Javier Marín: Sculptor of the bare life, Homo Sacer, the body without organs

Author: Néstor A. Braunstein

Title:  Javier Marín: Sculptor of the bare life, Homo Sacer, the body without organs

Publication: Javier Marín Corpus

Published by: Terreno Baldío Arte

Javier Marín: Sculptor of the bare life, Homo Sacer, the body without organs 

Néstor A. Braunstein


A series of texts bearing my signature attest to the fact that for several years I have tried to unravel a mystery: the uniqueness of Javier Marín as a sculptor, the distinctive stamp of his sculptures in the history of the visual arts. In these texts I have asked myself by my own right—from my eccentric position as a psychoanalystto interrogate works of art that have no need for my disquisitions and even less for my interpretations, for they say on their own what they have to say without outside interference. The truth of the work resides in the work; not in any discourse about it.


I spoke at length in these articles of the vanity of my undertaking and, in general, that of all art critics, even of the most informed, the most original and well-versed, the most imaginative, the most erudite, when one sets out to discover what is presented to the spectator’s eye as visual or sound material that circulates in museums, art markets, recording studios, or print shops where scores and poems are produced. I even ran the risk of proclaiming that the artist himself, Javier Marín or any other, is no better qualified than the critic, the spectator or the amateur to judge his work, because we know that the unconscious intervenes in artistic creation, also forand he who makes it must be forgiven because he knows not what he does.


My rambling ruminations led me to try to label his artistic activity (“neoexpressionist” is one of them) like the categories that one is accustomed to attaching to the products of an artist’s activity, trying to find modes of generalizing, ascribing to schools or genres, finding relations between the works of artist X with those of artist Y, or between the earliest and mature works, the aesthetic proposals of several creators depending on geographic area or historical moment of production, even exploring, with resources taken from sociology, the influence of certain precursors or the relations between works and the public that received it, sometimes with indifference, sometimes with enthusiasm. In synthesis, I tried to relativize and—I confess—even devaluate this superfluous apparatus that surrounds the works wrapping them (asphyxiating them) in a cloak of sterile words. In this attempt I took the classic example of “van Gogh’s shoes” that have no need to walk and that are indifferent, from their precarious eternity on the canvas, framed in a museum, as a motif or guiding thread in everything that critics, art historians, and psychoanalysts may say about them, “sticking their foot” into some molds that do not fit to conclude with a resounding “shoemaker, to your shoes!” or simply, ”stick to what you know.”


However, the question insists and persists while the answer resists: what is there that is distinctive or idiosyncratic about Javier Marín’s sculpture? I sensed that the task of finding an answer would not fall to art critics and that it would have to be a gaze from another direction to question the enigmatic violence of which these rent bodies speak (fig.), these disfigured faces (fig.), these trepanned skulls (fig.), these torsos emptied of organs (fig.), this multitude of fragments unstitched and sewn with wire, these hollowed out orbits and this scarified skin (figs.), brutally carved with blows of the hammers that know horror, indeed, but not compassion. I began to catch a glimmer of an answer in those texts and I will try to dig deeper into this today, stimulated by this monumental exhibition in which it is possible to measure the enormity of Marín’s work.


I decided to apply other tools, those of philosophical and political thought, to the uncommon vision of the human condition that the sculptures emit. It is time, perhaps, to hazard a quest whose ethical dimension (Rilke: “You must change your life”) we will point out in time and begin to clear away the connection between Marín’s work and the sharpest and most profound reading of what our times propose as different from the past, from that entity that we call the “history of humanity.” How are these statues inserted into history, in its broadest sense, and the history of Mexico in a more targeted reading? And how do these impinge on our ideas about women and men, objects of philosophical anthropology?      


Our times. What characterizes our era? Surely an overwhelming majority of scholars and intellectuals would posit that the distinctiveness of contemporary times stems from the development of technology and the inclusion of science and its tools in all human endeavors. With this generalization, I think, we would be anchored to a description without managing to capture the anthropological consequences of such spectacular, such trumpeted turns in the lives of people and societies. To go beyond the sweeping visualization (Weltanschauung) it is necessary to return to Heidegger’s thought as the philosopher developed it early in the 1950s with his “ask about technique” and to seek other paths in the forest, because as he used to say, technique does not know nor can it respond to the question about technique. It is thought and not the number or the calculation that can provide the answer.


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