History of the left eye

“You can’t see but what you watch”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty

One thing is to treasure objects (books, antiques, art words, stamps) and another very different thing is to collect gazes. Something similar is what Marco Montiel-Soto proposes with his “History of the left eye”, suggesting with its title an idea that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with a biographical circumstance associated with an accident he suffered, hurting his own left eye.

Since then, the artist has collected and accumulated all kinds of color eyes, belonging to adults and children, men and women, eyes gentle and severe, light, grey and dark, lonely, paired or grouped. Upon occasion, the work becomes a constellation of vigilant eyes, piled up in no particular order, shaping into images that could be recognized. For instance, the threesome of eyes –two above, one below– reminds us of a face with an optical mouth that opens gluttonously to confirm that we can ‘eat with sight’.

This gaze catalog is configured in a heterogeneous manner, with eyes removed from their owner’s visage, as if with this emptying their substance were uprooted. If in Leonardo Da Vinci’s perceptive studies “eyes are the windows to the soul”, in Montiel-Soto vision is an auto-referential mechanism that only represents itself. Although the eye lets itself be seen while looking, it’s not possible to discern in its gestures what individual is behind them, because no one is there. In reality, this accumulation of literally un-orbited glancing eyes, with no morphological or organic grip, is signed with an anxious paradox: the blindness of the seer, obstructed by the vertiginous depth of the visible and denied of the possibility to establish any certainty about what is in front of them.

That ocular fail is also the symptom of an emotional malfunction if we take into account the popular saying: far from eyes, far from the heart. But how could a body-less organ –a gaze without a subject– be conscious of what makes it hungry or agitated? How to descifre the remote cause of this glimmering obscurity?

Further away from the speculative kindness that is in these works, the central question that pushes them is to “show vision”, even when “the gaze in itself is invisible”. A wink or blink, for example, are appointed to the alphabet of human behaviors, prefixing a shared pattern of legibility. The world is a jungle of codes and signs where one must act with reciprocity (an eye for an eye), tolerance (pity eyes), gratitude (you don’t look a gifted horse in the mouth) or generosity (do good to all alike).

The show looks over an ample registry of mediums, from photography to video and voice recordings, objects and writings. With this repertoire, Montiel-Soto constructs a singular tale of vision, splattered with metaphorical allusions. The artist operates as a surgeon, selecting fragments from fashion magazines, ads, arts, and politics, to restructure them into space with no coordinates whatsoever.

Here we have no all-knowing eye, but a handful of gazes, each of which is immersed in its own drama. From the specular roundness of a retina, the unity of the world is broken and the pretension of all-encompassing vision is broken with one single stroke of sight. In this sense, Montiel-Soto warns us that nothing –neither eyesight nor visible reality– can be reduced to one sole point of view.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty. El ojo y el espíritu. Ediciones Paidos, Buenes Aires, 1986

WJT.  Mitchell. Mostrando el ver: una crítica de la cultura visual. Revista de Estudios Visuales #1, noviembre de 2003 p. 18

Félix Suazo, 2010