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Continuum - Elizabeth López Avilés (Centro Cultural El Olivar)

Written by Arion on Thursday, February 06 2014 and posted in Blog
Far from Heaven (2002) 
Directed by Todd Haynes 

Continuum - Elizabeth López Avilés (Centro Cultural El Olivar)
Perhaps this is the most powerful Todd Haynes film I've seen. But in order to fully understand it one must first be privy to Douglas Sirk movies. Rather than a remake "Far From Heaven" is a diegetic exploration of melodrama as a film genre and it's firmly inserted in the 1950s cinematographic tradition. Not only it evokes the sensibilities of a particular era, it also recreates its true nature; everything (from illumination techniques to music, brilliantly composed by Elmer Bernstein) has a common goal. That is why Haynes' magnum opus elegantly confronts Sirk's work, mainly "All that Heaven Allows" and "Imitation of Life".

Once the film begins the viewer witnesses the harmless tribulations of a most perfect family, settled in an idyllic environment. Husband and wife are almost celebrities. Surrounded by success and smiling people, nothing seems to seclude them from happiness. Nonetheless, this is but a well elaborated façade, for Frank Whitaker, the man of the house, has succumbed yet again to his homosexual tendencies.

In a very conservative society, there is no place for someone who defies the heterosexual normativity. Perhaps, following the infamous Lacan's sexuation graphic, homosexuality symbolizes the abject, id est, the vilest and the lowest... Despite being a successful entrepreneur, Frank is an exscinded individual, but first and foremost he is a subaltern subject. In a way, there are more limitations for him than for black people (racism in 1950's America is also a very important theme in Haynes' production).

Continuum - Elizabeth López Avilés (Centro Cultural El Olivar)
"negative" version of one my drawings

Peter Brooks and other intellectuals have analyzed the dynamics pertaining melodramas. For a melodrama to occur there must be a victim and a victimary; these stories cannot be fathomed without this binary equation (which, by the way, preexisted Sirk's movies). At moments, it seems as if Frank's wife is the victim, after all, not only must she cope with his husband's proclivities but also she must endure the domestic violence that takes place at some point. In addition to this situation, she must also struggle to hide the truth, although her husband makes that a difficult task (in the middle of a party he'll say aloud "It's all smokes and mirrors, fellas. That's all it is"). However, from one's standpoint it's clear that Frank is but a mere victim of society itself. If homosexuality, according to Lacan, is the representation of the interdict, then it's society who demands and reinforces this interdiction.

Homosexuality as an option is then socially banned. But at the same time it's also scientifically forbidden or at least invalidated. Frank's shrink assures him that this "disease" can and must be cured. There is treatment for it. Let's remember that American psychiatrist associations considered homosexuality as some sort of mental disorder until very recently, which just proves how narrow-minded certain doctors can be.

But the interdict acquires power precisely because of the nature of its prohibited condition. After all, nothing is more attractive than that which is not supposed to be… Lacan explains that the interdict is always libidinized. Homosexual intercourse becomes highly erotic because it's forbidden. Thus it's evident that even if Frank tries to live the life of a straight man, he will eventually give in to his innermost desires.

If Frank is a "masculine gay", unclenched from other generalized gay stereotypes, at least according to Judith Butler's Queer Theory, can he be absolved from his victim role? Absolutely not. Because Haynes film is a brilliant analysis of America, of sexuality, of repression and ultimately of the well-sought ideal of freedom. And Frank is the hero who will face all of these obstacles even if that means paying the highest price. 


Continuum - Elizabeth López Avilés (Centro Cultural El Olivar)

Aunque conocí a Elizabeth López Avilés hace ya un buen tiempo, recién pude apreciar su obra en el 2012, en la muestra "Silenciosa pasión" (que, por cierto, pueden revisar aquí). En ese momento, quedé deslumbrado por la minuciosa labor de la artista, por su delicado trazo y su innegable talento para la ilustración. 

Han pasado casi dos años desde que asistí a esa muestra, pero las imágenes de Elizabeth han permanecido en mi memoria. Ayer en la noche, en el Centro Cultural El Olivar de San Isidro, se inauguró “Continuum”, una nueva individual de la joven artista. 

Llegué temprano, desde luego, y nuevamente quedé extasiado por esos retratos tan cargados de emociones, que sobrevuelan los dominios del erotismo pero aterrizando siempre en el mundo de los dolores cotidianos, de las heridas, superficiales o profundas, con las que todos podemos identificarnos.

Como bien afirma el curador de la muestra, Iván Fernández-Dávila, al representar el propio cuerpo, al autorretratarse, la artista reflexiona “acerca de lo femenino en general”. Ciertamente, tal como proponen Ann Rosalind Jones y Hélène Cixous  “l'ecriture feminine” se plantea como una escritura del cuerpo y desde el cuerpo, y en la obra de Elizabeth López siempre encontraremos ese elemento en un primer plano.

Al tratase de un trabajo que requiere suma precisión, uno imaginaría que la artista habría tardado al menos un año en completar todos los cuadros. Yo mismo, luego de haber dibujado varios cómics y haberme familiarizado con la tinta china, conozco las complicaciones de esta técnica y comprendo que un movimiento en falso puede arruinar todo un lienzo. En el caso de Elizabeth, la labor es aún más complicada, porque sus finos detalles requieren muchísima más atención, y porque al utilizar acuarelas el error no le está permitido. Cuando mi amigo Iván me comentó que ella había terminado todos los cuadros entre diciembre del 2013 y enero de este año, quedé impresionado.

Continuum - Elizabeth López Avilés (Centro Cultural El Olivar)

Por cierto, estamos ya en febrero del 2014, y sin embargo nadie debería sorprenderse al comprobar que no he escrito nada sobre arte desde fines del 2013. El motivo resultará obvio para muchos: es difícil encontrar buenas exposiciones de arte en Lima. Lo que uno encuentra, a menudo, es una yuxtaposición de propuestas que pretenden ser vanguardistas y que, en realidad, pecan por falta de creatividad. Es necesario, entonces, despojarse de esos antojadizos atavíos teóricos para desnudar la esencia misma del artista. Por suerte, Elizabeth López es capaz de hacerlo. Y todos nosotros deberíamos felicitarla y darle las gracias por tan estupendo arte. 

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About the Author - Arion

Arion, who is either from Chile or New York (it’s not really clear) writes a blog that the Outhouse steals on a regular basis.  Arion is by far the nicest of all the staff writers and the most well behaved only having been banned from one country.  One thing we really appreciate about Aroin is that he writes his reviews in English and Spanish and we hope someday he’ll translate this blurb for us.  We’re not so good at languages, just look at how well we write in English if you need proof.  You should bookmark Arion’s blog - – and actually look at it.  There will be a quiz at the end of every month.


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