32 // 7.07.21

La Maruja
Pilar Mata Dupont

Place, paracuses, in-between spaces, uncertain narratives, receding tides, shapeshifting, familiarity and family, belonging and becoming, heritage and lineage.

The pejorative Spanish term ‘maruja’ refers, in some countries, to an older woman who dedicates herself solely to domestic tasks, gossip and television. It is also sometimes a diminutive of the name María. La Maruja was the original name of the ranch owned by Pilar Mata Dupont’s family, near the town of Azul in Buenos Aires province inArgentina. It was built on stolen Querandí territory in the late 1800s.

Artist Pilar Mata Dupont is from two settler-colonial societies, Australia and Argentina, and her work vibrates with a sensitivity to historical trauma, colonial dread and alienation. Digging into her family history, Pilar interviewed family members about María Cristina, her great-great grandmother and found references to her in archival tapes of interviews previously made by her father. When María Cristina married into the Mata family, she was moved to the country, eventually renaming their family ranch ‘Destierro,’ meaning exile. She had various children, but her son, Fito was taken from her when he was a child and given to childless relatives. In the following years, María Cristina died from a painful bacterial illness and never saw Fito again.

What did María Cristina die of? Why did she lose her son, and what was the nature of her exile? Only much later, listening back to these Spanish language recordings, did Pilar realise that she had made an aberration in hearing – a misunderstanding that this work unravels. Such are the gaps and fragments in knowing, communicating and belonging of those learning their lineage from afar and across languages.

In the films of Lucrecia Martel, violence is often latent and the ghosts of Argentina’s brutal past are dormant in seemingly banal stories about childhood and family. Working between scripted drama and documentary, Pilar works in a similar way, imagining her extended family members as absent protagonists in a mystery of ancestry and matriarchy on the Destierro ranch. The mood flickers to horror, heartbeats pattern the soundscape, and Argentina’s complicated and violent history forms the eerie backdrop.

About Pilar Mata Dupont

Informed by her background and upbringing in the settler-colonial states, Argentina and Australia, Pilar Mata Dupont makes work that aims to probe Euro-centric notions of beauty and power. Pilar is represented by MOORE CONTEMPORARY.

Artist's website