Peinetones entangled with red thread, black necklaces pierced by knitting needles, luxurious chokers made out of nylon stockings, cloth clasps and small pieces of paper that fill the room with reflections and light, crushed metal cans that pose as talismans. The exhibits seem to be great ornaments worthy of a poor priestess conducting a ceremony for the rich. The rattles, hanging from wires, look like golden circles, and the bits of pasteboard covered in black and golden paint pose as shields, protective shells, jewels. They seduce us into wanting to wear them. Every single one of them. Each one possesses a different grace and sensuality. I picture the sensation; they seem to grant their wearer a great power, the possibility of transformation. The artist María Silvia Corcuera says "I thought about it, but they are too heavy and too cumbersome".
Heavy and cumbersome, heavy and beautiful, necklaces as shawls, as social scans and as political metaphor. The ornaments, the clothing, the jewels, they help to mourn death, to fill both wounds and prints with joy and laughter. This is not the first time this artist works toward that particular direction. Corcuera delves into the subject to understand the present while looking at the past, tracing history and questioning the constructed narrations: "Argentia is Argentina, and it means "silver" as well. As is the case with this country, that believes itself to be rich but instead is insular, extreme. We are not rich. Argentia is the lies we choose to believe. This is a lie the country itself told itself. The concept of ornament, of splendor, is born there. To this country I bestow my work, with the dowry, the splendor of the ingenuity of the ordinary. With almost nothing. They are pieces built with structures of the wire that surrounds the cork of a champagne bottle. Like our joy, kept in place with hook pins. It is fiction. Nowadays even more so, with so many counter-meanings. That is why I chose to join the exhibition "Dos Papeles de la Ciudad", from the series "Todo es un Globo". Latin America is built as a fiction. Like in that fable in which by day it is built and by night it is destroyed. Why is it destroyed? In order to keep on building".
To build and rebuild meaning through the objects and their symbols: peinetones, tattoos, toys, cities ("La Ciudad de los Días Contados", The City of Numbered Days) and shields ("Las Protegidas", The Protégées) are series made by Corcuera through which the materialness spangles the construction of memory, with sculptures of overwhelming personality that oscillate between a yearning for harmony and an undeniable melancholy. "Skies", "Threads of Loss", "Fragile Utopias", "Porteño Circus", "The Gifts", "The Lies", "Weariness": titles of her works that reflect the times through which, as if on a never-ending see-saw, Argentina seems to move.
As historian Ana María Presta wrote in the curatorial text: "A dowry is equal to donation, property, legacy and value. It commercializes the body, covers the walls, and exposes things. It includes both the new and the used. It is measured in money, furniture and estate, clothing and belongings, ornaments and jewelry. It is composed of an emerald necklace and a brass choker, a pearl pin and a brass one, a ruby bracelet and a bead one, an ebony cross and one made with sticks, a silver Christ and a worn plate depicting Saint Anthony of Padua. It possesses gender specificity; it prerepresents class and denotes identity. It reaches, dresses and undresses all women, rich and poor. For a woman to be wed, it was impossible to dispense with it. And thus does María Silvia Corcuera expose it in her work in this, our current Argentia".
It is in the midst of all this tension, in that dialectic between construction and destruction, the pieces of "La Dote Argentia" appear. A great peinetón, repaired by Corcuera herself, from which threads drop like prayers; postcards and bracelets from China depicting Latin and Spanish imagery; rosary beads that hang like tears. They are the threads of loss, Corcuera claims, because in life everyone experiences loss. Saint Cajetan, in his classic stamp. "This year I went to Saint Cajetan, it is a powerful experience. They have former vows, they sell religious objects whose origin is the Brazilian syncretism. Scissors, Saw, hearts, tin and steel horseshoes that can be seen in my work. It is a parallel world of immigrants that the city does not want to see. In that carnival the vitality of all that world can be seen, so invisibilized, so marginalized".
There, as in Corcuera's work, there are two sides to the same coin: the sacred, with its genuinely native religious and cultural origins, and the pagan, the religious and the commercialization, part of the process of globalization, impossible to avoid in this world that is built like an industrial Tower of Babel. Tin hearts, lignum vitae, religious stamps and horseshoes to symbolize chance. "Chance has a significant relevance", María Silvia Corcuera thinks aloud, "the affection, the love... how random are those things. I learned that in the northern countries. There Allah is destiny and our lives - or so they believe - are fated." As in "La Muerte y la Brújula" (Death and the Compass) by Jorge Luis Borges, that which is displayed in the tale's universe as the hidden part of the plot, functions as an invitation for the spectator to transform it as they wish.
"I gift, I give, what I think of my country right now, right here", Silvia states. I ask her about her beliefs, in this demonstration of a powerful religious force, albeit with pagan, syncretic features. I ask her what is God's place in this course, and she replies "I do not know. But if God exists, they are present in the silence and in the children, of that I have no doubt".
Play and silence, creation and silence, emptiness and gift, crisis and repair. Corcuera presents us with a dowry, to relieve our sorrows with beauty. "There is joy in making. In the construction of the image, I am interested in beauty. I am repaired by the beauty in the image", the artist claims.
If desire is the way in which each existence is sheltered from the emptiness, La dote argentia gifts us with relics as beautiful, strange and complex as our history.