purpose of reproducing the lack of clarity —typical of an image with little depth of field—, with shapeless pieces of felt; a challenge closer to pictorial techniques than to textile work.
Another element that has remained present in my work is literature; firstly, from its formal aspects —as its photographic origin is pointed out through the use of the object-book— and then, from its theme. The incorporation of the text as a central problem in the image gave origin to a series of recent works where the content of it is what configures the work in methodological terms. In this way, for example, Exercises in Style is a project in which I wanted to deepen in the use of literature in general, and of the text as a particular image: similar to the way Raymond Queneau uses language in different ways to narrate his story, in my exercises I presented different approaches to the images of the crumpled pages of the book; and each material and technical variation allows a new reading where, in conclusion, the form is always sense.
on the preposition ‘on’ times three and one parentheses
author Mónica Bengoa
Published in m. [una tentativa de inventario exhaustivo, aunque siempre inconcluso], Santiago, Chile. Ed EUONIA, p. 105-110. 2017.
Intransitivity in the photographic image in the early work of Mónica Bengoa
author Maria Jose Delpiano
Published in m. [una tentativa de inventario exhaustivo, aunque siempre inconcluso], Santiago, Chile. Ed EUONIA, p. 113-117. 2017.
The thickness of color
author Paula Dittborn
Published in m. [una tentativa de inventario exhaustivo, aunque siempre inconcluso], Santiago, Chile. Ed EUONIA, p. 119-123. 2017.
Four takes on Mónica Bengoa’s work
author Fernando Pérez Villalón @en
Published in m. [una tentativa de inventario exhaustivo, aunque siempre inconcluso], Santiago, Chile. Ed EUONIA, p. 125-130. 2017.
Mónica Bengoa and the Problem of the Real
author Christian Viveros-Fauné @en
Published in m. [una tentativa de inventario exhaustivo, aunque siempre inconcluso], Santiago, Chile. Ed EUONIA, p. 133-136. 2017.