Arte al Limite: Angela Lergo - Parallel Universes
The human being, figure and soul, explored via sculpture, installation, and performance is the basis of the timeless work by this Spanish artist. Angela Lergo imbues her work with a strong, feminine message, a vision that attempts to undermine viewer's sensations and emotions and even sometimes to rescue rituals and unwritten stories from society's roles.
After recent shows at LISTE KÖLN, Cologne and the Moscow International Art Fair´07, she is currently preparing her next exhibitions in Norway and Belgium.
By Sandra Lodos Peña
It is evening on the thirteenth of September. The atmosphere is serene and overwhelming at the 18th-century wool washing room which currently houses the Vostell Malpartida Museum in Extremadura. The music starts to play. It is the beginning of the sacrifice, a return to origin where humanity will meet ritual's divinity. When Angela Lergo comes into the room, dressed in linen and wool, she enters a circle marked with goat's milk, previously spilled. Outside the limited figure, twelve women pray the rosary incessantly.
Right in the centre, Lergo intimately represents the meaning of the place surrounding her, the feminine presence and the worship offered to the ancient Earth. A man dressed in black, acting as a priest, will cut the performer's hair, as an offer. Completely sheared, like the sheep which centuries ago packed the washing room, she gets rid of her dress. Naked, she rubs her womb with menstrual blood. Her stomach reads "MOTHER". Two women cover her with a cape and she leaves. One of the women knits. Another woman, to reinforce the message, now draws with hair and wool the word "MOTHER" within the circle. The ritual ends and the music vanishes.
During this ceremony performance, the gender discourse gets hold of the work, but her interests also include the asexual individual, androgynous, as she says: "just the human being".
However, such different expressions, like "Mother "and "Under the Water", Where do they connect?
In "Debajo del Agua" ["Under the water"] (2006), she presents a sculptural reflection of what is natural and what is artificial. For her stage she chooses the House of the Veletas which was built in the 16th century and nowadays holds the Caceres Museum and an Arabian well from the 11th century. Just like in her performances, this installation re-creates concepts, visions and spaces - not only by setting the work in a given place, but also by giving new meaning to the context it acts upon.
Specifically, in "Debajo del Agua" ["Under the water"] (2006), with salt resembling water and bodies that hide a great proportion of their volume under a crystalline substance, she introduces an intimate extension of semi-darkness and light, which is a clear reference to the underground deposit that still collects rainwater.
The white figures, elaborated in artificial material, are submerged in what is natural. They watch themselves or they simply close their eyes, wrapped in their reflections that turn the coldness of the building into an intensely intimate and dialectic discourse. Because of their own character, performances are based in a more dramatic language than sculpture is, just like the artist explains: "the closeness with the public, the promptness and the emotion of live creation, in real time… produces a lively and closer stimulus to me. In the installations, I recreate a more serene world. My sculptures include a mixture of coldness and feelings, the pieces have a certain appearance of unreality, as if they belonged to an interior world, almost oneiric. This cold appearance is just the "barrier" the spectator has to overcome in order to get into this world".
In "Mother" I worked around the female figure, her rich social, family and historical work. I like to work with the woman since I understand her from the inside (…) with her mind details and her feelings. In the "Under the Water" collection, the human figure is also the main character along with water- a fluid that has a conceptual burden. Water forms 70% of our body and life began in water, as do humans which gestate in the amniotic fluid. The beginning of our subconsciousness is in this fluid found in a woman's womb…
Notions on stage
After years projecting scenes, playing with spaces, atmospheres and shapes, she found a way to become part of the representation. On stage, new emotions and possibilities for expression were clear but the direct contact with people was even clearer. Pale and subtle, Lergo integrates this new support in the openings of her exhibitions: "the intention - was - to recreate the spirit of the exhibited work, trying to "tell the same thing" but with a different type of support, which is your own body or another's and action".
Why did you decide to work with performance?
In my study, besides the work with installations, I also feel attracted by the possibility of creating a piece of work where the most important thing is just the idea, what the idea is able to evoke; the possibility of eliminating all other intentions of a work- like the need for something material to remain or be available in the future. Just the act of fugacity itself has already a meaningful and poetical strength to me. I also feel attracted to the charm of delivering something to people, something you are doing for them in this very minute, and using different means to touch different senses. I like to include music (electronic music mainly), odours, things I can touch, and even things that remain in the space so people erase them as they pass by.
However, the importance the body has is also a motivation, since it is the mean and the aim of your work…
To me, it is extremely important. Each body is an extremely complex machine full of evocative power providing support and a container for our thinking, feeling, communicating and loving capacity. Due to all this wealth, I feel passionate about working with the figure, not only in performance but also sculpture, where each movement and each gesture I make are loaded with intention.
Other feminist pieces of work, such as "Ahora tenemos lo suficiente para dar la vuelta aérea dos veces al mundo" ["Now we have what it takes to fly around the world twice"] (2002), follow the same line, the artist explains. In this work, she feigns to bury her own body and she provides symbolism to each part of her work: her outfit, a burkha completely covering her body and face, a plant that is born and grows vehemently, involving the hope, and reporting the suffering of the Afghan woman.
Even if her forms and concepts evolve, and Lergo has begun using new support such as video ("Do you love me?" is an example, presented at the Digital and Video Art Fair DIVA 05'), her work is still centered in performance and sculptural installation and seeks to conquer the contemporary scene. With her lively, poetic and chromatic vision, she has reached the most important cultural spaces in Spain, Germany, Holland, The United States, Canada and Korea.
Already in 2008, she will feature at the Huelva Museum and at the opening of the exhibition room at the Cadiz University, both in Spain.