March 5, 2013
On the Puppet Theater
Heinrich von Kleist
While passing the winter of 1801 in M., I met one evening, in a public park, Mr. C., who, a short time before, had been engaged in this town as leading dancer at the opera, where the public had given him an extraordinary welcome. I told him of my astonishment at having noticed him several times at a Punch-and-Judy show, which had been set up on the market place, and which delighted the people with little dramatic burlesques, interwoven with songs and dances. He assured me that the pantomimic art of these puppets had given him much pleasure, making it quite plain that a dancer who wanted to develop himself could learn many things from them.
Since this utterance, by the manner in which it was made, seemed to me more than mere fancy, I sat down beside him to question him at some length about his reasons. He asked me whether I would not agree that the movement of the puppets, particularly of the smaller ones, was exceedingly graceful. I could not deny that this was so, and that I had seen a group of four dancing a roundelay in peasant fashion that could not be improved upon even in a drawing by Teniers. I then made inquiries about the mechanism of these figures, and asked him how it was possible—without having myriads of strings attached to one's fingers—to direct each limb and all of its parts, the way the rhythm of the dance required it. He advised me not to imagine that each limb was placed and manipulated singly by the puppeteer during the various moments of the dance. Each movement, he said, has a center of gravity; it would suffice to direct it in the inside of the figure; the limbs, which are nothing but pendula, follow mechanically without anyone's aid. He added that this movement was very simple, that each time, when the center of gravity moved in a straight line, the limbs were beginning to follow a curve, and that often, when shaken accidentally, the whole thing was swept along in a kind of rhythmic movement which resembled the dance.
This remark seemed to me to throw some light on the pleasure which he pretended to find in the marionette theater. Meanwhile I did not yet suspect the consequences he would draw from it later on.
I asked him if he believed that the puppeteer who directed these figures was himself a dancer, or at least if he did not have to have some idea of the beautiful in the dance.
He replied that, though a thing might be easy in a mechanical sense, we could not necessarily deduce from that that it could be manipulated entirely without sensation. The line which the center of gravity had to describe was, to be sure, very simple, and, in his opinion, mostly straight. In cases where it is crooked, the law of its curvature is at least of the first or, at best, second order, and also in this last case only elliptical; which form of movement, he said, was natural for the extremities of the human body, on account of the joints, and therefore it did not require much art for the puppeteer to describe it. On the other hand, this line would remain something very mysterious. For it was nothing other than the road taken by the soul of the dancer, and he doubted if it could be found otherwise than through the fact that the puppeteer placed himself in the center of gravity of the puppet; in other words, that he danced.
I answered that the puppeteer's job had been represented to me as something rather dull, somewhat like the turning of a handle when one is playing the hurdy-gurdy.
"Not at al!," he replied, "on the contrary, the movements of his fingers are in somewhat artificial relationship to those of the puppets, which are attached to them, comparable to those of numbers to their logarithms, or the asymptotes to the hyperbola." He expressed the belief that this last-mentioned vestige of the mind could also eventually be removed from the marionettes, that their dance could pass entirely into the world of the mechanical and be produced by means of a handle, just the way I had imagined it.
I expressed my astonishment, for I was struck that he should have considered this game, invented for the mob, worthy of a beautiful art. Not only that he should believe it capable of a higher evolution, but also that he himself seemed to be occupied with it.
He smiled, saying that he dared assert that if a mechanic would construct a marionette according to his requirements, he would present a dance with it, which neither he nor any good dancer of his time, including Vestris, could equal. "Have you ever heard," he said, while I looked silently at the floor, "of those mechanical legs which English artists manufacture for unfortunate people who have lost theirs?" I said—no, I had never seen such things. "I am sorry," he replied, "for if I tell you that these unfortunate people dance with them, to be sure, I am almost afraid you will not believe me. What am I saying, dance? The sphere of their movements is rather limited, but those that are at their command develop with a tranquillity, lightness, and grace which astonishes every thinking mind."
I said jestingly that in this way he had what he was looking for. For the artist who is able to construct such a strange leg would doubtless be able to produce a whole group of puppets for him, according to his requirements. "Now what," I asked, as I saw him also looking down, somewhat embarrassed, what are these requirements you make of his skill?" "Nothing," he replied, "except what I have already found here: symmetry, mobility, lightness; only all that in a higher degree and especially a more natural order of the centers of gravity."
"And what advantage would this puppet have over living dancers?" I wondered.
"What advantage? First of all—a negative one, my dear friend, that is, that it would never be affected. For affection, as you know, appears when the soul (vis motrix) finds itself at a point other than that of the center of gravity of the movement. Since the puppeteer, as a matter of fact, when he holds this wire, holds no other point in his power but this one, all other limbs are what they should be, dead; they are only pendula that follow the pure law of gravitation; an excellent quality, which we seek in vain with most dancers. Just look at that woman dancer P.," he continued, "when she plays Daphne, and, pursued by Apollo, turns around to look at him; her soul is seated in the vertebrae of her loins; she bends as if she where to break, like a naiad from the school of Bernini. Look at young F. when, as Paris, he stands among the three goddesses and hands the apple to Venus: his soul—it is awful to look at—is seated in his elbow. Such mistakes," he added, interrupting himself, "are unavoidable, since we have eaten of the tree of knowledge. But Paradise is bolted, and the cherub is behind us; we must make a voyage around the earth and see if, perhaps, it is open again at the back."
I laughed. Obviously, I thought, the spirit cannot err, when there is no spirit. But I remarked that he had still other things on his mind, and begged him to go on.
"In addition," he said, "these puppets have the advantage of being immune to the force of gravity. They know nothing of the inertia of matter, that quality which is the most antipodal to the dance, because the force which raises them into the air is greater than the one that keeps them enchained to the earth. What would our good G. not give, if she were sixty pounds lighter, or a weight of this size came to her aid in her pirouettes? The puppets need only the ground, like elves, to touch it and revivify the soaring of the limbs and to recover from the effort of the dance; a moment which obviously is not itself a dance, and with which nothing further can be done than to make it vanish, if possible."
I said that, albeit he handled his paradoxes cleverly, he would never make me believe that in a mechanical puppet there could be more grace than in the structure of the human body.
He replied that it would be practically impossible for man to attain even approximately to mechanical being; only a God could measure himself with matter in this field, and here is the point where both ends of the circular world meet and join each other.
I grew more and more astonished and did not know what to say to such strange assertions. Apparently, he said, while taking a bit of snuff, I had not read the third chapter of the Book of Moses very attentively: and whoever did not know that primary period of human culture, could not really discuss the following and, even less, the ultimate things.
I told him I was very well aware what disorders in the natural harmony of men were created by consciousness. A young man of my I acquaintance, I said, had as it were, lost his innocence before my very eyes, and had never afterwards recovered it, in spite of all kinds of imaginable efforts. "But," I added, "what consequences can you draw from that?"
He asked me what type of incident I had in mind? About three I years ago, I said, I was swimming in the company of a young man, about whose culture there were marvelous stories in those days. He may have been about sixteen years old, and only from very far away could one notice the first traces of vanity, a fact produced by the favor of women. It so happened that only a short time before, in Paris, he and I had seen the statue of the youth pulling a splinter from his foot; the cast of that statue is well known ad can be seen in most German collections. He was reminded of it, when he looked into the big mirror, while putting his foot on the footstool in order to dry it after the bath; he smiled and told me what a discovery he had made. Indeed, I, too, had made the same observation at that moment; but, whether it was that I wanted to examine the certainty of his taste for harmony, or whether I wanted to challenge his vanity, I laughed and replied that he was probably seeing things. He blushed and lifted his foot a second time to show it to me: but the attempt failed, as one could easily have foreseen. Confused, he lifted his foot a third, a fourth, even a tenth time: in vain, he was unable to repeat the same movement. What am I saying? The movements he made had such comical features that I could hardly refrain from laughing. From that day on, almost from the moment on, an inexplicable transformation took place in him. He began to stand in front of the mirror all day long, and one charm after another fell from him. An invisible and inexplicable power seemed to throw itself, like an iron net, around the free play of his gestures, and after a year, there was no longer any trace of charm to be discovered in him, that charm that had so delighted the eyes of those around him. Even now, there is still one person alive who witnessed that strange and unhappy incident, and who could confirm it word for word as I have told it to you.
"In this connection," Mr. C. said, kindly, "I must tell you another story which, you will easily understand, also belongs here. I happened to be traveling in Russia and found myself on the country estate of Mr. von G., a Livonian nobleman, whose sons were then busily practicing the art of fencing. The eldest, especially, who had just returned from a university, regarded himself as a virtuoso, and one morning, in his room he offered me a foil. We fought, but it happened that I was superior to him. Passion added to his confusion. Almost every blow I struck was successful and his rapier finally flew into a corner. Half jestingly, half sensitively, he said, while picking it up, that he had found his master; but everything in this world found its own, in turn, and he proposed to lead me to my master. The brothers laughed out loud and cried: Let's go! Let's go down into the wood shed! And they took me by the hand and led me to a bear which Mr. von G., their father, was having educated on his place. When I stepped in front of him, to amazement I saw the bear standing on his hind legs, leaning with his back on a stake, to which he was chained, his right paw lifted up, ready for anything. He looked me in the eye. That was his fencing position. I did not know whether I was dreaming when I saw myself opposite such an adversary; but—'Strike! strike!' said Mr. von G., 'and try, if you can, to do something to him.' Having recovered a bit from my amazement I went at him; the bear made a very slight movement with his paw and parried the blow. I tried to tempt him with feints; the bear did not stir. Once more I went at him with an immediate skill; I would have struck the chest of a man, without any doubt; the bear made a brief movement and parried the blow. Now I was almost in the position of young Mr. von G. The gravity of the bear's manner reduced my self-assurance. Blows and feints followed each other, I was dripping with perspiration. In vain. Not only did the bear, like the best fencer in the world, parry all my blows; but— and here was a thing no fencer would be able to follow—he did not even seem to notice the feints: eye to eye, as if he could read my soul, he stood there, his paw ready for anything, and whenever my blows were not meant seriously, he simply did not move. Do you believe this story?"
