CATHERINE MATOS OLIVO Galactic Vision: other territories and somatic landings

by Brenda Torres -Figueroa

As images unravel and metamorphose, I see a castoff body (hers) as an unearthed territory. I see an embodiment of a map which has been inevitably marked by wounded latitudes.

I see an artist whose portraiture of an irreplaceable journey is as pathologically instinctive and necessary as survival itself. I see birds in flight, the intemperance, and the healing as interpreted and imagined. I see, as well, a woman like me.  One in the process of externalizing her landing, one that explores with her eyes shut an obscure and unpredictable cosmos.

As we thoughtfully enter her cosmos, but with our eyes open, we are as well, taunted with rapture. Catherine Matos Olivo’s haunt us with an evocative visual discourse that speaks of a well valued and long-standing commitment to illustration and design processes. Galactic Vision leads us to explore an artist’s emotional and psychosomatic transformation with a life-threatening disease such as cancer.

As images untangle page after page, I am haunted by both disturbance and calmness; one unraveling a body as a monstrous depository; the second as a container of melancholic historical fragments expressed as human/scientific and organic/mechanical.  As they metamorphose, they indistinctly detail references to medical/scientific and technological diagrams and also explore much newer mediums such as collage and montage with richer textures and patterns that capture from everyday objects, to spaces (both imaginary and real), to maps, to the artist herself. As these images recombine they narrate the artist’s complex psychic and dysfunctional physical state as longed, as remembered, and as collected.

As the images in question mutate an altered reality emerges:  time/space and presence/absence are represented and played with as tangible raw materials upon re-construction. As upsetting as that voyage can be and as uncertain as its destination through this emotional transition the artist’s remains of self are unfolded/nurtured and embodied as the process of repossession, one that takes place and new form through new technological visions and possibilities.

In reference to new technologies and their implications of Matos Olivo’s work and processes of dealing with cancer on the first place, many questions that had emerged in the process are quite inexplicable. No doubt of how new technologies have risen as we experience not only our daily lives but through life changing/diminishing circumstances.

The visual discourse embedded leads to a process a collect, memorize and recall—as we visualize implications of that wounded/healed body and its imminent disenfranchisement of the social, cultural and political phenomena embedded on this process.  For example, the discourse of visibility is not a neutral one, never has been, as far as technological processes are persuasively connected to ideology and symbolism. –Technology is part of our culture and therefore it engraves on our bodies the signs of power hierarchies and sexual division which shape social and political order.(Fernández-Guerrero, 2011,182).

New technologies are manifested and materialized in multiple forms today; they had transformed our lives and notions of humanity, wellbeing, self and bodies. Reason enough to critically contemplate Catherine’s illustrated expedition beyond a ‘survival journal’.

Like Cathy, thousands of women lived and portrayed journeys as ‘survivors’ should never be limited to just a ‘source for inspiration’. From the hundreds of thousands of women are that are diagnosed with cancer each year around the world, still in the thousands those who are less fortunate to ‘inspire’ others, particularly to those whose medical care is inaccessible. For those women who still are “en pie de lucha”, for those women that are no longer with us, for those women whose denaturalization of their own bodies had played an outstanding emotional toll in their journeys and lived experiences.

The images as presented through Galactic Visions reconstruct symbols that are not exclusive or prescribed to cancer survivors, but speak to an idealization of the body, gender and the promises of reconstruction offered by both new technologies and science. That disturbing and yet assimilated process idealizes the challenges upon a possibility of a new body and eternal replacement of different parts spoiled by the wear of aging, health loss or a disability. We, “as new technologies arise no longer experience a body, as a result of genetic inheritance our body is redefined by is obsolescence and imperfection: as the body is defined by its value –added consumable and interchangeable techno-parts” (Fernández-Guerrero, 2011,182).

In conclusion, Catherine Matos Olivo’s Galactic Visions is an extraordinary example and portrayal of personal strenght and resilience. Her compositions are revealing of the possibilities of the media and of technology. As we refer to technology, this book should serve us well to analyze post human bodies, transhumanity, post feminist theory and our own sociopolitical relationship with technology .  What idealization of the body, healed, wounded or disabled we will be able to repair within the next 20 years?

Originally Published in QOS March 2012 Edition, Vol. 40 No. 3

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