ARTIST’S EXHIBITION CONCEPT
– Havana, 2017 –
In a Net Art piece in which the spaces of art and life were intermingled, the Italian couple known as the 01 exposed their private life in a website that enabled users to see what they were doing at that moment, regardless of the time of day or night. With that gesture they put on the table the topic of privacy in the internet era, treating their own life as a work of art .
Similarly, the recording of time in diaries and man’s need to leave written memory of the events that mark his life led OnKawara to use the artistic product as record: a document of the artist’s life with dates that could be irrelevant to those who were not familiar with the event they were marking.
The debate between private and public , as well as the work considered “intimate”, existential, or self-referential are concepts that have been addressed many times from diverse points of view. However – and in spite of the great movement in recent times of art toward themes that increasingly deride the individual’s active involvement within society – the artist’s life has not ceased to arouse interest as part of the work he creates.
It is an unquestionable fact that anyone conceiving any product (artistic or not) starts out as an individual . Due to this condition inherent to every creative act, the work is inevitably permeated by the experiences, philosophical concepts, beliefs, and postures of the one who produces it, and therefore, to a greater or lesser extent, every work may be considered “self-referential .”
On the other hand, the work of art that reflects upon itself (or meta-discourse) is a topic that has been devoted to research on the nature of the artistic product. The most explored area has perhaps been the one concerning the means that art employs to convey its message, and therefore the inquiry about the medium became the leitmotif of much of the symbolic production in past decades. And of all explored media, one could say that the one that most exploited its own discursive capacities was painting . So much so, that the symbolical voiding entailed by Malevich’s suprematism and Andy Warhol’s pop art (e.g. White on White and the endless Campbell soup cans) announced the impending death of painting. Nevertheless, painting continued to exist , and that was the most surprising of all.
Today there is still a search regarding the capacities and discourses of painting as medium , and even though this subject has been over-exploited from the point of view of semiotics, or even from its formal aspect, many sides of the phenomenon as well as interpretative readings can still be energized.
From among this great mixture of ideas (art-life relation, monographs, public-private space, painting’s reflection of itself) I have developed this perhaps chaotic proposal to show how I am revealing my intimate nature to the public with the greatest possible sincerity. In the debate that mixes discourses from different periods of my creative history, the pieces are presented arbitrarily, decentered, without any logical order. This sample (and I write sample because it is neither exhibition nor open studio , readymade, site specific, or environment, and yet it is all that at the same time) may cause visual trouble, fatigue, and confusion. The works have not been displayed to enable reading; they are not “curated” in the traditional way but presented in the space just like they were conceived. If they were painted on the floor, on a staircase, dried in front of a ventilator or on an easel – that is how they will be shown in the symbolic space of the gallery. And I refer to the gallery as symbolic space because we well know that if at some point the gallery was a validating space, it now is a neutral space that can turn formal or alternative according to the circumstances (the space does not validate the work, the work constructs the space).
The proposal is supported by that over-saturation of information present in today’s society , and uses as reference the arbitrariness of the internet. It created an ensemble in which one thing does not necessarily have to do with the other, since it becomes a bombardment of diverse unrelated data. In the same way as in the web , it is possible to find the slogan of an environmental summit, an invitation to visit a porno website, or receive Evangelical propaganda.
Likewise , each piece in the show will compete with the rest of the ensemble to draw the spectator’s attention – to demand priority. Distraction, a determinant element of the creative process and of the artist’s own life, is now shown to the public with the same alienating capacity with which it deviated, facilitated, or even prevented the achievement of the works. They then become the same distraction whose victims they were at some point, to “attack” the spectator, demanding his complicity and energy.
In turn, the painting surface becomes a memorandum, a journal in which I write down things I cannot forget when I am painting. I likewise include images from publications I have posted in Facebook, as well as notes having to do with my daily routine . And if that were not enough, the surface of the painting also becomes a palette, mixing on the already painted canvas the colors I will use for my next painting, in a gesture that perhaps recalls “Vomitaction” by Gunter Brus. Thus, the reuse or recycling of the work introduces a new concept into the ensemble, in which I return to the functionality of the work of art, the recirculation of information in the artistic product, and where I also introduce a doubt with respect to the purpose of the symbolic production, the famous “end that justifies the means.”
One could mention Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Parker Ito, and Guillermo Kuitca as antecedents to these works, the last-mentioned because he turned the surface of the canvas into a diary of his life; using it afterwards as tablecloth on his worktable, and marking a specific time of his daily life with each one of these fabrics.
Many concepts have been handled with chaos and arbitrariness in the apparent incoherence or disorder of this proposal, but most important is ultimately the wish to reveal my life in its full dimension by transmitting subtle sensations such as coldness, anxiety, doubt, or fever to the public. This tells directly of my idea of what art should be; of the concept that what is not seen is as important or more than the end result, echoing the old Oriental proverb: The important thing is not the end of the road, but the road itself.
Life is a constant theorization about itself. Sitting down to talk about distraction is also distraction, and therefore arguing about that phenomenon leads to the futile fact that we are constantly submitted to a simulacrum whose only purpose is to distract us from what we should focus on to live . The distraction of the masses, generated by the centers of power, begins by distraction of the individual, and it is that aspect that I wanted to show in this exhibition.
However, my ultimate objective is that the work becomes a distracting element, thus identifying art as promoter par excellence of distraction within society.
Without a practical and useful purpose for the human being, art has always been a symbolic commodity around which numberless people have consumed their lives without reaching a conclusion about its nature and course. And despite the many attempts to grant utilitarian meaning to the artistic product (one could cite artivism as one of the best examples ), its sterility has not yet been turned into something more than a pretext used by some to entertain, amuse, produce doubt, confound, and confront in the best of cases, but which never solves any concrete problem. Nor does it need to solve any.
Following this trend of thought, I can conclude that the investigation and study of art only makes a symbolic contribution, since the importance of a work such as ours is totally illusory, fictitious, and imputed.
In the same way that educational design is directed toward distraction, art is also distraction, and therefore the present text (required by one to explain/justify the other) is by no means to be excluded from this complex scheme. Sitting down to write a text like this implies distracting attention from pressing needs , dedicating time to investigate and theorize, alienate. However , if it is only conceptual support for the one who writes it as starting point for the present exhibition, it will be all the more worse for those who unnecessarily try to argue about it without realizing that theory is one of the many disguises used by distraction to trap people.