Solo Shows
Curator: Rosa Martínez.
Sala Montcada. La Caixa Foundation. Barcelona, Spain. April 27th to may 23rd, 1993.

Dressed for intensity
I want you to feel the way I do: There's barbed wire wrapped all around my head and my skin grates on my flesh from the inside. How can you be so comfortable only 5" to the left of me? I don't want to hear myself think, feel myself move. It's not that I want to be numb, I want to slip under your skin: I will listen for the sound you hear, feed on your
thought, wear your clothes.
Now I have your attitude and you 're not comfortable anymore. Making them yours you relieved me of my opinions, habits, impulses. I should be grateful but instead... you 're beginning to irritate me: I am not going to live with myself inside your body, and I would rather practice being new on someone else.

When I saw The dress (/ want you to feel the way I do) for the first time, I was pierced through by an arrow, both viscerally and intellectually. It has —as does much of Sterbak's work— an intense perception of the present, a powerful representation of the way we live and feel the passions that agitate, consume, constitute and torment our "matter". The gradual incandescence which infuses it appears to be a metaphor for the intensities of love, for the dialectic of desire-rejection, for its kindling and extinction. The metal structure of which it is formed alludes to the invisible prisons in which our emotions encarcelate us. The open arms seem to stretch out towards the other, although we can also percieve in them the ambiguity and the fatal destructiveness of the embrace.
The text accompanying the electric dress speaks of the transferences and transitions of identity. To love is to go out of oneself towards the other, but in that journey of desire a "monstrous contradiction" (Hegel) lies concealed, since in love I sacrifice the other in order to be myself, at the same time as the other sacrifices me, converts me into an object, possesses me and attempts to impose his law on me.

Jana Sterbak knows that the Other has several faces: the Other as mirror, the one in whom I am reflected, whom I love and hate, in whom I am doubled and with whom I exchange myself, in whom I long to lose myself in order to find myself, the one who travels through me and with whom I may pass down the tortuous pathways of passion,
whose pleasures are also the prelude to dissatisfaction, pain and death. And the Other who judges, who sanctions my mirror games, that one whom Lacan calls the Great Other, in that he is the guardian of the law and of the symbolic.

Our bodies are always, fatally, the field on which desire and law fight out their battle, the place where we oscillate between the inclination to let ourselves be carried away by the impulses and passions which impel us towards the other, and the tendency to be subjects, to subject and adapt ourselves to the norms which configure the self.

In the work of Jana Sterbak we hear the echoes of these battles, but the opposing forces are not the body and the soul; the antithesis between psychic subjectivity and physiological objectivity has ceased to apply and a new psychosomatic synthesis has taken its place, slipping into dress as metaphor for "the inferiority that flows towards the exterior" (Gurmendez). In Jana Sterbak, the dress becomes a denuding which renders visible the occult forces of the self, all that is spiritual, emotive and passionate.

Klossowski, in The Laws of Hospitality, speaks of the transitiveness of the body, of how the essence of eroticism consists in being hospitable, in being capable of putting on or inhabiting other bodies as if they were one's own. Jana Sterbak accentuates in her work this dimension of the dress as body; the transit between the body and what covers it is a transubstantiation. Accordingly, a work such as Hairshirt becomes an anxiety-laden signifier of the finality of desire and Jacket condenses its antithesis: the impossibility of escaping from the self.

Jana Sterbak's dresses are "bodies without organs" (Deleuze-Guattari), they are "fields of the immanence of desire", they are alive, but only intensities circulate through them; only the convulsions of love, of the fear of death, of frustration; only the flaring up of beauty, of inspiration, of pain and desperation....

Vanitas. Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorexic alludes to the intensity of the temporalities of the human being, whose first and last horizon is death. The making explicit of this ephemeral character, relative as it is to exhaustion and wearing out, is combined with a mordant critique of the forms that the body is obliged to adopt in a culture whose anxiety is to convert it into the paradigm of eternal youth.

Vanitas destroys the taboo which prohibits us from seeing ourselves and from being seen as we really are: animal flesh. And in revealing the inertia of this flesh, which will rot and decompose, it summons up the repugnant and sinister nature of the terrible death sentence hanging over us. This mise en scene is no doubt liberating, but it is also obscene —to the extent that it transgresses the prohibition against making visible certain contents—, irrational and indecent — in that it denies the process of civilization, and carries us back to our constitutive animality-.

Sterbak establishes disquieting connections between the representable and the unrepresentable, at the same time as she questions the evidence of certain notions relative to the body, in her desire to posit anew the form in which we inhabit our identities, and with the intention of expanding the possibilities for experience which enable the subject to construct itself through others, knowing that the encounter is more important than the identity of the person encountered.

In her aesthetic investigations, Jana Sterbak eludes the idea of style, projecting herself in the heterogeneity of multiple materials and shifting through a diversity of creative processes and formulas, always according pre-eminence to the idea over the form and seeking to discover and stimulate the secret correspondences that exist between the materials and their spiritual connotations. In this way she creates new languages which are inscribed in the first beginnings of a new history of subjectivity, in which woman proclaims the revolutionary power of her visions and her energies, contributing to the renewal of the sense of her condition —as a person and as an artist— and can situate herself in the wider context of reflection on the human condition.

In the piece Corona Laurea (Noli me tangere), inspiration and madness are associated as extreme forms of mental energy, in an ironic reflection on the disturbing
ambivalence of the powers of the creative artist. It is, however, in the performance Artist as combustible that we find the most fascinating interpretation of the rapture that shakes and inflames the artist. In this performance, Jana Sterbak stands naked in a darkened room with a small heap of gunpowder on top of her head, sending out of herself an intense tongue of flame which lasts for only a few seconds and alludes to the transitory nature of the inspiration that illumines poetic visions.

To the extent that it makes possible the emergence of the darkest fluids that give life and sense to human matter, her vigorous, disquieting and subversive art has something "demonic" in it, something damned, which takes pleasure in destroying in order to create; something diabolical that causes the most recondite intensities to come to the surface and touches the very frontiers of madness; something incommunicable and unrepresentable, for all that it communicates and is represented; something that occupies a place beyond Good and Evil.

Rosa Martinez