SCREEN: To Call My Own by Lila de Magalhaes

Artist: Lila de Magalhaes

Title: To Call My Own

Curated by: Ana Iwataki and Marion Vasseur Raluy

Screening: June 22 – July 10, 2017

Year: 2014

Duration: 7’24”

It is estimated that the Black Death killed thirty to sixty percent of Europe’s population during the mid fourteenth century. The surging availability of paid work that followed saw more people marrying young, and having increased numbers of children. By this time, royal menageries brimmed with wildlife wherever neatly consolidated power governed. The re-stabilization of population size during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries contributed to a sharp decrease in the availability of wage labor, seeing a substantial number of women and men in urban areas delaying marriage into their thirties and forties. By the seventeenth century, the exotic animals of the monarch’s menagerie in the Tower of London had been made available to public viewing by ‘the virgin queen’, Elizabeth I.

The thrum that keeps time to the values of an aspirational class multiplied its volume in the period following industrialization. The shape of these values is most clearly articulated in the sundry forms human desire has seen fit to mold ‘property’: people, places, things. The will to ownership has played an enduring role in human tragedy both in and outside the arts. In her video, To Call My Own, Lila de Magalhaes brocades these values and their correlative neuroses, tugging at the pants of appetites material and otherwise.

The construction of private space, of intimate enclosure, is part and parcel of an aspirational relation to property. In its allegedly consensual iterations, marriage has long stood as the promise of consistency in proprietary relations between two parties. It has offered, at varying times, the possibility of passing holdings through female progeny who could not have otherwise been its rightful inheritors, or legitimizing and insuring lineage. Furthermore it created contractual obligations, which by the seventeenth century had become guaranteed by many of the protestant countries in Europe. Similarly, the menagerie testified to monarchal and/or imperial power through a constriction of the animal body and animal behavior to knowable patterns. The taming, and spatial constriction of the animal — in this medieval and renaissance iteration of the menagerie in Europe, as well as much earlier versions opposite the Mediterranean — was instrumental in constructing a consistent sense of ‘humanity’ in an age of mass inequality and barbarism.

As he delivers his appeals to our quiescent will to consume, de Magalhaes’s theatrical broker reconfigures, or deconstructs, ‘the home’ through the language of his pitch. “They come up through the floor, because of the tides” gesturing down at the opalescent, helium depleted party accessories “and create this balloon like effect, which is really ocean water”. Our figure grows the event stage through his oblique utterances. Just so, the assertions of contractual assent in the contemporary iteration of wedlock — as in, “I do” — result in a staging of new, empirical changes in the legal and social relationship of one individual to another. Additionally, this vocalized consent masks, or performs an agency in the act of the betrothed that may or may not have been at work in the construction of the actual ‘arrangement’. In the aristocratic menagerie’s numerous evolutions toward the modern zoo, great pains have been taken to conjure an ambient illusion of consent on the part of the animal in the form of ‘natural’ habitats and ‘native’ surroundings.

Like animals in unfamiliar but charming enclosure, de Magalhaes’s curious feet wear clear heels and prod questioningly at symbols of domestic achievement such as the swimming pool, the balloon, and the boat. The visual abundance and material polyphony of her project creates a bouquet of the correlative forces at work in the construction of desire. The wealth of this vision is matched only by the delicacy of its humor and joy. De Magalhaes compresses her soundings through the hypnotic force of language and the visceral testing of material in order to suggest new sites for the obfuscation of ‘civilized’ constructs, while drawing our attention to the possibilities dormant in the creation of others.

-Sean Fabi

Lila de Magalhaes (b. 1986, Rio de Janeiro, lives and works in Los Angeles). Recent exhibitions include Abode Gallery, Los Angeles (solo); UP STATE, Zurich; Freud museum, London’ spf15, Miami and Bel Air, Essen.

Sean Fabi is a writer currently based in Los Angeles, California.

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

Lila de Magalhaes, To Call My Own, 2014 (video still)

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