A L I E N T O
Ona Bros, Ariadna Guiteras, Michael LawtonBarcelona
May 13 - Jun 16, 2021
NoguerasBlanchard is delighted to announce the last iteration of A L I E N T O, an exhibition cycle curated by Anna Manubens (Barcelona, 1984) in the gallery’s space in Barcelona. A L I E N T O dwelled and now hosts the urgency to devise a plan for a viable future, in extremis. For this last chapter we present works by Ona Bros, Ariadna Guiteras and Michael Lawton.
In the very first texts of A L I E N T O we came up with the idea of “survival kin” and each exhibition has in some way or another featured this need to surround oneself with others and establish bonds in order to move forward. Expressions of “kin” have encompassed conceptual accompaniments (voices, readings, references we keep close), infrastructures (forms of support, in the most literal but also poetic and metaphorical sense) and methodological priorities (such as collective production).
Following this expanded and ramified approach to kinship, now the focus of the series narrows around the knot of maternal experiences. The logic of kinship places reproduction and parenting at its core, as an anchoring point from which other understandings of the term expands. Yet it is precisely this centrality which hinders the emotional, legal and political validation of alternative forms of kinship.
This exhibition echoes Maggie Nelson’s puzzlement as she inquires: “How can an experience so profoundly strange and wild and transformative [as gestation and parenting] also symbolize or enact the ultimate conformity?” The works featured in this last exhibition of A L I E N T O stem from a need to deploy visual, narrative and living imagination in resistance to the normopathy of motherhood, a neologism alluding to suffering (-pathy) because of (excessive) normativity.
Since her daughter’s birth, Ona Bros has developed a process halfway between investigation and introspection; an exercise in writing sustained over time, that combines a personal diary and a research journal of readings, notes and intuitions. One of the central axes of this work is the assault (understood as an approach, but also as a type of attack) on the monolithic centrality of genetic continuity when determining kinship. Above all, the project highlights how deeply rooted genetic considerations are in practice and in techno-cultural discourses on the maternal condition, thereby reinforcing deterministic and essentialist views. The artist does not have any genetic link with the being she conceived and gave birth to. From this circumstance, she critically analyses the discourses around genetics in search of other references, stories and imaginaries that she sometimes finds in – or manufactures from – areas that might seem distant from her immediate object of study. In this way she creates poetic or allegorical conglomerates to think about the position, the practice and the status of motherhood and kinship from other places, with other images and using other words.
BetaBlastoQueerLove (1) is a work that appeals to another imagination. One of its core elements are images that the artist composes from the encounter between a series of plants (some selected for curative properties related to the female body) and a healing paste that is used to repair damaged leaves or trunks. This encounter between the supposedly natural and the supposedly artificial undoes the sublimation of the organic as a perfectly autonomous system and at the same time generates a disturbing viscerality that, like vertigo, attracts and repels in equal measure. From the micro to the macro, a game of scales interrupts the immediacy of the relationship between image and referent and conjures representations of the interior of the body or of microorganisms. This half-natural, half-artificial creature mirrors what Sarah Franklin has called a cyborg embryo and transbiology insofar as the technological and the biological come together.
Another of the elements in BetaBlastoCuirLove (1) is a document of the result of a DNA test requested by the artist that states that “her probability of maternity” with respect to her daughter is 0%. This verdict is the product of a kind of private performance that leads purely genetic parameters to glitch, if we understand glitch as the expression of what the system cannot support; that which it cannot account for; that which eludes the systam and therefore, endangers it and from which it seeks to protect itself.
The artist pushes a glitch in the sense given to the term by Legacy Russell when she argues that the glitch is an expression of non-conformity with anticipated scenarios and the opportunity to repair by pointing at them, the limitations of the systems that command us.
Finally, the set of works comprises a video showing a tongue making two gestures known as genetic abilities that thus fall outside of learning. The images show an obstructed mouth, a mouth that will be unable to vocalize or that is stubbornly trying to speak despite its crooked tongue; despite not having the necessary words or having to twist around existing ones.
Ariadna Guiteras’ practice often involves the composition of texts that she later translates to performative situations. ooo.tetes.ooo is an online narration inspired by hypertext literature. If writing in public and in real time is considered a performance, we could say that with ooo.tetes.ooo, the artist is writing and performing at the same time. Her writing can be followed and its changes appreciated live. ooo.tetes.ooo is a third-person story that mixes overwhelmed beginnings of motherhood, glitter blood and amputations, breastfeeding pains and the vicissitudes of art making. The ensemble evokes feelings of estrangement with respect to one’s own body, desires for change, mutation and mourning processes. Maggie Nelson defended in The Argonauts, the queer potentiality of pregnancy insofar as it profoundly alters the “normal” or habitual state of the body and causes a radical intimacy with – and a radical alienation from – one’s own body. Along these lines, the references that Guiteras used to resist the normative coopting of motherhood were found in trans and gothic literature. Andrea Long Chu, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as Schelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl… share their fragmentary, amalgamated, non-binary and somewhat DIY selves. Jackson’s text, Stitch Bitch parallels the physical body with the body of the novel to defend that the sense of coherence and unity of the whole is aways a mirage. “The body is not one, though it seems so from up here, from this privileged viewpoint up top. When we look down that assemblage of lobes and stalks seems to be one thing, even if it looks nothing like our ID photo, but it routinely survives dissolution, from hair loss to loss of limb. The body is a patchwork, though the stitches might not show. “ In ooo.tetes.ooo the hyperlink is a strategy to enable dismembered writing. As Jackson would say, there are only “clusters of intensity, and one cluster is as central as another.” The story does not converge at one point, it is full of points and does not close. You cannot distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t. So you have to pay attention to everything, especially the mental, social and scientific inertia, that builds the unity despite the fragments.
