Maider López

Isabel Coixet, 2005

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38 steps around Maider López

I’m standing in front of the Italian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. An unbearable heat. Alongside is a provisional cafe in which the coffee (illy, of course) is excellent and the speck and ruccola tramezzini even better. I get ready to walk on Maider López.

When the pavilion doors open I take a deep breath, entering slowly. There are 38 steps between the door and the rest of the installations. I walk unhurriedly to begin with, feeling a sort of reverential fear on the white wooden planks with their blood-orange painted edges. I advance timidly. These planks, their slight unsteadiness, make me think for the first in a long time about what walking really is, the effect on us of the ground upon which we walk, the difference between those who look at the sky while walking and those who look at the ground, who we are when at a standstill, when moving…

I stop on the other side and look back over my tracks. Behind me others walk on this same wood and I see little orange paths marking the tracks of people for a moment forming a part of Maider’s work: Icelandic tourists with atomic haircuts and fluorescent sandals (later I realise that they are the architects of the Icelandic pavilion), a couple of English non-arty Gilbert & Georges lookalikes, Italian school-kids sporting Shin Chan backpacks and many-coloured trainers leaving a trail of stone and squashed sweets… Deciding to double back lengthwise, I claim the area as my own, wondering whether to lie down if the attentive attendants will let me, deciding not to despite the fact that this floor, this work is asking me to do just that. I’d like to be listening to a song by Nick Cave or Nick Drake, or by any other dark Nick, I’d like there to be total silence. I’d like the kids and their backpacks and their shouts to be quiet.

Maider’s work doesn’t shout: it whispers. It obliges us to delicately re-examine our surroundings and our own selves, our streets, our forests, our parking places, our code of urban behaviour.

It doesn’t expect all this to change, but hopes that we will consider it with new eyes. Her interventions are a gift of inestimable value at this time when tons of weariness with the everyday can suffocate our lives with the weight of its greyness (or greenness, even a forest can eventually cause weariness, although better a wearied forest than no forest at all): the gift of feeling as though we are walking for the first time, as though we are seeing a forest for the first time, as though the streets of our city didn’t spew over us the excellent properties of a yoghurt or of a rat poison or of aesthetic surgery, as though the space we occupy belongs to us.