13|09|2014 to 13|02|2015 wednesday through saturday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. sundays and holidays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
curated by hans-michael herzog and katrin steffen luis camnitzer los carpinteros josé damasceno mauricio alejo liliana porter leandro erlich teresa serrano leidy chavez & fernando pareja josé toirac
i s a rt i l lu s i o n ? i s a rt r e a l? i s a rt m o r e r e a l t h a n r e a l i t y? w h at i s r e a l i t y? i l lu s i o n ?
illusion is an idealized way of thinking that produces deceptive images, even self-deceptions. our lives are full of them.yet we are not fond of accepting this.this is why the term reality, which we like to grab hold of (often desperately and with great effort), exists as a kind of antithesis. the illusions exhibition reveals a view of the ambiguous and complex, difficult to interpret spaces that swing freely back and forth between a supposed reality and so-called illusion. these spaces are filled with numerous fictions and projections, a more detailed definition of which completely defies categorization. is art perhaps nothing but illusion? or is it closer to reality, indeed even more real than what we call reality? what actually is reality? is it a pure illusion? illusions poses such questions without being able, or even seeking, to provide them with ultimate answers.this exhibition is an invitation to greater conscious perception; to thinking,and to a deeper understanding that might lead to more far-reaching insights able to sharpen our ability to discern the meaning of reality as it relates to illusion. the artists approach the subject of “illusion” (from the latin “illudere”) playfully, and they provide it with a healthy portion of humor: from what is supposedly a mere optical effect (mauricio alejo), and the elaborate interplay of symbols, the signified and the signifiers of perception theory (luis camnitzer), as mental deceit/disappointment (leandro erlich, liliana porter), to the illusion as social, political, cultural, religious, marketing or media phenomena (teresa serrano, josé toirac, leidy chavez & fernando pareja),as well as all of its ambiguity as a pure paradox full of seemingly dadaist absurdity (josé damasceno, los carpinteros). by means of separating things (which are familiar in everyday life) from their actual function, these artworks thwart our conventionally rooted expectations and permanently disrupt all the characteristic functions and significance of objects in their usual setting. ideally,viewersof theexhibitionwillbecomealittlemorefamiliarwiththeirownprocessesof perception. hans-michael herzog translated by william keller
lu i s ca m n i t z e r lu i s ca m n i t z e r
landscape as an attitude, 1979 b/w photograph, laminated 28 × 35.5 cm
the artist,the scientist,and the magician art is a field of knowledge where problems are raised and solved,a place where one can dwell on subjects and situationsthatdonotariseinotherfieldsof knowledge. we usually speak of artistic activity as if it were something totally unrelated to scientific activity. we demand that scientists be responsible and that they serve the common purpose, that they be rigorous in their processes of speculation, investigation and experimentation, and that they be capable of giving explanations of what they do, if needs be. artists, in their turn, enjoy absolute power and we tol- erate this.once a work is declared to be art it becomes almost indestructible. the common good isn’t an important element; it makes no matter whether the work is a symptom of egomania, sociopathy, or the love for one’s neighbor. here the concept of giving explanations is either non-existent or else it is cloud- ed by issues of censorship and individual freedom of expression. however, leaving cultural distortions to one side, if we are speaking of cognitive concepts, the only difference between art and science lies in the fact that in art we canworkwithouthavingtoturntologicandwecansus- pend the cause-effect relationship. this doesn’t mean, however, that removing these two conditions frees us from the demands we make on scientists. artists too must be responsible and serve the common purpose, be rigorous and capable of giving explanations. yet when it comes to social responsibility, in order to better understand this connection between artists and scientistswemustintroduceathirdcharacter:themagi- cian.as the essence of magic lies in the skill in conceal- ing its process and keeping it secret, it is the magician not the artist who stands at the other end of the spec- trumfromthescientist.therelationshipbetweenmagi- cians and cognitive tasks does not consist in expanding knowledge, as in the case of good scientists and good artists, but in challenging what is known in order to create an illusion. their social responsibility is that of creating fine spectacles and making sure that these are not harmful.the young lady presented by the magician appears to be cut in two, but in fact she isn’t.the scien- tist analyzes what would happen if she were, and then decidesit’susuallybestnottodismemberher.theartist uses the image of the lady cut in two as a metaphor for generating evocations, and therefore his work remains relatively free from ethical judgment. the three characters also relate differently to the credulity that characterizes our interaction with the reality that surrounds us. scientists try to explain the incredible. magicians try to simulate the incredible. artists try to present the incredible in order to expand the world of the credible. luis camnitzer excerpt from “el artista, el científico y el mago”, humboldt, 156, 2011. translated by josephine watson born in 1937 in lübeck, germany, raised and edu- cated in uruguay. lives and works in great neck/new york, usa, and valdottavo, italy artists try to present the incredible in order to expand the world of the credible.
