Title: Threatened universes
Author: Santiago García Navarro
Place and date: Buenos Aires, 2007. Published in: Ficha 23. Eugenia Calvo, Bedroom set, in the context of the show: Resplandores
Eugenia Calvo’s video piece Juego de dormitorio (Bedroom Set) is intimately linked to her other photographic and video works in which domestic space is presented as a universe under siege. This sense of danger is generated through a variety of devices that, one way or another, always imply altering the habitual function of the things, furniture or decorative items in a home in such a way that they transform into something else, resulting in unstable situations.
In a similar process of displacement, inert objects take on movement and wind up
expressing subjective traits in diverse ways: they become personified.
The videos feature Calvo herself participating as an actress and catalyst of the scenes that are presented. In Juego de dormitorio, she—or, to be more precise, the character that she portrays as part of the work’s fiction—meticulously saws apart a bed and a night table in order to finally store the furniture fragments in a closet.
In another work, Un plan ambicioso (An Ambitious Plan, 2006), three related scenes are juxtaposed. In the first, the camera focuses on various household objects as they appear in their usual places; then, a character approaches them, places an object which the viewer cannot manage to identify inside one of the objects, from which smoke and flashes of light begin to emerge and finally, the object explodes. In the second scene the same character is seen to be carefully studying certain pieces of furniture. We then realize that what she is doing is
trying out different ways of hiding behind, inside or under them. Finally, we see that she has discovered an adequate method and she disappears. The third scene shows the same character assembling a barricade in the living room of a house using all the furniture and decorative objects in the room. By way of an unexpected combination of actions and elements, Calvo achieves the effect of provoking a strong sense of alienation. However, not everything about the combination is unusual: certain information forms part of the universe of things as we expect them to be. The most disconcerting aspect is the reference to situations that we associate with other places, recontextualized in a domestic space, creating a rupture in its sense of order: the barricade brings images of revolt to mind; the explosions refer to bank robberies or letter bombs or other forms of micro-terrorism; the action of hiding implies a victim being pursued; carefully cutting apart furniture suggests a surgical operation, as well as torture. But what is perhaps the most disturbing of all is the impassivity with which this character carries out her actions: far from feeling herself to be in danger, it is she who dutifully creates these
Eugenia Calvo’s work brings war, social tensions and crime into the place that until
recently was considered to be the most protected of all from the outside world: the home. In these videos, this sanctuary is shaken in a subtle way, as if to say: there is no living space left that can truly provide shelter.