Low tide


“To look at the fruit, the sea with desert eyes”;
“…to enjoy the error / and its repair”.
Ida Vitale

Low tide is the first individual exhibition of Inés Verdugo in Uruguay. Born in Guatemala, she visits Montevideo for the first time in 2019 and she is immediately drawn to the nautical architecture of the city.

Her fascination with late art decó buildings (also known as aerodynamic or streamline moderne) propels her to imagine her transit among these concrete giants, ready to be devoured by enormous waves although permanently tied, unable to decide to set sail. An inexplicable sway pushes her to navigate the floating city while picturing herself as the protagonist in an out to sea dream. A seawoman on solid ground, caught by the cartography of wind and fog, searching for a lost crew among unknown faces, drifts, and loneliness.

Tide and tempest became an obsession to numerous artists through history. The vessels take us back to the adventure and discovery while also embodying a safe haven in a hostile environment.

Floating palaces are reminiscent of mythic epic stories of yore, but small inflatable boats also conjure images of the current migratory crisis.

The sea confronts us with the unmeasurable. As Borges used to say: “the sea is an old language that I cannot decipher”. Witness to conquests and shipwreck, conduit to civilizations, slaves, refugees, and immigrants; the sea always invokes creation.

The pandemic hits right when Inés returns to her country. This impasse forces her to run aground in her memories. Montevideo begins to fade away and to turn into a distant, foggy place. The long lockdown months challenge this seawoman: she lives with a vessel, calculates its borders, adjusts the nets, and measures the buoys that accompany her days. She develops several situations, interventions and scenographies within the four walls of her house. Then, like a ghost, the small vessel turns into a strong presence between daily life and the confined hours. The boat seeps through the doors, the windows, and it becomes, at times, a heavy burden. She then tries to cover it with fabric, rendering it invisible, creating textile patterns, recreating its shapes, melting them.

She then plans a tide log which later translates into a succession of books compiling drawings and data gathered with precision. The sea dislocates and it is no longer possible to perceive where it is, if within the ship or outside of it.

The installation in Fundación Kavlin presents, from the beginning, an uncertain, fragmented trek. An intimate fiction, a floating space the artist carries with her to be promptly displayed elsewhere. She establishes a personal psychogeography where territory and imagination merge generating a series of reflections superposing from layers of exposed memory.

The textile and the soft materials such as leather and foam become a fundamental substance of the trek, light structures in the multiple landscapes of time inhabited in lockdown. The body becomes fragile in its relationship to the world; an uncertain attempt, several attempts.

The artist looks for a place where to moor, deconstructing the image of a ship; she establishes passing connections in an ever imprecise transit. She dresses and undresses the memory, some moored vessels, some shadows; she defines the pallet of Montevideo with precision: musky greens, endless gray hues, and other many whites.

A huge blanket contains pieces of the nautical architecture of Montevideo. These pieces are projected over a roof that displays a vision, an attempt to break the silence and shape it.

The epidermis of a textile ship conforms a costume, an attempt to make it docile, manageable maybe, foldable even, and easily portable. Its sculptures and soft shapes seem to come from a certain ‘being out of…’, between the observable and the observed, with a certain distance or fatigue, with a certain disenchantment that is resolved, as a possible liberating essay in a potentially autonomous environment of subjectivity.

The surreal dimension, then, produces a tear that allows entrance in a hidden zone of the real. For Heidegger, “the truth only installs itself as struggle in the thing that is produced, in a way that the struggle begins within that thing; that is to say, it tears it apart”.

Inés Vergudo enunciates poetics in transit, an Orinoco landscape in constant deconstruction confusing the ship with a wave, a shadow with a façade or leather clippings with the traces of a boat. We are once again invited, as spectators, to question the visible, certain forms that can be taken apart like a puzzle without logic or instructions.

She dilutes the angles, reconfigures and embraces as if the voyage were always incomplete, always floating and about to de·navigate. What objects accompany us in this journey? How many moorings can we use as unmovable certainties? Will we know, in the end, how to leave behind something that retains our memory?

Between hope and running aground, the sea continues to draw that line of a horizon that distances and connects. A big polymorphic aleph, bridge and border, utopian destiny that reconstructs and heals. An eternal liquid territory where everything is possible. To return, to never let oneself go.

Lucía Pittaluga
August, 2021

Fotografías: Ignacio Rodríguez