Juan Davila

Published by Chisenhale, London, 1994
Paperback, colour illustrations, pp 24
Text by Guy Brett

Juan Davila’s work always arouses controversy. There are attacks and defences. But I would like to write about his work as one which refuses antagonistic, exclusive positions and embraces multiplicity. I do not deny that many of his images have the power to shock and disturb. Familiarity with the discourse of art, and a repertoire of distancing and calming intellectual terms I could employ, does not make these images any less affecting to me, and I imagine the response of others who do not belong to art circles. Here each viewer of the work responds involuntarily and translates their perturbation into words or actions. To me, those images of Davila’s which are cursorily or indignantly described as violent, pornographic or insulting are multiple, not only in the sense of the references they make (their representations), but in relation to the onlooker. These days we are continually exposed to shocking images, but Davila’s do not disturb in the manner of the media which bombard us daily with shattered bodies, lifeless dolls, huddled lumps, piles of dust merging with the particles of print or electronic media that bring them to us. In fact, the very opposite. His bodies are not objectified as a defined and fixed ‘other’. They have a shifting, vulnerable, libidinal quality of uncertain identity that touches us intimately. That he/she out there, that extravagant, unseemly, no-holds-barred conglomerate, is partly myself, is partly mirror, is made up of parts of you and me.

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