this is a mirror.you are a written sentence, 1966–1968 vacuum formed polystyrene 48.4 × 62.5 × 1.5 cm envelope, 1967 series of ten etchings with rubber stamp 41 × 34.5 cm each
lo s ca r p i n t e ro s lo s ca r p i n t e ro s
16m, 2010 (detail)
16m, in other words “sixteen meters”, the title of an installation by cuban artists marco castillo and da- goberto rodríguez, who form the art duo los carpin- teros, is a direct reference to the length of the work presented for the first time in the context of their monographic exhibition drama turquesa (turquoise drama) at ivory press arts & books in madrid in 2010. the installation consists of 200 black suit jackets over white shirts, both of which have been cut with scissors, leaving irregular holes on the right. looking into these holes we see how they visually form a dark tunnel measuring sixteen meters in length,at the end of which we catch a glimpse of light.in actual fact,the tunnel is an illusion, for it exists only insofar as the 200 jackets are arranged in a row, giving rise to an in- ner sculpture of empty space on the border between the real and the imaginary. as is usually the case with these artists, their works continue to deliberately provoke debate between the handcrafted and the artistic. characterized by an extraordinary finish, design, or control of aesthetic space, their levels of interpretation and their ability to generate symbolic spaces are extremely rich. through serialization, the multiplication of objects (in this case, mutilated black jackets on mutilated white shirts) in constructions evocative of pop art and post- minimalism, the artists create a huge visual poem, a meta-object with numerous poetic reverberations and social and political undertones. once again, by de- contextualizing and manipulating them, these artists transform and recode everyday objects into aesthet- ic-political artifacts. when we face their works, we often feel we are in a state of ambiguity, of comfort and discomfort, such as we feel when wearing a suit that doesn’t quite fit or is made of a fabric that triggers an allergic reac- tion and therefore makes us want to take it off com- pletely, or in part at least, thereby allowing our body, our skin, to breathe as soon as possible. perhaps the cutting is a gesture of resistance in a confined, standardized social and political space,an individual action that could become collective. indeed, devel- oped collectively, this gesture, this primal cut, would be strong enough to generate a tunnel space to guide us to a new light. it is no coincidence that los carpinteros should define art as “an allergic reaction to reality”. orlando britto jinorio translated by josephine watson marco antonio castillo valdés, born 1971 in cuba, and dagoberto rodríguez sánchez, born 1969 in cuba. both live and work in madrid, spain a rt i s a n a l l e rg i c r e ac t i o n to r e a l i t y. lo s ca r p i n t e ro s
16m, 2010 fabric, plastic, and metal 95 x 1600 x 60 cm
j o s é da m as c e n o j o s é da m as c e n o
o presságio seguinte (experiência sobre a visibilidade de uma substância dinâmica), 1997 (detail) [the following omen (experiment about the visibility of a dynamic substance)]
un altro attimo we might imagine the flowing of sap through every plant, the same flowing everywhere, at this very mo- ment; or we might also imagine human blood cir- culating, as it does all over the world, over a period of scarcely three hours; we might accompany a coin, chosen at random, along its course through countless interchanges, and find, perhaps, as a result of this pursuit, an uncommon design. we might relate the movement of motor vehicles with the exact time the house lights are turned on, sensing the route and the presence of the electricity needed and that of fuel traveling back and forth between the engines and their gear mechanisms. we might contemplate all those telephone connections, now, those financial transactions, all those computers connected together, people working, talking, arguing, laughing, different languages,different codes.in this same way we might recognize the movements of all the different types of fish and aquatic creatures found in the oceans and their depths. reality, or what is known as such, has an endless number of strata, layers, dimensions, densities, con- ditions, types of