Airports. All texts.

Carles Guerra


An interview by e-mail with Charo Garaigorta

 Firstly, I find the two layers of reading in the drawings extremely seductive: on one level, they look like compositions that are reminiscent of biological and natural structures (such as flowers), nervous systems (with their terminations in the form of female bodies), and even architectural models (airports). Yet at another level, you realise that everything is made up of tiny entwined bodies. This dual perception calls to mind those crowds that lots of people join and which we sometimes contribute to by creating something, though we remain ignorant of its form, simply because the two angles of vision, from above and from below, so to speak, are irreconcilable.

 That’s right, it’s closely related to our perception of things, of the world around us, and the importance of movement, of the speed of our lives and hence how this affects us.

I am always aware of this dual perception. In the early drawings, which were more scientific, it was like zooming in against the skin or under the skin of things, and now, with the drawings of airports, it’s like zooming out. (The Eames’ film Powers of Ten comes to mind. Do you remember it?) It’s ingenuous, but that is precisely what makes it interesting, its attempt to answer an almost archetypal question.

Airports interest me conceptually as places of movement, they are the connecting points on the planet, nerve centres, where people from all over the world converge for a brief time. We all share this space, but our situations are very different. There we gather, tourists, businesspeople, artists (the new nomads) and emigrants. Emigrants are not willing nomads, but their need means they have no control over their destinies.

This is where I find one of the key dichotomies that I explore: the isolated individual versus the awareness of the group. This is why the drawings are composed of or woven from this repeated figure. The perception of the general through the personal. Everything is moving about because this is precisely what we are: one and the other at the same time, the conscious and the unconscious.

I’d like to quote an extract from an interview between two artists, Tim Rollins and Félix González-Torres. González-Torres’ work above all is an act of generosity and helps me to clarify what I mean:

Rollins: Are the works a metaphor for the relation between the individual and the crowd?

González-Torres: Perhaps between the public and the private, between personal and social, between fear and loss and the joy of loving and growing, of changing and always becoming more, of losing oneself slowly and then being replenished all over again from scratch. I need the viewer, I need the public.[1]

 Nevertheless, your drawings and most of your works function like a full stop in a process of aesthetic pleasure. Seeing your images is like being offered a form of visual compensation. I remark on this because Félix González-Torres’ reply reminds me that his works, which are formally simple, are often completed by some intervention by the spectator, be it removing a sweet from a pile or taking a poster home. In your case, your drawings seem to me to function as an aesthetic and independent solution. This is not a criticism. On the contrary, these drawings suggest the dual pleasure of doing them and of viewing them.

 FGT gives us a piece of his work, we can take it away, bit by bit. Even so, the whole remains unchanged. Lots still remain and you take one away with you, and you are aware that you have one of many. I construct the drawings using one repeated drawing, so there’s one, and if you look from afar, there are lots. Your perception changes. It’s always the same, but our gaze makes it change for each of us.

Every work of art is a gift. From the moment you first like it, you’ve made a connection, you make the effort to join in a dialogue and you are invited to reflect, a reflection that is going to be different for each of us. What I want to say is that what I would like, through the drawings, by means of this dual perception, is for us to reflect on these two voices, the individual and the collective.

I am pleased that you mention the idea of pleasure, that the drawings suggest pleasure in the doing of them and in the viewing of them. The idea of pleasure, of making pleasure a part of everything we do, is important. If something has been done with pleasure, it is received with pleasure, especially if we talk of the work of art as a gift (which can mean both a present and a talent), in the sense of wanting to give something. The moments when I’m drawing are magical and they help me to observe myself while I’m thinking. I want this entire process to be perceived in some way by the person looking at the drawings.

I also think that there’s an act of bravery when Torres talks of losing himself bit by bit and then rebuilding himself from scratch. It’s brave to give.

 I don’t know to what extent you are interested in ‘other aesthetics’, those aesthetics linked with mental illness. An obsessive, meticulous and detailed nature would seem to be common to this kind of work. That’s not to say that you must suffer from one of these diseases. But how might this repertoire be related to your own work? Does it make sense to look for such a link?

