Nairy Baghramian’s Breathing Spell, coordinated by Soledad Liceño, is open to the public, until October 14th, at Palacio de Cristal del Retiro in Madrid. The exhibition consists of a group of semitransparent pieces, inspired by the colors of its surroundings, made with steel, silicon, resin, and leather that hang from the iron structures that we find around the building. The pieces, each one and as a whole, require that we look at them with a calm, unhurried eye, and that we take a breathing spell to reveal them.
Nothing Works Without Support
The organically-shaped sculptures are installed in the palace’s secondary spaces, not in its center, in such a harmonious way that they almost seem to be part of its decoration. It seems like the artist “listened” to the building before making her installation, because it embraces the palace both inside and out. The Iranian creator has said about this work: “It occurred to me that this building, so transparent and fragile, being in the middle of the park and used by the public, showed by itself how things connect with each other, how much they depend on one another.” And she adds: “The sculpture shouldn’t take over the space that belongs to the public; it should somehow embrace the structure to underline its dependency. Let’s think about dependency as a social term, nothing works without support.” The power of her work is an invitation to raise awareness about how everything is connected. The fragility of her sculptures, hanging from the strong façade of the building, seems to be telling us that we’re part of a unity, and that our own fragility, our sensibility, is what makes us strong.
A Breathing Spell
With this work, Baghramian leads us to think about our need as society to stop the frenzied pace in which we live: “Taking a breathing spell is not something we’re able to ask for; we live under a lot of pressure. Capitalism, politics, and work ask too much from us and we have to be flexible, they tell us, even about the idea of a breathing spell.” Conceptually, her sculptures help us channel that pressure we suffer in society. Given the fact they’re both inside and outside of the palace they represent the need for air to seamlessly pass through to release the pressure, just like when a child is about to cry and holds its breath: “He doesn’t start crying and his face gets purple. It’s that moment, of the air getting in. That’s it,” she says about her work.
A Breathing Spell for Me
When I see Nancy Baghramian’s work again with someone else, I’ll know exactly which questions to ask to start a dialogue, to go to the crux of the matter: What did the artist wanted to tell us through her sculptures? Why didn’t she take over the space by placing them on the center of the building? Why did she want the color of her sculptures to merge with its surroundings? Why did she want them to seem invisible to us? For a moment, we turn into “forensic experts” that follow the clues left by the artist and try to understand her language and message. We will take photos of the shapes and structures that most attracted us. Once in our experimentation table, we will show those photos to each other, take them as inspiration, draw what calls our attention the most, and then talk about them. Take a breathing spell and go see the exhibition; it has, at the same time, a sense of fragility and strength that makes it extraordinarily compelling.
Finally, the recurring question: Is art, its language capable of provoking social debate, changing the world?