Finding meaning through shapes
“If we talk to a brick and ask him what he likes the most, he will say he likes arches. If we say to him: ‘Look, arches are expensive, instead you can always use a concrete lintel to take the place of an arch’, the brick will respond: ‘I already know that they are expensive and probably cannot be built in these times; but if you ask me what I like, I will keep on saying I like the arches’”.
– Louis I. Khan
Nothing is what it seems in the works of Marcela Cabutti. It is true that the materials she uses show themselves bluntly −the brick is in sight, the glass is translucent or colored− and it is also true that some of the pieces find their closest reference in architecture −we easily recognize arches and columns− but even so, the formal composition of these works appear to us as obstinate and somewhat indiscernible, as if they were slipping away to another time and to another space that does not fit entirely in that of our contemporaneity.
“When in front of an image, we are looking at time” said Didi-Huberman, “as before the frame of an open door …”. And before these new pieces by Marcela, one finds oneself tracing associations and, somehow, trying to order the whirlpool of sensations that they awaken. Its forms and materiality raise infinite questions. What kind of emotion is necessary to unite the solidity of the brick with the fragility of the glass? What kind of breath brought these strange buildings to life? What sensation would the drops of crystal rain produce in my body?
We know that Marcela is attracted to construction processes and the durability of knowledge over time. For some years, she has been working in direct relationship with large industries, such as the San Carlos Glassware and the Ctibor brick factory, sharing practices, affections, skills, and experiences with those who work there, and then testing in the workshop the ways and means of solving what her pieces require. Likewise, she tells us of her admiration for architects such as Amancio Williams or the Uruguayan Eladio Dieste, who knew how to take their craft to degrees of experimentation and creativity that undoubtedly link them to artistic practice. But in this case, the figure that stands out about the conception of these works – and from whom the title of the exhibition comes – is that of Louis Khan, a mystic of architecture who assured that the form emerges from his construction system and that when working the materials – the brick for example – you have to ask them what they want or can be, listen to them, pay attention to what they aspire to, and then subject them to the construction process that best suits their desire.
Thus, for Marcela, the exercise of verifying the forms becomes a practice of understanding, verification of knowledge, experience, and intuition, to finally arrive at the meaning and essence of those forms by specifying the material realization of her pieces.
On the other hand, the dialogue that these works establish with the gallery space -especially the column of mini-bricks- is directly linked to their specificity, their willingness to relate to the environment, aware that they are not in neutral territory but that intervene in a pre-existing spatiality, and therefore, interfere with the meanings, the physical layout and the history of the place, reconfiguring it.
True philosophers are often said to create new concepts. In this sense, I like to think of Marcela as a philosopher of forms, an artist who creates pieces that – although they partially modulate a known language – are worth themselves as new worlds, as unprecedented conformations crossed by concepts and affections that come from her, but at the same time they exceed her, becoming independent of who experienced them to acquire a life of their own.