"Perfectly," I cried, with joyous applause, "I would believe it I from any stranger, more than probably; how much more from you!"
"Now, my excellent friend," said Mr. C., "now you are in possession of everything necessary to understand me. We see that in the degree in which reflection becomes darker and feebler in the organic world, grace emerges all the more shining and dominating. But just as the intersection of two lines from the same side of a point, after passing through the infinite, finds itself suddenly again on the other side; or, as the image of the concave mirror, after having gone off into the infinite, suddenly stands right before us again, so grace returns again after knowledge, as it were, has gone through the world of the infinite, in that it appears best in that human bodily structure which has no consciousness at all, or has an infinite consciousness—that is, in the mechanical puppet, or in the God."
"Therefore," I said, somewhat confused, "we would have to eat again of the tree of knowledge to fall back into the state of innocence?"
"To be sure," he replied. "That's the last chapter of the history of the world."
February 13, 2013
The Art & Law Codex
at ICI Independent Curators International, New York
The Codex consists of portable letter-size file boxes (approximately 11.5” x 14” x 18” each), which can be stacked with other similar file boxes, allowing for the Codex to grow in size and expand in content with time. For the initial box of the Codex, Volume I: Definition, the participants were asked to submit a document that they think defines art & law.
After the first public viewing at Independent Curators International (ICI) in New York City, the Codex will be made available to other academic and art institutions for public exhibition.
Participants include: Amy Adler, Greg Allen, Daniel Brooks, Christoph Büchel, Michael Cataldi, Eric Doeringer, Cora Fisher, Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, Lauren van Haaften-Schick, Nate Harrison, Bettina Johae, Soda Jerk, Alfred Steiner, Ruben Verdu, Alex Villar, Angie Waller, Ai Weiwei, and Donn Zaretsky
Wednesday, February 13, 2013. 6:30–8pm. ICI Curatorial Hub. 401 Broadway, Suite 1620. New York, NY 10013
February 11, 2013
In Absence of Tongues and Cheeks. Ruben Verdu
at JiM Contemporani
“…the bullet for one person passed through the collective, secured space of the m/any”. Donald Kunze, Screen Theory in Brief
We can be brought to imagine —although, in fact, we are more forced to imagine than freely left to self-indulge ourselves— that a pop is just an instance that breaks an otherwise ordinary sequence of events. We have no other choice here, but to succumb to the antics of an attention grabber. Such is the economy of our epistemological vocation!
In Absence of Tongues and Cheeks pretends to deliberately fictionalize the account of a genealogy, that of a type of attention grabber that makes its demands not within a quick transformational moment of shock, but by a sustained expansion of that shock through time. Screens are everywhere, doubly ubiquitous, in space, and in time also, by endowing the remarkable, the abnormal, and the unexpected, with the quality of duration.
Orthogonality is a screen requirement. It is the only effective and reasonable way to access its flatness. The stricter a stubborn orthogonal impact is the clearer it produces the flatness of screen typologies. Those orthogonalities are candy for the eye. After popping, they spread their pure surface ever more thinly, all present, all exposed, all devoid of of any kind of hidden objectivity.
In Absence of Tongues and Cheeks. Structure designed to allow the insertion of a lollipop into the wall. Installation views of the wall sucker.
Shooting the Wrapper. Different views of the Chupa-Chups generic wrappers (original design by Salvador Dalí) being used as targets.
Images that Halt Speed. An exact replica of a perfectly orthogonal bullet impact, the so called "bullet flowers". Reverse logic is at play because, indeed, images halt speed. Famous deadly car accidents (Albert Camus, James Dean, Jayne Mansfield).
Full Metal Jacket: Gerbera. Added superficial emphasis and reflective enhancements. Photographic documentation of a chomed finish.
Last Pop. Different installation views showing the lead popcorn firmly holding its container in place.
Optopia Sours. Detailed installation view of a work that is partly set into the wall of the gallery. Concern efforts at constructing a formal logic.
February 5, 2013
Fanning the Flames. Ruben Verdu and Fritz Welch
at JiM Contemporani
A simple definition of the exhibition title “Fanning The Flames” would be, “to make something more intense”, however the phrase also carries a subjective reading implying a certain level of detachment, of throwing fuel on the fire and standing back to watch the result (perhaps even gleefully). It infers playing devil’s advocate, willfully upping the ante just for the hell of it, just to see how far something will go – or can be pushed, perhaps. It is playing with fire. In this context “Fanning The Flames” refers not only to the potentially incendiary outcome of bringing together Rubén Verdú and Fritz Welch, it also describes their individual approaches to art making. Both of them push to the limits.
Ruben Verdú’s work is discursive, structured on a solid understanding of theory. He is a graduate of California Institute of the Arts and the Whitney Independent Study Program. He tends towards high culture. His frames of reference are art history and contemporary theory. His work is meticulous and highly finished, sometimes industrially fabricated. He will seek the advice of engineers to help him solve technical problems. His “Cheval Vapeur”, exhibited in La Capella, Barcelona in 2011, was a dizzying mix of art history, irony and big dipper vertigo, combining his usual intellectual rigour with a carnival sense of drama at odds with its theoretical grounding.
Fritz Welch is an artist and musician who plays in various bands, noise units and improvising ensembles. He often collaborates with other artists, performers and choreographers. His working methods hover around and examine various interconnected cultural concerns that presently include Dr. Cornell West, large ensemble conceptual improvisation, extraordinary rendition, Raoul Vaniegem's A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings, obsessive/compulsive disorder, the cult film, Street Trash, and Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. Welch's drawings, sculptures, texts, sound works and performances take into account the excesses of consumerism and the absurdity of everyday life. His works are often constructed from found, or discarded objects, a practice which he connects directly with Arte Povera, or artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, David Hammons and Kurt Schwitters.
The pairing of theses two artists was never coincidental. Both of them bring a dry, sly and ironic sense of humour to their work. Both of them produce in many media, depending on the project they are involved in. Both of them employ a performance element. Both of them often create art that is later destroyed, leaving only documentation of the event/performance/object. Both of them push their ideas to extremes, exhorting the viewer to reconsider his/her conceptions of what art is, sometimes in ways that may not always be comfortable. And during the planning of “Fanning The Flames” the artists discovered that coincidentally Verdú has a son called Nanuk and Welch has a daughter called Nanook.
JiM Contemporani. Rambla de Catalunya 43, 2-2. 08007 Barcelona. Tel. +34 659 219 666
From 7th February – 2nd March, 2013. Open Wed. to Fri. 7-9pm. Or by appointment.
September 30, 2012
Festa Happening Cultural d’Inauguració
at Fabra i Coats, Fabrica de Creació de Barcelona
The opening of the Fabra i Coats was a huge success. More than six thousand visitors in a few hours. I am very happy with the public response. I want to thank its organizers, specially to Anna Manubens and José Antonio Delgado, for having accomplish such endeavor in such short notice, and, of course, having been so kind to invite me to participate in it. Congratulations to all, indeed!!!
For the ones that couldn't make it, here is "All Begins at the Horizon". Enjoy!!!
September 19, 2012
Festa Happening Cultural d’Inauguració
at Fabra i Coats, Fabrica de Creació de Barcelona
La inauguració de la fàbrica de creació Fabra i Coats vol ser una festa enriquidora i lúdica, on els artistes, els creadors i els agents culturals de la ciutat, de diverses generacions i àmbits, tinguin un ampli punt de trobada, amb un públic inquiet envers el pols cultural de la ciutat i amb els veïns del barri de Sant Andreu. Partint de la ferma voluntat de convertir-se en un gran node de la producció artística contemporània a Barcelona, a l’abast de la comunitat artística en totes les seves vessants, Fabra i Coats obre les seves portes celebrant-ho amb els membres del teixit creatiu barceloní en un context interdisciplinari i lúdic.
Al Videolounge es podrà veure un programa de vídeo amb la participació dels artistes següents: Borja Alexandre, Queralt Antú, Angie Bonino, Xavi Gavin, Xavi Hurtado, Colectivo Levirage, Francesca Llopis, Gerard Ortín, Esther Planas, Jesus Ramos, Mapi Rivera, Avelino Sala, Toni Serra*) Abu Ali, Ricardo Trigo, Ruben Verdu i Alejandro Vidal
August 23, 2012
Frankenstein on the Beach
An all-night event of performance works curated by Raul Zamudio for Beach Box: White Box Summer Series, August 24-24, 2012, New York.
Does Olympic nationalism, the Republican convention, the Hamptons, museum and art world inertia and a body politic mired in cultural entropy, intellectual paralysis, moral vacuity and historical amnesia got you apathetic? Don't reach for the bottle, or the gun, or the suicide belt but come to the NYC summer happening of the season, a dusk to dawn event of monstrous performance art in live and video formats culled from the curatorial laboratory of Raul Zamudio.
Artists include: Oreet Ashery, Domingo Sanchez Blanco, Amy Birch, Cleverson, Amanda Devereux, Ying Mai Duan, E. M. with Ollom Movement Art, Tor Jørgen van Eijk, Shahram Entekhabi, Eric Ramos Guerrero, Elan Jurado, Helena von Kärkkäinen, Marie Christine Katz, Arturo Ledesema, Teemu Maki, Ferran Martin, Yasira Nun, Damian Ontiveros, Pasha Radetzki, Alperoa Roa, Joaquin Segura, Miguel Rodriguez Sepulveda, Celia Elsamieh Shomal, Sari Tervaniem and Ruben Verdu.
Live performances by: Amy Birch, Amanda Devereux, Elan Jurado, Marie Christine Katz, Ferran Martin, Yasira Nun and Pasha Redetzki.
August 4, 2012
An international Artist Exhibition curated by Raul Zamudio at White Box Contemporary, San Diego, California.
The exhibition Celebrity Skin takes its title from a song by the same name authored by the rock band Hole. In metaphorically written in the first person and alluding to the affected, unapologetic and ultimately redemptive life of its singer, its self-reflexivity is loaded with subtext about the vacuity of the music and Hollywood movie industries and their coteries of deal-making agents, paparazzi, cosmetic surgeons, hangers-on, and general star-struck, stargazers.
