"We are the man", 1990, Tomás Eloy Martínez

We are the man

Those who approach the engravings of Isabel de Laborde will not only see how reality crumbles. They will also hear the ardor of instincts, will touch the zoologies of death, will know man is always what is not there: A mask, a buzzard, condemned absolution, ocean of the night, a lesson of the abyss.  

It is sufficient to encounter these lines only once, (which Isabel has placed under the advocacy of the poet Jaime Sabines), for the fabric of our gaze to fall into disorder: where do these dark lines come from? How has this imagination from another world disembarked among us? The very first thing we can think of is that Isabel has fallen under the spell of an alchemist : that the plates, the needles, the acids, and the burins of her engravings workshop are the ones – finally released towards a secret free will - have by themselves, weaved the penetrating visions of this exhibition. That the lightning, the nightmares, the fire, the bones, the foxes, the joys, and the crystallized brilliance of the aqua forte and watered inks are a feast of magic, and not what they really are: live signs of Isabel’s imagination and plastic dexterity.      

And after all that, we cease to think, there is no longer time or space for the violence of thought. We have entered into the realms of carvings, and we cannot move from there: we have fallen into the Aztec enchantment of these landscapes without beginning nor end, where the black strongholds of the leaves have the rhythm of the ancient sacred hymns, and where the grey eyes of the oxen, of the foxes, and the blood summoned by Isabel de Laborde, resemble the mother of the gods: “ lying on the navel of the earth, sunken in a cell of turquoise”, such as sung by Toltec songs destroyed by Hernán Cortés.       

And whosoever manages to finally enter the disturbing body of these engravings, he or she shall not come out unchanged: because what was called day, it is now a salt mine of the night, what were once birds of vigil, are now fish of dreams, nobody is now the same.

When these engravings didn’t exist, it was easy to gaze at reality without misleads. Not now. Because Isabel has woven the profile, the slant, the transparency of the only reality we don’t countenance: the one we carry in ourselves.

Tomás Eloy Martínez

Translated by Eduard D. Adamson