porosity, channels, with an unimag- inable, structural complexity which moves, grows and r e a l i t y, o r w h at i s k n ow n as s u c h , h as a n e n d l e ss n u m b e r o f st r ata , l ay e rs, d i m e n s i o n s, d e n s i t i e s, co n d i t i o n s, t y p e s o f p o ro s i t y, a n d c h a n n e l s. changes by the second in another immense universe of different viewpoints. for some reason, i think of the existence of a multitude of images which live and survive in each one of us, and in this way, our own image, for instance, would be contained in “several” versions in the imagination and the memory of those who know us; a multitude of different versions of our own selves.if we multiply this reality by all the people who surround us,and we keep on doing so taking into consideration not only people, but also objects, laws, procedures, houses, cities, streets, roads and paths, and, in addition to all this, memories, loves, stories, behavior patterns, then perhaps we would come clos- er to a kind of impressive imaginary reality.this would lead us to take for granted the possibility that we can walk through this subtle area which, yes, appears to be volatile, but which has an extremely concrete pres- ence; an area dense in its image-generating viscosity. ahabitatconstitutedbyinfiniteworldswhichinter-pen- etrate in a curious intertwining, surfaces that bend and touch each other in perpetual and consecutive twisting movements which in reality are psychic rivers, tributar- ies, fountains and springs which run and flow inces- santly into spiritual oceans with their strong currents, tides, calm seas, waves, storms. one can get a sudden glimpse of this landscape while strolling through a
populated neighborhood of any large city. each apart- ment, building or block shelters thousands of lives, passion-filled stories, dreams and ideas, along with poverty,tragedy,hateandhappiness.thoughtsandacts areorganizedintoacomplexlivingchaosfilled,asalast resort, with desire, feeling, and movement. i think that it is absolutely fascinating to travel to these places and to discover the association of absurd elements which draw nearer to each other in a strange way. we might becomeawareof theopportunitytopouroutouridenti- ty,and dissolve it in the cosmos.we might endeavor to affirm and observe the contradictions, inconsistencies, and the conflicts which form part of us in this world, or we might simply delight in the radical occurrence that we are immersed in a totally hallucinatory and marvel- ous circumstance, a substance called life, our contact with which some people call art. josé damasceno first published in el final del eclipse. el arte de américa latina enlatransiciónalsigloxxi.fundacióntelefónica,madrid,2001. born in 1968 in rio de janeiro,brazil.lives and works in rio de janeiro. o presságio seguinte (experiência sobre a visibilidade de uma substância dinâmica), 1997 [the following omen (experiment about the visibility of a dynamic substance)] mannequin, cloth, and thread approx. 660 cm length, ø 170 cm
m au r i c i o a l e j o m au r i c i o a l e j o
katrin steffen: your videos tell short, surprising stories set in everyday life. what specific situations attract your interest? mauricio alejo: hard to tell. i think what triggers my interest are these little physical happenstances that for some reason have the power to transcend themselves as mere physical phenomenon. noth- ing wrong with mere physical phenomenon; i love physics, but i’m interested in situations where power, tension, displacement and precarious equi- librium have the ability to resonate with someone’s memory, perception, and physical experience of the world. ks: in the short sequences, things are not always what they appear to be at first glance. in line (2002), for instance, a minimal intervention from your side reveals that the presumed line is in fact a jet of wa- ter. it almost appears as if you are carrying out pseu- do-physical experiments using different materials and textures. an insight based on direct experience that you’re passing on to the audience? what role does optical illusion play in this? ma: you’re right, these specific videos are almost all about optical illusion, but i have to say that the verbal also plays an important role. the title is not just a description but an instruction on what to see. that’s