The exhibition extends the song title’s suffix to mean surface and shallowness; while celebrity is demystified and becomes commonplace in a debased world of Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter where, in the words of Andy Warhol, “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”
The exhibition Celebrity Skin uses these subtexts as foil to elaborate a new kind of iconoclasm that hones in on what philosopher Theodor Adorno called the "culture industry". These contemporary forms of idol-breaking articulated in the exhibition’s artworks do not solely rub up against the historical notion of idolatry that early medieval religious fanatics sought to destroy, for the artworks also set their sights on other targets including politics and ideologies, monuments, history, art history, the art world, corporate culture, the family, the social construction of beauty and fashion as well as the culture industry in general. The international exhibition of known and emerging artists articulate diverse subject matter within the exhibition’s curatorial framework via painting, sculpture, works- on-paper, photography, installation, video, and performance.
June 4, 2012
Wrote about Lo Inhumano: Modo de Empleo and its uses of the ekphasis
Ruben Verdu's art practice takes so many courses of action that is difficult to classify or package in any kind of predictable statement. Anything beyond a specific approach or investment in a particular topic —instances within which he can, otherwise, build cohesive narratives— is neglected. His work rests solely on what he calls cultural opportunism.
Far from pursuing the construction of a cohesive curriculum or a proper professional trajectory, and uncomfortable with anything related to the status of an auratic figure, Ruben Verdu chooses to enter instead a polymorphic space of action, one that affords him, in consequence, a better way to guide his interests and work the most appropriate plan to intervene on his self-imposed choices. By not being compromised to think about what is most appropriate, he procures for himself freedom of action and thought. That freedom allows his work to branch into a wide range of formal and conceptual propositions.
There are, however, traceable relationships scattered along the winding nature of his work, an impulse to examine the nature of artistic practice and its codes, a way to dig into the systematic logic of cultural affairs, a comfort exploring contradiction as a viable choice of lifestyle, and a call to search for unrelated episodes that thrive in potential schizoid narratives. The question remains, and here revolves one of his major concerns: Are we not loosing too much time and energy searching for spaces of relevance? Would not it be better to keep on walking?
A recurrent tool often used by Verdu is the ekphrasis, in other words, the detailed written description of a work of art. In Ancient Greece, it played a very important role in the rhetorical exercises that constituted the core subject of youth education. Today, in fact, we owe to these descriptions everything we know about the paintings of that period since they have, indeed, not survived the passage of time. At one point, we begin to notice, however, how many of our mythological constructs are tight to that concept of loss. If we turn that assumption around and propose instead a detailed description of an imagined object that does not yet exists, this mythological urge reappears. This is how Verdu intents his ekphrasis to work. He intends to influence the construction of that fascination we develop around objects we cannot access.
The Inhuman: Operating Manual (2012) is based on one of his ekphrasis. In this case, Verdu makes a written intervention in Walter Tevis' novel, The Man who Fell to Earth, published in 1963 and the one on which Nicolas Roeg based his 1976 movie of the same title. There is a scene in the movie that takes place around a ping-pong table just when the main character, Thomas Jerome Newton, who comes from another planet, begins his particular type of Icarian fall. All the way up to that point, he has been a very successful businessman and, not surprisingly, successful also in matters related to love. That part of the movie shows the point of inflection where Newton regains conscience of his origins, and brings on the developments that later will prove fatal for him. In the novel this ping-pong table does not appear, and that is the opportunity Verdu takes to introduce his ekphrasis and further modify even the narrative of the film. The intervention in the book consists on a written description of a peculiar work of art, an odd porcelain sculpture of a couple playing table tennis, odd because a ball bounces endlessly from one side to the other enabling a play that effectively never ends.
Three intervened editions of the novel are finally exhibited in the gallery, one is displayed opened at the pages where the ekphrasis appears allowing viewers a discrete read, the other ones are bound shot and are laid on a ping-pong table that is installed nearby inviting viewers to play sets of table tennis using them. Ping-pong becomes clearly an insisting remainder of repetitive principles, of the trip back and forth that the main character does from human nature back to his own, and of the ball that bounces on top of the contents of an author that Verdu intends inappropriately to make his own.
May 29, 2012
Happy to be part of Oh, Plastiksack! that will take place starting this sunday, June 3rd, until the 7th of October at the Gewerbemuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland.
Plastic bags are found everywhere in the world; their useful life is fleeting yet they are almost indestructible. These feather-light, gently rustling objects have a versatile beauty. In addition to their use for packaging and carrying things, they have been adapted for a wide variety of other purposes. They reflect consumer behavior, advertise status, reinforce identity, damage the environment and narrate our cultural history. At the same time, they are a symbol of our global society.
The exhibition in the Forum is dedicated to the plastic bag as an everyday item and as a focus for art and design. This much-discussed plastic product is explored in the context of society and the environment and as a theme of contemporary artistic work in the fields of painting, photography, installation, performance, urban art and design.
The Gewerbemuseum's in-house exhibition is curated by Susanna Kumschick and Ida-Marie Corell, author of "Alltagsobjekt Plastiktüte", which was published in 2011.
May 25, 2012
Juagando con Lo inhumano: modo de empleo
en Nucleos de la Emergencia
May 23, 2012
Nuclis de la Emergència
Nuclis de l’emergència ens condueix, de la mà d’artistes i agents culturals, a la reflexió sobre els processos creatius de l’art emergent i a la contextualització de la seva producció.
A partir d’aquesta idea, nou professionals de l’àmbit artístic han analitzat l’obra i les inquietuds dels artistes d’Oficina36, amb la finalitat de generar un mapa sobre les diverses vies d’investigació per apropar els mecanismes de construcció conceptual de les produccions artístiques.
Núcleos de la emergencia nos conduce, de la mano de artistas y agentes culturales a la reflexión sobre los procesos creativos del arte emergente y a la contextualización de su producción. A partir de esta idea, nueve profesionales del ámbito artístico, han analizado la obra y las inquietudes de los artistas de Oficina36, con la finalidad de generar un mapa sobre las diversas vías de investigación para aproximar los mecanismos de construcción conceptual de las producciones artísticas.
Empar Buxeda | Amanda Cuesta
Sebastián Cabrera | Montse Badia
Roser Caminal | Pilar Bonet
Antònia Del Río | Joana Hurtado
Samuel Labadie | Martí Manen
Lola Lasurt | Alexandra Laudo
Zeyno Pekünlü | Teresa Blanch
Isabel Servera | Txuma Sánchez
Rubén Verdú | Juan Canela
January 25, 2012
«Parricus». Proposal for intervention
1. All the markings present on the asphalt that distribute, manage, and assign space for the parking of vehicles should first be measured and recorded in order to proceed later to its exact replication.
2. Latitude location of the parking lot should be recorded, and the following formula should be runned in order to find the length of the Earth circumference at that exact location:
C (circumference at x latitude) = 2πr*cos(x)
Mean Earth radius (r) = 6,371 kilometers.
3. Ground speed from the rotation of Earth should be figured from the above results, and should be brought down to 10 milliseconds measurements of time. The final numbers reflect the amount of ground displacement Earth rotation inflicts on apparently stable and unquestioned space.
4. North/South axis on the parking lot should be determined before proceeding to the next step.
5. Copies of all the markings present on the asphalt should be replicated in the following manner:
— parallel, right and left, of the North/South axis;
— at intervals equal to the results of step 3;
— until each of the markings fall off the parking lot.
January 23, 2012
LAXART presents Art in The Parking Space
for The Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival
For the third iteration of Art in the Parking space, artists Warren Neidich and Elena Bajo have organized a group of locally recognized Los Angeles-based artists, alongside a band of internationally-known ones, in order to produce a dynamic social sculpture that invokes the anarchy and provocative essence of LA street culture.
The parking garage represents a site of unlimited temporal potential, where multiple times and spaces collide. We really only occupy a parking space for a small section of time, moving our automobiles continually in and out of their institutionally elaborated spaces. It is this very mutability that defines the character of this extravaganza. More then a simple group show or an installation, Art in the Parking Space is a kind of choreography-on-wheels: an updated version of Busby Berkley's “Footlight Parade”, 1933, in which the automobiles arabesque in a role-play that extends beyond their functional condition. For this staging at the Standard Hollywood, the cars will be assembled together in stationary and dynamic, continuous networks—a materialization of the super highway. Here, the parking space itself acts as a stage in which a theater of the absurd in the 21st century can become inaugurated.
Participating Artists: Ron Cooper, Sydney Cooper , Krysten Cunningham, Ania Diakoff with Tova Carlin and Katerina Llanes, Gracie DeVito, Melissa Gordon, Nicoline van Harskamp, Lindsay Lawson, Theo Lithgart, Johanna Reed with Marc Horowitz, Société Réaliste, Mathilde Ter Heyne with Mathilde Rosier, Georgia Sagri, Gabriele Stellbaum, Untitled Collective, Ruben Verdu
December 21, 2011
Frieze Blog. Best of 2011
Frieze asked a number of artists, curators and critics for their picks of 2011. Max Andrews, a regular contributer to Frieze and co-director, together with Mariana Cánepa, of the curatorial office Latitudes, picked "Solvitur Ambulando" as one of the 10 Best of 2011. Thanx Max!!! These were his quick impressions of the show:
"How can one resist a fibreglass reproduction of Raymond Duchamp-Villon’s 1914 cubist hulk Le Cheval (in its almost-horse-size version as modified in 1966 by Raymond’s more renowned brother, Marcel) whirling around at a frighteningly fast 200rpm?"
December 16, 2011
A new curatorial project by Raul Zamudio together, this time, with Daniel Gonzalez Lozano, is showing works of a number of international artists at the Pristine Galerie in Monterrey, Mexico. This show, like the novel by Don DeLillo on which is based, takes us also through a hyper-wasteful farce of extravagant wealth, and spuns the rampant capitalism that conditions most of our contemporary experience out of its wits and assumed logic. It will be up and running until February 14th, 2012.
