Maria Cosmes. Relations


In the second group of performances, Relationships , she plays more with the cultural aspect of relations. Here the participants are introduced directly into the performance, creating an exceptional, differentiated and unique space. This group of works constitutes the core and the fundamental leitmotiv of Maria Cosmes' work, approached from a multiplicity of angles, both with respect to interpersonal relationships and in relation to their consequences. There are relationships with groups, more anonymous, but also person to person. The risk, the violence, the fear, the distrust, but also the softness and the sweetness, the kindness are appreciated in them, all of them inherent components of human relations.

Mary Douglas, speaking of the body, says: " "Dignity register" could be a good way to designate the distance from the real body as an expression of respect. The range between respect and intimacy projects a spatial indicator of social use. Similarly, linguists have observed that in language, the distance taken from bodily functions and body parts projects respect or lack of respect. The distance indicator can provide complex information, not only about a single value for respect, but also about highly differentiated relationships [...]. ".

And she adds: " All communicative behavior displays a broad analogical structure and in greater or lesser extent the body is always concerned. The pattern of respect based on distance is only one dimension. Theoretically, the number of models is infinite. [...] The systematically graduated differences in clothing, food and speech correspond to systematically graduated differences in social relations. " 5

In Fears she explores fear in one's own or other people's relationships, rational or irrational, not as much related to the violence of acts as to dealing with strangers.

In El miedo del loco a la casca (2001) or in Bust (things I never apologized for)> (2003), she offers herself to the public so that with a scalpel they cut the dress she is wearing: she is exposed to her maximum vulnerability, but - and this is what is fundamental in these actions - she has foreseen the possibility that the harm can be remedied in the event that it occurs; this concept of "reparation", together with that of "offering" or "gift", are other important contributions of Maria Cosmes' work. In A drink (2001) she also establishes a relationship that can harm her, by drinking wine in the broken glasses that the participants fill. In Fear (2005), this relationship of "trust" is established through the food offered to the participants, who must eat it without knowing what that "unknown" woman offers them; fear that is transmuted into surprise when they recognize the flavor; surprise that in some cases is increased when they know what they have eaten, since many of the participants, undoubtedly influenced by fear, have been unable to identify what they have eaten.

In Communities that relationship with others is made through objects that become mediating agents of the action that, starting from the participants, are elaborated by the performer and returned in a different way. Here, the concepts of impurity and danger in that contact with strangers play a fundamental role, developing another of the important aspects in their work: that of trust, by placing themselves in culturally uncomfortable situations or reducing the interpersonal distance that defines our culture, avoiding on the other hand to recreate in any morbid attitude.

In Community (2004) she represents the ritual of Catholic communion. The use of consecrated objects does not obey any case to a profaning intention but to the fact that they are part of the "cultural materials" that form part of our particular patrimony. In this way the fact that all human relations are always permeated by the economy is more forcefully emphasized, thus removing basic concepts of the social and cultural structure of the world in which we live. In (x-a, y-b, z-c) (2003) she collects the wishes and thoughts that the participants have written on small pieces of paper, which are glued to their chest. Once collected, she then chews them to regurgitate them in the form of a paper paste made with his own saliva and creates a sphere, a globe that he places on a support and that represents a world made up of a sum of collective hopes.

´Liens (2001-2002) is a very complex series that developed in seven parts over two years in different locations. In it it creates a situation that forces people to move in a harmonious and rhythmic way, to collaborate so as not to suffer damage with the ropes that keep them tied by the neck in front of a random factor that is the performer itself, which moves between the ropes. This long series of works speaks above all of relationships and ties (in French, liens) with others (in English aliens). The title comes from the synthesis of both terms, to emphasize the infinite complexity and ambiguity of human relations.

'Liens is an artistic and personal process of search and investigation of new models of relationship between people, in which the feedback of the participating public conditions the development of each of the parts. Maria Cosmes' narration of the whole process and its unexpected end is a very clear example of her creative method in showing the interrelationship between image, realization, reflection, feedback and writing, a terrain she is currently developing.

In Lost children (series 'liens) (2003) it is the people who must also deduce the need to collaborate in order to free the performer from the ropes that cover her head, and in which the participants are at the end physically tied to her with the opposite ends of the ropes tied to her heart.

While we were sewing reflects very well the subterranean violence behind all relationships, being however a work of extreme delicateness.

By including gloves as a central element in these performances, he introduces a concept of extraordinary strength, the physical representation of the hand: an element of humanisation, of relationship (visible, for example, in the fact of shaking hands or holding hands), closer but, at the same time, endowed with an ambiguity as much or stronger than the strings he previously used. The hands are the human tools par excellence, which allow the human being to create, but they are also instruments of defence or aggression.

