"Cuerpo" (Body) of María Castellanos, at Universo vídeo. Geo-políticas
Analysis of the video-performance of María Castellanos exhibited at "Universo vídeo"
I have known and followed the work of María Castellanos (Gijón, 1985) for some years. Some of the constant aspects of her work have always been the questions more closely related to the body and its relationships with the artificial fabrics that cover it. This paradoxical link between skin and fabric has been her creative obsession since almost the beginning of her career. Her dissertation work, “The body as a cohesion maker between art, design and technology” also focused on this matter, then she began exhibiting in several spaces, such as Mediadvanced in Gijón, Valey (Cultural Centre of Castrillón), and in 2008 she was awarded the Premio Asturias Joven de Artes Plásticas to the best new artist.
In order to be able to understand the aesthetic and conceptual interests that shape the work of Castellanos, we must point out that the various mediums she has used (photography, video, performance, installation …) have always tried to show her interest for body and skin. She has not chosen one of them exclusively, but she has been able to play with all of them as her channel of expression.
Again I come across one of her pieces, this time it is a video-performance. For its development, she understood the means as an end, in other words, she recorded herself behind closed doors, without public, with the idea of showing the work through a screen.
In Cuerpo, which is being shown now at LABoral within the exhibition Universo Vídeo. Geo-políticas, María builds a costume of flour on the naked body of a female. For the sake of the anecdote, the artist uses four kilos of flour, which correspond to our skin’s weight. The female main character features a body which is free of the stereotypes which impregnate female nudes, with a canon all females can identify with. The artist deliberately moves away from the impossible models repeatedly shown in the mass media.
María Castellanos repeatedly mixes the flour with the water to create the costume that will cover the main character. The effort of the artist is made evident: Rather than presenting the dough already prepared and ready to cover the model, Castellanos is moving and is kneading strongly, a clear reference to the most intimate house chores of women, which most times are not to be seen and have always tried to turn women into impossible angels. Sweat, will and physical work are neither forgotten in this piece. For this reason, I find this video-performance really interesting. I had the opportunity to comment on the whole exhibition, but I decided to focus in this work because beyond the action per-se that can be seen in the video, it also has an interesting background loaded with fundamental criticism.
In my opinion, it is not by chance that she has chosen video as the medium to be used. The emergence of video artist women during the 70’s resulted from the simplicity of this means (as it did not entail significant costs and it was free from all the academic weight that other disciplines, such as painting, did have) and this fostered an incredible development of feminist video art. From Carolee Schneemann to Martha Rosler, Pipilotti Rist or Vanessa Beecroft, video seemed a perfect way to reclaim all those things that were intentionally hidden. And the situation of women was one of these things.
María Castellanos establishes in Cuerpo a direct relationship with all these predecessors. She intends to break down stereotypes and to show even the intimacy of two women when they are dressing up, covering herselves, hiding their skin, in this case with something organic, such as flour.
We can analyse María’s work more deeply and beyond the apparent. Her conceptual reflection invites to an aesthetic questioning of anything related to the body, the home, the intimacy of a household and especially the construction of the image of women.