 In its attempt to understand reality, art has got closer to madness, as madness represented the entire ‘other’.

I am interested in complete cognitive processes, not just knowledge in itself, but allied to understanding. How our heads work, how we learn, how we teach ourselves things. To organise all these processes, to observe our heads thinking, we have the right tool to make it visual. It’s a highly sophisticated tool, because it gives us the opportunity to observe ourselves while we’re thinking, the possibility of being both the subject and the object of our analysis. Those who practise this include artists, children, primitive peoples and madmen and women. The art of the ‘non-others’ talks of knowledge, not of comprehension.

The entire western relationship with the ‘other’, whatever type of ‘other’ this may be, has always been complicated and is a construct of power. The same madness is relative and is a response to this structure of power. It responds to an understanding of the world of opposite poles, of good and evil, black and white. This continues and is reinforced by the modernist tradition, which still pursues the dualist model typical of the western consciousness. It’s not the polarities that are interesting but the tension generated in the middle; that is where the seduction begins. It’s a territory that is out of our control, it transcends the rational; it is seductive, magical.

All artists are interested in madness. Consciously or unconsciously, we flirt with it all the time. But what concerns us more than anything else is whether there is a way back.

We also know that the artist is like an antidote to madness. One of my favourite artists is Bispo do Rosario. He was schizophrenic and spent his whole life in a mental hospital in Brazil. And Artaud said, “no-one has ever written or painted, sculpted, modelled, constructed or invented unless it was to get out of hell”.

There are lots more examples. If we look at the Prinzhorn Collection, we can see that many artists were already familiar with the work of these mental patients.

In your question, you very politely say “that’s not to say that you suffer from one of these diseases…” I don’t know if I (I think the problem is the opposite, to be extremely sane) individually suffer, but I do know for sure that we live in a very, very ill society.

 I agree. As Foucault said, perhaps the madmen are those wandering about. I am interested in the possibilities that derive from the fact that a person might consider themselves to be an artist. It’s as if this decision, or this professional recognition, allowed them to live in a state of permanent exception as regards the norms of a given society. This licence to experiment with the limits of what is socially acceptable—in the full awareness that at some point this may serve as a model for new ways of living—is a rare privilege available to few professions. By the way, how would you prefer to be viewed: as a professional or as an amateur in relation to the practice of art?

 I understand what you’re saying, but I am horrified by the construct of the artist with this type of behaviour authorised or invented, stereotyped, by society. I find these stereotypes immensely boring; I think that they are very conservative.

The thing about recognition is of no importance at this level, though it is at others (at a financial level, for example). I don’t think there are levels such as that of the amateur or others; what there are are moments. I remember that as soon as I began to think for myself, I understood what it was to be an artist, but completely, with all the good things and all the bad things it might entail. In other words, you accept it just as you would being blond or having freckles; it will have an impact on your life and you learn to live with that and deal with it as positively as possible.

 Another of the hypotheses I would like to consider with you is the following: the forms that emerge in your drawings seem to be the result of chance, as if you had begun with a few bodies and ended up surprising yourself with the fantastic result that it is possible to arrive at. Although sometimes, and this I find interesting, that spontaneity would seem to lead to a recognisable form and even a specific message, go, run, work, etc. To what extent is the final form predictable?

 There are two types of drawing: those that contain images and those that contain words. There is absolute control in the drawings with words, as I want the words to be read as clearly as possible.

These words are very clear both in form (they are composed of the same body modules as the other drawings, though they only form lines) and concept. They always imply and order movement: go!, run!, work!, breathe!, keep on moving!, please think! They are like commands, orders. They are along the lines of the life we lead, involving lots of action and not much reflection.

Sometimes it’s like a dance, you have one body or lots if you repeat it. Sometimes you surprise yourself, and on other occasions everything is already there in your head before you start to draw. The predictable aspect of the final form is different in every instance, but I don’t necessarily need to have control over everything.

