EIKON: Blanca Casas Brullet – It is (not) your part to play a part
Alma 2004, Farbphotographie 40 x 40 cm © Blanca Casas Brul
In its "daily use", the human body is inextricably linked with garments, in the sense that each selection of garments - every single one and all of them together - tells us about who carries them, reflecting his or her character. Blanca Casas Brullet "unmasks" this body, she "unfolds" it, uncovering it layer after layer.
The Paris-based Spanish artist often drags into view the unnoticed, or what has only been glimpsed from the corner of an eye. She sets out to photograph clothes that she has found lying on the street, discovering their narrative potential. Her video work "Prendas" tells the story of a young woman who tries to get rid of her clothes as if she were fighting them off and yet, with poetic and dancing movements. A scarf threatens to strangle her until it gets caught in a drainpipe. Like a snake about to moult, she strips off her skirt which eventually stays behind exanimate on the street.
Prendas 2001, Video (stereo, PAL), 10'30'', with Arantxa Martinez © Blanca Casas Brullet
What made her work evolve around the idea of moulting was Casas Brullet's search for the possibility of showing the body not as a closed, opaque, unchanging entity and of documenting how closely it is connected to its surroundings. The equivocal nature of the titles she chooses for her works reflect a peculiar overall relationship with language. Whereas "prenda" means "garment", it can also be translated as "pledge". Something you give in pledge for the posession of a new period in life and that may be redeemed by someone else one day. The artist makes these poetics - concealed in the interstice of language communication - an important carrier of her messages.
She does so once again as she chooses the title "Parasitosis" for one of her latest series of video works. Casas Brullet restores to the parasite, the so-called freeloader, his lost honour by no longer describing him as an unwanted guest. In accordance with Greek tradition, she sees him as a tablemate who despite living at the expense of his host releases the latter from a state of boredom with his own cheeky humour and loquacity. Like in ancient comedies, the parasite appears as a protagonist in the videos of Blanca Casas Brullet. The shedding of skin as shown in "Prendas" was but the first stage of a total mutation of the body, of man's adaptation to himself as well as to his urban and social surroundings, which is continued in "Parasitosis".
In this series of videos the artist unfurls images of subtle associations and unexpected encounters that confront bodies with the logic of heterogeneity. These images depict places and situations of an apparently banal coming and going in the midst of which two pedestrians suddenly get together. Following an absurd choreography, they nest their bodies into each other as if this were an everyday action. After such a coupling they continue their way as host and parasite. One of the settings is a pavement where two men walk towards each other. Once they have reached the same place, one of them suddenly clasps the other and carries him away like a traffic sign. On another occasion a young woman sits on a bench, her gaze lost in the distance. A man about her age sits down at the other end of the bench. Suddenly, unexpectedly, he slings himself around the woman's neck. She stands up and carries him away like a bundle. On another occasion a man jumps like a tick onto someone coming his way. The "afflicted one" walks on as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
Parasitosis 2004, Video (stereo, PAL), 16' © Blanca Casas Brullet
After each of these encounters it remains open who is the host and who the parasite; what links the two bodies; whether the encounter is of a social, functional or emotional nature. It also remains unclear whether these couplings are lasting ties or just futile entanglements. Anyway, one thing is for sure: it is useless to resist. Blanca Casas Brullet stages the characters' encounters as unspectacular events, since passers-by seem to ignore them, do not even seem to notice them. Hers are tales from everyday life in the realm of normality. Casas Brullet makes the invisible visible as a matter of course, thus making us - who have been unmasked as hosts and parasites - laugh out loud.
Films by Jacques Tati, Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin are the models she uses, since Casas Brullet was fascinated by their choreographed and often impressingly acrobatic movements. Her literal illustrations of metaphors make you think of strategies in Dadaism and Surrealism. But independently from that and maybe more than anything else, Casas Brullet's works are almost logically rooted in her own way of life since she prefers to wear clothes she was given by people with whom she associates stories of hosts and parasites. Like a hermit crab she slips into abandoned shells that appeal to her. She redeems the pledge and thus becomes an honourable parasite, bestowing what has been abandoned or thought dead with new life.
BLANCA CASAS BRULLET born 1973 in Mataró/Barcelona. Lives and works in Paris
ELISABETH M. GOTTFRIED born 1973 in Vienna. Lives in Vienna