MARIE ORENSANZ: "THE ARTIST IS A WITNESS OF HIS TIME"

"The last time I presented this work, a woman read Time from Beyond! There you have the example that the readings are not unique ". Who speaks is Marie Orensanz (Mar del Plata, 1936). Sitting in a café in Belgrano neighborhood, the famous Argentine artist tells the reactions and comments made by the spectators of her temporary installation Más allá del Tiempo (Beyond Time) exhibited at Rubén Darío Park, next to the Argentina's National Museum of Fine Arts, during the last BIENALSUR. Resident of Paris since 1975, the reason for Marie's visit is the opening of Buenos Aires Art Week (SDA for its initials in spanish). The artist reconstructed a few days ago Más allá del Tiempo in Intendente Seeber Park -central headquarters of the SDA-this time, hopefully, to stay forever.

By Matías Helbig
"LIMITADA", 1978,  Marie Orensanz.

The work that Marie Orensanz brings to the SDA consists of twelve large-scale metal clock hands distributed throughout the park. "On a walk through the neighborhood of Once I found an old watchmaker who had the needles that I wanted," explains Marie. "I chose the simplest ones. I chose twelve because it is a number that gives rise to many readings: the years, the hours, the apostles, the 1 as a unit, the 2 as a couple ... All these proposes an open and polysemic discourse ". Twelve is also the number of postulates that has her manifesto EROS produced and exhibited for the first time in Italy in 1974 and that gave rise to a series of controversial and recognized artworks. The two enormous iron plates prostrate at the Parque de la Memoria (Memory Park) with the inscription Pensar es un hecho revolucionario… (Thinking is a revolutionary fact ...) it is one of them.

Mother of fragmentism and a pioneer of feminist art, Marie Orensanz argues that humor and thought -as an exercise- are two fundamental elements in her work. "Before starting as an artist, an uncle of mine, Jose Maria Orensanz, told me that before committing to anything, I should spend some time thinking. It is something I advise any young person today. "

How was it that the EROS manifesto was born?

During my stay in Milan, Pierre Restany and Lea Vergine, two important art theorists, invited me to exhibit for a day at the Eros Gallery. I wrote the manifesto, I made a hundred copies and put them on the walls of the gallery. Above the sheet said "you can pick it and take it home". All this involved a series of actions that were not common at all in the exhibition spaces.

I remember that while I was putting the exhibition together that morning a lady crossed the gallery. She explained me that she could not pass in the afternoon and that if she could take one of the manifestos. Take it! I told her. "You saved my day," the woman said, "you saved my show," I answered.

To each question, Marie answers with anecdotes and laughter, as if she had traveled the path she chose.

"Action is the consequence of thinking", "Find vital solutions in the imagination", "The environment conditions people" and "We have the power to choose" are some of the proposals that the artist wrote more than thirty years ago in EROS.

Is not there a certain contradiction between The environment conditions people and We have the power to choose?

It doesn't! There is a reaction. We have the power to choose! Each of us has the ability to use thought to choose what we want. "The environment conditions people" is precisely to be aware of the environment in which one lives and how society influences. Both for evil and for good, right? The point is to use that to react in relation to the future. That is what sets us free.

And what is freedom for you?

I start from the idea that thinking is a job that we have to do every day. An activity that we should not forget. That gives me freedom. Freedom of action, of thought, of material. It's doing what I want with the materials I want.

When I started to get involved in art I did five years of studies with Emilio Pettoruti and then two other years with Antonio Seguí. They gave me a lot of tools. But when I left there workshops I looked for a way to make my own choices and my own language. To nourish ourselves we have to look outside, but to express ourselves we have to look inside.

In a way, Orensanz's words coincide with that Herbert Read described in his book Art and Alienation. The English thinker wrote: what a man or a woman “... must be is freedom itself: the freedom to play. Imagination is the mental faculty that practices this freedom. " This is how Marie lives, with her 82 years she continues creating and imaging. She just arrived from Houston where she made an exhibition, at the end of April she returns to Paris and from there she travels to Switzerland where apparently another project arose.

    

     

In 1969, together with María Estévez, Orensanz presented an exhibition in Mar del Plata where she posted a number of pamphlets that read: El pueblo La Gallareta lucha por su única fuente de trabajo (The people of La Gallareta fight for their only source of work). The next day a phone call told her and Estévez that the exhibiton was closed up. "It was during Onganía’s dictatorship", explains Marie, "they told us that since we were women they believed that we were going to exhibit flowers. For me that was terrible. "

And that was not the last time that Orensanz was discriminated. In Europe, a man who bought an artwork gave it back a week later when he discovered that "Marí" was the name of a woman and not of a man.

Was it around that time that you changed your name?

Yes. My name was "Marí" and I added an "e" at the end. Enough, I thought, do not confuse me anymore, I'm a woman! I don’t want to experience anymore to sell an artwork and having it returned to because of my sex.

 I would prefer not selling anything.

In any case, the year after the show in Mar del Plata, Marie made one of her moves at the iconic ArteMúltiple Gallery. "There I did exhibit flowers, but they were all poisonous", she has a mischievous smile tattooed on her eyes. "The names of the flowers were in Latin and written in French it read: You have to pay attention; the poisonous flowers develop in the shade". There, in the midst of the dictatorship and the patriarchal structure, the artist responded to those who nullified female thought. At present, three of those flowers are in the Museum of Modern Art Georges Pompidou.

In 1978, the message would be more direct. A self-portrait of Marie with the word "LIMITADA" (limited) on her forehead began to circulate around the artistic circuit. "What most do not see is that behind me there is a screen with arrows that start from my head".

What do you think about the feminist movement in Argentina?

It's very good. It was time for us to wake up, to communicate. The only thing that scares me is if it's a fad and then it happens. That thing of museums buying women's oeuvres to make a good image and then leave them in the basement. Although that was before, it seems different this time.

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The active thinking and receptive position of Marie Orensanz are a reflection of a golden generation of Argentine artists. Taking advantage of her visit to the country within the framework of Buenos Aires Art Week is an opportunity to witness her production and thought. A nomadic artist who constantly reinvents her production based on new social problems. "The artist is a witness of his time ", she finishes and says goodbye, she must go for a presentation in Puerto Madero.