 Can we talk a bit more about this question of the commands? I think that we can’t leave the issue of this voice that exhorts us to carry out actions without considering where it can come from. I see that in some cases it emerges from the computer screen, as occurred in the exhibition in Brazil. Sometimes it seems to be a disembodied voice, a voice that comes from outside us. Don’t you think that this is a good image of the internalisation of discipline? Something that, when all is said and done, will also allow a whole host of bodies to obey a specific form almost without realising it, in an automatic and apparently spontaneous manner.

 Yes, it is terrifying to obey these “disembodied voices”, as you put it. Hence the need to create ‘antidote voices’, which add “please think!” to “work!”. These texts (voices) appear on slides taken from the computer and are projected onto the wall. In turn, these images are interspersed with projections of slides of clouds. It is a contemplative space for reflection. On the opposite wall, slides are projected showing scenes from airports, which are also interspersed with the same texts. The images are different, as are the places—action and airport, reflection and clouds—but the texts are always the same.

 I don’t know if you’ve read the book The Songlines (1987) by Bruce Chatwin. In it, he describes how Australian Aborigines do not use maps of the land in the Western style, which often demarcate the land, enclosing it within a form. Chatwin tells how the Aborigines pass down songs from generation to generation, songs that are to all intents and purposes the Aborigines’ way of mapping the land and property. The songs mention a tree, a rock, a passing bird, which means that the land is configured like a plate of spaghetti. In some of your drawings, the bodies and lines are twisted in a similar manner. Disregarding the fact that you draw on paper used typically for architectural plans, what kind of space is it that you conceive of in your work and how would you describe it?

 No, I haven’t read the book you mention, but what you say about that way of mapping the land and property is interesting. And the importance of naming things to make them a reality. That’s an act of exorcism. And a work of art, or the need to make one, is in some respects just that: an act of exorcism, giving form to something that has to be solved.

It’s a mental space and apart from a few exceptions (site specific), real space only interests me as an extension of a mental space.

The reason why I have chosen this transparent paper for the drawings is because transparent things are the closest things there are to non-existence. As a result, the drawings are here and now, in mid-air.

 This idea of the drawing suspended in mid-air is very attractive and deserves further consideration. Beginning with Julio González and the post-war sculptors, people also talked of drawing in space. But it seems to me that the most appropriate reference in our case would be the film in which Picasso draws with light (Gjon Mili, Picasso Painting with Light, Vallauris 1949). The evanescence of these drawn forms is in keeping with the evanescence of the coral forms that your images represent. If you like, somewhat in the style of flash mobs, large groups of people organised via the Web who turn up at a specific time and place for no other purpose than to create a temporary gathering. This is a new recreational phenomenon that can be found on the Web or on the street the sole purpose of which would seem to be checking that the capacity for self-organisation is ready to jump into action at any time when there is a cause to support. How do you see this idea of not revealing any obvious purpose to the gathering in relation to your drawings?

 There will be as many purposes as there are people that get together. The difference is that in the case of airports, you share something with that huge number of people, even though they may be very diverse and different. That something is the journey. Where is everyone going? Why? We don’t know, although we have ourselves at various times in our lives had other roles in such journeys, as tourists, travelling for business or for personal, family or financial reasons, because we’re emigrating, etc.

The airport as the heart of the world pumps us through, sucks us in and expels us.

 In your text, there’s something that I found very moving. It’s the idea of the loss of identity of the female body that is repeated (and I imagine that the loss is a kind of sacrifice for the good of a more ornamental and global identity). Is there anything else that can be said about this?

 Yes, there is something of that about it. I began these drawings—run!, go!, please think!—as instructions to myself to be doubly aware of all the information that came to me at other levels from the outside. I had to be conscious of this and careful. As a result, I added to the run! and go! that everyday life demands of you, supplementing them with please think!, breathe! and other similar commands that I created as antidotes.

At the same time as these, I was doing other drawings, the ones constructed with accumulations that I moved about with the selfsame idea with which the movement is visually constructed, by repetition. You forget yourself in this flow; it’s like an escape or a device that we use so as not to be alone with ourselves, camouflaging ourselves with this socially acceptable hyperactivity. Not thinking is implicit in this flow.

