Video essay / Full HD
08:25 min
Collaboration between Paula Ábalos and Carol Illanes

Images of Cama-Mónada

"Cama-Mónada" is a collaborative video essay crafted by Paula Ábalos and art historian Carol Illanes. It delves into two photobooks authored by Ábalos, chronicling the rooms and beds where she slept for four years. These books and video serve as witnesses to her journey through various spaces, offering a chance to contemplate the images and concepts surrounding the imprints and remnants of this daily ritual of slumber, where the realms of the conscious and unconscious intersect.

Carol Illanes (1987) holds a Master's degree in Art History and Criticism from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and a degree in Art Theory and Art History from the Universidad de Chile. She is dedicated to research and curatorship, linked to contemporary Chilean and Latin American art. Her projects have addressed various themes, including the relationship between art and public space, experimental video and the theory of history in Latin American art. He currently works in the artistic coordination of the Centro de Extensión Palacio Pereira, MINCAP.

Link to video

Link to books shown in the video:

Transcription of the essay written by Carol Illanes:
(English translation of the original Spanish text, by Lydia-Marie Lafforgue)

The Bed-Monad1

There are few events which don’t leave a written trace
Georges Perec

Night rests used to be very distinct from the solitary form we have come to know today. In pre-industrial societies,
the majority of people used to sleep in groups, for example, next to family members or lords and their respective
servants. Beds used to be large and uncomfortable: simple wooden boxes with blankets wrapped around a stack of
straw, leaves, or wool. It was a communal space, often surrounded by bedbugs and lice, which––naturally––
resulted in different sleeping habits.

With the refinement of this artefact and the re-organisation of deep sleep according to the formula dawn equals
production time, these ancient customs would eventually disappear from our lives and biology. Like all modern
creations, the bed as we know it has a second origin. Namely, as George Perec recalls: “The bed is thus the
individual space par excellence, the elementary space of the body (the bed-monad), the one which even the man
completely crippled by debts has the right to keep.”2

Dreams of one’s own bed, memories of the first bed, and the strangeness and forensic delirium of being in someone
else’s bed are all repeated references to its origin in the individual––a sense that saturates the reiterating quality of
Paula’s imagery.
Why announce a presence, an existence? For what?
“What interests me the most,” Paula explains, “is how an apparently solid space can become a vibrant projection
of the bodies that inhabit it––an imaginary, inner world, a psyche, a space where the conscious and the
unconscious meet.” In my mind, what occupies the space between a blank page and a bed (precisely the point
Perec is making in Species of Spaces) is the same intermediate space that fills this diary: a frozen scene––
sometimes very full, sometimes very empty––but always ready to be embroidered with projections, memories,
or inventive ideas; something that alludes to a presence that is not there. Between the page and the bed, between
the blanket and the individual, there is a tension that oscillates between imagination and sensibility, between the
products of our minds, as Paula would word it, and what is really there.
Photography is the only medium that provides this documentary anchor, a trace that “someone was here”. What
we see in Paula’s images are inscribed bodies––not graphically and permanently, but imaginatively and
innocuously––on the surface of an orchestra of objects. The ego (almost) dissolves in an exterior of habitational
traces, but at the same time it withstands, it resists. These are the visible “signs”.

Perec views beds as places “where unformulated dangers threatened, the place of contraries, the space of the
solitary body encumbered by its ephemeral harems, the foreclosed space of desire, the improbable place where
I had my roots, the space of dreams and of an Oedipal nostalgia.”3 The space left open between page and bed is
a constant guard; Paula whispers to me just once to tell what it was really all about: “A fear of death, of things
that disappear. Of what ceases to be. Of what dissolves.” These were Paula’s words. I didn’t dare to inquire

On these sheets and pages, the discomfort and boredom, the frustrated desire of curling up in bed anticipates the
pandemic claustrophobia of our times. The question that remains is why there is such a shift, such a radical
change in the type of photography from one book to the next? The first images resembled crime scenes. Pin
sharp portraits. The latest suggest suspension––ambiguity, angles, details. What continues, however, is the act
of repeating, which says a lot about History with a capital letter. Even here, there is a desire to make the ordinary
seem extraordinary. It is almost as if, in its resistance to the nothingness, the ego transcends its oneiric overflow
and, strengthened by its surroundings, overcomes its own dissolution. Simply by leaving a record or, at least, a
written trace.

Carol Illanes L.

1 Monad: in philosophy the simplest indivisible unit.
2 Perec, Georges. Species of Spaces and Other Pieces: Georges Perec. Translated by John Sturrock. New York: Penguin Group USA, 1974, p.
16. 3 ibid, p. 17.

© 2024 Paula Ábalos