Since the early nineties, in her multi-media installations Eulalia Valldosera (Vilafranca del Penedès, 1963) has explored the relation between identity, power and the body, with particular reference to the social representations that depend on these relationships. The artist’s works investigate the historical, social, cultural and anthropological sources, through the centuries, that have affected both the definition of social roles and their collective perception.
The artist critically investigates the very concept of “social identity” analyzed through the deconstruction of stereotypes and symbols that characterize everyday work, material existence and the sphere of culture. This is the case, for example, with the works which present implements and gestures related to the domestic world, as in the work in the Madre, produced in 2009. In the video titled Dependencia Mutua, a woman of Ukrainian origin is shown busily dusting a marble statue of the Roman emperor Claudius in the collections of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
If the presence of the Ukrainian woman places the emphasis on the tasks commonly assigned to immigrants, as one of the few employment opportunities which they most frequently have access to, on the other hand the image of the emperor represents a historical period in which political power was raised to the concept of divinity, a mechanism of representation which frequently finds an application in the language of classical sculpture.
The first level of interpretation, which suggests a symbolic reading linked to the idea of domination, is enhanced and inverted, however, by the title of the work, which encourages us to reflect on the dynamic of dependence that develops between the statue and the woman who tends it. The gesture of dusting the statue is then charged with a broader connotation, embodying a relationship of reciprocity and interdependence: it is a gesture of attention that can be likened to the act of “tending” and consequently a gesture that keeps alive the object or the person which is the object of care. It is the artist herself who explains the complexity of the multiple cultural relations and implications raised by the work: “I ask the domestic help of my Neapolitan gallerist to act in my stead, transforming herself into the artist’s alter ego. Paradoxically, the emancipated woman needs the services of her help to be able to practice her profession. In this way, the artist’s role is conducted simultaneously in two places: the cleaning lady and at the same time her employer.”
In addition, the work can also be read as a symbolic representation of the problematic and subsidiary relationship between contemporary art and the art of the past, and in its present location at the Madre, it thematizes the possibility of a reciprocity similar to that evoked in the work, a dynamic crossover between the different dimensions of time that the two institutions – the museum of Contemporary Art and the Archaeological Museum – represent and exercise.
The centrality of the body that we find in this work, both the living body as “existence” and that of the statue understood as a “representation” of the same existence, is a fundamental aspect of all Valldosera’s work. In some cases, for example, the use of light projected to create immersive installations made up of objects, lights and shadows also refers to the dimension of the unconscious as an area of scenic representation, within which the cultural representations and individual experience interact and redefine each other.
In this sense, the presence of objects charged with an anthropological and ancestral memory can be combined with the use of contemporary technologies related to the moving image and data transmission to relate the survival in time of certain stereotypes of identity and the constant friction, in defining our very idea of modernity, between tradition and modernity, culture and material existence, reality and representation. Valldosera treats images, artworks, architecture, domestic space and the space of institutions are indeed the space-time where the discourse of authority is affirmed and settles into the collective consciousness and individual bodies, but which can also accommodate criticism and possible ways of overcoming them.