the reason for the existence of titles in pieces so short, which shouldn’t really have spare parts.the verbal has a structure and authority that the visual lacks. when a certain point in the plot is reached, there’s a fracture that goes from the verbal to the visual, leaving the viewer vulnerable and open to relate in a less prejudiced way with the materials. once that happens, i like how basic the experience becomes. let’s take the video line as an example. you have the title and then you have the image of a line,but once the action happens you are confronted with a line that is less of a concept and more of a thing. the line is actual material, water in this case, but i think the big shock to our perception comes from something more basic, something that has to do with phenomenology—the sudden realization of movement in stillness. ks: you have created a unique universe of everyday objects and situations. the banal thus gains a poetic touch. are surreal humor and wit a significant part of this? ma: that’s actually funny because i’m purposely try- ing not to be humorous,and at the same time i know i’m being humorous. what i think is happening is that i’m mixing some ingredients and presenting them with the same mechanism with which humor works. that is, a break in a narrative that all of a sudden brings an unexpected element. even if the new proposition is absurd, the very break in the con- tinuum promotes laughter. i like that psychological engagement with my work. i think the break i pro- pose is in the unspoken narrative that objects have in everyday life. what i consider subversive is a twist i ’ m n ot t ry i n g to o p e n a d o o r to t h e u n co n s c i o u s wo r l d b u t to a m o r e o bv i o u s a n d fac t ua l wo r l d t h at i s st i l l s u r p r i s i n g b ecau s e i t ac t ua l ly e x i sts a n d i s j u st h i d d e n i n p l a i n s i g h t.
line, 2002 single channel video 0’29” / color / sound in a narrative that most of the time we are not even aware of, and we are even less aware how subjected we are to that narrative.as for the surreal part, after a while i have unwillingly to admit that there is a sur- real component to my work, probably “à la magritte” as in “this is not a pipe”, which i like very much (as oppose to “à la dalí”, which i dislike; too spectacular for me). anyway, i’m not trying to open a door to the unconscious world but to a more obvious and factual world that is still surprising because it actually exists and is just hidden in plain sight. ks: your work is based on photography and, since the early 2000s, also on the medium of video. your earliest video work includes crack, line, twig, red, and hole. time, movement and action have gained a different quality and relevance due to the new me- dium. how did this transition come about, and what possibilities has it opened up? ma: i moved into video from pure necessity. i didn’t have any specific agenda to do video work, it just happened that what i wanted to say needed movement; that’s why some of my videos could be thought of as photographs in which something hap- pens. i was trying to be as efficient with the medium as possible partially because i was inexperienced and partially because i had a very specific thing to say. those two elements turned out to yield elegant little pieces. after that, working with the very feature that photography lacks, i mean time, made me un- derstand the nature of both mediums even better. i came back to photography with a better grasp of how time works in photographic representation. ks: from today’s perspective,how would you charac- terize the videos in the context of your artistic work? ma: that’s very difficult to answer because the way i see my previous works keeps changing. i like them, i guess, in the way anyone could like them. i can still be an audience to those videos, which could be considered an achievement. it rarely happens, but when it does it means that there’s enough openness in that work to keep it meaningful. as an artist, those videos probably set up a way of work- ing for me. they taught me to be as truthful to my intuition as possible throughout the process, from conceiving an experience up to delivering it in the right medium. interview conducted by e-mail, july 2014. born in 1969 in mexico city,mexico.lives and works in new york, usa.
