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 (exchange grant HISK- Sala d’Art Jove)

Curiously, Sergi Botella complains at the beginning of his text on Paratext no. 27 just in the opposite way of how I wanted to do it at the beginning of mine. Sergi’s excessive involvement and the
uncertainty of doing something without references in my case has led us both to fall into the same trap (or excuse) of starting a text talking about the difficulty of writing it. The commitment of facing a text without having a topic, especially when it comes to writing about a format as broad as Paratext, halfway between a studio visit, a conference, and a portfolio viewing, without being at the same time any of these things.

The proposal that Sergi and Lluís Nacenta made to me seemed simple in principle: attend Paratext no. 28, to be held at Hangar on July 18, and then write “what I wanted to”. I usually define myself as a journalist rather than an art curator, and never as a critic, so it didn’t take me long to clarify that I would feel more comfortable presenting myself as the reporter of Paratext 28 than as anything else: to narrate from my experience in a more or less orderly way without trying to put into practice the fiction of a super-observer and to go around with the (im)possibility of “making sense”. It would be a text with a more journalistic or literary than theoretical vocation. “Write as you wish,” they reiterated. So that day, almost without realizing it, I was sitting in the first row of the chairs that filled the Ricson room, chatting away at other people’s conversations, taking a few photos with my phone, and taking unreliable notes of what was going on there.

It is these notes that now -over a month later- remind me that Claudio Correa was already in the room with all his material downloaded onto the computer with which the artists would help each other that afternoon in their presentations. Soon Victòria DeBlassie and Connor Maley came in with a flash drive to download theirs. As they did so, Claudio and Connor talked about literature. Connor asked about Bolaño, and Claudio recommended Pere Lemebel and Alberto Fuguet.

Slightly later than 7:00 p.m., with a considerably larger audience than I could have expected since it was the middle of 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 the Pinochet dictatorship and one of the main perpetrators of the coup d’état that overthrew Allende. I then noticed that that day was July 18, the day of Franco’s coup d’état in 1936, and the apocryphal phrase often attributed to Mark Twain came to mind, which says that history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. The photo of Arellano Stark also made me think that genocidal generals often resemble each other physically, and some, unfortunately, also, die of old age in bed without having been tried for their crimes.

In that image, Arellano Stark displayed a series of medals on his chest. The medals, despite their apparent silence, can explain many things. They institute the curriculum of a military man. And, in addition to being objects of memory once they are no longer valid in a given regime, they can be revealed as incriminating evidence. Due to this, many of them have been in the case of the Chilean military missing. One of the pieces that Claudio presented us consisted of a wax recreation, through the technique of hollowing -which paradoxically refers to the presence of the object- of those medals lost in history, evidencing the collapse of the division between objects and subjects in the investigative processes that emanate from art. “The fate of the object has not been claimed by anyone,” said Braudillard, a fact to which Thomas Keenan, from the so-called “forensic turn,” would claim that in addition to being reclaimed, the found object “can come to ask to be told what has happened.” In an attempt of an assault against “state secrets” and the limitations exposed 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 forms, images, and materials capable of processing, translating and reconstructing the crevices of the moment.

From the object as a political device, we move to the materiality of which we are composed. It was the turn of Rae Yuping Hsu, who began his talk revealing his interest in glass. Glass is a material metaphor for the vulnerability of the human condition, a notion to which Rae interpolates from his previous experience and training in medical field rehabilitation. What defines a “capable” body as a “disabled” one? What is the evidence that makes a body to be considered “functional” or “dysfunctional”? The artist presented us with several of his latest artworks; organisms in a continuous technic material exploration that seek to question and expand the limits of bodies. Organisms that incorporate, transform, and are nourished by a multiplicity of human and non- human couplings, which serve Rae to reformulate the scientific-medical definitions of the matter: from the slippage of difference from binary schemes (healthy/sick, self/other, or natural/artificial) to rhizomatic processes, where the anthropocentric perspective is replaced by the need to think about constantly mutating becoming.

Victòria DeBlassie and Connor Maley ventured into Catalan when they took the floor. They both live in Florence and have been in Barcelona this summer researching together with the intricate relationship between Catalan language and culture, especially at a time like the present. It had just been a few days since they had arrived in the city, so for this Paratext, they chose to show us some of their previous work separately.

I remember, without needing to consult my not very helpful notes, Victoria’s fascination for orange peels. With them, she has managed to raise several large sculptures such as her Accumulated
Matter creation, an investigation of cultural material from the orientalist printing architectures of the orangeries, a form of greenhouses that became fashionable in European aristocratic residences during the 17th and 18th centuries. She also presented some of her installations generated from plastic boxes used to transport fruit. Utilizing residual and rejected materials (understanding these categories as social constructs), Victoria’s work addresses the systems of relationships between matter and diverse modalities of human action. Connor works with language. She is particularly interested in the relationship between language, identity, and trauma as tools to unlock forms of oppression, authoritarianism, and other systems of disenfranchisement. That afternoon she decided to read us some of her texts in which she blends Italian and English, and combined science fiction with real documentation of the labor conflicts that took place between the 1940s and the 1980s in the Italian salt industry.

Mostafa Saifi Rahmouni had also been in Hangar for a few days and would soon return to HISK in Ghent, where he lives. He showed us some of his projects, which are mainly composed of
photographs, videos, and installations. With him, the notion of evidence resounded again in the Ricson. Bodies lying in front of the border fence; a bottle as an endemic use of torture and the silencing of dissidence in Morocco; a copper bread to highlight the idea of value in Muslim culture, and cemeteries and their great silences as places of material evidence for life. Fermi’s paradox turned over. And there was a great silence in the room.

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