Within man there was an endless void, and little or nothing of what it contained stood for happiness. Man was falling, into man. (Valter Hugo Mãe, The Son of a Thousand Men).
Where does the body end and everything else begins? The space and the boundary between whatever is left, threatens the order. Limbs and extremities extending more than necessary – pieces that are born in the wrong place and soon spread. Or just die from day to day, as if they had never sprouted there – the abject, the monstrous.
The beginning is always a falling, an emptiness. The body is only unity when something separates it from the world. Without this limit there is no subject, there is no form. Without identity, there is only the abyss.
In the video in which she appears moving over pages torn from an atlas, while trying to erase the borders of maps with talcum powder, Maya Weishof introduces part of the process developed in the series of paintings in this exhibition. Maps, after all, bear a resemblance to the misshapen bodies presented here. Territories also only gain name and form when separated by boundaries. Walking over the pieces of paper that we understand as the world, using the body as a measure, the artist gives dimension to the fragility of these concepts. To eliminate the borders of these territories is to return the idea to pure abstraction.
The almost pictorial action in The New Portuguese School Atlas (2017) video, made shortly after returning from an artistic residence in Portugal, works as a good transition to the recent series of paintings. Like its cartographic redesign, there is also a constant process of elimination on the canvases – either of the contours of
the figures, almost always indefinite; or in the dismemberment of structures that come to life and come into existence on their own, though nothing indicates that they will sustain themselves for long. Dislocated and dilated, these fragments – hands, eyes, and teeth – seem to wander in search of a base unbeknown whether it exists.
Between the moving of bodies in transit and the representation of transgressive bodies, the images created by the artist approximate the discussions about the abject brought by Júlia Kristeva in Pouvoirs de l’Horreur (1980). From the psychoanalytic term that defines the abject as something to be eliminated for the constitution of the self, Kristeva used the concept to explain discriminatory processes such as anti-Semitism and xenophobia, threats to the supposed unity of a group and hegemonic subjects. The increase in global flow and the dissolution of identity boundaries in recent decades has made this discussion more latent.
The female body, always associated with unpredictable processes that escape the idea of limit and control of rationality, predominates in the figures portrayed by Maya. In one of them, the face of a woman without a thorax develops over a profusion of disproportionate arms and hands, whereas in the triptych the limbs become the form of the bodies as a whole, without a face.
“Suddenly, half of the things seemed to become composed,” writes the narrator of The Son of a Thousand Men, a novel by Valter Hugo Mãe. The character, who was once an endless void, is now complete with the parts that had gone missing around the world.
This phrase is also a good definition for the dismembered bodies in Maya Weishof’s paintings. Half by half, one expects they meet some day, or arrive somewhere.