l i l i a n a p o rt e r l i l i a n a p o rt e r
nail, 1972 silkscreen and string 76 x 57 cm
katrin steffen: throughout the sixties and seventies you devoted yourself to print making. when you arrived in new york in 1964 you experimented with this technique at the pratt graphic art center and the following year you co- founded the new york graphic workshop with luis camnitzer and josé guillermo castillo. what choices or special possibilities did print making offer you? what ideas did you develop and what were the main objectives of the nygw? liliana porter: when i arrived in new york in 1964, the three of us—camnitzer, castillo, and myself—were already print makers. what new york offered us was the possibility of working for the first time with material that wasn’t available in our own countries (inks, plates, types of paper, etc.); in other words, we had the best technical opportunities to develop our ideas. after this first moment, when we opened the print workshop (nygw) we began to analyze our own works and ideas in depth, and we realized that none of the isms in the history of art ever emerged from print making but from painting or sculpture. following much self-criticism and reflection, we agreed that the problem was that as print makers we put a lot of emphasis on technique instead of on ideas. so each of us began to develop our work, according to our own circumstances, placing emphasis on ideas. what interested us in the field of prints was the possibility of producing editions. at a time when we were interested in an art that was democratic, challenging, and not elitist, print making, taken to an extreme, gave us great possibilities of action. so we ended up producing installations, mail art, and multiples using non- traditional material. ks: many of your early works are related to the notion of arte boludo or “dumbass art” you yourselves explored. how did you come to this? what does it consist of? lp: the idea of arte boludo has a philosophical background. hoping to move away from the technical traps of print making and from the expressionistic works we were making in those days, we decided to work in a different way. in my case, i tried to work with elements i found simpler, more banal or less charged with meaning to ensure the work was closer to a question than an assertion, that it welcomed scratch, 1974 etching and aquatint 76 x 56.5 cm
more considerations and more possible meanings. that it was not a closed work. this gave rise to works where i used a nail, a thread, or a shadow; works in which empty space emerged, i.e. the concept of non- place. since then i’ve been interested in the subject of time and the relationship between representation and reality.a wonderful example of arte boludo is the extraordinary oeuvre of giorgio morandi. an oeuvre that, from the simple and banal, reaches an almost mystical clarity and conveys an aesthetic experience that borges would define as “the imminence of a revelation.” ks: from a visual point of view, your experimental prints are very minimal. the “players” include nails, ropes and shadows, yet the main role is played by empty space. is this where the banal and the meaningful intersect? lp: empty space is what situates objects in a non- place,aspacewecouldcalltimeless.inmylatestwork, for instance,the dialogues between objects don’t take place on a table, in new york, or on a specific date; their context,or rather non-context,helps focus on the subject, on the main idea of the work. ks: one obvious element is the visual trick, the trompe l’œil effect. at first, a printed nail can easily be mistaken for a real nail or the image of a shadow for a real shadow. then the question of the connection between artistic representation, reality, and illusion emerges. what aspects of this subject matter are central to you? lp: what interests me about this visual confusion is the questioning of the substance of reality and time. the distance between words and things, so to speak. interview conducted by e-mail,july 2014. translated by josephine watson born in 1941 in buenos aires, argentina. lives and works in new york, usa. w h at i n t e r e st s m e a b o u t t h i s v i s ua l co n f u s i o n i s t h e q u e st i o n i n g o f t h e s u b sta n c e o f r e a l i t y a n d t i m e .
