Text: Andrea Perissinotto
Curator of the exhibition
One of the gifts I received for my last birthday was an hourglass, although
sand as such had very little, because the grains of sand were actually like very small golden metal spheres. When I turned it over, after a few dramatic moments in which a waterfall of burnished microspheres was descending with all its vigour, until colliding with the concave glass walls when, suddenly, the little balls got stuck for the surprise of all us who were witnessing that brilliant transposition of our own time.
The author of the gift was quick to apologize, adding that she would have exchanged it for another that "worked". At first it seemed the most opportune thing to do, however, as I continued contemplating that rebellious artifact, I saw in it an amulet to deceive traditions, I guessed… somehow, that was giving me another perception of the passage of time, out of control and without borders. With no room for exact measurement, from defined to undefined, certain to uncertain: unpredictably free.
When Hana Jaeger arrived in Madrid three years ago, in 2020, she also turned her
watch and, like mine, it suddenly stopped. In that sand there were mixed
emotions, dreams, hopes and, of course, also the uncertainty that any
life change brings with it. Without being able to flow into the expected future, those feelings were trapped in an exhausting waiting period marked by so many uncertainties. That cluster of enigmas had a name: COVID 19.
A pandemic that we all endured, although, of course, in different ways; that inner struggle that we had to fight by allying ourselves with blind hope and resilience while witnessing our own tragedy and that of others ( in the case of those of us who at the end survived, it was the most painful experience that marked a before and after in our lives), is reflected on the canvases and boxes that the artist presents to the public for the first time in her also first individual exhibition in Madrid.
The title of the exhibition “My name is Ana, delighted” is a manifesto in itself of that forced waiting time to which the artist had to submit, just a few months after having moved to Spain. On the one hand, because she is telling us: «finally you can meet me (and vice-versa)!". On the other, because it pays homage to the country that welcomed her, its people, and its language while adapting her name to Spanish -by removing the h-, turning Hana into Ana.
Indeed, in addition to dealing with such a delicate and still present issue, such as the COVID 19 pandemic, Hana/Ana (hereafter we will call her by her adapted name) treats in her works a variety of themes and daily situations: from a football match she watched in a downtown bar, to a hieratic hotel bellboy, probably waiting for precise instructions on where to put the suitcases of some clients, to attending several conferences of would-be politicians, diplomats or, perhaps, simple sellers.
However, the true protagonists of Jaeger's works are "the invisibles", those who do not normally appear in the news, on the newspapers, the workers -in a certain way- forgotten, but essential: street sweepers, nurses, doctors, policemen and so very many passers-by who, after all, could be ourselves. Because how many of us could be included in that category of human resources (or people, just like that, regardless of their profession necessary but invisible?
Under this prism, Ana grants us a universal dignity, putting face to an unfair forgetfulness and she does it by blurring, after powerful brushstrokes, the features of the characters she portrays by focusing on their actions, on the importance of the moment and on the intrinsic value of their own presence, as if wanting to launch a message of awareness that affirms: «I, being here, I am serving you».
"Serving you", in the literal sense of providing a service to other people, be it the fact of cleaning, delivering food, cutting hair or loading a patient into an ambulance, just to give a few examples. And although it is true that in Ana's paintings there are often people on the move, it is also irrefutable that in several of them the artist stops to accompany them in a moment of rest, so deserved and so necessary.
This is how we see a rider sitting next to the typical yellow backpack that he always carries with him; some nuns, also sitting, waiting… we don't know exactly what for… and there is even a small series of clowns, once again without a defined face and whose clothing betrays their profession, but with the absence of striking gestures (such as a grimace of sarcasm, an excessive smile or an action that accentuates their task, which is to make us laugh) allows us to almost glimpse a certain sadness or loneliness, probably because what we
we expect from them is just the opposite.
In any case, I would rather say that what we are witnessing is the fatigue of doing, that exhaustion that is a direct consequence of work and not of any other activity, most of the times it is a physical work, strength and resistance. In fact, even two of her works portray workers from the Reina Sofía Museum while they are moving some paintings, passing next to Picasso's Guernica.
However, that movement remains almost frozen as if Ana wanted to take the opportunity to pay homage to those four employees who carry on their shoulders the weight of art: they support artists and allow us to show our creations, staying away from the most visible part of the exhibition, but being an indispensable part of it.
In a recent interview for YANMAG Magazine, Ana said: «I deal more with the
marginalized and the weak, I contemplate the people of everyday life, the ones we don't see, the transparent, and I document the moments that go unnoticed, but I give them all the splendour they deserve. I bring them from the background to the foreground».