As a kind of material alter ego of the text, 999999999999 is a sculptural creature made of knitting. It is an assembly of elements that look like breasts, organs or cells held together by knots and thread. 9999999999999 is a Frankenstein whose braided bandages suggest the restorative or therapeutic weave in making visible the feeling of strangeness with respect to the uniform body in favour of a composite, editable body. This sum of parts also serves as an image for a kinship network; a blanket, a prosthesis or an armour made from the companies with which to protect or strengthen oneself.
Ultrasound and Ultrasound (Body) by Michael Lawton arise from the artist’s encounter with the ultrasound image. However, the artist does not pursue the appearance of a body and therefore distances himself from the driving principle in ultrasound technology to recognize and validate the human form. Lawton’s paintings enjoy the opposite; obfuscation, not forcing the appearance of a physiognomy. Instead, a sum of blinking, chaotic nodes appear as annotations that are more affective or sensory than figurative. Ultrasound (Body) resonates with Ona Bros’ photographs with whom he shares the search for imaginaries to elaborate his own experience. For its part, Ultrasound anticipates the textures in Ariadna Guiteras’s piece, underlining the continuity of the word “tissue” found in the organic and textile.
Microchimerism is the name given to the presence of cells that a body leaves in another body that hosts it. Fetal microchimerism explains, for example, that the pregnant body will contain cells with different genetic material for life. Some say that these cells produce tumors. Others say that they exist so that after childbirth the baby controls the pregnant body from within. And yet others say that these “foreign” cells repair damaged tissues in the host body. In any case, the name that science has assigned to the phenomenon is that of “chimera”, a monster with the heads of different animals. Science gives the name of a monster to that which surpasses it; to that which adds too many entities at the same time. A L I E N T O is on the side of monsters and of the need to summon them in order to survive directed feeling.
Anna Manubens (Curator of the series)
About A L I E N T O 
There are exhibitions that sweat, leak or condense what happens around them. They stem from the opposite of what Ursula K. Le Guin would describe as “working the way a cow grazes”; without any yearn or urge. A L I E N T O is a series that opens with Beatrice Gibson’s voice saying: “I can still feel my body except it’s like the skin has gone. It’s all nerve. Edgeless. Pulsating. There’s intense breathlessness.” It is fairly accurate and sensory image of an adrenaline rush, a hormone that sharpens the senses and tightens the muscles in order to make a reaction possible in extremis.
The development of this exhibitions series overlapped with the global state of emergency and its opening coincides with a month of September that should feel like a return but which, far from looking familiar, is made of pure uncertainty and improvisation. Habit has emptied itself from its recognisable features. Something glitches in this disquieting and slowed down normal. The programme is grounded in the discontinuity; in the break that opened with the state of alert and in the adrenaline that ran through the physical, social and political body/ies. A L I E N T O dwelled and now hosts the urgency to devise a plan for a viable future, in extremis.
The exhibitions are made of strategies for coping, modes to move forward, words to hold on to; forms of imagination and action that help the way out from shock and allow us to catch our breath so as to start thinking about what is to be done. It feels like opening space between the letters of a word. Like lowering the rhythm and surrounding oneself with images, voices and presences that enable an exercise of imagination towards the future. The intention is to wrestle with problems rather than proclaiming solutions. Solutions have a universal vocation that makes them grandiloquent and even oppressive. By contrast, this series is inevitably situated when presenting what is seen as encouraging or inspiring and finds in these adjectives a middle point between innocent trust in the future and a cynical giving up.
The four exhibitions that compose the cycle share first of all the need to think about support structures. There is in them an impulse to summon voices and companions –literal, material or metaphoric– to move on.
Another transversal element in the series is poetry. In the current context of semiocapitalism, in which the accumulation of value and adhesion depend on signs, words and storytelling, poetic writing and thought (applied to language, image or sculpture) emerge as capable of stretching imagination through worlds that speak otherwise or images that think other ways. Poetry is also a space for the analysis and exorcism of the semiotic and somatic load embedded in words, images or materials. The responsibility of handling words is part of the conversations that surround the exhibitions and in this sense it worth noting that there are racial implications associated with breathing that cannot be ignored, and which cannot be diluted in the possibility of thinking about a generalized shortness of breath. I don’t mention this to do something on it –coopting the voices of others–; nor in spite of it – saying it as a means to ignore it de facto -; but with it. That is observing and remaining in the discomfort of the whiteness of my voice and in the awareness of its anchorage in a language in which the connotations of “aliento” are not the same as in its not-so-accurate translation into the English word “breath”.