A story that I have always found fascinating is that of Sissi, the Empress of Austria. Sissi rushed about, on horseback or not, across the countryside and through cities, to the extent that her servants grew exhausted chasing after her all day without ever catching up with her. She also threw herself into various causes, with great passion of course. If it was the Hungarian cause, she would go to great lengths to learn Hungarian, only to move on later to another cause with equal intensity. There are written records that report that she was ill, that these were ‘upsets’. In all her behaviour, she was clearly escaping—even physically, in her rushing about—from her reality. With all the coming and going today, she would be considered an entirely normal, very active person.

 That’s what I was referring to when I said that certain aesthetic practices that are seen as socially out-of-the-ordinary later become the prevailing ways of life.

 I’m sceptical about that. We are not, of course, heading in the direction that any behaviour that we might term artistic—in the most positive sense of the word—might serve as a model for new ways of life. We are currently going backwards socially, with a middle class that could be the direct beneficiary of such behaviour but which is becoming poorer at every level around the entire world.

But if only what you say were so and a time were to come when people enjoyed their day-to-day jobs just as artists enjoy theirs.

If only people allowed themselves the freedom to organise their own time. If only we had more time for reflection and not just for action.

This ‘if only’ remains open.

With the courtesy of Rekalde

[1] Between Artists. Twelve contemporary American artists interview twelve contemporary American artists. Los Angeles: A.R.T. Press 1996.

Charo Garaigorta


I started doing these drawings in New York, but the series has developed fundamentally over the last two years, which have been of crucial importance to me as they have involved a radical change in life from New York—where I lived for 14 years—to my ‘home’. I am now here and there, both physically and mentally. At first sight, the drawings seem to show one thing—hybrids between the animal and plant kingdoms—familiar forms that we can to some extent conceive of, yet a second look reveals something else, a woman with her arms wrapped around her body, she cannot move, she has been tied up. This woman’s body is repeated so often that it loses its identity, giving an impression that evolves to the opposite extreme: movement, speed and anonymity. We go from a tied immobile figure to another dynamic. There are other women/models playing different roles; they are not all tied up. I have also chosen the person, the human body, as a module for constructing the drawings “because sex is universal, it is a vital force, the simple reason why we are here”.[2]

At first, these drawings were very big, measuring two or three metres or more. I had a roll of Mylar on one side of the table and I would draw on metre after metre of it until I decided to cut it and so bring the drawing to an end. In a world as confusing as this, where the only thing that keeps us alive is doubt, it seemed interesting and even somewhat humorous to determine where to cut off the drawing and so decide on its end.

I am now working on the “airports” series, which is in turn made up of others: “go run!”, “time & fear” and “please think”. This idea arose when I came to Spain to live and had less time for my work. I travel a lot and my work in education is very absorbing. I have decided that I must in some way recycle all the moments of my days, whatever they were like, to draw on this experience and information for my drawings. These drawings are constructed using real plans and photographs of airports that I gather when I’m travelling. I manipulate them and transform them, turning them into imaginary constructions in which planes in human form take off and land, creating their own choreographies.

The importance of the ornament is deliberate. Ornaments make it possible to enter and exit different worlds. I’m thinking here of the dances in the Hollywood musicals of the 1940s, medieval Persian and Celtic manuscripts and in general the entire decorative tradition of the history of art, mixed with insights into the world of science. In all these instances, repetition works as a constructional aspect. I am interested in its conceptual aspect of repetition, of “keeping on going”, persistence as the artist’s driving force. What would we artists do if we weren’t so tenacious?

I see these drawings as being linked to the rest of my work, not so much at a formal level, but because they imply a way of reconnecting the formal idiosyncrasy of the sculptural elements of other works with a more graphic modelling, which is initially identifiable but which gets lost in a second reading in a sea of forms and references that interconnect very different worlds. The drawings are more cerebral; the sculptures, which are more physical, are an extension of the mind through space. The fever of personal euphoria in a world in which you have to constantly combine and recombine the personal with the ‘professional’, the form and function of individuals and the innate desire to take flight all the time. A highly subjective and personal question, but one that is wide open to being ‘translated’ into a common terrain that can be communicated beyond my experience, an experience permanently marked by this continuous flow between my identity as an artist, on the one hand, and my activity as an educator in a museum on the other.