Undoubtedly, the artist complies with her intentions and where her message acquires the most strength is when working with cardboard boxes that she finds on the street or with the parcels that she receives from home delivery. The key for us to seize the gesture, the intention and the poetic nature of this support for her, is based on the fact that her work is not made on top of any other surface, but on the boxes themselves as an inherent part of her work.
As Ana rightly points out, those containers, we just get rid of as we come into possession of its content, could be a metaphor for those that she herself has defined as "the transparent ones", since without packaging most of the items that
we receive or buy they would not reach their destination intact. The same applies for those professionals who provide essential services for our daily life. If it was not for them, we would not have clean and collected streets, we would not arrive on time at our destination by public transport or we would not even reach our own survival in time, if there were no doctors assisting us in case of need.
Jobs in which fatigue, also mental, overwhelm, stress and even anxiety, can
become forced passages of a daily life that often leads us to take refuge in
thoughts that are meant to establish a forced distancing, even from our loved ones, because sometimes it is so difficult to ask for help, because by isolating ourselves can offer us a repair apparently more protective or, at least, endowed with a soothing immediacy.
It is salvation, yes, with an expiration date, that appears on Ana's works and not even in a figurative sense, because there are numbers in them, bar codes, words… endless information, just like there is in that bombardment of data, images and sounds to which we are subjected to on a daily basis. For this purpose, I see a dichotomy among these types of materials that the artist uses to create her pictorial pieces, collage or mixed technique and the irrepressible dependence we have on technology.
Because most of you who are going to read this text, most likely, will do it on your phones it would not be surprising if, when you slide your finger to continue reading, you come across some of those works in which Ana portrays people, alone or in groups, walking or still somewhere, while they are totally absorbed looking at their mobile.
It would be like looking in a mirror or realizing that someone is looking at you, or both things at the same time, which would enhance the sensation of being observed, generating a state of alert, as if we were recognizing ourselves, as if someone was given the opportunity to think, to reflect. As if they were disconnecting us from the assisted breathing and we could reconnect with our breath, recovering the rhythm of deep breathing.
We could also see the boxes smashed, crushed, stripped of their value, even
humiliated, as a sign of the rage caged in our need to resist, to
endure, to endure and then get rid of all those repressed emotions
taking revenge on those who have mistreated us. Could the battered boxes
be the representation of our anger when we think about the arrogant clients, the authoritarian parents, tiresome teachers and all those variables of beings that we don’t tolerate and that exert pressure (real or imagined) on us?
And those blows, those imperfections leave obvious traces that the artist does not hide but integrates into the whole of creation (she herself told us that the boxes are the work) could they be imaginary injuries that we inflict on third parties, or are they self-inflicted?
Is consumerism revenge or rebellion? A dependency, a golden prison or a
compensation of our efforts? Is it a reward or a sentence? If it's true that
as the German philosopher and anthropologist Ludwig Feuerbach said, "we are what we eat" and if it is true what the American artist Barbara Kruger says, "I shop, therefore I am" (“I buy, therefore I am”) then we find the equation that “we are the boxes that we use and throw away” or, in other words, we are what we consume.
In any case, the artist does not position herself as an element that generates conflicts (internal or external may they be), but suggests emergency situations so that everyone can look up from their Smartphone and see themselves there in that autobiographical circumstance. In addition, by subtracting details and downloading visual information from the background of the composition, what Ana does is invite us to focus our attention on the protagonists of each piece.
Sometimes they even seem to fluctuate in space and even disappear, breaking down and losing matter, step by step. That happens to me when I leave my house in the morning, still asleep and with my headphones on and I merge with so many others like me with their helmets on or without them, crushed on a suburban route that unites us in a collectively anonymous story… untitled, as "Untitled" are each and every one of Jaeger’s works.
Episodes of other people's chores that intermingle spontaneously and without knowing it, whether or not we are next to someone known or would be known. Wagons of trains as waiting rooms, benches to give us a moment of calm or, simply, the tranquillity of home to serve as a refuge, watching episodes of
other people's chores from our window.
In Ana Jaeger’s work there is a circularity that refers us, once again, to a time protected, a few grains of sand without descending, a few unexploded bubbles, a few tears retained and a curiosity that when it blossoms whispers to us that, if we wish so, we are not alone. But, for there to be someone willing to welcome us, we have to be the ones offering the welcoming first.
Ana provides us with certain universal emotions that lead us towards some questions closer to us than we could ever imagine and offer us the opportunity to stop wondering who we really want to be, before it is too late and we cannot bring the time back being distanced again without being able to decide for how long.