Anima Vectorias, by Angela Bulloch
The new cycle of exhibitions at MAAT, inaugurated on 3 October to coincide with its third anniversary, is led by this installation designed to occupy the iconic Oval Gallery.
Angela Bulloch was born in Rainy River, Canada, in 1966. She emerged as a central figure in the YBAs – Young British Artists – after graduating from the Goldsmiths College in London, alongside well-known names such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, among others. Many of these artists – true art stars – occupy a media space marked by accusations of “shock tactics” despite the fact that, after thirty years, they are already part of the mainstream, and targets of retrospectives conducted by some of the world’s most prestigious museums.
However, Bulloch has always been a more discreet person, away from the media spotlights. With her refined and conceptually rigorous work, in which she explores metaphysical questions about the structures and patterns that determine our behaviours, resorting to geometric forms, sculpture, painting, video, sound and installation. In 1997, she was nominated for the Turner Prize (won by another YBA, Rachel Whiteread). And, in the last decade, she has constantly shown her work in Portugal.
Not surprisingly, some of the artists invited to occupy the Oval Gallery are lost in its vastness. Bigger does not necessarily mean better. In Bulloch’s case, there seems to be a kind of middle ground, in which pre-existing works (particularly some of the sculptures and paintings, the latter follow the spectator down the surrounding ramp) are mixed with new works, allowing the space to be filled in an uncomplicated, but fair way. On the one hand, the forms – the modular stack and the irregular polyhedron – refer to our childhood, to the teachings of geometry and its mysteries. The “ordinary” visitors can entertain themselves with the surfaces, with the games of light and semblances, with playful patterns. In a deeper analysis, reflections about our reality are revealed, similar to an enigmatic and futuristic recreation that also plays with virtuality, avatar possibilities and new technologies.
Anima Vectorias was developed in collaboration with Russell Haswell, composer of an electronic soundtrack that sometimes transforms the space into a dance floor (inspired by techno music); and with Fred Fröhlich, an expert in 3D animation and representation. One may wonder if the density of the sound reflects the artist’s concerns at all times. But it can be enthusiastic.
What’s most surprising is a consideration that adds a new dimension to Bulloch’s work. For many, it may seem that it contains no references to gender issues, occupying a somewhat “asexual” and “discreet” conceptual space (unlike other YBAs, who are more daring, even in their personal lives). It’s a work that questions the pressures, the contexts of contemporary life. But, in this installation, there seems to be a direct approach to a female virtual universe. Anima refers to the archetypes of behaviour (Jung) and the female inner part of the male personality. Vectories is the feminine accusative of “carrying” (in Latin). In the video-projection Digital Death Dream and other conscious matters, the eyes are the artist’s. Bulloch seems to have done a remake of Warhol’s Outer and Inner Space, precisely by personifying the luminous presence of Edie Sedgewick. In Action Girl and, finally, in Exhibition Experience, the avatars, our digital doubles, also emerge. Our virtual guide is called Jane, who is suspended in the air, but without Tarzan carrying her in his arms.
Is this some sort of #metoo moment for Bulloch?