Finally, A L I E N T O looks at the claim for a viable future from the eyes of the mothering subject. The need of horizon that an incipient live demands makes the urgency to devise futures all the more pressing. The series is also an attempt to take on the creative and intellectual blush related to maternity, which does not enjoy artistic or discursive sex-appeal, which seems a cluster that can only interest those involved in it and which seems almost like what Bourdieu would call a “fault of taste” according to the distinguished cultural patriarchy.
A L I E N T O reclaims what Maggie Nelson ponders as an inherent queer trait of pregnancy “insofar as it profoundly alters one’s “normal” state, and occasions a radical intimacy with—and radical alienation from—one’s body. How can an experience so profoundly strange and wild and transformative also symbolize or enact the ultimate conformity?”
The artworks that compose A L I E N T O relate to each other poetically rather than analytically and together function like a survival kin, in the Harawayean sense –urging to “make kin”. The artists were brought together as a chosen tribe to face dystopia.
Anna Manubens (Curator of the series)
 The Spanish word “aliento” translates into “breath” and more importantly here, it is also the root for the adjective “alentador” which translates into “encouraging” but literally means “that which gives breath/air”. Maybe a translation that would be more attuned to the Spanish original in that context would be “inspiring”. Half way between trustful naivety and cynical despair, this series of exhibitions finds in “alentador” the tone from which it speaks. Wrestling with problems rather than intending to solve them.
 Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Fisherwoman’s Daughter”; Moyra Davey (ed.), The Motherhood Reader (Seven Stories Press, Nueva York, 2001)
 “encouraging” and “inspiring” are standing for the Spanish word “alentador” (See footnote 1)
Ona Bros is a photographer; she looks for tension in the images from writing, installation or live arts. She investigates from the incarnately situated experience and its relationality. She is attracted to the uncomfortable and crooked. Situated in a queer and transfeminist sensibility, she does not understand her practice without others.
She recently created the “Instituto de Estudios del Porno” (2019-present; Hangar, Hamaca, Dutch Art Institute). She has been an artist in residence at La Caldera (2018), La Nau Estruch (2018) and a collaborator in La Poderosa (2017). She co-founded Fuga Centre de Fotografia (2008-present) where she develops the research area.
Ariadna Guiteras (Barcelona, 1986) works with performance, installation and text to speculate from a political and visceral perspective about bodies and the relationships that constitute them. She has been an artist in residence at Gasworks (London), La Escocesa and Hangar (Barcelona). She has recently shown her work in different institutions such as CentroCentro (Madrid), 11th Bienal Leandre Cristofol (La Panera, Lleida), Dilalica (Barcelona), MIAC (Lanzarote), La Capella (Barcelona), Tate Exchange (London), TheBower (London ), CA2M (Madrid), Loop (Barcelona), APA (Brussels), àngels barcelona, Sala Muncunill (Terrassa), H.AAC (Vic), Chalton Gallery (London), Sant Andreu Contemporani (Barcelona), MACBA és viu (Barcelona).
Michael Lawton is an artist working with painting and writing. He uses abstraction to narrate verbal, lived or speculative moments. He writes about the very same moments; when the sensorial overtakes the cerebral, sometimes inventing or swapping languages to do so, setting these texts in alternative presents or counterfactual futures.
He has shown his paintings recently in La Escocesa (Barcelona), 38b Projects (London), Window Space Gallery (London) Yellow (Varese), Five Years Gallery (London), Addaya Centre d’Art Contemporani(Mallorca), Sobering Gallery (Paris), Le Cabinete Dentaire (Paris) and Passatge Studio (Barcelona). He tries to self-publish one book a year. Before starting his residency in La Escocesa, he completed the long-stay residency in Hangar and at MACBA Study Centre.
Anna Manubens (1984) is an independent curator and producer with a preference for hybrid roles at the intersection between writing, research, programming, project development, institutional analysis, and exhibitions. She was Head of Public Programs at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain in Bordeaux until 2017 and previously combined her independent activity with teaching at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra with regular work at the artist-run organisation Auguste Orts (Brussels). Her recent exhibitions include Wendelien van Oldenborgh. tono legua boca, CA2M, Madrid (2019); entre, hacia, hasta, para, por, según, sin, EACC, Castellón (2019); Visceral Blue, La Capella; Barcelona (2016); Hacer cuerpo con la máquina: Joachim Koester, Blue Project Foundation, Barcelona (2016); and Contornos de lo Audiovisual, with Soledad Guitiérrez, Tabakalera, San Sebastián (2015).