An experience that is also marked by the intensity of the search implied by a change in place, living somewhere else, the desire to be a member of an open community, a hybrid in a city in constant flux such as New York, and the real and ever present awareness of one’s own self, being from the place you come from, of being Basque, with all the contradictions and mental and physical impulses that this generates in both my work and my life.

Drawing is for me a way of thinking and a way of observing myself while I’m thinking.

With the courtesy of Rekalde

[1] The title is taken from a song of the 50s by Edoardo Vianello,

[2] Allison Peters in Flesh and Fluids, ccs, Bard College, NY, 2001.


Chus Martínez

Jupiter’s Darling [1]

Topoi, choreographies and imaginary journeys in the drawings of Charo Garaigorta

The supremacy of time over space when it comes to structuring the events that constitute the everyday experience unfailingly marks the relegation of other perceptions linked to the senses of touch, sight and smell to a position of secondary importance. The space then becomes a receptacle intended to provide an effective and neutral setting for an activity, for work, one’s domestic life or travel, marked by arduousness, a determination to achieve one’s goals in the shortest possible time.

The floating figures that appear in Charo Garaigorta’s drawings choreograph another kind of topos, a talking space motivated by the life of the mind that takes place in it, stirred by muses of some kind that transform their deliberate neutrality by transmuting function into style. The space depicted is an airport. A type of space that combines every possible value of the ‘public square’. The airport recalls the old dream of the ideal city in the manner of the drawings by the utopian architects of the 18th century, in which one can read their determination to arrive at a space that would meet in every respect the functions attributed to it and which would transcend this urge to design a place where pure transit is translated into interaction. An ideal city inhabited by ideal citizens ever ready to keep the order agreed in the equally utopian social contract.

However, these drawings are not an exercise in architectural rigour. Quite the contrary. The starting point for these images is an archive of references that range from the explosions of form and colour in the synchronised swimming ‘aqua musicals’ starring Esther Williams to a personal reinterpretation of scientific illustrations of micro-organisms. All of this, fused in an image created with a subtle sense of satire, contributes to fictionalising the rationalist intentions of these spaces used, passed through and consumed, as well as the experiences that take place in them. The sum total of all these visions resembles a psychedelic encyclopaedia stuffed with the most unlikely ingredients: the sugary happiness of the American dream, values and symbols of modernity at the very height of their expression and a pantheistic synthesis of the experience of the journey. The result points towards an urge to build a system of knowledge of the world based on a particular attention to peripheral experiences, to those moments in life which are not constitutive, such as waiting in the departure lounge at an airport, but which are nevertheless capable of putting the often intolerable dimension of the continuum of our daily lives on hold.

On occasions, the organisation of the elements in Charo Garaigorta’s drawings calls to mind the series of illustrations entitled “Times of Day” by the German Romantic painter Philipp Otto Runge. The points of similarity are the importance accorded to the determination of a theme—and just one theme, at that—and to studying all its symbolic possibilities through a distilled design of the order of the whole. The image, then, emerges like some alchemical potion as a result of the multiplicity of factors in which colour and the chromatic relationships play a decisive role. Drawing is not the imagined illustration of a space that really exists and that we have been in, but the representation on paper of a process of renewing the nature of the relations between the elements in play: subject and space, but also line, colour and the texture of the support itself on which everything else comes to life. The crux of this renewal is the energising of each of these entities and the objective is to create a bond that is sufficiently powerful to relate everything together.

