hernan marina


Gainza, María. “El cuerpo del delito”. Radar, Página 12, Agosto 2004  ESP

Gainza, María. “Corpus delicti”. Radar, Página12.  Agosto 2004 ENG

Braga Menénez, Florencia: “Nostalgia de lo heroico y desesperación”.  2004 ESP

Braga Menéndez, Florencia: “Desperation and Nostalgia for Heroism”, 2004 ENG

Montornes, Frederic.  Texto catálogo muestra “Silencio” (Nueveochenta, Bogotá, 2007) ESP

Montornes, Frederic.  “Self-absorbed silhouettes”.  Catalog Nueveochenta. ENG

Taricco, Clelia: Men’s Health.   (Catálogo/catalog) Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires (2003) ESP

Marina, Hernán: "Breve historia de un coloso", Catálogo exhibición Malba (2004) ESP



Corpus Delicti

What do Hernán Marina’s empty, impassive and antiseptic silhouettes, cut out like chalk cadaver outlines on the walls at Zavaletalab gallery say to us? Is it that modern man has been dead for some time now, even though he remains among us?

by María Gainza

In a police squad, the person in charge of tracing the chalk line on the ground around the dead body would appear to have a relatively easy job. He or she arrives at the crime scene, takes out his or her bag of white chalk, makes their drawing following the edge of the corpse like following the outline of a hand on a sheet of paper, and then leaves. However, how does his or her drawing help to resolve the crime? One would suppose it to be a minimal contribution. And this supposition is correct: to the point that Vernon Gebreth, in his book Practical Homicide Investigation, sustains that the practice is pure fable. The chalk silhouette is an effect created by the movies for the movies, and it is highly unlikely that anyone might use it in a serious investigation because a gesture of this kind would only further muddy any crime scene. Nevertheless, at the insistence of book covers and movies, the chalk outline has become a classic: it is a symbol that operates in broad daylight, the trace of a dramatic action that has already taken place without our participation. When the cadaver has been removed the only thing left is a clumsy, rigid drawing on the pavement. In much the same way, Hernán Marina’s enormous white wooden silhouettes are installed on the wall at Zavaletalab gallery, evoking absent bodies like so many chalk drawings.

In his last show, Silencio (Silence), Hernán Marina presented the imperturbable traces of people concentrated on carrying out their sit-ups and push-ups like automatons. It’s curious. The physically demanding action is frozen in contours that show no sign of effort or exhaustion. Writing about cinematic portrayals of Romans, Barthes said that everyone sweats in Julius Caesar and that the infinite number of short shots used in the film helped to accentuate this effect. Sweat becomes a symbol, but for what? “For moral sentiment” Barthes said, “everyone sweats because they are engaged in an inner debate”. Transpiration turned into thought: each drop on every brow functions as a connotation of the inner tragedies of virtuous men like Brutus, Cassius or Casca. In Hernán Marina’s silhouettes, however, there is no sign of muscle strain, let alone transpiration. Without sweat, thought seems to have been frozen. Marina’s suspended, gravity-defying bodies are men emptied of reflection; subjugated by the discipline of modern masculinity, they are as unable to recognize pleasure as they are fatigue. It is the logic of instruction manuals for obtaining a perfect body, which is a perfect fit for an ill-fated market economy. Show me a man who sweats, a man who doubts in the face of discipline, and I’ll show you a misfit, ill-adapted in his family, business and society.

To a certain extent, Marina’s silhouettes can be read according to the same parameters promoted by 19th Century phrenology: contours then served as a key to interpreting the relationship that people established between surface appearances and the mind’s inner content. In The Image of Man, George L. Masse dates the birth of modern masculinity as occurring at the same time as the rise of bourgeois society, that is, between the second half of the 18th Century and beginning of the 19th, a moment at which aristocratic stereotypes—such as duelling—were replaced by the body itself, without external attributes. The masculine body, defined largely through allusion to Greek principles of harmony, proportion and control, not only conquered the outside world, but also within the individual: physical beauty began to guarantee moral strength, nobility and willpower. Johann Joachim Winckelman, an archaeologist, art historian and librarian, was one of the foremost proponents of this idea, and in a series of texts considered classics today he established the principles of Greek beauty, applied to his own society. Winckelman re-conceptualized modern man in terms of virility, dynamism and order. Movement, yes: passion, no; or, in the words of Walter Pater, the imperious need to achieve “rest in motion”.

The silhouette then became a man’s issue. This is why Marina’s figures are so astute in registering what happened: they delineate how gymnastics and athletics began to close in to define the idea of virility, while illness, fatigue and weakness went on to become moral categories. By the mid 19th Century, the idea of masculinity had become militarized. Masse tells that by that point, military institutions had begun to explicitly intervene in the physical training programs at British colleges and by 1920 one third of the physical education professors came from the army; the father of modern gymnastics, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, believed that it would bring Germany to achieve a triumphant masculinity.

The shift from military fields to marketing schools was done in one simple step. The model of man that business manuals showed us came into being based on concepts that arrived from the military field (even the traditional idea of factory organization took Napoleón’s army as a prototype). Efficiency, order, discipline, productivity and strategy would now make up the successful businessman’s credo. Hernán Marina returns to this point in his anonymous silhouettes: when business-barracks logic insisted on creating and promoting these aesthetic and behavioral models, the human component was irremediably driven out. In the same way, books on how to improve employee performance or how to organize time more efficiently promoted an aesthetic of alienation. These are precisely the contour-men that Marina focused on when he utilized iconography appropriated from personnel training programs some time ago in order to create images where the human element was reduced to zero and homogenized, eliminating all individual differences.

Last year at the Museo de Arte Moderno, the artist presented Men’s Health, a series inspired by pamphlets on preventing accidents and attacks where silhouettes of surgical masks, gas masks and latex gloves were installed on the walls as giant graphic prints and also as white wood [outlines], with a chillingly sterile effect. Marina gives back to a paranoid world its own prevention inventions in order to see which scares us most. To a certain extent this process was a continuation of a concern already explored by the artist years earlier, when he proposed to work with infographic representations of criminal deeds shown in newspapers. These pieces consisted of schematic diagrams showing the armature of violence in Buenos Aires to the point of making it laughable: photographic prints of a group of kids throwing stones at a bus as it passes on the highway or workers falling from one of the Catalinas buildings. Their titles recalled Hollywood banality: Escape mortal (Deadly Escape) or Tragedia en la madrugada (Tragedy at Dawn).

Hernán Marina’s perfect and unfeeling bodies are mute, solitary lines that testify to the point at which mankind finds itself at the outset of the 21st Century. The body emptied of feeling then will now have its monument. On August 26, as part of its Intervención (Interventions) program, Malba will install Hernán Marina’s Coloso (Colossus). “If Zeus condemned mankind to mortality and making an effort to survive, the empty silhouette of this self-absorbed gymnast at a moment of maximum tension will idealize this non-divine condition of fragility”, the artist explains. It is a monumental figure, ten meters long and six meters high that will bridge the museum’s central hall, obliging the public to pass under it just as embarkations had to pass under the Colussus in Rhodes during the 3rd Century BC in order to enter the East Mediterranean’s most thriving port. Perhaps this will be his monument to the fallen, an enormous sculpture that above all else speaks of a modern-[id]olatry capsized long ago.

Hernán Marina
Silencio (Silence)


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