Somewhere in Aristotle’s ethics it is said that the thing that differentiates us from animals is our language capacity. Such a distinction cannot be applied to feelings; it would be wrong to think that other living beings do not have feelings, or as Aristotle said, that they feel things in a different way to us. Nevertheless, our language capacity manifests in such a distinct way that we can safely say that it is something unique to the human species. Such an assertion suggests that language is a faculty that is acquired in an evocative manner, but it could also be thought of as a mental organ, which enables us to speak, as if it were a tangible part of our body like a hand, an ear or a stomach. Just like when we eat and we ask ourselves: what happens in the stomach during digestion? If language is an organ, this fact would beg the question: what happens in this organ when we speak?
It is fascinating to explore life and forms of communication. We know that animals communicate with one another, just like plants, and we constantly point towards artificial intelligence and the capacity of machines to think. We discern between speaking and communication: those that do not speak have not been endowed with the gift of intelligence, which is why we have been quick to give software its own voice, such as Siri and Alexa, two female voices that listen—and no doubt record—and interpret our voice and our wishes. Until recently, if someone alluded to a deeper form of communication with animals, they would come up against the condescension of those who believe that it is best to humour such fantasies or, at best, a metaphor that points to a desire but that does not represent reality.
It was recently discovered that there is a gut-brain communication axis, and hence the phrase “you are what you eat” is yet more pertinent, given that signals between the gut and the brain travel through the vagus nerve to the brain cells. In other words, the communication domain has expanded to a great extent, planting seeds of doubt within this modern alliance of language and power that is so heavily associated with the intellectual sphere. An increasingly more popular conviction is that a world uninhabited by words exists, but that does not mean to say it is a silent world. We must therefore ask ourselves: what happens in this domain? The work of Teresa Solar is based on sculpture. Making and sculpting are two distinct actions, and in her first exhibition in Mexico, the artist asks that we ponder this difference. Most of the works presented here are based on making, an action that is squarely aimed at understanding the relationship between worlds that do not speak and those that do. From a historical perspective, when a work of art leaves us speechless, it is because we channel all potential for linguistic expression into it, and all that we are left with is the silence of contemplation. The work of Solar, however, keeps on talking. Her modelled sculptures bear witness to how hands, much like the vagus nerve cells of our gut, can establish a form of direct communication with the materials, with form and with space. Each turn of the potter’s wheel is felt by our hands, creating a communicative event that our hands remember. We must regard Solar’s pieces as if they were a modern-day databank. They may not look like large servers stored in air-conditioned chambers, but they are. They explore not only the memory of her pieces, but the great and eloquent memory of all the hands, movements, earth, potter’s wheels, shapes and hollow spaces that “making” has bestowed us with over time. Who could better address the need for imagining new epistemological strategies, not just for expanding our knowledge of all that surrounds us, but to understand how a lack of words does not equal a lack of understanding or the desire to decide on its own continuity and its own history?
These curves formed by the convergence of hands and materials, and those tubes with their convex forms do cast some doubt however: could it be that words are not that different from tangible things, that they are nothing but a form of representation and little else, which we would have used to build a world, just as Solar has done. We are transmitted information through our senses, which requires its own translation system: words. However, now we know that we can listen with our hands, think with our stomach and look with our skin.
Teresa Solar works across sculpture, video, drawing and photography. Her audiovisual practice has been mostly focused on language, translation, and the construction of meaning. These topics remain at the core of her practice, but nowadays they are tackled mainly through sculpture. The tactile quality is fundamental in the artist’s sculptural practice, which focuses mainly on ceramics but also includes materials like fabric, resin or metal.
Solar’s imaginary has a strong narrative drive and her creative process often begins with the discovery of a story or an idea that she later explores in depth. Her exhibitions usually function as an entire whole, creating complex worlds that either draw from literary works of fiction, Natural History or more terrestrial narratives that are close to her personal story.
Her exhibition ‘Flotation Line’ at Der Tank in Basel drew from universal works such as Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick while in ‘Ride, ride, ride’ at Matadero Madrid the central figure was Nut, the Goddess of the Night in Ancient Egypt, a celestial creature that connects to her family history. The daughter of a Spanish father and an Egyptian mother, Solar speaks Arabic, but she can’t read or write it, and this circumstance has greatly imbued her work, in which everything is a game with transit, language and its changing translation processes. The cultural and linguistic implications of her dual identity are palpable in her work as she constantly explores the transformation of matter, her objects constituting a hybrid between the manmade, the natural and the mythical.
Teresa Solar studied Fine Arts in Madrid and later graduated with an MA in Cultural Studies from UEM (Universidad Europea de Madrid). Recent solo shows include ‘Ride, Ride, Ride’ at Matadero Madrid and ‘Flotation Line’ at Der TANK, Institut Kunst in Basel. She has taken part in group shows at CA2M, Madrid; Haus der Kunst, Münich, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander; Maxxi, Rome; General Public in Berlin; Kunstverein München; CA2M, Madrid and La Casa Encendida, Madrid.
She was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and a Finalist at the Rolex Mentor & Protégé initiative, both in 2016. In 2018 she took part in the expedition “The Current” organized by TBA21-Academy and she conducted the workshop ‘White Whale, Palace of a Thousand Courtyards’, at Tabakalera San Sebastián.
Her work ‘Pumping Station’ will be on view at KölnSkulptur #9 curated by Chus Martínez, until June 2019. She will take part in the group show “Una dimensión ulterior” curated by Javier Hontoria at Museo Patio Herreriano de Valladolid opening on June 8th and on September 2019 her show ‘Ride, Ride, Ride’ will open at Index Foundation, Stockholm.