The airport, that happy place of the 1950s, is a case study for grasping the tension between the particular spatial and temporal demands of a rational architecture that is heir to the values of the Enlightenment and the extravagant Romantic-Symbolist vision that flirts with these rigid co-ordinates, infecting them with the psychological factor in such a way that the place, delimited by the architectural form of each of these different airports, becomes less important, while the situation, the range circumstances that converge in them, takes on greater prominence. The most marked trait of this situation is precisely the fluctuating superimposition of different narratives. An airport is a physical structure that encapsulates a biotopos, hence the umbilical connection between the figures and the main building, which could be interpreted as a stem cell, the primary source. This genuine embrace by these female figures, all of them alike and yet all different at the same time, turns the building into this floating structure with no context other than itself, like the now classic spaceships in the great science fiction sagas that American film has now made us used to. Independent and at the same time subject to their own idiosyncrasy, these platforms suspended in midair are clearly related to the past—as symbolised by the way that the drawings seen from afar look like some a primitive organism viewed through the lens of a microscope—but also to the future, a future in which beings, spaces and machines are not increasingly perfect and digital but somewhat negligent, playful and dimly aware that they could belong to the world of high technology and not to that of the applied arts. Accustomed as we are to thinking of the distant future as a utopia characterised by the height of progress and perfection, it seems almost incongruous to imagine a future that is happy but less than absolutely ideal, a future that would correspond to, say, a patchwork quilt, a handmade cover resulting from the reuse of everything to hand and whose beauty does not depend on each of the individual minuscule pieces sewn together nor on the intrinsic quality of the colours or materials, but on the extravagance of the whole, on its ability to hypnotise us while we are unable to draw our eyes away from it. Seen in this light, the drawings enable us to think of a dystopian, hedonistic and ultimately happy time to come.

An airport is also a system of social organisation. It is a space designed to establish patters of behaviour amongst users and workers; it is a highly regulated and strictly regulating unit based on the belief that it is possible to reconcile the passenger’s free activity with an orthodox system to control him and which is, of course, required to safeguard his security or rather, our security, for as soon as we enter the structure of the airport, we become members of the community of travellers, of people passing through. The complex network of interconnections activated in these places of transit links all of us thanks to a system of equivalent experiences: arrival, departure, delay, hurry, boredom, waiting, anticipation, doubt, groundless fear, claustrophobia, the impression of being on a stage. This is, in short, a condensed metropolis inasmuch as it is a space that encompasses notions of both the subject and the community.

These curious swimming women—heiresses to a vision from myth, part Amazons and part heroines of the modern world—inhabit a space crammed with ‘blanks’, from the voids painted in tempera to the very transparency of the onion paper on which they are drawn. Colour, as I mentioned earlier, plays a key role, given that it moors the building and accentuates the morphological change that the building undergoes under its playful influence, which is not, however, without ulterior motives. The body of these figures becomes an ornament integrated into the overall whole, like the soldiers in the Roman centuria, forming symmetrical and perfectly co-ordinated units, the ceremonies at which Nazi officers were presented to the party leaders filmed in Nuremberg by Leni Riefenstahl, or the more banal but no less spectacular swimmers in Esther Williams’ productions for MGM in California in the 1940s. In each of these examples, the subject is nothing but one element of a system of cogs and gears, part of a figure the form of which she cannot herself apprehend, but which she knows herself to be a fundamental component of because she contributes to the establishment of a synchrony on which everything depends, an order responsible for ensuring that things work, an effort directed towards making the artificial appear natural.

In The Mass Ornament, Siegfried Kracauer places particular emphasis on the fact that travelling has increasingly become an incomparable opportunity to be somewhere other than the place that you are usually in and hence the decisive function of spatial transformation as a change in temporal place is fulfilled. Travelling is, he declares, reduced to a purely spatial experience. There are many ways of relating artistic practice to life itself, with the gradual fencing in of the first-person experience. In such an experience, everything is subordinate to what we know as ‘real time’, the here and now of the period that we are a part of. Biographical time, to put it thus, prioritises the synchronic sense of time. This temporal dimension intertwines with another, time as a flow of events, as the course of time, what we generally understand by change. The biographical dimension could be understood as the effort to combine these two planes: time as the space in which identity develops; and time as the flow of events that we are surrounded by on all sides. The core of a biography is the effort the subject makes to understand this other time and to incorporate it into his understanding of the world. This junction of temporalities gives us now, through the genre of autobiography, access to the central problem of how the mechanisms for understanding the world that we are a part of are related.

