Julieta Anaut

As above, so below. Sky and earth. All the landscapes we know, the paths we walk, the objects we utilize, the stories that belong to us, but also the magic and the mystery that set us in motion. Is it possible to simulate these experiences? The exercise would be to choose and compose an image-altar with our treasures. We could select the small things, the minimal stories. As if behind or inside those simple wonders hid an immense force that only each one of us can see.

We can get to know Julieta Anaut through her works, precise, enigmatic, beautiful. Each composition gifts us a testimony of her journey. Territories of the Argentine road she inhabited, memories that move her, characters that surprise her and a nature she both adores and longs for. She offers us her body to remind us that we exist and we are here. In between sky and earth, here we are. Her figure gifts us serenity, she doesn’t interrupt us with her gaze. She allows us to enter her narration without forcing the meaning. Unintentionally, she represents the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Maybe because those memories have a fond and intimate magic, but also because that’s how she needs to remember them.

Her work is a great ritual: the recording, the selection of objects, the photoperformance, the final assembly. This exercise is the heart of her artistic practice; Julieta trains her spirituality along the whole process. The result are poems that work as prayer cards of her life. However, she says they reflect a longing for something she doesn’t have, a religiosity she lacks. If we connect with the images we perceive the opposite, a poetic conquest of her environment, of nature, of her body, of worship. We can recognize similarities or reverberations of her own, guess her journey, her fears and fantasies.

Maybe without knowing, Julieta tempts us to practice and compose a narration that tells us who we are, where we are, what we desire. This way longing isn’t an abstraction, but a possible habit that gives us back a sort of faith in the enchantment of those strange, luminous, everyday moments of our own. We visually rehearse the sacred and the mundane of treasuring all the places, the objects and the mysteries in which we are.

Lucía Seijo, Buenos Aires, 2019.

In the caves of Lascaux or of Les Trois Frères are kept the most ancient testimonies of what we nowadays call art. And they are images of lions, bears and bulls, among others. From that time onwards, the union between mankind and animals has been registered in all artistic expressions, even in the most radical ones as it is the performance. The most well-known post-war expressions belong to Joseph Beuys with the hare and the coyote; in the first one, he attempted to “explain art to a dead hare”, since he said it was easier than trying to persuade a stubbornly rationalist man. In the other one, I like America, America likes me, the German dramatized the encounter with the instinct, this sensation human beings corner in animals and discredit in human beings. He likes remembering that we are also part of nature and thus, we are full of instincts. On this same path is inscribed the series Latent Fauna by Julieta Anaut. The photographic collage allows her to create surrealist scenes, a magical world with animals that hold talks and live with the characters, all of them feminine ones. As the romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich did in his pictures, Julieta also resorts to the ruins of a Christian temple to show the sacred nature of her message. The romantic painter had given up to the dogmatism of religion and thought that the mystery of creation was in nature and not at the church. Likewise, Julieta – in some of her works- places her characters on a stage with the abandoned church as background, setting up a non-institutionalized sacredness. All the women in Julieta’s photos have some sort of saintliness, either pagan or Christian. In Santuario dorado (Golden Sanctuary) we can see a woman with deer’s horns resting (maybe meditating) in a mountainous landscape, a bit further, there are two bronze statutes who seem worship objects, one is the face of a long-neck woman and the other one of a bovine lying down. The “deer woman” makes us go back to the first times of humanity, the Paleolithic to be more precise, when the fast growth of the horns referred to the waxing moon phase and thus the life generating principle. This way, the goddess’s fertile force became a serpent, a dog, a fish, a butterfly, a bee and other so many epiphanies. The birds appear once and again in Julieta’s photos, perhaps as a metaphor of the soul that takes flight, although there are more precise symbols, as the owl, an attribute belonging to the wise Palas Atenea. Iguanas, dogs, crows and some other animals move around in Latent Fauna, in Julieta’s photos appear peers of the woman as the same and not as beasts created by God to be dominated by mankind, as established by the Genesis. Julieta’s works have made it possible that landscape, woman and fauna recover that mystic union that integrated us into the universe, the alchemists’ “unus mundus”.

