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



Desperation and Nostalgia for Heroism


Hernán Marina (Bs. As., 1967) will present Coloso (Colossus) in MALBA’s Intervención space from August 26 until the end of January, 2005.


This work is a steel figure measuring ten meters long by six meters high that would seem to be doing pushups, the strenuous exercises habitually associated with all kinds of penitence and disciplinary punishment within the gymnastic institution of masculine rigor. Aside from the artist’s proposal in relation to the aesthetic debate regarding the colossal, the “excessively large in petrified immobility”, the piece implies asking one’s self about the microscopic mechanisms of the action of citing other sources in contemporary art. How does Marina come to choose his colossus? (It is one of the figures least present in modern representation, though Goya, Dalí or some similarly dramatic painter may have occupied themselves with the iconographic topic of the Colossus.) Why?


The history of the Colossus of Rhodes is the heroic story of a small nation with vibrant commercial activity determined to resist an invasion by Macedonia at all costs. They say that Rhodian women offered their hair to make their soldiers’ bows and that the men of Rhodes promised to free their slaves if they managed to fight off the enemy. Once victorious, Rhodes celebrated its strength (their success was hardly predictable) by erecting an immense statue of a nude Helios gazing out to sea, situated at the entrance to the port. The statue represented the Sun god, but was dedicated to King Ptolemy in thanks for his support during the battle, made with bronze obtained from the weapons of the defeated invading army. The Colossus’ radiance competed with the gleam of the sun on the water, and according to some versions lifts a flaming torch in its hand.


The historical parallels proposed between it and the Statue of Liberty are pertinent. The Colossus was a statue dedicated to freedom, slightly smaller than the Hudson’s French custodian. The question that comes to mind is whether or not Marina links the content of his beautiful, ascetic, giant silhouette to the furious attitude of other emblems of social triumph, sustained in humorous or frankly melancholy terms. Who does the solitary gymnast watch over? Is the motive for this obedient colossus’ sorrow the lack of any better undertaking than the hedonism of the mirror? With no trace of ambiguity, the artist exhibits not the impossible, but an absence of heroism or social ferocity in the subject represented gazing at its surroundings. Is its egotistic solitude a statement, or a denunciation? 


One discovery is that the artist does not reduce the masculine body’s representation to the muscular tension of bare legs as might be expected. Marina’s colossus wears barely stylized gym clothes, a loose pair of cotton sweat pants. The weary colossus sustains the private museum’s architecture, its body tensed in an extremely difficult position, subdued, its attitude leaving no way out.


Regarding the overall handling of the piece, Marina intensifies the figure’s passivity and subjugation by affirming the gymnast’s attitude of accepted anonymity. Like his peers Mark Kostabi (Los Angeles, 1960) and Julian Opie (London, 1958) who also cultivate a negative notion of anonymity as emptiness or a potential identity to be acquired, Marina constructs a concave sense of color: the work’s skin is the white-vacuum-cavity hollow and its areas of shadow. In addition to the lack of any partial information, texture or small marks of expression, the material’s surface plane of pure light, barely informed by the elemental cut that transforms it into a recognizable image functions like an effective application of the complete significance of the undetermined.


As opposed to the role that white plays (as the sudden suspension of elements that identify and all previously existing psychic activity) in works by George Segal (N.Y., 1924), Kostabi, Marina and Opie’s use of white is not as an annulment or suppression of anything because the subject presented never took place, its psyche never was, it isn’t a thing from the past. Its genetic structure does not enable individuation, there is no way to extract judgment or point of view, the gymnast does not transpire any formal scent of subjectivity. Its flesh is that of a transgenic social body, it is the terminal scatological materialism of man turned into a thing. It hasn’t been frozen, but was practically born that way. The mechanism that operates upon the skeleton that is what the image of man has been reduced to is so automaton-like that it would be excessive to categorize it as a golem; the oppressive shell around the molecular sexual activity of its tissue is so thick, the libidinal inactivity, frigidity and lack of participation in its representation is so great that that the colossus never looks pathetic. What we see is clearly a product, a result, a deformation that accumulated capital leaves on DNA, on its atrophied potential functions of infinite information. It is only slightly more than a robot, because it has the capacity to evoke profound sadness.


The artist makes excellent use of this economy of detail in the piece’s scale, and in this sense the “Colossal” field contributes significant elements to Hernán Marina’s body of work, in which scale might well be revised on the whole. A reiterated combination of medium-format figures in white implies a mimetic saturation, a minimal texture that does not allow one to intensify any adherence to detail. In a gigantic work, on the other hand, the need to step back in order to view it in its entirety alone annuls the non-informed effect of its texture, and the piece as a whole runs less risk of functioning as part of a pattern or situation of spillover. The non-textural nature of its texture disappears on the large scale surface. Above all, considering that a non-articulated silhouette offers very few points of view, there is always one that surpasses the rest. The gymnast is more closely related to the profile of a fuselage than it is to Mattel’s Ken; not only is it rigid, it is also a cross-section. This makes the lack of information regarding interesting details about its skin even more indispensable. The cross-section structure is the image, the verbal form of the body’s activity. The infinite amplification of its scale might perfectly be put to use in a rhetoric strategy. It is hard to avoid imagining the city traversed by gigantic actors that reveal social tensions repressing an immeasurable no man’s body.


In conclusion, it is interesting that the accepted historical account tells of an earthquake that destroyed Rhodes’ extraordinary beast, planting its gigantic pieces all around the port entrance, pieces that persisted during hundreds of years, proudly emanating a theory of defense for this nation’s identity, forged in such an outrageous manner. Even after its fall, the effort of giving meaning to the over-sized warrior protected the people. Its meaning prevailed. Even if we accept as true Philo’s account that [Chares], the sculptor who created the Colossus, committed suicide before it was finished upon discovering errors in the calculations key to the final piece’s stability.


Returning once again to a parallel theme in the face of the frustrating evidence that today, women wouldn’t give up a single hair for a warrior’s bow, and in light of the fear that has emerged in contemporary times with regard to losing modern protective emblems to bombing or implosion, traversed by airplanes and machines more efficient than modernity itself, the distance that Marina proposes by desperately sustaining the purely self-referential space of the verb that defines contemporary masculine practices for a simulated eternity is all that more violent. Until someone removes it from its desperate formal function as an absurd liaison, a bridge with non-specified architecture, the colossus will maintain its irritating passivity, doubly disturbing in the articulation proposed by its gigantic proportions. Uselessly powerful as long as it remains still, dressed in cotton, the Colossus makes the desperate nature of its strategies for a reduced survival explicit.                                    


Florencia Braga Menendez


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