—How will we know when the global era officially ends?
—When stretch limousines begin to disappear from the streets of Manhattan.
—You've been talking about the future being impatient. Pressing upon us.
—There's a poem I read in which a rat becomes the unit of currency.
... —Yes. The rat closed lower today against the euro.
—Yes. Every U.S. dollar redeemable for rat.
—All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. Money has lost its narrative quality— Money is talking to itself.
—The top tier of the electronic display across the avenue showed this message now:
A SPECTER IS HAUNTING THE WORLD
THE SPECTER OF CAPITALISM
Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis
November 28, 2011
Hay ciencia ficción y hay futuristas. Los anglosajones prefieren llamar a esta disciplina, futurología, más inclinada a complicarse la existencia con los líos de la lógica. Esos líos, a la futurología, le imponen una cierta carga de realismo que la colocan más cercana, o esa es la sensación que nos deja, al presente. Esa tensión entre la ficción y nuestro día a día, a mi me parece que pone ciertas cosas en evidencia. Siempre he creído que la ciencia ficción se queda corta en su pretensión de radicalismo, que si fuera llevada a su máxima expresión se convertiría en algo ininteligible y, por eso, me he aficionado en los últimos tiempos a la lógica de lo intuido cerca.
Uno de los máximos exponentes de esa intuición es una pareja de octogenarios Alvin y Heidi Toffler que en su último libro, «La revolución de la riqueza» nos siembran el futuro de «realidades inadvertidas». Lo dejo así, entre comillas, porque en nuestro mundillo del arte —cacahuetes para la visión macro-económica de los Toffler—, algunas de estas realidades son ya muy evidentes y nos recuerdan las visiones más esperpénticas del sci-fi barato.
Una de esas nociones, que se ha convertido casi por entero en nuestro estilo de vida, es el prosumo, concepto acuñado por el propio Alvin Toffler para describir la dinámica económica de productores que crean riqueza sin cobrar ni un céntimo, o sea, fuera de la dinámica enfermiza de los mercados y las fábulas financieras. Si observamos con detenimiento, nos daremos cuenta de las las enormes dimensiones de este fenómeno, sobretodo, si vamos destapando, como hacen los autores, todas sus implicaciones. Claro, a nosotros no nos extraña porque hemos sobrevivido siempre en estas condiciones, pero, según los Toffler, esta inevitabilidad nos proyecta inmediatamente al futuro. Puesto así, no me extraña que la ciencia ficción no me sorprenda.
Lo que a algunos les resulta extraterrestre, y que se considera como invasión alienígena, la de una enorme economía sumergida, la de la fusión entre productor y consumidor saltándose todos los protocolos del intercambio económico tradicional, o sea, de la mediación del dinero, me recuerda, a mí, las distinciones que hacía Michel de Certeau sobre las decisiones estratégicas y las tácticas. Para de Certeau las actividades estratégicas presuponen siempre un «querer y poder», un propietario, una empresa, una institución, circunscritos siempre y defendiendo su territorio, lo que consideran «propio». Las actividades tácticas, las que de Certeau celebra como la gran picaresca del consumidor, sin embargo, no disponen de bases desde donde capitalizar sus privilegios, desde donde preparar expansiones o asegurarse independencia frente a circunstancias adversas. En contraste al limitado mundo del tener, se puede empezar a intuir, no obstante, la magnitud de la infiltración táctica. Al no defender territorio, sus fuerzas se diluyen en lo temporal. Lo que ganan no se puede acumular. Manipulan acontecimientos constantemente convirtiendo al oportunismo en la ilimitada pulsión del momento.
September 26, 2011
The Archeology of The Recent Past
Since it seems that there's an ongoing celebration on the 20th anniversary kick-off of Grunge with an everyday insistence on the release, a while ago, of Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's "Ten", I'm compelled to add this picture to the celebration that was published, again, a while ago, on Revolver.
Continuum 13 as it appears in the 2000 fall edition of the music magazine Revolver
September 8, 2011
El tedi. Article de Joan Abello a El Temps
Trobo que l'article d'en Joan Abello Juanpere a El Temps, més enllà de la menció concreta que fa de Solvitur Ambulando, ens recorda quina és, en realitat, l'empremta que ens deixa, any darrera any, la programació de La Capella. Comparar ambdues publicacions, la de BCN Producció'11 i la de BCN Crea, demostra l'eficàcia de la trajectòria curatorial de La Capella com motor indiscutible de la cultura a Barcelona. Que quedi clar!!!
"BCN Producció'11 és l'anual publicació que descriu les activitats de l'espai La Capella, dedicat a les arts d'artistes joves i experimentals, sota la direcció del longeu Oriol Gual, amb propostes que sempre ens han produït més plaers que no angúnies. I si algú encara es permet de proclamar que tot s'ha dit i tot s'ha fet en el món de l'art, que utilitzi aquesta publicació com a guia telefònica, que alguna cosa sorprenent hi trobarà". Per continuar llegint clica aquí.
August 29, 2011
The Art&Law Residency Symposium
at Shearman & Sterling LLP
I had a fantastic experience at the Art & Law Residency Symposium where I was the respondent to three papers that challenged, in various ways, notions of Art, and the arguments, legal and meta-discursive, used in settling conflicts created from Art's social impact, public display, and the gains derived from its commercial value. These are, indeed, terms that artists are not usually inclined to explore, but that, in many cases —I am a good example of it—, we are ready to push around and challenge in a rather naive way. My most felt thanks go, therefore, to these very thoughtful presenters: to Mazie M. Harris for “The phantasmagoria of inventions passes rapidly before us: Litigating Photography as Intellectual Property"; to Lián Amaris Sifuentes for "Art Beyond the Centerfold: Copyright, Cultural Restriction, and Playboy"; and to Tracy Zwick for "Case Study: Doris Salcedo. The Convergence of Art and Law in the Construction of Justice".
August 10, 2011
How to Philosophize with A Hammer
Curated by Raul Zamudio
August 11 - September 10, 2011
Opening Reception: August 11, 6 - 9 PM
Artists: Isaac Aden, Oreet Ashery, Marcela Astorga, Luis Alonzo-Burkigia, Marc Bijl, Karlos Carcamo, Daniel Davidson, Adolfo Doring, Shahram Entekhabi, Kendell Geers, Fernando Martin Godoy, Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Istvan Kantor, Teresa Margolles, Ferran Martin, Dominic McGill, Dennis Oppenheim, Damian Ontiveros, Pasha Radetzki, Martha Rosler, Joaquin Segura, Celia Eslamieh Shomal, Susan Sontag, Javier Tellez, Mookie Tenembaum, Wojtek Ulrich, Abdul Vas, Ruben Verdu, Ai Weiwei, Zhou Wendou.
How to Philosophize with a Hammer is an exhibition of international artists that work in video, painting, sculpture, works-on-paper, photography, installation, and performance. It's title is culled from Friedrich Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer (1889). How to Philosophize with a Hammer followed the Gay Science (1882) in which Nietzsche pronounced that "god is dead."
After this deicide came other "deaths" in the late twentieth century including "the death of the author," "the end of history," and "the death of painting." As such, the works in the exhibition underscore the usurpation of authority but within a contemporary context. The artists address the exhibition's thematic framework in myriad ways where their philosophizing is articulated through diverse artistic genres. Some philosophers have viewed artistic practice as a form of philosophy, and the iconoclasm of these artists' works ideologically hammers against political, financial, social, and religious institutions. This resistance signals the need to reinvent new modes of thinking and being while reflecting on the existential, global crisis that humanity finds itself marked by wars, ecological disaster, economic collapse, terrorism, and revolution. In short, it is the perfect end of summer exhibition.
White Box Gallery
329 Broome St.
NY, NY 10002
July 27, 2011
A Brief Conversation about "Solvitur Ambulando"
Interview conducted by Pilar Bonet.
In your biographical profile, you give greater emphasis to your academic training than to your record of exhibitions. What is the impact your training periods, other discourses and readings, and your literary and philosophical investigations, have on your artistic project?
Put like that, the details of my academic training seem to have a rather symptomatic function. It could be said that, by emphasizing them, I show myself leaning more towards reflection processes than to upholding static constructs that stem from strings of faits accomplis. Having said that, I believe that I’m always occupying a training space. For me, it is impossible to generate projects beyond the confines of that space.
Many notions have fallen victim to the voracity of that “dialectic of disinhibition” that Sloterdijk put forward in order to understand our time, but none so much as the notion of fidelity to self. By occupying this training space I propose a way of understanding my role as being one far from those grand teleological narratives which are the common trend of our culture. I acknowledge the fact that they are a major part of the historic ambition of culture and that they feed its supposed transcendence; nevertheless, I prefer the accidental, interrupted, sinuous, and dissolved dynamics of our contemporary thought. I lose myself trying to satiate my curiosity. I feel it is my duty and responsibility —responsibility in the strict sense of the word– to respond, to generate exchanges.
For me, this propensity towards the unstable paves the way for opportunism. Within any exhibiting intent, any ambition to share in the public, we are expected to end up wallowing in the mud of what is common to us. It is expected too that this economy of the common ends up governed by contentions of relevance, and that, in that context, our efforts are forced to fight for the limited spaces of public exposure. Nothing more. Therefore, in the current circumstances, where there are no longer grand ideological conceits, opportunism is a requirement. By constantly occupying this training space, I yield myself to this requirement.
Considering the outline of your works, it is clear that you do not identify specifically with concrete formats or languages. At times, you create a more object-based mise en scène and, at other times, the outcome is more performative; in any case, you turn the interstitial spaces of language, its displacements and its conflicts around. What are the reasons behind this choice, and what previous projects are the most immediate referents to "Solvitur Ambulando"?
The context creates its own forms of intervention; for that reason, if I look at what I’ve done thus far, it is hard for me to weave a narrative that moves my entire oeuvre along a specific path. In some respects, my position is mainly that of a consumer and, therefore, I renounce certain privileges.
