Maria Cosmes. Socialities


In Socialities I have grouped together a series of more recent works that deal with sociability and socialization. In this case, it starts from the cultural roles assigned to resignify if not directly subvert them 6. It is not possible to overlook the socializing role traditionally assigned to women, a role that in these works Maria Cosmes transgresses or violates when she turns it around (she talks about twisting the symbols).

In the performatic process The seamstress (2005), Maria Cosmes recovers elements from previous performances to give them a new life - and here the fundamental concept of "reparation" is introduced again, although this time in a literal sense. In this process, she starts from the broken pieces of the dress torn in Bust (things I never apologized for) and the red threads used in Le lien est rouge . The action consists of reconstructing the dress with these threads, sewing in the display cabinet of a gallery, in the sight of those who pass through the street, while images of both actions are projected on a large screen. It also plays with a very important cultural element, extracted from classical mythology, the myth of Las Parcas, those that weave the thread of man's destiny and decide on it. Maria opposes this fatalistic idea with an imaginary and at the same time real figure of the Seamstress who repairs the dress torn by life, reflecting here two fundamental concepts in her artistic work: "repair" and, especially, "modesty". At the end of the process, she presents herself to everyone, with the dress mended, with some missing piece and with very loose seams due to her own body change; in spite of everything, she is the living image that this "repair" that she has claimed so much is possible; but she also reveals something deeper that subtly underlies throughout her work: the search for identity, for how to construct one's own person, an identity that is always constructed in relation to others.

There is still a deeper aspect that I want to highlight in this "repair": despite the care with which he collected and kept the remains of the dress after the performance Bust , while recovering for The seamstress she realized that a large triangular-shaped piece was missing in the pubic area, which she had to complete with the red threads and sewing reels she had used in the performance Le lien est rouge. The hole covered in this way thus contains a strong symbolic load in terms of impurity and danger, since the vacuum of sex is covered by the reels and threads that had passed through the mouths of the participants in this last performance, thus having a double load of sexual ambiguity, another of the forms that interpersonal relations take.

Manual of elegance and efficiency always and everywhere (2009) uses common elements that have implicitly a very specific symbology - what she calls "cultural materials" - such as ties, attributes of a male culture and status. Her use within this performance to construct a dress that she strips off and ties the participants, both women and men, represents in a very powerful way the kind in which we are constrained by socially imposed conventions.

The host (2010), on the other hand, resorts to stereotypes of what women should be, which are extensively collected in urbanity manuals, presenting her tied to thin rubber strings attached to the physical space of the gallery, which limit their freedom of movement while fulfilling their role of receiving participants.

In Fleeting encounters (2005) the elastic bands were also small but strong ties against which, on this occasion, the performer had to fight to get closer to the others to receive them with a greeting and a smile in a cold and austere space.

Saeta (2008) is a private photo performance, whose documentation is not fully published by the artist's wish. In this work, produced with the help of Braxter Cain, relationships play a central role once again. Relationships within the work that are expressed in the photographic composition and in the games of glances between the two models, but also meta-artistic relationships, such as the couple relationship between performer and model -related to the theme of the work- or the brief but intense power relationship that is established between the apparently unarmed performer and the technical team, that which is not seen in the work. On the other hand, on a conceptual level, another constant of Maria Cosmes' work appears, the use of what she calls "cultural materials". Because the Saeta is full of references to the imaginary of popular culture, to the one who asks for "a ladder to climb the wood to remove the nails of Jesus the Nazarene" 7. To this she adds an image that reminds me of baroque paintings, showing an almost androgynous face that will only reveal its mystery at the end, by revealing its naked body. And to all these soft and delicate images he contrasts the apparent visual brutality of bondage. As always in her performances, without concessions, she introduces this element of cut, of contrast, an element that is part of our culture, even if it wants to hide, and remains hanging for forty-five minutes. It is not as much a test of resistance as a demonstration of coherence: it is a necessary act. As in all Maria Cosmes' work, the Saeta is full of evocations. Each image refers us to multiple interpretations. A quick reading could leave us with the idea of an inversion of the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But if we go deeper into the analysis we will see that the work is richer and more complex, since Maria Cosmes within the photoperformance is both the crucified Christ and the announcing angel as the Madonna who looks at the son with pity: vulnerable and yet powerful. Once again, the elements used take on a central symbolic importance, minimal elements charged with meaning. Maria suspended by the ropes and covered only by a red cloth, which will end up falling, to show herself in her leap forward, while the model clings to her own cross of the past.

The weaver (2010), a collaborative performance with Saverio Longo, is inspired by bondage and uses musical quotations as "cultural materials". It is a performance in three parts. The first was recorded in a closed space and shows the process of construction of the string dress. This video is projected at the beginning of the live performance before Saverio and Maria appear, she with the string dress, her arms immobilized and her breasts in the air, he impeccable in his white shirt. After the opening dance they both perform, a waltz, as if it were a wedding, Maria remains motionless in the middle of the room like the dolls of the music boxes so that those attending the event dance with her to the sound of the music that floods the place. The choice of songs is not casual either, the lyrics always speak of relationships between women and men, some romantic, others about fatal women, others about loves that kill. The image of Maria immobilized generated readings opposed among the public, from repulsion - for the image of domination and submission that they seem to transmit - to others of a sexual nature and even feminists. This game of multiple readings is not alien to Maria's intention, since although her work does not seek provocation, she does not want to make any concessions for the sake of maximum rigour and coherence. For her, this work, like all hers, generates questions without giving any answer; whoever finds one is theirs. For Maria, on the contrary, in each work she is assailed by new questions, which generate even more uneasiness, that the action can mitigate only in part. At the end of the performance Saverio delicately frees Maria from the ropes and clothes and, later, from the wig that covers her head, at which point she confesses to felt - for the first time - absolutely naked. In this last part there is a game of three between Maria, Saverio and the strings, in which each of them plays a very special role. The ropes keep the contact between both performers at all times, maintaining their tension is essential not to break abruptly the relationship of devotion and care that has been established between them and are gradually revealing the marks that have left on the body of Maria. Saverio's attentive gaze watches over any sign of the state of that being entrusted to him in custody, while Maria's expression is one of overwhelming beauty, not inexpressive or resignation, on the contrary, of ecstasy 8 .

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

6 As Diana Taylor says: "Performances function as vital acts of transference, transmitting social knowledge, memory, and sense of identity through repeated actions, or what Richard Schechner has called "twice behaved-behavior". In this respect, analyzing Maria Cosmes' work in terms of performativity seems unsatisfactory to me, since I think Taylor's own differentiation between "performative" and "performatic" is more appropriate, in order to differentiate the discursive and non-discursive components within the performance. Going further in its distinction, I consider that action -the performatic- is really what can modify reality, and I prefer that term to performative -the discourse- which I doubt achieves such an objective. I intend to address this issue in an article in the future.

7 Saeta popular, quoted in "La saeta" by Antonio Machado.

8 Ecstasy means to be "out of oneself", as the Greek etymology indicates: the action of getting out of one's position (stasis)."To be out of oneself" does not mean that one is out of the present moment as a dreamer is escaping into the past or into the future. Exactly the opposite: ecstasy is an absolute identification with the present instant, a total oblivion of the past and the future. If both the future and the past are erased, the second present is found in empty space, outside of life and its chronology, outside of time and independent of it (this is why it can be compared with eternity, which is also the negation of time). "Milan Kundera, The Betrayed Testaments".