2009 / 2012-2014
The suite of drawings Imponderables – one of the works by Johanna Calle in the 31st Bienal – consists in disjointed or broken grilles that bring to mind various everyday structures from our surrounding environs, such as the layout of urban grids or the railings or bars on a window. However, the starting point for these drawings lies somewhere else: Calle reproduces the grid-like structure of accountancy ledgers with wire and then transfers them to cardboard. Thanks to this simple act of decontextualisation, the iconic and symbolic resonances of the broken grille are multiplied, but the literal backdrop is maintained: once the accountancy grid is distorted, so too are the numbers it contains and, by metaphoric extension, the economic order that both the small shopkeeper and big multinationals strive to keep under control.
Perímetros [Perimeters] the other suite of works on view in the exhibition, mingles two orders at odds with each other. On typing paper used for notarial records in Colombia throughout the twentieth century, containing details of ownership of rural parcels of land, Calle draws different species of trees that cut across the dividing lines of the pages of these records – negating their divisional purpose. In the breakdown of order Calle instigates, nature lays claim to its rights over the land undermined by the concentration of capital, which has led to the majority of Colombians losing the small parcels of land on which they have grown food to sustain themselves.
Calle’s work is grounded on drawing, not viewed strictly as a medium but as a whole conceptual universe. When she takes it towards other forms of writing – whether verbal or musical – it is to explore language as a system and, more particularly, the underlying powers at work in it. In the grid or mesh of semantics, morphology and syntax proper to each language, Calle operates by short-circuiting the rules and letting the signs silenced by power speak out. – SGN