For instance, when I heard about the incident in which Marcel Duchamp produced an edition of a sculpture of his elder brother and that he clearly influenced its final outcome in a remarkable way, I was struck by the extent of his obsession and the insistence shown in making his decision because, somehow, he renounced to move away from someone else’s territory, and his activity faded again in the affairs of another author even if those of a closer relative. Duchamp made three basic interventions on the original sculpture of his brother. To begin with, he brought it to a monumental size. Its initial height of 44 centimetres became 150 centimetres. He also gave it a title. It was renamed "Cheval Majeur" after 1966. Finally, he placed it on a revolving pedestal powered by a small electric motor. The most interesting fact, however, is that all the copies were, at the end, purchased by institutions and museums that —without the most minimal debate or consideration regarding the inclusion of this work in Duchamp's catalogue raisonné— removed the motorised base that gently rotated the piece. It is obvious that, in this correlation of events, I stood before a chain of consumption that I did not wish to break.
Cheval Majeur as it is shown without rotating pedestal at The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas.
I have always been drawn to the way Michel de Certeau depicts the figure of the consumer. The submission assumed by the consumer in front of the impositions of the proper, before the defence of property as a privileged structure, grants him or her, on the other hand, considerable room for maneuvering. In contrast with these structures of ownership based on patrimony, historic stagnation, lineage and transcendence, the consumer gains on greater mobility. Consumer actions are disconnected from one another. Profits cannot be added to them. The consumer is the perfect opportunist.
The reasons I choose to produce this work, therefore, are entirely removed from my biographical trajectory. It is part of something else, an economy of contagion. Within this economy, I just saw the possibility of undertaking certain interventions. In the case of the "Cheval Majeur" incident and, considering the tight production schedule that was given to me, I contemplated, although it might not seem so, a performance-based action. I sent a letter to Louis Carré (1897-1977), just like Duchamp did in 1964, to his gallery that still exists in Paris, outlining my intentions, enumerating the actions I wished to carry out, and faithfully promising to follow the instructions described therein. In fact, the proposal I made to him was really simple, to add a one-horsepower-engine to a reproduction of "Cheval Majeur". No one knew what would finally come out of this intervention, nor was there time to amend what would finally take place.
Louis Carré, 1963.
The project you have presented at La Capella is structured into three different scenes. They cite specific references, names and trademarks in contemporary culture (the film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", an appropriation of Duchamp, and a text by Beckett). Your intervention shakes the registers of this historic heritage setting in motion the mechanisms of meaning and the spinning of the logos, turning them into a perplexing and loud machinery that fills the space with hustle and bustle and interpretative labyrinths. Is this a form of cannibalism, enthronement, or delirious postproduction?
I like the fact that it arouses this phagocytotic feeling. It is the same feeling I have before the persistent transcendence of the historic that seems insatiable to me, that engulfs everything. I would like to think that I can poison this state of things a little bit.
The three tropic methods I endeavour to explore in "Solvitur Ambulando" are part of a semiotic navigation exercise. This is what it entails, it simply lets you get carried away by symbolic displacements. Therefore, I claim cynical thinking to be the main instigator of all this, with its profound dialectic openness, offering, as dénouement, action pure and simple. The inertia of the logos, its stasis, its rigor mortis, contrasts with what really interests me: to show the mechanics of flow that, like the movements of a spinning top, keep the privileges of an inanimate centre, completely dead, and always upright. The tropes, metaphors, hyperboles, metonyms, allegories, etc., have also been in charge of injecting life into language, updating it and giving it a chance to escape. Diogenes’ response leads me to believe that a simple mechanical action can cause an entire symbolic order to collapse. Sometimes I think that it is totally possible.
With "Solvitur Ambulando", in any case, my contributions do not seek to undertake any of those Oedipal transformations that figure prominently in traditional generational changeovers, nor do I intend to lay claim to a historic review that restores the glory of some dead people. I endeavor to be bound, I insist, to a throw-away culture that we should not simplify only in material terms. Use naturally entails abuse and waste as if it were a digestive process. The circulation this process generates, this constant movement, so typically tropical, is the result of the inability to cling onto anything. This is probably the kind of delirious postproduction that I would like to share with others because you could give in to the temptation of thinking that, by using this recycling process, we can establish now a stable form of production, a formula, and that is not true. Culture has always been post-production, but, until now, it has been a postproduction tied to establishing permanent long-lasting paradigms, and that is no longer possible.
If Marc Augé manages to convey a kind of trivialisation and emptying of meaning in reference to spaces of transit and circulation such as motorways, airports, etc., and defines them as “non-places”, I would like to think that the same is possible with the works presented here. These “non-works” could operate in the same way, simply being containers of a movement and a circulation outside the materialisation of their forms. Let us recall that, in the three cases that "Solvitur Ambulando" asks us to pay attention to, we are faced with examples originally conceived to be executed within the field of mechanised reproduction, and, thereby, already create a container of scattered dimensions and of indeterminate shape.
Airport scene from Chris Marker's "La jetée", 1962.
"Solvitur Deambulando: Cheval Vapeur (CV)", the reproduction of a revolving horse driven by a one-horse-power motor, is a piece comprising volume, movement and clattering noise. It stirs a feeling of tension and danger in the viewer owing to the dynamic strength and terrifying sound of machinery. By contrast, the books of Beckett, the pages from the chained translations of "Pavesas", paragraphs that are subjected to a number of translations into various languages, are absolute silence. In this mise en scène, what is the role of each of the works?
The contrasts are really striking but are just a reflection of the range of registers I wished to explore. The tropical architecture I sought to investigate can take on infinite forms but, between the three examples I decided to work with, considerable room for manoeuvre can still be found.
We have already discussed "Solvitur Deambulando: Cheval Vapeur (CV)", and its tendency to immediately grab the attention of visitors, its capacity to cause a spectacle, to stir a certain degree of apprehension which, at times, can instil fear. However, this result, as I have already said, was completely unexpected and part of a performance-based goal, and it cannot be a final answer because tropical structures come from afar and have their own history. To me, "Solvitur Somnambulando: Holstenwall" establishes, as an introduction, that point of departure, that entrance. I believe that the cinematic apparatus is tropical by default, but, beyond that, I believe it establishes an interesting association with a very specific concept of death also. This reference to the afterlife allows me to move closer to the necrophilic dimension of culture and to give it the opportunity it deserves to show itself like it is, clearly, without euphemisms or disguises. For this reason, the three works are presented like zombies, like the living dead, like moving inanimate beings. I also consider that the cinematographic effect is nothing other than reanimation, the spastic resuscitation of the photographic image. Photography always ends up being a memento mori. It always goes after the capture of a moment that rapidly becomes an irretrievable one, and then tends to exploit all those nostalgic aspects that relate to this imminent loss. "Holstenwall" is, for me, the great irretrievable element of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Siegfried Kracauer says that, following this movie, German directors confined one hundred per cent of their filming to the complete control available only in the artificial world of the studios. They preferred not to film from nature. The city of Holstenwall was built entirely within this enclosed space, an example, therefore, of total architecture. By removing actors and moving objects from the film, I emphasized that it was this architecture the one that ended up destroyed, gone forever, irrecoverable, when the filming concluded. This is the dead that is brought to life with the never ending spinning of the projector’s reels. Not any other one.
Different frames from "Hostenwall" depicting some landmarks of this fictional town.
Believe it or not, of the entire series, the most ambitious project, and the one that best encapsulates the proposal’s potential is "Solvitur Metambulando: Tropical Ohio". It steals my attention because it has a capacity to address these tropical dynamics as if they were the wanderings of a nomadic experience. The scale of production, in this case, expands itself, surprisingly, to a series of activities that take place within the scope of our new global reality. The proposal is simple. It entails subjecting a text to a constant flow or chain of human translations. As a starting point, I chose "Ohio Impromptu", a short play by Samuel Beckett, since it explores the concept of doppelgänger, of the double, and the copy. In the specific context of La Capella, we can see on display the final results of a first batch of translations; however, this does not stop the continuity of the process which, in fact, has no end, and continually points towards the future promise of new results. Let’s see if I remember the first chain of translations: from English it was translated into Spanish, from Spanish into Traditional Chinese, from Traditional Chinese into Hebrew, from Hebrew into Russian, from Russian into Greek, from Greek into French, from French into Arabic, from Arabic into Hindi, from Hindi into English and from English into Spanish again. This series of translations subjects the original text to a number of linguistic deformations that inevitably render a new text. The final unfolding or outcome is reached by a process of replacing the original pages of "Ohio Impromptu", as originally published by Tusquets, with the content of the last translation. Visitors to the exhibition therefore have the opportunity to read the content of a new title, "Tropical Ohio". The displacements that this text takes within the globalised architecture of today's world, affecting the personal realities of the translators and, at the same time, generating a continuous expectation of new results is what I am most interested to capture in all this process. In short, its transience only bears more opportunism.
Back cover of an intervened edition of Samuel Beckett's short theater pieces published by Editorial Tusquets.
July 25, 2011
The Required Specs
Spec for the cogwheel.
Spec for larger gear.
July 24, 2011
The Mechanics of a Horse Driven by a Horse
Images provided by TallerBDN
July 19, 2011
Presentation of "BCN Producció'11" Catalogue
Thursday July 21 at 19:30h at La Capella, Barcelona
It is finally here! The Institut de Cultura de Barcelona presents on thursday the catalogue that reviews the eight projects that won the BCN Producció award this year. Another publication superbly designed by the guys at Folch Studio that aims to expand the work presented in the space of La Capella with an interview, and an artist intervention specially conceived for the occasion. The event will also conclude this year edition of the award series, and will mark the beginning of the next one.
May 26, 2011
Deberíamos ser exactos y añadir que este texto, en realidad, se redactó el 26 de mayo de 2036 pero, sintiéndolo mucho, nos es imposible adelantar el calendario.
