Pilar Mata Dupont

Pilar Mata Dupont's exhibition Las Hormigas/The Ants, at PICA, brings together works which have been researched and developed in Argentina, Australia, and the Netherlands. Mata Dupont explores the tangles and snares of history through photography, video, and performance, with attention to the role of filmic storytelling in shaping how we remember and forget. The artist spoke with Erin McFadyen on the occasion of her exhibition.

Your current exhibition with PICA, Las Hormigas/The Ants, includes work which audiences may have seen presented in different forms in a variety of contexts – through Prototype, for example, or with Artspace for 52 Artists. Can you tell me a little about the process of developing the exhibition from these earlier presentations of your work? 

A lot of work from my recent practice uses fragmentation and looping as a mode of making and uses the same source material in different forms – so some of the text that I used in La Maruja and the video fragments for 52 Artists with Artspace reappears in A Table Read and Las Hormigas (my new video and performance work respectively). All of this comes from text I have written or translated from testimonies and interviews I made with Argentinian family members. I like to reuse the text as a mode of echoing between the works.

The work of translation, especially in a (post)colonial and/or diasporic context, seems to ripple through this show. Firstly, do you think this is an accurate perception? And, if so, can you tell me a little about which experiences or sources shape your thinking around translation?

There’s a literal theme of translation in La Maruja, where the storyline centres around a mistranslation between Spanish and English I made, believing my great-great grandmother died from mastitis (an infection of breast tissue) after her son was taken away from her – when she actually died from mastoiditis (an infection of the ear, which I, ironically, misheard). In A Table Read and Las Hormigas the translation manifests through the outsourcing of my ancestral stories and trauma, or rather, using performers as proxies for myself and my family. For me, this was a way of making clear the performed nature of retelling memory (in as far as one frames memory subjectively, and how it changes over time). 

A reference I had for this is Los Rubios, a film made by Albertina Carri in the early 2000s, where they use an actor to play themselves while investigating, in a semi-documentary format, the disappearance of their parents by the military during the last dictatorship in Argentina. I could see this use of proxy, as well as the absurd, dark humour they employ, as a way they could cope with dealing with such heavy material.

Are there lines of thinking about translation are you are tired of encountering?

Well, the newer works in the show deal directly with a concept of memory fatigue (a term coined by Andreas Huyssen), where, especially in Latin America, first person narratives, remembering trauma over and over, began to fall out of favour, even though the important memory projects all over the continent continued after years of issues stemming from colonisation followed by periods of violent military dictatorships. I’ve attempted to show my own fatigue I’ve felt through the collection of these stories from my family through the performance and video works – however, this fatigue hits differently in Europe and Australia where these histories are relatively unknown. It’s definitely something I would like to delve more into in future works. 

I’m sad that I wasn’t able to be in Boorloo/Perth to see the performance that accompanied the opening of the show. How does the performance relate to the video and photographic works? 

A Table Read was originally a performance development I made last year in Rotterdam co-produced by WET at de Hillevliet. We filmed three performances of it and I made it into a two-channel video work. From the script I used for that, I worked on Las Hormigas here in Perth, which is a more ambitious version of that work. Both works required the performers to attempt to put together the twenty scenes I’d written in a different order each performance, the negotiation happening live in front of audiences. 

Some of the photographs in this exhibition include people in (partly latex, it seems?) costumes. Your reference to Anne Carson’s idea of the kakophony when presenting these costumes for 52 Artists has really stuck with me. Can you expand on your understanding of and interest in this concept?

Reading Anne Carson’s essay “The Gender of Sound” I was struck with her description of Baubo, the Greek mythological goddess of mirth who was known for the double action of screaming obscenities while showing her vulva – speaking with her two “mouths.” These “mouths” in Hippocratic medicine were intrinsically connected. Carson described this as a true cacophony and explained the patriarchal desire to make sure either mouth only open when requested and never, ever, together.

I used the peach latex in the La Maruja costume as a connection between the restricted Edwardian style of dress worn by my ancestor and an idea of fetishised flesh, which the character manipulates into various forms. During the performance in the video work, the character traces the line between the mouth and the vulva with her fingers. This “kakophony” is a concept I haven’t yet fully explored, but relates in some way to the cacophony of voices and gendered positions of women in my family that become explicit in my new works. 

Will you develop any of the works in this show directly any further? When does a project around historical memory and forgetting feel “done,” do you think?

I’m currently working on a screenplay which was commissioned through a development fund from the Ian Potter Moving Image Commission with ACMI, and this film will further developed and work more narratively with some of the concepts and stories I have been dealing with in my PICA exhibition. 

I have also collected about sixty hours worth of video testimonies and stories, so many of which I have not told in the iterations so far. Whether I venture there is something I have to think over as I work over the next months and years.  

Las Hormigas/The Ants
28 September 2022 – 8 January 2023
PICA, Perth

Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related