Julio Sánchez, Buenos Aires, 2012.

Julieta Anaut stages rituals of symbolic return to primal Nature. Not plain nature, the one that animals perceive, but that lost treasure only humans know about, since they started cultivating their own fruit. That’s the origin of the word culture, and also the divine punishment that displaced Eden out of Earth.

That mythical territory is inhabited by Julieta Anaut in her photoperformances, first by putting her own body in the scene and, in this series, with the concentrated collaboration of a group of young women. The transition from the first works –those in which the artist defines herself, like Alejandra Pizarnik in her aching verses, I am the offering– and The arrival of the wild women is testimony of the sense of salvation that is present in every sacrifice.

They will guide us –Anaut promises– in this journey that doesn’t only join together past and present but also culture and nature. The wild women go through that border that doesn’t have a place except in sensory intuition. The artist doesn’t hide any of the artifices in her images: the scale jumps, the union of incongruent elements, everything tells us about a territory that is beyond the laws of coherence that rule our world and its representations.

In effect, what’s at play here isn’t virgin nature –if any of it persists in this world–but the myriad of signs that, from the most diverse cultures, give testimony of its loss. Greco-Roman deities, Christian imagery, Andean-baroque mixed virgins, romantic heroines from the 19th century, Flemish still lifes, the horizon that summarizes the sublime landscape… all these lives together without inhibitions in Julieta Anaut’s photographs. But this reenacted nature, as the artist states, has joy as its goal. Far from the failure of language –so dear to postmodern art theorists– the freedom in these images transmits a rare faith, an optimism.

In that sense, we can affirm that Anaut’s work reenacts also, in the spirit of a contemporary language, the tradition of ritual performance that, in the 60s and 70s, had in Latin America examples as important as artists Ana Mendieta and Lygia Clark, while it had small impact in Argentina. Another way, in the end, to tie times and borders back together, this time in the field of art history.

Valeria González, Buenos Aires, 2011.

Julieta Anaut’s works are an invitation to reflection and aesthetic delight. Contemplating them we are brought before a dichotomy between what we are as human beings as well as animals. Simbolism Allegory calls into question the duality nature-humanity. Humanity represented by the woman. The woman, alienated and indifferent to the nature which created her. Creation that moves away from that natural world; hence forgetting its origins and immersing even more in the maelstrom of the urban world.

According to these symbolism allegories proposed by Anaut, the woman recognizes herself again as a peer of animals, plants and seas. Once more, united with nature, the woman runs through pagan myth and religious beliefs, not anymore as spoken tales but as a lived reality in which she is the protagonist. Throughout these photomontages, the balance is found between the human & the divine, the good & the evil, the fragile & the hard, the natural & the artificial; these opposites and similarities that put forward that one does not exist without the other. Each and every one of Anaut’s works has the role to remind us where we come from and where we go to.

Ana Clara Giannini, 2011, Buenos Aires.

Tree of Hope, Remain Strong, says Frida Kahlo through a painting from 1947. This affirmation of will is desperately linked to our time of boundless speed, of a literally still life, of qualified absences. Contained in a sort of series of stages created through the camera and a woman who tries to fit in them, Julieta Anaut acts as a material for her own creation, offering her body to the character who was born from a mermaid, expelled from her habitat, thrown at her fate and forced to wander as a member of two worlds.

Are we where we wanted to be? Have we broken the magical chain of events that used to leave us exactly there? Sea Exile is a present portrait of that concrete feeling that springs up from the skin and attempts a journey from the imposed to the natural, from “evolution” to the primal. The ocean, an omnipresent witness of this never-ending source of expression, becomes just a prologue of a fate colored by chance and a mission: to take a symbol of love and truce to an alien, remote place, without the calm of its starting point.

Emilce Schedel, 2009, Buenos Aires.