l e a n d ro e r l i c h l e a n d ro e r l i c h
las puertas, 2004 (detail) [the doors] 2 wooden doors and fluorescent light overall dimensions variable, doors 208 x 105 cm each
katrin steffen: you call yourself an “architect of the uncertain” and are considered a master of illusions. in your installations you transform everyday situa- tions and familiar spaces into settings that are at once disconcerting and disorienting. defying the viewer’s perception, you blur the limits between the apparent and the real,between reality and illusion.the creation of illusion is a constant in your work. where does this particular impact come from? leandroerlich:ithinkthatunderstandingtheworld and its affairs have formed a part of our existence from distant times. ever since he lived in caves, man has asked questions, reflected, and discovered multiple truths. science and philosophy have given reality a ra- tional and logic sense. however, over and above con- veyable knowledge, there is obviously an individual need to experience an understanding of the order and meaning of things.in other words,regardless of histor- ical experience, we feel the urge to substantiate events and draw personal conclusions. my work provides an experience in which the impact is related to a discovery. ks: broadly speaking, you give viewers a glimpse of what goes on backstage, revealing the “tricks”, the workings of the illusionist machine. what is the pur- pose of this transparency? le: demonstrating the trick is a way of playing down the importance of the phenomenological and wel- coming a conceptual interpretation of the work. ks: in cambiadores (changing rooms) (2008) you build a whole series of rooms that reveal themselves to be a unique labyrinth of mirrors. visitors are con- fronted with endless perspectives and reflections of themselves, generating questions on consumerism, self-knowledge, identity, and existence, to name but a few of the concepts you use to weave a network of meanings.what experiences do you hope to trigger? le: my oeuvre has a polysemic sense i find interest- ing. all the concepts you mention form a part of my work and my quest. ks: the installation entitled las puertas (the doors, 2004) plays with the expectations of the audience. viewers find themselves before closed doors; a light shines through the cracks to suggest that a mystery lies in wait on the other side—a disturbing scenario with a huge capacity for suggestion that evokes mem- ories of nightmares and horror movies.in the end,the doors in the installation lead nowhere.how important is the medium of film/cinema in your work? what role does the spectator play? i t i s t h e s p ec tato r , a n d n ot l i f e , t h at a rt r e a l ly m i r ro rs. t h e p i ct u r e o f d o r i a n g r ay, o s ca r w i l d e
le: there is a collective memory in everyday life that is found in ordinary experiences. cinema has influ- enced our imagination in multiple ways and has also managed to generate a collective memory. the exis- tence of film gives way to the possibility of relating events and images of the world to those in a movie. there are even times when we may feel that we are living a fiction and identify that fiction as film. os- car wilde’s idea of life imitating art was never more apropos. in my work the dynamic action of the au- dience grants the viewer an acting role, but what is unique is that it does so without the audience giving up its role as spectator. interview conducted by e-mail,july 2014. translated by josephine watson born in 1973 in buenos aires, argentina. lives and works in montevideo, uruguay, and buenos aires. cambiadores (changing rooms), 2008 (detail) walls, golden frames, mirrors, stools, lights, and curtains 24 cabins, 210 x 120 x 120 cm each overall dimensions 220 x 640 x 790 cm
t e r e sa s e r r a n o t e r e sa s e r r a n o
5 rolling stones, 1999 (detail) synthetic material and natural hair ø 25-30 cm each
if we had to define the common thread of the four works displayed in this project by mexican artist teresa serrano, we should speak of violence.violence that emerges from the sphere of metaphor, through the use of cultural symbols, and from the impeccable finish of her objects and videos. much of serrano’s oeuvre deals with issues related to gender violence,or violence against women, and to women’s loneliness in environments that are for the most part socially hostile.her works transcend mere illusion and situate usbeforeathrobbingrealityfoundintheveryfabricof the most widespread religions in the world, oblivious to all aspirations to equality and concealing their own contradictions beneath their symbolic system. funnily enough, three of the works by teresa serrano in this exhibition are related in both formal and symbolic terms to the head, the seat of our cognitive and emotional skills and of many of our sensory abilities and expressions such as sight,hearing,smell, and taste—a territory of diversity, tears and smiles. 5 rolling stones (1999) presents five spheres or balls covered in wigs that seem to be female on account of their shape and color. the visual illusion produced by the wigs as artifacts of simulation is overcome when they appear placed on the floor like rolling heads severed from their bodies, in one of the greatest examples of senseless violence. heads that roll and move through rivers of violence and after rolling and rolling end up becoming practically spherical, like rolling stones. as its title suggests, blown mold (2012) is a work madeoutof blownglass,ahandcraftingtechniqueas old as humankind in which the artisans “transcends” their human role to become a demiurge, a true creator whose human “breath”, an illusion of the divine breath, is able to transform a mass of matter into a beautiful, fragile object. the artist has chosen four of the hats or headdresses most heavily charged with symbolism in catholicism, the calotte, the miter, the biretta, and the saturn hat, to create a metaphor of the fragility of those who wear these icons representing transcendence on earth. they are not gods but human beings covered with divine symbols that offer a glimpse of the contradictions of a church that has proven unable to create a space h e r wo r k s t r a n s c e n d m e r e i l lu s i o n a n d s i t uat e u s b e fo r e a t h ro b b i n g r e a l i t y.
