Birthing Pains

Marionne Contreras
This Hole Feels Womb-like
Vinyl on Vinyl
16 February 2019

At the heart of Marionne Contreras’s practice are the poetic underpinnings of the familial. In her first solo, A Collection of Bruises, Curses, Baby Teeth, she presented installations and assemblages that evoked memories and emotions which would otherwise escape artistic expression. Relying largely on found objects, she left it to the viewer to weave a story within a seemingly disparate, often eclectic, but never cluttered web of paraphernalia. Despite its quirks, Contreras shows care and respect in the arrangement of her objects—an arrangement that made it difficult to distinguish the found from the produced—considerate of the guest or the reader, engaging but not imposing in her desire to tell a tale that has at its heart, the complexity of codependence – of being someone (or something) to someone else.

There is continuity but not repetition in the greenhouse of This Hole Feels Womb-like. From the guarded intimacy ofBruises, Curses, this time Contreras tackles the contradiction of nurturing growth in confinement. Through a greenhouse that never receives sunlight, a space that is wild, yet controlled, Contreras not only presents beauty as an end in itself, but describes the futility in attempting its creation. She writes, “[E]very replication is always an ‘almost’ and never ‘is’”

Amidst arguments that humanity is enacting its own catastrophic self-destruction, to grow a garden has become recognized as a radical act, with urban dwellers creating their own little pockets of green within the otherwise blighted city. Contreras however insists on the deeply personal narrative of the work, framing it from the perspective of a woman and her continuing search for safety and comfort.

“I always say I want to go back to my mother whenever things go out of hand or when I’m lonely or when I’m outside surrounded by lots of people, but I don’t mean I want to go visit her, I really mean go back into her, where I came from.”

Installation view courtesy of the artist

Austrian psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, wrote about this drive to return to the mother and its ties to the cessation of existence as Thanatos, or the death drive. Yet, it feels almost too simplistic to reference Freud in the face of this complexity that does more than illustrate or even evoke a retreat from the real. There are contradictions in this structure: the cement that weighs the fabric down while propping it up, the softness of the framework that is meant to hold everything together. Maybe it is only by comfortably inhabiting these contradictions that we can better understand this world that holds us.