¨The walls move, change, vibrate¨, wrote Sol Pipkin in one of the first exchanges we held on the subject of her then future exhibit in Machete in Mexico.
It is impossible now for me not to reread them as an omen of the telluric movements, tangible between the panic, that the earthquake produced and that have left us all, still, displaced.
I think of the buildings at the moment of the earthquake and I think of the artworks of Sol Pipkin, minute, discreet, measured. Of the energy that the earth can unleash as tectonic plates embrace (do tectonic plates play at love?), of the enormous amount of matter that has been required to bring civilization to this scenario.
For millennia, almost all the energy that homo sapiens used resulted from photosynthetic processes. Our fuels were the plants that we ate, directly or indirectly through other animals, some biomasses such as trees, o certain uses of water and air, like windmills and candles. Today, almost all of our energy (which sustains our Facebook revolutions and Twitter communities) comes from fossil fuels that we extracted from the earth like proletarian mosquitoes. Perhaps the slow catastrophe which we have witnessed, of which we are co-participants, originated in the invention of the continuous rotation motor which ran on carbon, or perhaps the invention of language or of fire. Homo sapiens always desired, or needed, to differentiate himself from animals to become rational, erect, exquisite. But, of course, this is merely one judgement. Another one, equally valid, could state that in the Universe no atom, not a single tiny particle of energy, has ever made a mistake, there is no judgement, nothing has happened in error. Here we are, now, seeing our thoughts fly as we overheat the planet.
Let’s get back to overheating. The earthquake has produced fear, the videos of collapses have given us goosebumps. We have a hard time falling asleep and feeling safe. The decade has left behind thousands of deaths. Fear surprises us every day through the news. It comes to us in the form of influenza or avian flu, it shakes us as a corrupt institution or an indigenous person starved to death, as decapitations, feminicide, tropical storms and chupacabras. More than any other form, fear reaches us in the shape of images and messages on social media and as a product of new cultural technologies. Someone died. Someone exploded. Someone killed someone. Someone disappeared. Someone might die. Fear.
To quiet the fear, we eat, have sex, occasionally vote, go shopping. We take drugs. We echo fear and reinforce the patterns of a panicked society. What more can we do?
It occurs to me that there is no answer, and it also occurs to me that we can cut the chains of the echoes of fear and breathe. Cut immediate decoding and meditate that nothing will save us, because a saving poetry is impossible. We can inhale, hold our breath, and calmly exhale. If we relax our muscles and distend our bodies the fear begins to dissipate. Our work melts, stones mutate, clouds float and we breathe. We learn to die in the Anthropocene.
Perhaps by accepting our decadence and our fragility we will inaugurate a new world. We know that we’re going to die, of course, but is our life an act conscious of this? Does each finger we lift lead us to a better death? Learning to live without fear can set up a possibility of dying without fear. It’s possible that art, whatever it is today, might work for this, for constructing a calm territory, a moment of peace.
During the residency at the Museo Experimental El Eco which resulted in her exhibit at Machete, Sol Pipkin wandered through the markets of the city, its convenience stores and sewing shops, becoming a sort of nomad gatherer. She allowed herself to be amazed by small bodies that we, the inhabitants of this city, have incorporated into our daily lives, and she appropriated them for her creative processes.
Her pieces are light transformations of other human creations: a square of white cloth that someone anonymously sewed was patiently unstitched by Sol on all four sides and dyed with natural materials to transform it into a ¨painting¨. Or a banana leaf, commonly used to wrap tamales, was sewn into a cylinder to become a ¨sculpture¨ that the climate will gradually dry out. These sculptures assume, contrary to the status quo of artistic objects that are allegedly presented as immutable and evergreen, their changing nature: they remind us that we will never bathe twice in the same river.
Other artworks are constructed from newspaper pages that Sol wets, crushes and reconfigures. The newspaper thus loses its informative quality and is transformed into objects that fluctuate between pictorial and sculptural, subtly intervened with brilliant tempera on the paper’s rough surface.
I remember her words now: ¨Creating at the extent of what was possible had never been so comforting to me¨. Without commissioning or ordering labor from anyone, her work is centered on her own resources. She and what her hands make remain in the space, postulating an emotional and physical ecology that is satiated.
The artwork of Sol Pipkin (and here there is a voice, dear reader, only one subjective voice) emit delicacy. If Sol has decided to create fragile, fine and soft pieces it is because she has decided to align her sensibility to these qualities, which drink from principles assigned to Mother Earth, like fertility and the power of healing.
In her work, I find a desire to connect with the matter that Earth prodigiously offers, as well as a thorough care for it. In every minute detail of her work there is a conscience, interacting with the mass of the world and her cycles through invisible connections of energy. Her pieces are devices of sorts, which allow us to hear both ourselves and what we are made of. Their power resides in the ability to call forth our intuition, that which doesn’t pass through coded signs, what is not satisfied with words.
It seems, I reiterate, that Sol’s practice gravitates around reception, refining her ability to hear the world and the beings that populate it. In this state, all objects and all phenomena offer a message, becoming teachers who expand intuitive understanding. The apprehensions, which exceed intellectual judgement, offer us perceptive forms that process experience through the body’s nine cognitive senses.
Sol insinuates that being human can be reconciled with being animal, or plant; her pieces incite us to ponder like a banana, to feel as a stone, to dance like a dragonfly, to incorporate into our existence the many ways in which beings live and to be conscious with them.
To approach her artwork, it is advisable to eliminate, as much as each of us can, the distance between bodies. The mats are an invitation to sit, to lie back. The pieces suggest that they be touched. The space suggests for one to move through it, to allow oneself to be surrounded by its oscillations and open to listening.