States of the Arts


The Autobiography of an Embryo

by Eileen Agar

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Four bright panels burgeon with organic matter. Scanning the painting, we see the yellow fins of a pair of schooling bannerfish, the wings of a chalk-white hawk, a sallow human hand, and so on. Circles and oblongs dominate, randomly overlapping each other. Rectangles contain profiles of adult men and women in a miscellany of artistic styles, while black rings contain cells, as seen through a child’s eyes. Cocooned within them are tentacles, spiked stars, vegetation, and other biological material. The work is a celebration of reproduction or, in Eileen Agar’s words, ‘womb magic’.

Words by John Wadsworth

Wild Tales

directed by Damián Szifron
Feature film

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Wild Tales is an anthology film featuring six stories of revenge, which combine to form both a pitch-black comedy and a scathing satire. Its various premises are straightforward – an explosives expert’s vehicle is towed away, a bride accuses her groom of infidelity – but each escalates to the point of hellish retribution. Tension gathers momentum, pivoting on the root causes of so much societal violence: corruption, prejudice, insecurity. From approaching cars to a pilot’s broadcasts, Wild Tales toys with our fears, ensuring that every twist is as exhilarating as it is deranged.

Words by John Wadsworth

The Penultimate Journey

by Alina Diaconú

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The narrator of The Penultimate Journey travels by train to the ‘most Nordic part of the southernmost country in South America', a north Argentinian town ominously referred to as San La Muerta. She seeks a utopian return to her place of origin, a closing of the gap between here and there, in hope that it will help her to remember her past self. The novel is informed by autobiography; Diaconú was a migrant, and moved from Romania to Argentina at the age of ten. The book's title is an intriguing one. If this is the narrator’s penultimate journey, which is to be her last?

Words by John Wadsworth

Ella en su cuaderno

by Juana Molina

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In 1994, Juana Molina cancelled her comedy sketch show, Juana y sus hermanas, to become a musician. The result was Rara, a stripped-back rock album that moves between dissonance and calm with assurance. ‘Ella en su cuaderno’ is its first track, the story of a woman who carries a picture of a man in her notebook. Its angular guitar lines and rhythmic tricks may seem at odds with the nostalgia of the lyrics, but Molina sees no such conflict. Nestled within the skipping syncopations and irregular phrase lengths, she places a tale of warm reminiscence.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

The Autobiography of an Embryo: Read more on the Tate website. A.S. Byatt has written about Eileen Agar for The Guardian, has as Richard Cork for The Financial Times.

Wild Tales: Watch the trailer here. See an excerpt here. There are more excerpts available on the Curzon Artificial Eye website.

The Penultimate Journey: Read a biography of Alina Diaconú by Gwendolyn Díaz on Google Books (from page 213). Read a book chapter aboutThe Penultimate Journey by Felicia Lynne Fahey on Google Books (from page 1).

Ella en su cuaderno: Listen to the song here. Visit Juana Molina's website here. Paola Capó García has interviewed Molina for BOMB Magazine, as have Erin Lyndal Martin for The Quietus and Scott Wright for PopMatters.

Question of the day

Which Argentinian artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

The Invention of Morel, a novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Adventure novel, tragic love tale, metaphysical mystery, cinema’s inner fantasy: it combines all these genres, excelling in each one. (→)

– Cristina Álvarez López, film critic (via The Brief →)

Mad Toy, a novel by Roberto Arlt. I love its crazed depiction of youth, adventure, and undercover book theft. (→)

– Julianne Pachico, short story writer (The Lucky Ones) (via The Brief →)

Read more: States of the Arts (South America)