Jeannette Betancourt's work manifests a double and acute sensitivity, both for the forms and for the problems that afflict our society. With solid training as a sculptor, it is not enough for her to indulge in the sensitive play of forms, but it is necessary for her to interweave and involve her practice with the historical moment, but without losing sight of the fact that any reflection or commitment must be made through the material conformation of the work. Images do not convince, they seduce; if anything characterizes Jeannette's work, it is that images are not accessories but indispensable to the reflection she intends to provoke. We have, then, a work that moves in two complementary registers without restricting or sacrificing any of them.
At first sight, Jeannette's work seems to appeal to mere aesthetic delectation, but this is denied when reading the titles of her pieces, which serve as a detonating agent of unforeseen readings, demanding a different attitude from the spectator. By breaking the merely formal expectations, the pieces throw us into an uncertain space where in order not to be deceived we have to be very alert; an attitude that Jeannette seems to indicate should be extended to everyday life where deceptions multiply in the agenda of corporations, politicians, and media that manipulate our minds and desires. But the title is only an initial indicator because the material conformation of the pieces is also full of tricks and traps where nothing is what it seems.
The natural and the human are in constant opposition and conflict in his work. The act, apparently simple and very usual in artistic practice, of giving an organization to natural elements has in this context a metaphorical dimension: to speak of the traces that human activity has left on the Earth, a concern that is present in all his work. The mere artistic act of shaping an object becomes problematic because it is also part of a culture that has made exploitation and devastation its calling card. It is one and the same culture that created that entelechy of beautiful forms and that which colonized and oppressed other cultures throughout the length and breadth of the planet; and this painful awareness permeates the entire work, making it a way -sometimes desperate- of stating that the separation and distancing from the rest of beings and things in that apparently heroic and foundational act of our culture of assuming oneself as a free and self-determined subject, eager for knowledge -cogito ergo... boom! (1)-, is the touchstone where the current exploitation and devastation is rooted.
Belonging to a culture provides individuals with a sphere of certainty for organizing social life. Far from the integrating process of worldviews in the original cultures of America, Western Eurocentric culture and its voluntarist daring replaced belief systems with the establishment of rational principles for the organization of life. That which we call the West carries with it, then, a primordial, fatal rootlessness that permanently undermines the construction of a world. Jeannette Betancourt's work is part of the trend of contemporary art to open uncomfortable questions or point out unpleasant realities, but while most artists focus on the visibility of the marginalized, Jeannette achieves a broader critique by pointing to the ideological core or the structuring paradigm that underhandedly constitutes the primary cause of all social problems.
In the face of a desolate panorama and in a culture that has undermined each and every one of its grips, there is nothing left but to multiply uncertainty through criticism, in the hope that in the process we will manage to build another social order. In the post-truth world, such an undertaking seems difficult or frankly suicidal, but when argumentation fails, when logic becomes murky, there is still another way to proceed: through the concreteness and specificity of images whose power of communication and conviction does not go through the usual instrumental channels. You, dear reader/spectator, are invited to this intelligent gaze, neither focused nor unidirectional, but empathetic and resonant. And not only to appreciate the works that make up this exhibition but to extend it to where it is most needed: out there.
Víctor Sánchez Villarreal
For the solo exhibition
Certitudes and Uncertainties at the Popular Art Museum, 2021.
Mexico City, Mexico.
(1) Susan Sontag, Radical Styles.