Como a mediados de los años veinte, sobretodo entre el 2021 y el 2028, se empezaron a distinguir los aspectos más claros de una tendencia que, a la larga, ha resultado ser crucial en nuestra construcción de contemporaneidad, y como, hasta hoy, no ha habido todavía una iniciativa que de fe a la desbocada aceleración de esos acontecimientos, parece que ha llegado la hora de dar reconocimiento a las principales promesas de ese extraño resurgimiento que se ha venido a denominar Supersonalismo Internacional. Esta nostalgia que, en última instancia, parece solo querer recuperar aquella vieja noción de la pose ha vuelto, en las últimas décadas, a ganarse la reputación de los activismos culturales de nuestro tiempo en contraposición a la vieja guardia de las obviedades relacionales. En las últimas semanas la presentación de la muestra «Cultivos egológicos» parece haber conquistado el zenit de lo necesario en esta linea discursiva que empezamos a aceptar como relevante.
T-shirt by the pioneering art collective The Autreurs.
Ha sido poco a poco, pero inevitable, la contundencia con la que se ha tenido que admitir la radicalidad de las posturas supersonalistas más relevantes de la cultura contemporánea. Ya a finales del siglo XX se iban perfilando las estructuras fundamentales de esta tendencia y esa posibilidad se adueñaba de la inercia cultural del fin de milenio. O DAndy (pronunciado, Oh Dandy!, pero que se entiende como Overdosed Andy), como lo apodan algunos de los participantes de esta muestra, demostró ya el poder sintético de su persona y administro con dosis de severidad absoluta la artificialidad de su ser. Conocido es ya también el discurso autoplástico de Leigh Bowery, Stelark y Orlan entre otros, pero sobretodo no debemos de olvidar las actividades anónimas de los Autreurs porque aunque ya produjeron gran cantidad de simulacra egológica al final de los años 1990s no se supo de sus Histoires d' Autres hasta la publicación de su primera «Estatweb» en el 2012. De todos modos, estas actividades se establecían, desde nuestro punto de vista, de una manera ingenua y algunas veces un tanto tímida.
Las consecuencias simbólicas que el supersonalismo actual ha producido ya no se pueden evitar, se sostienen simplemente en su masificación y popularidad. Aunque la comercialización de este tipo de prácticas no desacreditan en nada el establecimiento indudable de esa tendencia generalizada en el grupo de artistas presentados en la muestra, una tozuda sensación se adueña de ellos, su destacada inclinación hacia una pasividad desconsoladora. Muchos hemos perdido ya la paciencia. Para estos creadores de sí mismos, para estos socializadores del egocentrismo, el límite de la acción esta en la pose misma. Ni más ni menos. No necesitan establecer ninguna lucha.
May 18, 2011
«La Gran Aventura» at Can Felipa, Barcelona
"La Gran Aventura" is a group show curated by David Armengol that features the works of 14 emerging artists that were in residency at Hangar between 2008 and 2011. By further exploring the hyperbolic fiction present in the series of teenager gamebooks "Choose Your Own Adventure", the exhibition becomes a visual essay, as well as, a narrated account on what it means to be an artist today. It brings a multifarious approach to a notion that, half way between an art's meta-discursive story and a parodic tale, tries to foreground the supposed roles —or impairments— of any art production.
Following the conceptual premise of the show, I've proposed "A Warm Place" in order to further explore the territorializing force of speech acts.
May 4, 2011
The Precise Consequence of "Solvitur Ambulando"
Perhaps, historicism, its practices, and practitioners, are overwhelmingly concerned with "plagiarism" since it muddies their referential network, and complicates their intent to put the house in order. If contemporary art practice is sure of something, it is certainly sure of not furthering that case of old fashion teleology. Art practice, not just now, but all along, responds, above all, to a call to relevance, an aim to engage in a discursive enactment, not to a call of idiosyncratic isolationism. To make itself fully communicable, the economy of authorial territories can only be constructed by heavily borrowing things. This is where the notion of "tropism" comes to have such a huge place in today's discourse. It is not just that "…solution is achieved by ending the discussion and simply walking away from the opposition". "Solvitur Ambulando" is Diogenes direct response to the Platonic conclusion that motion doesn't exist, and his proof, therefore, that tropes are the sole animators of the symbolic order.
"Spread of publish intervention in Samuel Beckett's «Impromptu de Ohio» published by Editorial Tusquets, Barcelona."
Tal vez, el historicismo, sus prácticas, y los profesionales acostumbrados a ellas, están abrumadoramente preocupados por el "plagio" porque enturbia su red de referencias, y complica su intención de poner la casa en orden. Si la práctica del arte contemporáneo está segura de algo es, sin duda, la certeza de no querer fomentar ese caso de teleología rancia. La práctica del arte, no sólo ahora, sino siempre, responde, sobre todo, a una llamada a la pertinencia con un solo objetivo, el de formular una apuesta discursiva, no la apología a una desconexión con vistas a una idiosincrasia pura. Para hacerse plenamente transmisible, el territorio de autor sólo puede ser construido por los innumerables préstamos que le brinda su entorno. Aquí es donde la noción de "tropismo" llega a tener un lugar importante en el discurso de hoy. No se trata sólo de que "… la solución se logre poniendo fin a la discusión y simplemente alejarse del contrario". "Solvitur Ambulando" es la respuesta directa de Diógenes a la conclusión platónica de que el movimiento no existe, y prueba, por lo tanto, que los tropos son los únicos animadores del orden simbólico.
April 12, 2011
"Solvitur Ambulando" at La Capella, Barcelona
As a result of a BCN Producció grant from the Institut de Cultura de Barcelona, «Solvitur Ambulando» presents my latest explorations into the tropic movements of our contemporary culture. For more information take a peek here.
November 8, 2010
«The Index». Presentation at MACBA
Within the framework of presentations of the "Se Busca" at the MACBA, I was very happy to collaborate also in "The Index", a project developed together with, Sasha Archibald, a writer and curator from the Bay Area. The collaboration raised a series of questions that, we thought, were relevant to the context of the talks. Enjoy!
November 6, 2010
"Obrar sin obra". Presentation at MACBA
"Si trio faciunt idem non est idem"
We, Diego Pujal, Ruben Verdu, and Alex Mitrani two artists and a critic, have cross-challenged ourselves to play a game that generates all those discursive elements that grow around —like a wrapper or cover— the work of art, and that usually are developed later, namely: the title, the description, and the critique. The goal is to generate them in mutual support of each other, but without the work that, supposedly, originates them. In this way, we are activating a para-creative process that allow us to bring forward certain questions about authorship, the production of a work of art, and the legitimating discourses that surround it. From the onset, the arbitrary nature of the rules of the game leaves us free from taking any kind of clear side in the issues at stake. Risk is taken solely by jumping into the unknown conclusions of an open ended game, sometimes a bit blasphemous, accepting, meanwhile, the unsettling and the constant tossing around that the results might provoke at the end. You can continue reading more about "Obrar sin obra" here.
October 6-7, 2010
«Se busca» at the MACBA
The 3rd edition of these curatorial rehearsals by «La Pinta» have gathered an interesting listing of artists and international curators. For this edition I'm presenting a couple of projects on thrusday, the 7th, at the auditorium of the MACBA. Hope to see you all there!!!
May 12, 2010
«Moonshine» featured at TimeOut Barcelona
As part of the show «Paradís Perdut, Alg(unes) mirades al voltant del Jardí», «Moonshine» tries to expand on the phenomenology of the screen. The phantasmagorical is a constitutive condition of all screens, but it is, in this instance, more evident since the nature that produces it is inherently blind. To read the rest of the article click here.
February 5, 2010
«Palabra de decapitado» at Can Felipa, Barcelona
Performing «Palabra de decapitado» as the opening introduction to «L'espai de l'intent» at Can Felipa was an excellent opportunity to investigate the potential consequences of a no-goal oriented methodology of work. With this kind of exalted manifesto, I try to figure out what could be the effects of a different cultural priority, one that I intend to identify with an unaffected nomadism that ends, then, much in critical opposition to the imperative aesthetic of the sublime.
January 1, 2010
Un devenir très bien connu
Feb 20, 2008
Interview conducted by Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento for CLANCCO
Ruben, I remember first seeing your work at the University of Texas's Glass Gallery, sometime in the early '90s, around 1994. It was a piece with a running electric fan and some text, I believe it included the words: "Prima la porta…" I remember thinking that this work was very different from other work I was seeing at the time...
In truth, you are kind of mixing works, and putting together parts of two pieces that were shown, I think, at end of 1992. The main installation took advantage of the settings which I've always found very curious. As you know, three walls of the gallery were made out of panes of glass that run from floor to ceiling, an issue that not only gave that space its name, the Glass Gallery, but also a certain look of vitrine, of display. The fact is that it wasn't very accommodating space for some artists, especially painters, photographers, and others that rely on walls to show their work. That's why there were permanently a number of floating walls to compensate for that lack of support and opaqueness. It was also high, and overlooking across the border into de colonias of Ciudad Juarez. From there one could enjoy, almost everyday, a full blown sunset. Can you see? It displayed a concrete panoramic, a Benthamian privilege. So I began by emptying the space.
"Mater Politica". Glass Gallery. El Paso, Texas.
It just happened that the only opaque wall that opposed the otherwise transparent scheme of the gallery was placed in front of the door. I could, therefore, organize the viewing accordingly. The installation was titled MATER POLITICA. This was highlighted on that wall which, painted entirely in black, displayed the title of the show in monumental dimensions. I rigged, as well, an industrial fan that blew a huge mass of air toward the door, and prevented a confident entrance into the space. In front of the fan, and blowing with more vigor, there was, most importantly, a white fur flag with eight nipples on each of its sides.
Detail of flag. "Mater Politica". Glass Gallery. El Paso, Texas.
As you know, Gilles Deleuze, was very fond of analyzing territorialization practices. He believed that territorial animals are amazing because to constitute a territory has always been very close to the beginning of all art. One image accompanied my thoughts, then, all the time, the etruscan Capitoline she-wolf that reared Romulus and Remus, that became the symbol of the establishment of the Roman Empire, and a model of our modern concept of State.
Can you talk a little bit about how you ended up in El Paso. How did that experience affected your work?
