The poetics of Dani Soter

Fabiana De Moares

Oblivion is not only a vis inertiae, as superficial spirits believe it; it’s rather an active power. (…) I repeat it, the part of the active faculty of oblivion, a sort of keeper, watcher in charge of keeping psychic order, tranquility, label. One will immediately conclude that no happiness, no serenity, no hope, no pride, no enjoyment of the present moment could exist without the faculty of oblivion.

The artist can’t be separated from her work, from the different artistic materials and languages she handles, at the same time, in a quest of writing.
The story at stake is that of a woman, an artist who is particularly interested in stories. From her personal, intimate story which echoes a childhood haunted with voices, fantasies, situations, places and objects, the stories she makes, as a coverlet, when she realizes a performance (Pensao Ibérica, 2010), by sewing from words borrowed from the spectators-participants – “the pieces that have already been made, like a collective story in which the voice is the line and the secret, the full stop.

Dani Soter’s poetic can’t be thought about without considering the relationships of the artist with the endless building of her stories, the fundamentally human mechanisms, woven by language, elaborated in periods, filled with meanings, signs. To begin with her intimacy, with what is said and what is left unsaid about her real life or her childhood. The flashes of memory, which are everywhere in the artist’s poetry, act as a ground, a soil, a background and, sometimes, as a material for her works.
That writing comes from the drawing, from the thread of the needle, from a red rope that draws a path, or from the pencil. She lets herself be carried by the photographic image, whether the image is composed by the artist herself, recuperated in the memories of her life – or those coming from strangers, anonymous or recuperated at a flea market.

That writing is trying to fill an empty space, gaps left open along life. Filling, but also erasing, like two complementary and, here, cyclical gestures. Erase one’s private diary with an eraser, leaving the dust of the eraser, that material residue of the speech, of memory (Private diary, 2012).
Deliberately erasing the traces of a memory, is a useless and inefficient gesture, but at the same time, that’s the dream of all those who have to face the unpleasantness of some memories.

Soter’s work trifles with that social wound that we almost all know: the duty of subscribing to the traditions of one’s family, by creating subterfuges to make its image last. Not without a touch of humour, the artist exposes the mechanisms of deliberate oblivion, which contribute to the good image of family relationships – the speeches that we pretend not to listen to (Blà blà, blà et Les mots, 2012), the silence which supports the alliances (Silence and Silence is gold, 2012), which dulls and dissolves conflicts, which maintains the (false) quietness to preserve the (falsely) happy image of some social links. We thus understand why Soter conceives an incomplete family tree, where, for example, the names of those who would constitute a family tree structure are missing.
Empty are also the faces of these bodies drawn with very fine lines, calmly but firmly, and whose arms and hands are trying to feel something, though unsuccessfully – looking for what can be felt to understand things, to catch them and include them in experience, to transform them into real life at last, to represent them.