Paratext #28 by Carolina Jiménez

Paratext n#28
18th July 2018
by Carolina Jiménez

Claudio Correa (International Residence)
Rae Yuping Hsu (International Residence)
Victoria DeBlassie & Connor Maley (International Residence)
Mostafa Saifi Rashmouni (HISK Exchange Grant – Sala d’Art Jove)

It is curious that Sergi Botella is sorry at the beginning of his text on Paratext nº27 about the opposite of what I was going to do at the beginning of mine. Sergi’s excessive involvement and the uncertainty of doing something without references in my case has led both of us to fall into the same trap (or excuse) of starting a text by talking about the difficulty of writing it. The struggle to face a text without having a theme, and even more so when it comes to writing on such a wide format as Paratext’s; halfway between a studio visit, a conference and a portfolio viewing, without being at the same time any of such things.

The proposal launched by Sergi and Lluís Nacenta seemed simple at first: to attend Paratext nº28, to be held in Hangar on 18 July, and then to write “whatever I wanted”. I used to define myself as a journalist rather than an art curator, and never as a critic, so it didn’t take me long to make it clear that I would feel more comfortable presenting myself as a reporter for Paratext No. 28 than anything else: narrating from my experience in a more or less ordered way without trying to put super-observer fiction into practice and walking around with the (im)possibility of “making sense”. It would be a text with a journalistic or literary vocation rather than a theoretical one. “Write as you like”, they reiterated. So that day, almost without realizing it, I was sitting in the first row of chairs that filled the Ricson room, curious about other people’s conversations, taking some pictures with the telephone and taking unreliable notes of what was happening there.

It is those notes that now -more than a month later- remind me that Claudio Correa was already in the room with all his material dumped on the computer with which the artists were going to help each other in their presentations that afternoon. After a while Victoria DeBlassie and Connor Maley came in with a pen drive to download their stuff. While they were doing it, Claudio and Connor were talking about literature. Connor asked him about Bolaño, and Claudio recommended Pedro Lemebel and Alberto Fuguet.

A little after 19:00, with a much larger audience than I could expect for mid-July, Claudio Correa’s presentation began. He did so with a black and white military portrait of Sergio Arellano Stark, a Chilean military man known for leading the Caravan of Death in 1973 during Pinochet’s dictatorship and one of the main perpetrators of the coup that overthrew Allende. I noticed then that that day was July 18, the day of Franco’s 1936 coup, and I thought of that apocryphal phrase that is usually attributed to Mark Twain, who says that history does not repeat itself, but rhymes. Arellano Stark’s photo also made me think that genocidal generals tend to resemble each other physically, and some, unfortunately, also in the fact of dying of old men in bed without having been judged for their crimes.

In that image, Arellano Stark wore a string of medals on his chest. The medals, in spite of their apparent silence, tell many things. They institute the curriculum of a soldier. And, in addition to being objects of memory once they cease to be valid in a certain regime, they can be revealed as incriminating evidences. Because of this, many of them have disappeared in the case of the Chilean military. One of the pieces presented to us by Claudio consisted of the recreation in wax, through the technique of emptying -which paradoxically refers to the presence of the object- of these medals lost by history, evidencing the collapse of the division between objects and subjects in the investigative processes that emanate from art. “The destiny of the object has not been claimed by anyone”, said Baudrillard, to which Thomas Keenan, from the so-called “forensic turn”, would argue that rather than being claimed, the found object “can come to demand that what has happened be said”. In an attempt to assault the “secrets of the State” and the limitations imposed by all kinds of “thresholds of visibility”, the study of the materiality of violence that Claudio proposed to us came to summon the possibilities of art to recreate disciplined and disappeared objects, and to propose ways, images and materials capable of processing, translating and reconstructing the cracks of the present.

From the object as a political device we move on to the materiality of which we are composed. It was the turn of Rae Yuping Hsu, who began her talk by revealing her interest in crystal. Crystal as a material-metaphor of the vulnerability of the human condition, a notion to which Rae appeals from her experience and previous training in the field of rehabilitation medicine. What defines a “capable” body as opposed to a “disabled” one? What is the evidence that makes a body be considered “functional” or “dysfunctional”? The artist presented us with several of her latest works; artifacts in continuous technical-materic exploration that seek to question and expand the limits of bodies. Organisms that incorporate, transform and feed on a multiplicity of human and non-human assemblages, which serve Rae to reformulate the scientific-medical definitions of matter: from the sliding of the difference from binary schemes (healthy/sick, own/ajen or natural/artificial) to rhyzomatic processes, where the anthropocentric perspective is replaced by the need to think of becoming in constant mutation.

Victoria DeBlassie and Connor Maley dared to speak Catalan in their intervention. Both live in Florence and have been in Barcelona this summer researching together about the intricate relationship between Catalan language and culture, especially at a time like the present. Only a few days had passed since they had arrived in the city, so for this Paratext they opted to show us some of their previous works separately.

I remember without needing to pull on my unprofitable notes Victoria’s fascination with orange peels. With them she has managed to create several large sculptures such as one of her pieces called “Accumulated Matter”, an investigation into the material culture of the orientalist architecture of the orangeries, a kind of greenhouse that became fashionable in European aristocratic residences during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She also showed us some of her installations generated from the plastic boxes used to transport the fruit. Through residual and discarded material (understanding these categories as social constructs), Victoria’s work points to systems of relationships between matter and various modalities of human action. Connor works with language. He is particularly interested in the relationship between language, identity and trauma as tools for unlocking forms of oppression, authoritarianism and other systems of disenfranchisement. That afternoon he decided to read us some of his texts where he mixes Italian with English, and conjugated fiction with real documentation about the labor conflicts produced between the 1940s and 1980s in the Italian salt industry.

Mostafa Saifi Rahmouni had also spent a few days in Hangar and would soon return to HISK in Ghent, where he lives. He showed us some of his works, which are mainly made up of photographs, videos and installations. With him the notion of evidence resonated again in the Ricson. Bodies thrown in front of the border fence; the bottle as evidence of the endemic use of torture and silencing of dissent in Morocco; a copper bread to evidence the idea of value in Muslim culture; and the cemeteries and their great silences as places of material evidence of life. Fermi’s paradox turned around. And a great silence was made in the hall.

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