In this respect, travelling gives us the opportunity to experience different places through our senses. Places are opportunities for multiplying sensorial effects, beginning with sight, enabling us to submerge ourselves in a panopticon in which one person’s gaze is contaminated by that of another. The traveller, whether he will or not, becomes a promiscuous being, one who is permeable and ripe for contagion, receptive to every kind of echo or reverberation of what he is and what is his in what is not. As a result, travelling has acquired a significant dimension that is different to that which it had centuries ago. Mobility has become a metaphor that refers to the possibility of cross-contamination between cultures and not just between individuals. Travelling implies the possibility of a nomadic consciousness, the possibility of travelling freely through the other’s space, of achieving, for just a few hours, a kind of state of empathy with everyone around us, in the departure lounge of an airport, for example. The airport, as seen from the perspective of Charo Garaigorta, seems to have become a space that catalyses all these dimensions of the postmodern condition, in which the ‘good life’ would take the form of ‘eternal holidays’. In transit, a strange and pleasing metamorphosis takes place: the everyday, the continuity of everyday time, is suspended. The airport becomes an in-between place, a space incorporating many other spaces that makes it possible to develop an awareness of a supra-territorial place. It is not a no-man’s land but a space that transcends other spaces, floating, just as the artist shows it in her drawings. It is a strange province beyond other territories that enables us, moreover, to free ourselves from the ever-present question of identity. The hope that one might begin to search for the culturally authentic in an airport is revealed to us as absurd.

The floating bodies of these swimming women transform the structure of the building into an artificial and extravagant accessory of the game in progress. The airport is also a body manipulated more by the threads of these women and their free will than by any other constriction or convention. In contrast with the male vision of the modern, clear, diaphanous space that is perfectly resolved in itself, these airports have been turned into the tailor-made spaces of these women who have taken them over by surprise. The flâneur and the vagabond—two key figures when it comes to thinking about the timeless spectator, capable of living the life of another for a few seconds, of infiltrating their space, of experiencing the everyday as if it were a perpetual journey going nowhere—are men. The vocabulary that conceptualises figures in modernity is eminently masculine in complexion. These sirens are clearly women and are the embodiment of the gender difference. The notion of leaving home to set off on a journey is traditionally associated with men, and the home, the principle of permanence, is linked to women. Travelling also begins another chapter related to the roles of the genders: that of sexuality. The fact of being released from the domestic bond means that men enter a sphere of freedom, are released from domestic responsibilities and are exposed to the possibility of an occasional encounter, to romance. One only has to think of Ulysses. Tied to his ship’s mast, in the same way that these sirens are entangled in these airports, he heeds the seductive power of the sirens while at the same time avoiding succumbing to them. Ulysses is a unique precedent of this range of values and social practices that is emblematic of the modern world, travelling as a means to make contact with one’s true self: the Bildungsreise.

However, a curious inversion takes place in the selfsame drawings, and it is the swimmers who create almost spermatozoal forms and who fertilise this imagined organism that the airport has now become. Everything contributes towards the creation of a sense of fantasy, of escapist, almost hallucinatory, images, in order to celebrate, but also to lay on the table an entire series of ‘existential’ (though I dislike the term) conflicts and notions typical of the contemporary culture of travelling, the culture of tourism, the density resulting from this mass experience, from its industrial dimension, and the difficulty of ever freeing oneself from it completely in order to recover a total sense of oneself in this amalgam of sensations, times and places.

Charo Garaigorta’s drawings emerge once one has understood that one is at the outset oriented towards understanding the cultural and social context that one is an integral part of. This in itself leads us towards wanting to transform the experience into a meaningful experience. And it is here that the origins of this series lie: to approach in a foreshortened manner our ability to assimilate what we are, our changing identity, our expectations of the future and time. Her drawings respond with a personal and fictional scenario to a time which, in turn, floats nowhere.


With the courtesy of Rekalde


[1] The title is taken from one of Esther William’s classic aqua musicals.


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