María Carolina Baulo: Algo huele a podrido (Something smells rotten, 1998), one of
your first meat works, is clearly linked to the issue of violence and the Argentine social
imaginary. How would you describe the experience of making this piece and the passage
to working with skin in later works?
Marcela Astorga: I have always had my eyes on social issues. I was born in a family in which
the other, the one in need, and politics were all dominant themes. To talk about the production of that work, I would put it in context. I started painting, and little by little, I began
gluing and sewing different materials on the frame, which led me to the idea of meat.
I spent my adolescence under the military regime. From that age on, I was aware of
the real circumstances in which I grew up. I think that the horror we lived through, with-
out being fully conscious, was somehow “exorcised” in those painting-objects. The pas-
sage from flesh to skin came naturally, logically. From a conceptual point of view, the
skin covers that flesh. But from a practical perspective, I got tired of painting and sewing
and became interested in the object, the material, and so, I moved from representation
to presentation. At the same time, I gave more importance to volume and space. I felt
much more comfortable and identified with
that mode of production.
MCB: Skin and body go hand-in-hand in
your work. As I understand it, the concept
of skin expands to everything that shapes
us as social beings—what we wear, where
we live, how we connect with the other
through body language. You work the skin
as a border, as a medium. Your exhibition
“Cuestión de piel” (“Matter of skin,” 2001)
highlighted all of these concerns, as well
as the sensuality of skin and how it can
make us choose connections through a sensitivity beyond the ideological, political, or
MA: I once read that James Joyce, writing
before Ulysses, said that modern man
had epidermis instead of soul. The skin is
Marcela Astorga, an Argentine artist born in the province of Mendoza,
creates work with both visual and conceptual impact. For the last 20
years, she has used art as a means to face issues of importance to her:
violence, memory, identity, and construction/deconstruction as represented through architecture, as well as the marks that we leave and the
deficiencies that we suffer. Her installations establish a dialogue between
materiality, physical space, and symbolic power. Skin, hair, and fabric—
scraps representing tears as well as traces—testify to those who once
inhabited and wore them. In creating these witnesses of existence, Astorga
works from a silent place, appealing to the forcefulness of the image,
not to the word. Her search leads to the boundaries between outside and
inside, to natural borders, like skin, and those that we create to demarcate
territories of our own.
Left: S/T, 2002. Leather straps and zinc, approx.
230 x 60 x 130 cm. Above: S/T, 2007. Leather and
iron, 300 x 50 x 25 cm.