In a classic interview the physicist Richard Feynman was asked why magnets attract or reject each other. The physicist, after explaining that he cannot give a forceful answer, ends up taking the conversation to another question that he deems more relevant: why is it not possible to cross the wood of a chair with the hand? Well, I can push the chair, I can grab the chair, but my hand won't get through the chair. There, in matter there is an electrical energy so strong and forceful that it will push us if we insist, an energy that, although it is not the same as magnets, is similar.
Feynman’s twist in the interview is unique. I never would have wondered why my hand can’t get through a piece of wood. I’ve taken it for granted, it was not even a question to be discussed. Feynman changes the panorama, he reveals matter as force, as a "your hand has come this far", while the hand far from any passivity, responds: "this is where you: matter, have come, whatever you are: wood, chair, piece of the world, you won’t be able to handle me".
Juliana Góngora has said: “The earth is my principle of reflection. My floor. I approached her because she presented me with a limit: the most human of all. Dealing with something heavier than my body and trying to control it is a challenge. With her I learned that sculpture is not intellectual research but a relationship with matter that evolves over time”
Juliana Góngora is a sculptor of materials, not of forms.
When the sculptor sees the clay says to oneself: "I am going to put it together to form the figure of a man", when sees the marble stone says: "I am going to remove certain parts here and there to form the figure of a man". Juliana, on her side, considers the work in reverse: "I am going to create matter and then that matter will tell me what its shape is, the matter has to choose its shape". In short, Góngora does not take the material to mold it to a previous idea. On the contrary, generates the material itself, just as a force is generated. I reiterate: it is in the materials where the work of Juliana Góngora is found.
This exhibition is milk, corn, cumare and rue. It is food. It is also clay and glass. It is soil. Also it is deeply feminine because it is, in itself, food and creation. It is worth remembering, cows do not give milk because they are cows, but because they are mothers. The mother is the breast, the breast that gives milk, and milk is the first human communication. There is no milk exactly the same as another, because the mother’s body makes exactly what the child needs, milk is a dialogue and a huge source of information that the child drinks, eats, as primary learning that will take the rest of the way.
“When the mother breastfeeds her child, between them a conversation is created, one which exceeds words. In their encounter they knit a language. The baby and the mother become one. Both mother and child perceive what they need and feel without speaking.
To make the milk bowls Juliana has a cow. Or Alejandra has a cow from which Juliana takes the milk. We know that today’s milk is pasteurized, homogenized, as is our culture, so that nothing particular remains in it. “Long-life” packaged milk has nothing to say to us. After recollecting the milk, Juliana cooks it with vinegar to remove the casein and then adds lime, more lime than it already has, this way the milk becomes solid. Then, she molds the bowl, because milk is a bowl. It could not be a cube or a Platonic solid, for example. The bowl is the mother, is the vessel for toasting. These acts, in a social competitive model are practically prohibited. Sharing is incompatible with the dynamics of the market.
The cumare nests are the outcome of a relationship that Juliana has developed with the indigenous culture Coreguaje —Ko’revaju “people of the land”—, through the community leaders Yinela and Juven Piranga Valencia. The nests pursue the forms woven by the Mochileros’ birds in the Eastern Plains and again, their material is not random but the center of their meaning, the cumare is a fundamental palm for the community, and the process of taking the leaves, convert them into fiber, drying, dyeing and weaving them encloses the base of the community itself. Knitting cumare is not work or a job, is a way of life and is a craft that takes 24 hours every day.
In the voice of Juven and Yinela: “Coming to this world is the greatest privilege because of the possibility that we have to live with what is created, and know how to choose between good and bad. The grandmother contains all, her presence is vital in the moment of birth. She is the means by which the baby reaches the arms of creation, through her hands, her knowledge and her word, the whole us manifested. The grandmother’s presence tells us: whatever happens, I’ll be there. Grandparents are arrullo.
Arrulladores is the installation of amero columns, maize leaves with figures painted in mineral earth and soil. Small silhouettes of bodies that refer to the grandparents, these do not want to represent but to invoke the grandparents, in fact they want to bring them back in a kind of magical act. Delicate columns that lullaby in the space of the place, and in their labyrinth they hide baked clay breasts, made in collaboration with María Buenaventura, full of maize, full of nourishment.
Finally, Juliana’s grandfather’s grave rests on the top floor of the gallery. Made with rue —a herb with a strong smell, recognized for its protective capacity—this tomb is covered with a knitted fabric of milk threads, a blanket that accompanies the grandfather at the closure of this cycle. The meeting of the end with the beginning. The grave cannot be missing from life. Milk cannot be lacking death. In these pieces Juliana crosses the concept of art, individual art, art of author, art-ego, to merge with the community and create a sacred matter, proposing the work as a rite.
I repeat, Juliana is a creator of matter. One that, although I cannot cross with my hand, I can use as food and shelter, even as a lullaby, in a relationship that enables another path different to opposition, union. In fact, this is what makes a living being: it allows matter to pass through and integrate it, just as the artist does in a work that assembles and incorporates, that is ingested and processed.
Curatorial text: Julia Buenaventura.