of equality for women, and incapable of confronting and checking violence against the innocence and integrity of minors. teresa serrano’s oeuvre subtly highlights the contradictions of social, political, and religious structures that generate violence against women, minors, and the underprivileged. del mismo diámetro (of the same diameter, 2012) stems from an observation the artist made of the most symbolic headdress in the religions of three of the great cultures of mankind, christianity, judaism, and islam, all of which have the same diameter of 17 centimeters. the religious headdresses are therefore a perfect fit for the standard diameter of a human head. as attributes related to divinity, by emphasizing their similarity the artist reminds us that those who wear them are ordinary citizens exerting leadership and power over millions of people. hence another illusion of divinity evokes the earthly nature of these symbols of power, which are, of course, male. the video entitled boca de tabla (mouth of plank, 2007) is the last of serrano’s works in the show. beautifully shot in black and white, its rich scenes, rhythm, sound and symbolic structure, halfway between video and experimental film, are the backdrop to a claustrophobic space in which the leading female character appears in an endless loop of solitude that captures a sense of unease. the camera (in this case, the viewer) accompanies the woman, travelling in front, behind and over her, silently observing the inexorable labyrinth of her loneliness. orlando britto jinorio translated by josephine watson born in 1936 in mexico city, mexico. lives and works in mexico city, and new york, usa blown mold, 2012 glass overall dimensions 80 x 150 x 50 cm
f e r n a n d o pa r e ja & l e i dy c h av e z f e r n a n d o pa r e ja & l e i dy c h av e z
untitled, 2012 (detail)
the installations created by fernando pareja and leidy chavez, both of whom studied art at the uni- versity of cauca in popayán and who have worked as an artist couple since 2002, are not merely as- tounding moving images, they are also images that are indeed moving. small wax figures on rotating disks, stroboscopic lighting, and a haunting soundtrack are the com- ponents of their animation machines, which serve to breathe life into the motionless figures, allowing them to tell their story in continuously repeating sequences. the animation machines are fascinat- ing continuations of historical visual devices and optical toys, which enjoyed great popularity in the 19th century. their artistic research led fernando pareja and leidy chavez to devices with puzzling names such as the zoetrope and the praxinoscope, pre-cinematic technologies that had already mes- merized the public in their day. both were exam- ples of simple yet ingenious machines based on physiological and psychological perceptual phe- nomena that evoke the illusion of movement. by transposing historical mechanisms into the present, the two artists intend more than their sim- ple revival: their works draw upon the potential of experiment and surprise. what is special about the historical excursion of fernando pareja and leidy chavez is that it also takes a contemporary view of history.their artistic strategy is not guided by nostal- gia, but rather by an interest in examining the cur- rent production of images and today’s perspective, in addition to making the image-producing process itself visible. addressing what we wish to see or are capable of seeing, as the case may be, with the anal- ysis of what the human eye is prepared to perceive, ultimately the question also arises as to its meaning in a world substantially determined by moving im- ages. fernando pareja and leidy chavez understand how to develop the viewers’ fascination with their three-dimensional animation, even beyond the ini- tial wonder, that is stirring at an emotional, reflec- tive, and socio-political level. animated by means of the stroboscopic-light ef- fect, the old women in untitled (2012) hurry out of a circular arcade, hasten across a platform, only to plunge into empty space. trapped within the sys- tem of an endless loop, this fatal drama is repeated again and again.the scene is a reaction to the thus- far hopeless situation of the civilian population in the native region of the two artists, the columbian province of cauca, caught in the crossfire of a nev- f e r n a n d o pa r e ja a n d l e i dy c h av e z u n d e rsta n d h ow to d e v e lo p t h e v i e w e rs ’ fas c i n at i o n w i t h t h e i r t h r e e - d i m e n s i o n a l a n i m at i o n , e v e n b e yo n d t h e i n i t i a l wo n d e r , t h at i s st i r r i n g at a n e m ot i o n a l , r e f l ec t i v e , a n d s o c i o - p o l i t i ca l l e v e l .