The passage from strings to gloves is equivalent to the transition from abstract relationships to more concrete, physical, human-scale relationships. It is, therefore, a different approach to this complex, more sensorial world, in which participants can touch each other, going one step beyond the representation of relationships by forcing participants into direct contact, which in our society is not always comfortable.

But there's not just a relational component to the gloves. They are both containers and protectors, isolating direct skin contact; they are man-made and emphasize our shape. Thus a humanization is introduced, a personalization, without abandoning the infinity of possible evocations, conceptually and plastically. Gloves, in addition to elements of union, constitute a factor of separation.

In her performance While we were sewing (2006-2007), she forms a circle of six volunteers and puts on them pink rubber kitchen gloves. Little by little he sews the gloves together, including his own, as she is also part of the action. With the threads and gloves he weaves a complex web of possible connections and relationships between people. Finally he threads the gloves to the chairs, while the participants withdraw. Thus, at the end of the performance there is a structure formed by the gloves intertwined at the height of the hands of the participants, filling the void that they have left and that still remains after finishing the action.

At Untitled (2006-2007), performance that must be understood as a continuation or complement of the previous one, the threads to join the participants with the gloves are substituted by long nails, in which the participants are placed in more or less uncomfortable positions, nailed to the wall, forming a human chain to which she adds at the end with her own glove, remaining united all of them. It is a union of a violent appearance, but very delicate in its execution. The action ends when the participants finally come out of the gloves of their own free will. Here again an element of chance appears: if they come out abruptly, they tear off the gloves from the wall, if they are removed carefully, they remain nailed to the guise of installation, tracing an imaginary line of dots that marks the path of union between all of them.

A new element appears here, which goes beyond the creation of an ephemeral space while its actions take place, to create a lasting physical space as a result of the action, a tangible physical metaphor of the conceptual process of the realization of the performance, which gives the action a second permanent life in time, beyond the memory of the participants. It is not a question, however, of remains of action, but of independent works, derived from the parallel time and space created by the performance.

In this action, as in much of her work, Maria Cosmes highlights the violence that lies behind every relationship: that which is involved in approaching others and that which presupposes allowing others to approach. Violence that is deaf, contained, neither verbalized nor explicit, but which she treats with exquisite care. Many of the elements in her actions are apparently violent, but behind that aspect is always the will to take care of the participants.

The series of performances with gloves had a second life when they were adapted to carry out educational activities for children, always achieving very interesting results, especially with regard to the children's reflection on the concept of relationship and life in common through play.

While the above-mentioned performances generally involve several people, those that I group together in Between two are designed to be performed by the performer and a volunteer, establishing a relationship of additional intimacy that sometimes reinforces the discomfort and violence that culturally causes us face to face with strangers.

Between two (2007), an intimate performance, designed to be performed by Maria and a male volunteer, creates a daily situation between both participants, an appointment, an encounter, a relationship it is not known if short or long, if it starts or not... While the encounter takes place, some false nails are glued, with the help of the partner and the narration of a story is produced that is inaccessible for the audience, until their red nails are joined by red threads. The image of her hands joined by those subtle colored threads moving little by little generates an image of an intensely ambiguous sexual charge.

Farewell is a breakup, now friendly. Once again we find recurring themes, relationships, rapprochement and separation, that violence of which I spoke earlier. The act of cutting the nails is an ordinary act, but in this context it becomes something violent. What has been joined at the beginning is cut and then reversed, with a certain impudence, by invading the intimacy of the other when he cuts nails, a banal act but certainly very private. In the end, only the pieces of nail of both are left on the table, joined by the red threads, the remains of that relationship.

Another aspect to highlight is the double reading, formal and conceptual, of the physical disposition of the people and elements in this performance: Maria and her collaborator sitting on both sides of a table while the rest of the audience is farther away. A video projector connected to a camera next to the table allows us to see in detail the subtle game between the two people, which unfold for the audience in two images: their relationship of intimacy to real size from a distance and the enlarged detail of their hands on the table. In spite of this, they know that in no case are they really capturing the essence of what happens at the table: games of glances, conversations in low voice . In short, a paradox: multiple points of view to achieve an incomplete vision of reality.

In Le lien est rouge (2003-2004), in the same line of intimate performances, a person-to-person bond is established, from which I would like to highlight the connotations of impurity and danger in contact, of fear and desire, an intense tension of a sexual nature and the fragile but powerful bonds established between people, who become entangled, who approach or flee, united by the red threads they let go and recover from their mouths.

Carlos Pina
Independent curator
director of eBent, international performance festival of Barcelona (2003-2010)
february 2013

5 Mary Douglas, "Thought styles".