Exhibitions

Contrapose – Antonio Díaz Grande

  • 12 April - 26 May 201811/04/18

Contrapose. Antonio Díaz Grande takes lightness to the politics of surface ascribed to the body. He delves into the performative dimension of gender by exploring the construction of the gaze on gesture based on an ironic study of how social behaviour is culturally modelled and choreographed since childhood.

The disciplinary regime hegemonic in the nineteenth century and part of the twentieth strived to regulate bodies through a rigid set of rules governing social behaviours, patterns and restrictions which resulted in legitimisation or exclusion in consonance with the binary lines of sexual difference. There was a need to control any spontaneous movement in such a way that apparently denaturalised gestures, expressions and attitudes invariably ended up being faked, acted, perhaps because the mise-en-scène of gender tends to generate the illusion of self [1]. Thus, by virtue of the dynamics of power, the body was prescribed, reinforcing its asymmetry in order to transform itself into a space for the production of ideology and into a repository of the symbolic social order, and into the ideal vehicle to propagate its norms and laws. Growing and socialising therefore involve adopting certain corporeal aesthetic impositions, following perfectly delimited patterns to build our identity with.

In this proposal, lightness is embodied through the pose, which, according to the dictionary, is a scarcely natural posture which by extension implies a certain affectation in the way of talking and behaving, hence its association with the feminine and particularly with the effeminate [2], that is, the delicate, the frivolous, and the superficial. On the contrary, the masculine pose lays down roles and stereotypes connected with power, with strength, in other words, with virility. The “male” is trained to eliminate any trace of femininity from his postures and movements given that the aesthetics of lightness is solely deemed legitimate for women.

The images articulating this project show a number of body gestures associated with some social rituals using a glass, a cup or a cigarette. Hands express their dissidence while looking for anchorage, being forced to keep the little finger straight by means of a system of tapes and weights that make the pose possible. Carefully constructed, the compositions are presented as a backdrop of small groups of black and white photographs collected in street markets and second-hand bookshops where the artist interrelates some ideas that question the hegemonic role of the heteronormative model: love between men and loading cranes (weight), the construction of the couple and the ostrich (shame or fear), education and the transmission of values with the bird-man dressed in camouflage (cutting of wings), or cross-dressing and transsexuality with the exuberance of the peacock (symbol of male vanity). Antonio Díaz Grande posits a reflection on the social and cultural conventions that dominate us and that have remained unaltered for centuries, as testified by the clash of times captured in the images.

Meanwhile, on a table the artist has arranged a number of photographs containing, once again, a succession of poses, forcing their contrapposto over a combination of layers of patterns that are repeated to the point of confusion, in a redolent play of superimpositions and transparencies, while dialoguing with old photographs, prints and objects reminiscent of the intimacy of the domestic space.

If we were to admit that maleness —just like femininity— is nothing more than a masquerade, we should not be surprised to see Díaz Grande resorting to irony and humour —the most effective critical tools of lightness [3]— to make the two positions converge through the lightness of the counterpose, thus giving rise to those metamorphoses that reveal “the fundamental instability of being,” [4] as well as the strategies of desire we channel through our gaze.

 Marta Mantecón


[1] Construed gestures “are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means”, cf. Judith Butler: Gender Trouble. Routledge, New York, 1999. p. 173.

[2] The first Spanish dictionary by Sebastián de Covarrubias, published in the early seventeenth century, defined the effeminate man as delicate and of a “womanly condition.” It was later when the “macaroni” and the phenomenon of dandyism arrived, with their calculated manners and poses and the exquisite care of appearance, elegance and distinction. Little by little the adjectives grew in number (mariquita, petimetre, barbilindo, currutaco, fifiriche, pisaverde…), but for a man it was as socially wrong to adopt a feminine pose as for women to take on a masculine appearance.

[3] “Humour is comedy that has lost its bodily weight […] It casts doubt on the self, on the world, and on the whole network of relationships that are at stake.” Italo Calvino: “Lightness”, in Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Vintage, London, 1996, p. 19.

[4] Georges Didi-Huberman: La imagen mariposa. Mudito & Co., Barcelona, 2007. pp. 27-28.

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