untitled, 2012 wood, cardboard, bees wax,acrylic glass, motor, sound, and light overall dimensions variable, object 26 cm x ø 54 cm er-ending armed conflict between the army, para- military groups, and guerillas. the artwork of fernando pareja and leidy chavez vividly sheds light on socio-political realities. this places them in a long tradition of columbian art- ists who critically and emphatically deal with their country’s turbulent past and present. the real strength of the works of fernando pareja and leidy chavez, with their interplay of illusion and reality, is that they pose at a universal level existential questions that affect all of us. katrin steffen translated by william keller fernando pareja (*1979, popayán, colombia) and leidy chavez (*1984, popayán, colombia) live and work in bogotá, colombia
j o s é to i r ac j o s é to i r ac
the work entitled opus (2005) by cuban artist josé toirac is a meaningful and eloquent example of the multiple expressions of political power in his oeuvre. among his previous significant series of works, men- tion must be made of con el permiso de la historia (with the permission of history),in which he explored the strength of the photographs of the revolutionary incidents in sierra maestra and how they captivated the imaginaire of the cuban people. with the subse- quent triumph of the revolution, his images are gra- dually replaced by figures, numerical data. so throughout the four minutes and forty-nine se- conds of this single-channel video filmed in black and white we discover a succession of figures, shown in a loop, announced by the unmistakable voice of commander fidel castro. in this work, the ceaseless rhetoric of the patronizing discourse of power that almost results in the physical and psychological exhaustion of listeners is reduced by josé toirac to a sort of minimalist sound-number illusion not devoid of a certain amount of humor,as is usual in his oeuvre. the endless political discourse is divested of all its content and, in a process of decons- truction and synthesis, is reduced by the artist to an interminable litany of figures,a lulling mantra of data impossible to corroborate that is presumably inten- ded to produce a state of calmness in the listener, the viewer, regarding the uncertainty of his present and future. as the artist himself points out, the impossibi- lity of verifying this information,conveyed as if it were merely political propaganda, means that basically it can only be accepted as truth starting from an act of faith. the figures and data transmitted from the eche- lons of power thus become a new form of religion. emerging from a specific and recognizable context such as that of cuba, and taking the figure of fidel castro as the greatest exponent of contemporary political hyperbole, toirac’s work is by extension uni- versal and deals with the rhetoric of power and the institutional use and manipulation of thousands, in- deed millions, of facts and figures that is carried out in today’s world on a daily basis.it is up to the viewers to decide where to place the frontier between their reason and their faith. orlando britto jinorio translated by josephine watson born in 1966 in guantánamo, cuba. lives and works in havana, cuba t h e wo r k i s u n i v e r s a l a n d d e a l s w i t h t h e r h e to r i c o f p ow e r .
opus, 2005 single channel video 4’49” / b/w / sound