Dora García
Spain, 1965
Dora García studied fine arts at the University of Salamanca and later pursued further study at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1989–1991). Since the early 2000s, she has participated in the most important international events in contemporary art, including Skulptur Projekte Münster (2007), the São Paulo Biennial (2010), the Venice Biennale (2011), and Documenta, Kassel (2012). In her work she takes a distinctive approach to performance, focusing particularly on the relationship between the work, the viewer and the exhibition space. Within this area of investigation, text and the staging of a specific situation construct a sensory and emotional experience in which members of the public, whether consciously or involuntarily, play a key role. Her work expands in both space (the exhibition room, public space, or online environment) and time, forging links with the performing arts and live arts in general. She explores the boundaries between fiction and reality through the narrative construction of stories and situations that challenge social conventions, so her approach is also closely related to literature and writing. Though her main focus is on performance, García also presents works in other formats ranging from sculpture and video to installation, publication and online projects. Based on a conceptual reading of sculpture, Oportunidades restantes (1992) represents a symbolic and formal approach to some of the recurring themes in her oeuvre; namely, chance, desire, expectation and possibility. Bolsa dorada (1995) is the first work in which she uses gold, a material that often appears in her subsequent output. For García, gold’s appeal lies in its contradictory nature: it stands for both purity and toxicity. Later in her career she wrote ‘golden sentences’ on the walls of exhibition spaces. In the case of Bolsa dorada, the perceptual ambiguity of the piece directly challenges and unsettles viewers, confronting them with the sensations and inclinations that the golden presence evokes in them. In addition to drawing her to performance, the narrative impulse at the heart of García’s work has often led her to use video as a medium of expression. In La lección respiratoria (2001), she analyses relationships of interpersonal trust and intimacy by focusing on a training session in which an instructor teaches a girl various breathing techniques. This exercise in physical learning allows her to address complex and significant social issues, such as power, submission and control. Lo posible (2003), another work that explores the mechanisms of group relations, is an interactive installation that includes an extensive collection of sounds found online. Participants are offered a complete sound archive of varied acoustic situations and invited to construct an individualised sound story. Finally, The Deviant Majority (from Basaglia to Brazil), commissioned by the Fondazione Galleria Civica di Trento for the 2010 São Paulo Biennial, is a film that presents García’s investigations concerning the Venetian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia (1924–1980), a leading figure in the anti-psychiatry movement. The film takes viewers on a journey from Italy to Brazil, exploring Basaglia’s ideas about mental illness, which stress the importance of putting an end to the social exclusion associated with mental hospitals in favour of models that promote interaction between patients and the rest of society.
David Armengol