Marta Maria Perez Bravo – Protection (1990)
You know that class everyone has during their first year of uni that teaches you have to write a paper and use the library for research, etc?
Well, during my first college try, the teacher who taught my orientation course was a curmudgeonly fucker who smoked in class while refusing to let anyone else partake; he told us right off that he only promised to read the first paragraph of our papers and if he wasn’t interested he had five steps from his vestibule up to his living room and he’d stand in the living room and toss the offending papers down rendering the binding final grade based upon where they landed–top step being an A, bottom step an F.
I was one of three students who had every word of every paper read. This was not necessarily a desirable status due to the fact that unlike the other two folks, my tactic wasn’t finding a way to present the material in a direct and pithy manner so much as to present a first paragraph that made the reader ask themselves how the ever loving shit is this fucker going to bring this back around to the assigned topic?
To this day I struggle with directly engaging with material. It’s so much easier for me to indicate overlap and then address things in terms of analyzing things with which I am much more thoroughly familiar. I worry a lot about getting shit wrong and it’s easier not to fuck up when you are dealing with the familiar instead of the foreign.
The benefit to my approach is occasionally, the apt metaphor is the perfect decoder ring. So for every time it works, the nine other times it doesn’t just seem like the price of admission instead of a deficit of diversity in tactics.
Whatever that’s a whole lot about me and very little about this amazing photograph. But part of the reason this photograph appeals to me is that it presents the equivalent of an initial paragraph that is both completely outlandish and also simultaneously tied to a rigorous artistic unity within the work.
For example: when I look at it I notice two things predominately. It provides an oneric as opposed to dream-like consistency. (Perhaps the best way to explain what I mean in juxtaposing ‘oneric’ with ‘dream-like’ is the difference between Maya Deren and David Lynch–the former is interested in replicating the logic, structure and mechanics of dream states on the silver screen whereas the later is interested in borrowing the fragmentation, ruptures and disjunctions familiar from dreams as a means of structuring/sequencing images in a more-or-less narrative fashion.
Thing #2 that I notice is that when researching the additional, non-visual context of the image this distinction broadens and enriches my perception of the images; i.e. there is a reason that this reminds me of an image emerging from a dream instead of being an imitation of a dream–Bravo being deeply immersed in the Afro-Carribean Santería, a belief that “the divine exists in all things, even everyday objects.”
I will be forever fond of work that rewards engagement by unfolding and intensifying. Plus, I pretty much live for those moments when I learn something without any sort of awareness of didactic intentionality. In other words, the engagement is both its own reward and an invitation to deeper levels of resonance and understanding.