IOLE DE FREITAS, 1970S / IMAGE AS PRESENCE
In this exhibition, the intersection of heterogeneous temporalities – the 1970s and the present – only reaffirms the permanence of some crucial issues in Iole’s work. The work’s wager on the untiring experience of deconditioning the body is confirmed; always the situated body, placed at the vertex of a power play, and it is only this experience that can restore the autonomy and integrity that our body demands, in the permanent adventure of movement that is its fate. Not by chance, it is a female body, the historical and social place where this unrelenting battle takes place, and the movement to which we refer is that of its psychic and social existence, which Iole opened up to the obscure and the unknown.
In this way, the exploratory journey reconstructed here acquires a more complex political and aesthetic meaning, whose incandescent core is female subjectivity, testing and confronting culturally unsubdued forms. The self-representation of the body is present in much of women artists’ work. In Iole, the process from which these works resulted was unique: silent performances, whose only audience was the artist herself, caught up in the discovery of the multiplicity of images of herself that the movements produced on reflective surfaces. The resulting images ended up revealing a constellation of shadows, textures, silhouettes, in short: a sensorial scenario in which the physicality of the surfaces stood out, their marks and small accidents, betraying the fragility that the skin can reveal of what it encapsulates. They constituted the day-to-day of a body under permanent construction, testing its physical and expressive powers.
The artist seems to have immersed herself in these performances solely for the satisfaction of the experience they offered her; it was a solitary endeavor which deprived the protagonist of the possibility of having her body framed and sublimated in the sight of others. As it was always Iole who was photographed and filmed, we will never see a body totalized in its anatomy – on the contrary: by valuing the fragment and the indetermination, many of these images, the non-finality of gestures, dissolve the visual codes that historically determined what the visuality of the female body should be. Especially in the photographic sequences, the body is presented as a complex bundle of members, engendering a driving force that seems to seek that culminating moment of change, of passage from one state to another.
They stretch or contract, distort the presumed verticality of the upright “civilian” body, even exercising the frenetic fusion of feet and head, as in Glass Pieces, Life Slices, from 1975. In this, as in other photographic sequences, Iole seems to find the body as a place to still and always be constituted, of contiguities and relations, a vertigo of surfaces suggesting new structures each time; new images – the body, at last, as a complex of passages that unfold in permanent interchange among themselves, beckoning to so many other possible bodies.
The adventure of self-representation would paradoxically end up revealing subjectivity’s prismatic nature to the artist – not the encounter with a supposed self that is identical to herself, finally pacified. The work finally breaks the dualistic principle of self-representation, with its promise of an absolute interiority, in the face of which an “outside” or antagonistic Other would be erected: the masculine world of the city, of offices, anodyne buildings, and the monotonous roar of car engines that is glimpsed in Light Work (1972). As dualism dictates, a distant “over there” where power is in fact exercised, where women roam, permanently cowed.
In Iole, we find the body far from this dualism: it is contiguity, a continuous passage between interior and exterior (and vice versa). These experiences, even when performed in the recesses of the artist’s studios, speak to the complexity of contemporary life, to the present's convulsive political and social world (that of the 1970s, as well as the present). Under the tepid and indecisive light entering through the window of the apartment where she lived in Milan at dawn, or in the New York loft that also witnessed her silent performances, Iole de Freitas recorded the tensions of the contemporary world in her body.