I arrived to El Paso from a long trip through Mexico and Guatemala. I arrived very politicized, and with intentions to return to the south soon. I was at the time trying to obtain the Mexican nationality. I've always dealt with my kind of blurred, undefinable, mistaken identity, a bit of this, a bit of that, very naturally.
A couple of months ago, I visit again with a very good friend of mine, the writer Roger Colom that lives now also in Spain although he was born and grew up in Ciudad Juarez. When I first met him in El Paso, he began very naturally talking to me in Catalonian. Can you imagine how weird was that for me? We did great work together. We preformed "El Organismo del Animal" in Ciudad Juarez in front of a pack audience. As we know, the social and political situation today makes impossible for these things to happen now there. It's very sad.
"El organismo del animal". La Raya. Ciudad Juarez, México.
Thanks for the clarification. I always tend to mix up things. But you raise an issue I want to address, so this is going to be a long question. If I'm correct, much of your work tends to reference and/or be influenced by an amalgam of "disciplines" and "discourses": theoretical, historical, literary, and philosophical works (Bentham, Deleuze, Romulus). Not that this is a solitary endeavor, but it's certainly a "mode" of working that is not too popular or evident today. What role do these discourses and practices play in your work, and how important is it for viewers to identify such gramaphones?
I always felt uncomfortable seeing how a culture totemizes its artists. I know this might seem kind of disingenuous, but I've met some of the most celebrated, most mediatized, most trivialized contemporary artists, and I've seen how we've encumbered their endeavors as if they've toiled suspended in a vacuum, destined, or almost exemplifying an unresolved call for ancestral heroics. This kind of individualism, you know, should be considered as to belong to the pre-Historic, that is, far from the concerns of a collective memory. Truth is that our culture is mostly cannibalistic. It's very important to acknowledge this ingestion. What I know of Bentham, of Deleuze, and of Etruscan Art, is far from what they meant. What I'm quoting is what I misread, or misrecognized; in short, what I've missed, what I consumed.
We are all products of an infernal machinery, and I say infernal because it is quite Dantesque at all levels. I aim, above all, to be affected by this monstrous dimension. My ability to respond to it, my rhizomatic responsibility, can only take place there, after I submit to it. How could I otherwise bring my proposals to the scrutiny of an audience? I'm not more than just given to that continuous and pulsing attempt that tries to gain the complicity of others. Isn't this the basic condition of our mutual exchange, of this right to public discourse? I'm given this right to exhibit what, my symptom, or ours?
I relate to your conception of blurred identities. I'm, myself, a U.S. American by birth, of Mexican descent, thus my fucked up sensibilities and my love of dystopia. But perhaps your outlook on subjectivity is exemplary (as exemplary as one can be) of these "situs" and of your own "blurred, undefinable, mistaken identity, a bit of this, a bit of that..." In this light, are you, and your work, proposing an "alternative" or new subjective space, or are you assuming that "who comes after the subject" that Cadava and Nancy's questioned a few years ago?
The masses come after the subject, or, as I just said, go after the subject. The subject is simply a minuscule attempt at an ordering construct. The pulse of the many goes, however, clearly beyond this production of a discreet self. Let's be honest. A priori, we don't have agency in the many. Action from the many is only spontaneous and dependable, meaning that it is reached in coincidence. But let me formulate a possible scenario. Now there are some that propose to serve the tenets of a horizontal cultural exchange, and have acknowledged the existence of what they call a relational aesthetics. This brings about a shift in production priorities up to a point in which is not the traditional subject that manages his or her gestures, expressions, or exposures anymore. Production is spread across. Inevitably we begin to subordinate ourselves to a certain fate, a certain uniformity, a certain social scale that we cannot call subjectivity anymore. That's very exciting. The most acknowledged subject is the public subject, the famous individual, the constantly monitored self that is at the mercy of the tumultuous demands of the crowds. The rest are statistics.
I ask this because in your work there seems to be a desire for a certain eye, a certain ear, and a certain emotive-analytical framework which could be considered Nietzschean perhaps. There's a desire that we certainly encounter when we are facing your work. In this sense, the work reminds me a bit of Tom Stoppard, Gaspar Noe and Jorge Luis Borges. Assuming I am correct, are you an artist's artist?
For me, it is very important the existence of this quotational environment, but in my work I've tried to avoid any meta-takeoffs that will not insure, at least, a visceral response from my audience. I hope it is not necessary to go beyond, and exponentially analyze what should be simply the engagement of a very heterogeneous element that is hardly understood, and that I hold in part responsible for the completion of the work. In any case, it is very hard for me to imagine who is looking at my work, and who I wish was looking at my work.
Notice that you've mentioned four excellent producers of narrative. More than a construction of a subjectivity, I admire how well they unleash an agency, an array of potentialities within the most constrained of circumstances, within the inevitable. This inevitability is ultimately, I think, the real function of the quotational.
Previously, you mentioned ideas of the quotational and the totemizing of artists by a culture. Can you explain this "totemizing" a bit further? I hate to draw binaries, but are we still trapped between the commericalized and romanticized notion/identity of the artist?
It's neither the commercialized or romanticized that bothers me. It's the historicized aspect the one that really interests me. When I say totemizing, I refer above all to the ways in which culture condenses all attention into someone, how it renders cult to them. Culture really goes beyond the quotational here. The quotational works more like a common denominator. To quote is to disperse knowledge, is to include details into the amplitude of a bigger need, to articulate thoughts into other discourses. It's user and abuser friendly. Totemizing, however, as all cultural condensation goes, is found throughout history as characterized by glorifying the individual endeavors of a few, and omit the general conditions that made possible their deeds. It answers solely to a transcendental need, a kind of infantile need. Most of humanity is barred from the economy of history. Within that economy, it is as if we were accepting our anonymity, our disappearance in exchange of encumbering the life of a few we believe represent us in the best light. I find this, of course, to be just of little consolation. What transcendence are we really wishing for? ...one hundred years? ...one thousand years? ...one million years? History has a time limit too. We must think of it as already dying.
Furthermore, I wonder if the aging of an artist is something that is considered, or should be considered, within the realm of artistic production. In some sense this ties back to the quotational in that the library or archive from which to draw from is not only widened, but deepened by the complexities of one's level and ability to interpret and analyze. I fear I am being too generous in regard to many current contemporary artists...
Time entered the equation of capital long time ago, that is, no one can deny its accumulative value. The present cultural milieu, however, does not care about this concept of a time silo. Of course not, it destroys its sense of contemporaneity, its sense of its own endeavors. Otherwise, It's always caught up by what was done by others in the past. On the contrary, it values speed and, above all, loss of memory. I really enjoy witnessing today's response to this traumatic marking of history. Things come and go quickly today, and leave a very faint trace. Indeed, they tend to achieve rapid disappearance. It makes me very happy to somehow witness the so called end of history, this kind of paradigm in which facts and ideas only matter a short moment. To be condemned to repeat things is not so bad after all. In any case, reason has proved not to be a strict guardian against this recurrence.
The disappearance of this collective memory does bring back this cult of individualism that characterizes the cultural landscape today, but it foregrounds it, more than ever, as the mere theatrics of a parade. Don't forget that individualism only takes its monstrous proportions within the transcendental flow of history anything else is just a momentary recognition that has already lost its claim to persist through time, its claim to a historical dimension. At the end, this new individualism is just pleased to glorify itself in the now knowing nothing else, forgetting the forgotten.
Let me say that, recently, I've notice certain curated art exhibitions that still, to this day, "totemize" not only artistic production and the artists, but also their very own academic/intellectual discourses for the sake of facilitating and reproducing well-worn and archaic narratives and subjectivities. Why does this persist? What do you encounter in Barcelona?
A mise en scène allows us in most instances to insert a fiction into the real. That's its only window of opportunity. It proposes fleeting the impositions of the real through that opening. Collective memory has tried for centuries to legitimize itself as an aspect of the real. We cannot say that it has accomplished that. It keeps fleeting our expectative through numerous holes. There's no rationale here. It's purely an aporiac force. As I said before, I keep seeing a need to flatten the picture, to fill our culture with a sense of achievement. That means, at the end, nothing more than to forget. Think, for instance, about that short story by Borges "Funes The Memorious." He is prostrated in bed, condemned to relive every detail of his past as passing through his exhausting and infinitely comprehensive memory. I think, it is very possible to translate this to our contemporary culture, one that has been saturated with so much accumulated precedence that it ultimately justifies its complete deliverance from the past. I think, on those circumstances, it's a very understandable reaction. Accepting this is accepting that we will be certainly condemned, however, to repeat things.
Perhaps, I will be mistaken in suggesting that the quotational has imposed an overwhelming burden on culture. We should be careful to see the difference, however. The quotational is too parochial to weight on us like this, and it's too opened to misrepresentation to generate such understandable reaction. We are talking then about something else. In Barcelona, for instance, the past has built a territory of possible actions that defines artists as professionals within a established economic order that has not changed much from the last one hundred years. Collectors buy objects, and institutions take perhaps a little more risks, but the dynamics of cultural production have radically changed, and there is nothing that can account for it. The most interesting cultural productions are not fruit of a well established professionalism anymore. They are a consequence of short lived efforts that rarely find time to build everlasting coherence. It is indeed a fifteen minute chance, and on that premise little can be expected on the order of entering a durable economic exchange, the one that fostered before the development of more studied and meticulous ideals. Culture is, therefore, floating on a rich field of amateurism. Not bad! We always suspected that it was a rich field, no?...so why shouldn't we now fully embrace this heterodoxy?
You mention Bourriaud's "Postproduction" and "Relational Aesthetics." What else are you reading and more importantly, why? Is it fair to say that the dearth of art criticism and art theory is at an all time low, or, on the contrary, that art historians have come to be worship as a kind of 20th century "icon/monument"?
