Cecilia Paredes



 




Since Plato, western cultural tradition has exalted the spirit while despising the body, which is seen as nothing more than the vessel for what the senses cannot define. Similarly, Christian dogma has looked upon the body as the temple of the soul, but also as the root of evil, especially the female body.

The photography of Peruvian artist Cecilia Paredes seems to situate itself at a diametrically opposed viewpoint to those mentioned above and constitutes and attempt to demonstrate that the body of the women ¿ her own body ¿ is a sacred zone, not profane, to restore its perception as something miraculous amidst the technological chaos that currently surrounds us. It is a body conceived as a space through which we can pass, both material and spiritual at the same time; it is an agent and receptacle of ancestral ceremonies and physical exchanges with nature which, from the mnemonic development of its own identity allows us to ascend to a new path of knowledge. Cecilia Paredes places us before corporal memory as the foundation of culture, and in order to achieve this, she separates herself from the victimization of Judeo-Christian tradition, escaping from it through nature ¿ nature which she presents as an inseparable extension of her own body.

The artist experiments with her own body and photographs anatomical fragments which have become the object to some ritual, in which the sacred and the profane, on the one hand, and the human and the animal on the other merge together until they become one and the same, just as they do in many rituals from Afro-Caribbean mythology - a mythology that the artist has become familiar with after her years spent in Costa Rica. The body is revealed as a tool and a space for signs. But Cecilia Paredes¿ work is far more ground-breaking then so-called Body Art, not only because she avoids the use of fluids which have become so intrinsically linked to this kind of work, but also because she manipulates the image at a later stage in order to achieve the perfect suspension of space and time and a more poetic representation.

The photographs reveal ¿actions¿ which could be placed at the boundary between thought and emotion since both senses, the intellectual and the affective, live side by side in a perpetual motion, giving way to an indeterminate whole, a space of ambiguities ¿ which is precisely one of the most appealing features Paredes¿ images.

We become witnesses, then, to a valiant ceremony of mystic exhibitionism whose single ambition is to transcend the limits of the body by the very act of showing it, until it is transformed into a kind of spiritual substance. The vulnerability of personal identity is encapsulated by particular aspects like the continual hiding of the face, the symbolic ¿amputations¿ of limbs, the anthro-morphisation of nature and the more or less explicit association with love and death ¿ Eros and Thanatos like agents of an eternal cycle of nature which in some photos could be perceived as a part of a dream.

It seems appropriate in this respect to quote José Lezama Lima who said that ¿¿a global poetic system could replace religion, it constitutes a religion in itself¿¿ The images created by Cecilia Paredes configure a new poetic system, in other words, ¿the most secure of them tends towards the religiosity of a body restoring itself and abandoning itself to its own mystery¿¿

On the other hand, it should also be pointed out that this work is grounded in the connection between body and experience. But it may also turn out to be a swansong, confronting the looming horizon of new technologies which stake our future on a post-corporal vision. Paradoxically, although each of the images derives from an act of performance in which there is a ¿real¿ fusion with nature, the artist also knows how to take full advantage of digital techniques for enhancing the photograph in order to effectively complete her physical metamorphoses. If we take into account that ¿virtual sensations¿ tend to eliminate the borderline between ¿the Real¿ and ¿the Real Other¿, often interchanging them, we can see her photographs as an attempt to achieve an autonomy between body and experience, and that within a few decades, experience may be seen as a bodiless entity.

The processes of metamorphosis which these images illustrate act as a transitory boundary between past and future, thought and action, myth and reality, human nature and animal nature, spirit and flesh, face and mask, art and life¿ In this sense it is no surprise that the dark, impenetrable backgrounds serve as a key reference in many of her photographic creations, since they lend these ¿new beings¿ a symbolic limit between rational thought and the feral image.

In this sense, the work of Cecilia Paredes is born out of an essential need: her belief that the mission of the artist is to explore through their work the areas of consciousness that cannot be accessed by any other medium, and that the part of our identity that we have most attempted to suppress is precisely that of our animal side.

If it is true ¿ as certain primitive tribes believe ¿ that every time we take a photograph we take possession of the subject¿s soul, each of the photographs in which Cecilia turns herself into the body of a fish, a snake, skunk or armadillo becomes a kind of homage to the spirit of the animal, perhaps a blessing or an act of gratitude¿

Javier Panera

Director of the Photographic Center of the University of Salamanca