rialengo-no.3 / detail

rialengo no. 3 – v.804 ls. (detail) – Drawings for the construction of a sculpture in 4 pieces  /  (2014 – project in progress)  /  Digital drawing


/  Essay for the project TROPICAL GHOST (2014, Santo Domingo), commissioned by the gallery STOREFRONT FOR ART AND ARCHITECTURE (New York).  /

/ Click here to view the print version of this essay /


At the very beginning of human existence, there were females that gave birth to other females with the moon and the water (the sea) as the only others participants of the act of human reproduction. Since there were only females, the word male or males didn’t exist; there were no need of this (genre) distinction. There were only people.

These people, the Clefts, who are believed to have evolved from creatures of the sea, lived in caves facing the only seashore they knew. They had never left this place that they considered home. The Clefts fished their food, swam a great portion of the day and, every now and then, coordinated by the translation of the moon, gave birth to other Clefts. This way of life went on without significant changes until the first male was born. These first males, considered Monsters, whose bodies were different from those of the Clefts, were left at the top of the cliff to be eaten by the eagles that lived in the mountains. Somehow, these Monsters, which were not eaten by the eagles, survived and built their habitat in the valley across the mountain, by the river.

Even after Clefts and Monsters began to mate, the two people lived separately. The females rested in their caves by the seashore, bathed in the sea and fished their food; the males built shelters from trees in the valley, hunted their food and learned the advantages, in terms of survival, of inhabiting the treetops. Thus, the cliff, the caves and the sea were home to the females in the same way that the valley, the shelters and the river were home to the males. This version of the origins of the human race is the centre of The Cleft (2007), a novel written by Doris Lessing. [1]

I find interesting the logic behind Lessing’s designation of caves and shelters to females and males, respectively, as the first two forms of humans’ dwellings. It wouldn’t be farfetched to conclude that these first typologies were born as products of their surroundings and not simple choices in the nature of aesthetics. I would say that they were choices almost entirely given by their natural surroundings. Almost. Caves and shelters are two different habitats that respond, not only to two contrasting environments, but also to the inner nature of two different personalities, two different individuals.

It is not the purpose of this article to induce that caves are to females what (man-built) shelters are to males, but to understand what is the relationship between these first typologies and the nature of certain spatial configurations that have existed in the Dominican Republic and in the Caribbean until this day, without ignoring what history tells us about the social relationships between males and females. Caves and Shelters, in the Dominican Republic, are related as much to natural environment as to the historical evolution of women in the dominican society.

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EXPUESTO(S). ESTUDIO SOBRE UNA CRUCIFIXIÓN.  /  Ensayo sobre el performance Expuesto de la artista Sarah Haddou.

/  Essay about the performance EXPUESTO (2013, Santo Domingo) by the Santo Domingo based artist Sarah Haddou.  /

/ Click here to view the print version of this essay /

Demosthenes: Whereas the slave fears only pain, what the free man fears most is shame.’ [1]

Diary of a Bad Year, J.M. Coetzee.


‘You would like to know who you are. With little or nothing to guide you, you take for granted that you are the product of vast, prehistoric migrations, of conquests, rapes, and abductions, that the long and circuitous intersections of your ancestral horde have extended over many territories and kingdoms, for you are not the only person who has traveled, after all, tribes of human beings have been moving around the earth for tens of thousands of years, and who knows who begat whom begat whom begat whom begat whom begat whom to end up with your two parents begetting you . . . ’  [2]

Winter Journal, Paul Auster.

[1] Diary of a Bad Year. J.M. Coetzee. Harvill Secker 2007, p. 39.

[2] Winter Journal. Paul Auster. Faber and Faber 2012, p. 115.

El 23 de agosto del 2013, la artista Sarah Haddou presentó su performance Expuesto en el Museo de Arte Moderno de Santo Domingo, dentro del programa de actividades de la 27ª Bienal Nacional de Artes Visuales de la República Dominicana. Expuesto fue uno de los cuatro performances presentados en torno a los cuatro elementos: los performances de Awilda Polanco, Maricarmen Rodríguez y Ángel Urelly, Sayuri Guzmán, Sarah Haddou, representaban, respectivamente, el fuego, el agua, la tierra y el aire.

El performance de Haddou, Expuesto, consiste en un cuerpo acostado, el de la artista, dentro de dos cajas negras. En una caja se encuentra la cabeza y, en la otra, el resto del cuerpo, sólo dejando visible el cuello en la distancia que separa las dos cajas cubiertas, cada una, por una tapa. El cuerpo y la cabeza de Haddou están recostados, respectivamente, sobre una plataforma interior elevada en cada una de las cajas cuya separación del suelo, tapada por los lados de la caja, no es mostrada al público. Por la posición del cuello durante el performance, se puede pensar que las plataformas de cada caja no están fijadas a la misma altura – la cabeza estando más alta que el cuerpo; esta situación hace que el cuello quede en diagonal con respecto al suelo. El performance, de una duración aproximada de 140 minutos, comienza una vez que Haddou se encuentra dentro de las cajas, y termina cuando son abiertas las tapas de ambas cajas para que la artista pueda, finalmente, salir. Se puede decir, entonces, que Expuesto consiste en mostrar, durante 140 minutos, un cuello (que parece) humano y que une dos cajas donde se presume que se encuentra el cuerpo de la artista que ejecuta el performance. Durante el performance, el público puede circular libremente alrededor de las cajas, sin ningún límite que impida a cualquier persona de tocar, no sólo las cajas, sino, incluso, (el cuello de) la artista.

El dialogar con este performance obliga al observador a tener que cuestionar ciertos aspectos tradicionales del arte: ¿Cuáles son los parámetros que definen a esta obra, primero, como un objeto de arte y, segundo, como un performance? ¿Cuál es el significado profundo de esta obra, qué representa? ¿Es necesario que el artista se encierre en esta caja durante 140 minutos para que el público pueda interpretar el objeto central de esta obra? ¿Cuál es aquel elemento que se encuentra Expuesto durante este performance?

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