It seems, indeed, that art criticism, and, in general, any commitment to theory have lost its footing on the affairs of this world. It must be all due to the general acceptance that emphasis on theoretical issues are all a legacy of "rationalism" and that this old fart has been finally put to rest for good. No doubt! The scale of our perspective today has change. The information overload in which we're immersed places us inside a huge panopticon with huge panoramic vistas. We look at the world through the keyhole of the screen. We know, however, that is not a powerful and omnipotent vantage point anymore, but a polymorphous ambiguity, a fascinating hallucinogenic deluge that keeps us distracted and locked into the moment of our experiential present.
Rationalism can only be successful if applied to discreet bits of information, to narrow vistas, to ever so detailed issues, and that has proven to be perfect for the machinations of science and technology. In general, however, our sentiment today is a list of contradictory, irrational and apocalyptic facts. Too much information competes to claim truth on its side. Science and technology cannot counter-balance this sentiment anymore. Neither has been able to sustain a redeeming faith on its delivered goods. Their myopic solutions are, in fact, the ones blamed today for the spoiled state of our planet. Immediate personal indulgence replaces a future built on a constructive change. That is clear.
Bourriaud's "Relational Aesthetics" is interesting to the level that it exposes just that, the rooting of in-transcendental practices. I mean nothing negative in saying that, but it is worth noting that it avoids ambitions beyond those of the formality of the moment, and the actuation of a lived present. In other words, not transcendental here means no place for an activity that goes beyond today into tomorrow. It means there's no postponed benefit. It fully adjusts itself to the use-and-throw-away tactics of our contemporary materialism.
Perhaps we should look more closely at the vistas proposed by Richard Sennett in "The Culture of The New Capitalism". I think he exposes more explicitly than anyone the kind of inevitable consequences this new culture places in our laps. In that context, all is rulled by an intense hyperactivity, in the markets, in politics, etc. This is definitely a sign of a lively culture! But it's well known also that this hyperactivity difficults our capacity to concentrate and to pay attention. He reminds us that "...when citizens act like modern consumers they cease to think like craftsmen". The most intolerable enemy of our contemporary culture is any kind of meritorious accumulated knowledge that by force halts the momentum of this superproduction, of this infinite growth. The use of knowledge takes a heavy toll on the open flux of time. It tends toward specialization, essencialism and dogmatization. Time don't flow well around facts; it manifests itself better in the accidental, in the surprising, in the unknown, in the catastrophic.
...can you tell me a bit about your interest in the "high," the "high-heeled," and its connection to the monstrous?
The monstrous carries with it a great deal of passivity. That's a very fascinating issue to me. Passivity is so all over the place, but it's, all at the same time, so utterly disregarded. The word monstrous brings with it all the underpinnings of its latin origins. Monstrare meant to show something to the scrutiny of an active audience. Under those conditions, the monstrous found itself fully instrumentalized by entering the regiment of the sign in an exceptional way, not determined by convention, but by fascination. After all, to see is to believe. Without having done anything actively to generate so much attention toward itself, this purely displayed "one" continues, nevertheless, enduring its demonstrative status without attempting escape.
Truth is that there's no escape. The monstrous belongs to the ground where the passive one rests fulfilled and happy. There, the visual constructs are mainly unnecessary. Tactile and olfactory stimuli are much more relevant. This is where I prefer to begin. That's my point of departure. In 1998 I showed in Dallas LOVE WITHOUT CONTACT trying to lay out a crude genealogy of visual origins. I manage to move the left and the right walls of the gallery to the middle reducing the space to an extremely narrow cleft only nine inches wide. On those two walls I hung a couple of large paintings in such a way that the conditions of the spatial collapse forced them to be displayed facing each other so close as to almost having their surfaces touching. Love was an important acknowledgment here because love is blind, because this type of intense contact, this being-so-close, this type of alter-knowledge, cannot be constructed through the visual; within it, we cannot step back to take a look, there's no chance to distance oneself from it. This opening, this cleft, was a reminder, however, of the elemental structures necessary for a visual experience to take place. It began deploying the most minimal amount of depth and panoramics on which to construct successfully our visual capabilities, but this opening was, also, the beginning sign of antipathy, difference, separation and distance.
"Love Without Contact". Gallery:Untitled, Dallas, Texas.
The monstrous is a product of this visual detachment, of this visual lift-off; is its debris. Before this departure, experience, like I said, is reduced mainly to pure contact, and this contact, obviously, succeeds on the level it combats any kind of rejection, any kind of repression. Freud, at that stage, imagines a hugely developed world of strong smells. The four-legged animal, for instance, keeps always a nose leveled to genitals and anuses, and this getting closer only intensifies the factual presence of things. At one point, however, some kind of felt anticipation, some kind of alarmed condition, provokes our raising ourselves up from the ground. Our erect posture brings about a huge switch of priorities. On one hand, our genitals get hidden in the inner leg, and, more importantly, are placed far from the nose. At that hight, also, the nose can only get unreliable stimulation because all data has already been mixed up by wind and turbulence in the air. On the other hand, the eye gains a panoramic, a perspective, a depth, it gains the distance necessary to allow the optical architecture to develop fully into an anticipatory apparatus, and to assure, ultimately, the rapid establishment of its insistence and domain. Far from any expression of passivity, I consider this situation more like the gaining of a worried gait, the development of a behavioral pattern based on being on constant alert, up, way high up, and with the eyes wide opened. This distance now cleans and sterilizes most of our perception. Moreover, it idealizes our experience because we're placed away from things, detached, and objectively seeking without remedy that final and convincing demonstration. Far from the dirt of facts, the stage is finally set. There's now plenty of room for fantasy.
Sept 4, 2007
Resting on A Wild Gait
"The tragic hero, who is the favorite of ethics, is the purely human; him I can understand, and all his undertakings are out in the open."
Søren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling, Problema III)
Alright, beware of the monsters then! …and let us claim our true vocation, loudly, with fanfare. If we act heroically that must be because silence is definitely not one of our choices. We are all in the open. In the wilderness there is no place to hide, there are no lies, everything comes out naturally. Yes, we are the monsters! Understanding this sudden development has always come late to us. To everyone else that sees us, it is clear from the very start, and when their gaze prey upon our spectacle we'll be convinced, at last, of our few original choices.
Since this monster, the one that speaks (it cannot keep secrets), the one that is always on display (monster comes from the latin monstrare, to show), must acquire some attributes, it chooses what it has always preferred, namely, a wild gait. Or should I say, the wildest of gaits? Among its choices, this monster has always preferred a softer contact with the world, an added lifting, almost a departure. That is, it has always preferred to place only a smaller portion of its feet on the ground, ankles like hocks up in the air. That has been ultimately its only moment of modesty, of circumspection, of concealment, of retreat. It has always known that much. It has always known how to move away gracefully. According to modernity, it has learned how to raise itself tall and slender, how to raise a hairy eyebrow, how to reach and scrape the near by sky…This monster still enjoys to tip-toe its movements on the world, "aux aguets" (lurking), as Deleuze said when trying to find words for a fair description of animal existence, also his preferred existence.
"Oxford Platform Wingtip Heel" Marc by Marc Jacobs, Fall 2007.
This economy of support, believe me, is a question of style, to go no further, but one that has always taken this monster far from other forms of high-heeled folklore. You'll see. My careful steps seemed to have accomplished more than I thought at first when I naturally abandoned myself to this reaching up. I've always believed that this type of posturing appealed to some kind of hidden savagery, to some kind of exalted lifestyle, to hairy legs and hoofs. I felt tuned to the animal form. I'll tell you why…
"Two Toned Buckle Boot" Marc by Marc Jacobs, Fall 2007.
Of course, our vocation is not the first one to be so interested on this kind of departure, this kind of lift off, this air birth. In the Fifth Century A. D. a famed Simeon from Syria made fashionable a lifestyle known later as the Stylite. His fame was so spread out in the Western world that a constant flock of pilgrims was at his side interrupting his ascetic practice. The sight of him, in most cases, was sufficient enough to reward everyone's fascination; but, on leaving him, the agony of not being able to keep with oneself his presence, his example, his clear vision, compelled everyone to grab a souvenir from his meager him. But what could be taken from him? A few strands of hair? Pieces of his leather garment? Secretions from his body? His excrement? Could a demand for a continued supply of relics threaten him perhaps with his complete physical annihilation? In any case, he was clearly everybody's darling.
Nothing could be more iconographic than his wish to incarnate the static. On that he was unmoved. Above all, Simeon was a picture, all eyes fixed upon him. Indeed, his aim had always been the pursuit of the motionless. Stopping a wandering body would stop a wandering mind, and free his devotion from distractions. He succeeded in restricting his movements to a small portion of space, always less and less, forcing his body to remain standing for days, and tying himself to a pole to keep vertically for even longer. His body, a figurant of himself, obeyed only the rigorous orders of a mortis commandment, an everlasting standstill. He became a living stiff…For that, again, he was even more everybody's darling.
Landlocked, bounded to this motionless minimum, and overwhelmed by the presence of his followers, he had no other choice than to insure, at least, a vertical escape. Style was to become, from then on, synonymous to living aloof, on a higher register, a higher echelon. Indeed, Simeon chose to live on top of a column (styloi in Greek) eighteen meters high. He spent there the last thirty-seven years of his life.
"Simón del desierto" Luis Buñuel, 1965.
The stiletto is a god-like animal choice. I should better say, Goat-god-like, Panic, monstrous, partly animal, partly human, but wholly divine in its double choice. Wearing it, one is always rampant. With it, one is always posturing a clear detachment from the world, always threatening to begin a lift off. Only partly, though. In Luis Buñuel's "Simón del desierto" we hear the penitent say to a sheperd: "Believe me brother, I eat and drink as it fits to my necessity…on that other necessity, that to evacuate, I say my excrement is like the one of your goats…" A relationship to the divine is always tempered by necessity. The fetish, the symbolic charge of the relic, is also tempered by necessity. We have not forgotten Freud's words: "…substances that are expelled from the body [are] doomed by their strong smells to share the fate which overtook olfactory stimuli after man adopted the erect posture." And a bit earlier "…Their role was taken over by visual excitations, which, in contrast to the intermittent olfactory stimuli, were able to maintain a permanent effect." Rampant is indeed our posturing, visual our ultimate hallucination.