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Liminaris / On the threshold:

The Long Count, Imagen Macuilli and Resilience Macuilli

Process art, video and photography

Elvira Santamaría-Torres

5th of May 2021

Flax Art Studios artwork comision

Image Paul Moor

These days, which continue to add to a long count in the development of the pandemic around the world, I want to pick up a short piece of process art that I first made in Belfast in 2010: Background Counting Line I *. In this artwork I countdown numbers in 4 languages ​​(Spanish, English, French and German). Interested in deepen into the effects that the creative exercise of art operates on human resilience and starting from my particular situation in relation to this global calamity, this piece came to strongly resonate with waiting memories, uncertainty, vulnerability, darkness and hope.

I decided to create a temporary structure as an experience itself from counting in a peculiar way the number of days of the lockdown and sanitary restrictions in the United Kingdom from its beginning to the date of recording of this new work: from March 23, 2020 to March 5 June 2021: 438 days. The numbers in themselves form the anchor point for the evolution of memory and the ability to concentrate on an intricate game invented to weave time; a directed subjective time. The count was done in 5 languages: Nahuatl (Mexican language), Spanish, English, French and German, sequenced in turn. At the same time, I was lighting matches and, with them, building a tower. I count in Nahuatl only the most important numbers in Mesoamerican calendars: 5, 13, 18, 20, 52. For ancient Mexicans the number 5 (macuilli) is related to the 5 days added to the Aztec calendar to complete the 365 days of the year, and they are considered unfortunate.

My memory and my concentration would define the time intervals between one number and another. The tower under construction is eclipsing a vertical line of laser beam projected on a wall, sectioning the beam into points as it grows. The count, despite being repetition, has a cumulative character, accentuated in the work by the construction of the match tower. In the end, I came to put together a kind of allegory in reverse of the Tower of Babel, trying rather to form an imaginary unity of my life and the world that surrounds me; of the internal drama of my symbolic world, but at the same time, also the joyous fluidity that I experience when doing these art processes. I realise that this is a creative aspect of my resilience: inventing ways of expressing, understanding or working my conscience with symbolic games to resiliate the meaning of life in certain moments. On the other hand, while I live my own work as a game and a problem to be solved, I also become aware of some mental processes and mini-events of which we do not easily realise in everyday life, but which, like each piece of a building, are constitutive of our life, such as issuing a gesture or expressing a compensatory idea so as not to lose ourselves in the force of some emotion.

This time, contrary to the previous one, the tower of matches collapsed when I was most confident in my memory and in the resistance of the already precarious matches construction to reach the desired number. I tried to reach a goal in a poetic game with my memory and concentration, with flare repetitions of a gesture, and a line of red light. Here is the artwork. Out there, the pandemic continues to accumulate days, deaths and uncertainty in a world that is already very complicated and strange for me, while our great tower of Babel in reverse, which is everyone's world, continues to shake stronger and stronger at its foundations.

Given the impossibility of online broadcasting from Flax Art Studios, apart from the photographer, I want to think that my conscience was my main witness to this experience. Liminaris / On the Threshold was perform only once to be recorded as if it had been addressed to an audience or an anonymous witness. I present this work as a trilogy of visual records of an old experiment with new variables: The Long Count: Video 2:25:00, total duration of the performance; Maculli Image (five in Mexican language): 30 images taken with precision every 5 minutes of the video The Long Count and Resilience Macuilli: a 5-minute edition of the performance that gives an account of the entire process.


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