“Reality doesn’t scare me, only what’s inside of me does”. Francesca Woodman was absolutely right; it’s impossible for us to deny it. Each and every one of us has fought against that internal voices that tell us we are not enough, that we can’t do it, that we are weak, that emptiness will triumph. It depends on us to silence those voices by shouting louder. In Francesca’s situation, her shout was photography, a discipline that turned her into one of the most important photographers of the 20th Century. Her creativity sprout started when she was 13 years old and finished when she was 22, leaving behind over 800 photographs, through which we try to decipher the enigma; because there has to be one. When someone dies young, we entitle ourselves to dig deep in their story, in their mind, in an attempt to rationalize everything and satisfy our curiosity. But, why do we have to understand the legacy of an artist as a consequence of his or her life events?
Francesca used to say that her photographs relied on her emotional state, and that pondering about such connection she unconsciously established with her art, made her feel happy and at ease, as if she was invincible, protected in a comfort zone she built by clicking the shutter, where the rules were imposed by her. She also stated that she used to photograph herself because she was the only person that was always available. This made her the main protagonist of her works, although on some occasions she also worked with models. Francesca possessed a magnetic halo that exuded an allure composed by a blend of innocence and darkness, endowing her images with a trait that manages to leave the audience befuddled but wanting more. Naked or dressed up with vintage clothes, narcissistic or vulnerable, dark or joyful, duality was always present in her work. Before the lens (always her own), she gave herself away completely, in a sincere manner, opening her soul to anyone who cared to watch. In her house, the arts were a fundamental axis within the family dynamics; this helped her explore further her connection with photography. Every time she was in front of the camera, when no one else was looking, she was herself, exploring her relationship with reality, with this world. But it wasn’t just that, it was her entire presence in space and time: it’s curious to analyze the relationship she established with the places where she photographed herself, places that usually seemed abandoned, deteriorated, chaotic, empty, and that gave the final image a dose of acute melancholia. As well, by experimenting with multiple exposure, sometimes her physical body seemed phantasmagoric, and, again, duality present, appearing and disappearing, an irony that makes justice to the jester and sarcastic personality some of her relatives affirm she had. That’s why many of her photographs have been considered performances…
They affirm, they state and they say. In the rich history of the arts, there’s an overwhelming tendency to over-interpret and believe the improbable to satiate the thirst for knowing more, to decipher, once again, the enigma. In this precise scenario, certainties talk louder: Francesca Woodman was, is and will be a unique artist, a prodigy ahead of time. Her photographs are eternal and universal, thanks to the emotional bond that’s awaken in the audience every time someone looks into her eyes, witnessing in flesh the weight of existence and how hard it is to tolerate it when you are among absolute emptiness. That’s her true legacy: her capacity to make us feel, to be there without being present.
A selection of 30 photographs of the artist will be present during the exhibition Francesca Woodman: Absence and Presence at the Bernal Espacio Galería, Calle Lope de Vega, 17 – Madrid. April 26th to May 31st 2017.
You can read the full interview in Spanish and in English by acquiring your copy of our latest issue #lamono111 EMPTY, February – March, here. To receive the magazine in your house you can subscribe by sending en email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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