Paratext #43 by Núria Nia

Paratext #43
July 8, 2020
By Núria Nia

Phillip Maisel(short stay)
Natalia Domínguez  (short stay)


LAYERS that with layers, memory, and clusters of nimbuses.
Núria Nia

Number 43, one of those hot July days with masks and bike lanes. I am meeting with Phillip Maisel and Natalia Domínguez before their presentation. Before, the black room that The Ricson seems to be a little more distant to any other reference: the chairs, which are also black, are distributed
according to the new separation rules and it makes them even more invisible, and the Paratext brochures are, above each chair, small white beacons that promote the silent distribution of the bodies in the space. We smile at each other, our eyes above the mask; this 43rd is special: after almost three months’ post-confinement, Paratext today is at the same time a reencounter and a promise of return.

A while ago Phillip was telling me about his processes, based on assemblages of construction materials and graphic traces of all kinds which he combines in physical collages and through photography. I observe how the photographic technique is at the same time the last layer of the process and the basis for the rest of the methods. The first and last layer that piles up the rest of the other layers. We speak in English. LAYERS. LAYERS. LAYERS. The accumulation and combination end up favoring that union of time and different spaces. Just one more layer at this moment, Andrea Soto Calderón comes to mind when she talks about Foucault and what the author defines as a “singular cut of time”, “a place of time that accumulates to infinity”, heterochrony.

Phillip mentions how the unfamiliarity of new places invites him to imagine new possibilities by questioning and revealing the architectural conventions that accompany each territory, the assumed systems that go unnoticed when we inhabit them continuously. Through an external gaze, each decision taken regarding the construction of public space is an invitation to a straightforward analysis. He explains to me that in Barcelona, unlike in San Francisco, where he comes from, it is especially easy to find the materials that define the city, and of course even more so in the Poblenou neighborhood, next to each construction in progress. The development of his work in a covid-free context would have continued by photographing these elements in conjunction with each other. As he speaks, he realizes that in the collection of works that he will present today there are not so many samples of the method he normally used. Instead, the architectural systems that he has created reveal domestic scenes and the expression of an inner life of its own: this time Phillip Masiel’s LAYERS contain personal reflections, memories, correspondence, and traces of his friendships. “It feels more vulnerable,” he says. Through layers and a lockdown that has left him stranded in a studio in a ghostly Barcelona, these new works touch the artist’s most personal side as well as a more experimental look at his processes. Each of these works uncovers concepts and images from Maisel’s recollection, elements with which the artist maintains a specific intimate involvement. When shown as an exhibition, these same elements dialogue independently with each new vision involved, creating more and more LAYERS, microcosms to which we are invited from infinite approaches. We discuss the relationship between Ricson and his works. He speaks to me about the shadows that generate a few lights in the room and we verify that the fact of presenting his collages on the windows of the mezzanine ends up creating new LAYERS of the sum of the reflection of the people present in front of the visionary work, through the windows, of the bodies that move on the first floor.

Additionally, in the attic, Maisel has decided to preserve a few large metal fans that provide another physical LAYER: through wind motion, they show us the objects that exist in the space and at the same time connect Phillip Maisel’s presentation with that of Natalia Domínguez, the air being the base material for her premise during the residency. Downstairs I understand: Natalia Domínguez rehearses talking about sleeves, stretches, knots, wind. She tells me that it is an experiment, that she was trying to “catch a cloud”, an impossible that by being deconstructed has been generating small possibilities that she will show us in this presentation. Thus, contradictions, intuitions, and symbols have been the basis of this experimental research.

Today’s two displays have more to do with each other than just a simple fan. The form they take is video with a live voice. An approach to the physicality of the body and the personalization of the work is undoubtedly necessary after the social isolation and digital basis of relationships that the lockdown has left upon us. Apart, formally, the two projects are built with layers. CAPES, LAYERS, LAYERS. Natalia Domínguez presents a video in which concepts, actions, and graphic materials of different forms and origins coexist in a multi-screen. In her own words “almost like showing you
my cell phone”; together they are the cumulus, they are the clouds, they take on the force of rain that cascades Domínguez’s words when she reads: “The unattainable, the non-physical, the uncatchable, the useless, the emptiness of failure. Embracing impossibility. Her text maintains a heterogeneous reflective tone, quotes from diverse literature sources, conversations, and everyday life. It forms a literary collage that adds even more multiplicities of a vision and interpretation in the work, infinite ways of connection with the people who now listen to him. CAPES, “my head works as a conceptual collage, malleable, formless, transformable… like a cloud”.

During almost three months of residency in Hangar, “catching a cloud” has become a digression, testing materials and testing artificial wind with an artifact that tried to accomplish the impossible goal, “the fragile and the non-existent”. The Installation implies thinking about space, and for
Natalia space can come to reify her projects. While we talk about the same room where we stand, Marc changes the light of the Ricson and it turns blue. We think of a cloud, again. The sign. The symbol. Once the deconstruction of the text and the word is done, the artist’s search reaches the limits of language and, from there, the symbol. From this point, everything can make sense: “I arrive at these substrates of meanings that overlap”. Thus, the form is also surpassed and, therefore, the form of the cloud is no longer the final horizon: it is now the symbol that generates other works as a result of its similes and contradictions. Thus, today the cloud is imperceptible to us, but the plastics and the fans have been anchored as raw materials for Domínguez’s next works.

Ten minutes remain before the presentations. I walk out into the Hangar courtyard. I say hello to Laura, I watch as the country group dances in the square, there are multiple layers of bikes and Ivan doesn’t know where to leave his. A leaf drops from a banana tree and earlier I’ve talked to
Natalia about antihistamines. One of the country dancing women reminds me of my mother. Can Ricart is a layered cake with different times and different lives. The last bike squeaks while braking. We walk inside.

Dominguez’s presentation is the visualization of a process: the para-text itself, with all the layers that have surrounded this project as it was being produced. We no longer see traces of the cloud- capturing object. This has been filtered to the minimal symbol through images and live text, which is structured in three reflective parts: “The great excuse” of choosing a cloud as a subject, “An uncontrollable form” of the physicalities of the unstable, and “How to avoid falling”, thus accepting that failure is embraceable; she says that “when I should embrace the impossibility of power”. The video, made of layers and more layers of captures and files, amalgamates an accumulation of concepts and forms that have built the research. Herzog, standard-bearer of impossible productions, has a line of text.

Domínguez’s cloud ends up being a scapegoat to think about other issues. Acceptance, failure, overcoming, and impossibility dilute each other to constitute “that knowing how to be in the world” of which the artist speaks to me. I think of the cloud as one of the most voluble elements that surround us. With these symbols Natalia Domíngez’s research now confers on them, each cloud could be one of the changing situations of everyday life, meaning, and meaninglessness. “The plastic, the humid, the gaseous, the transparent, the gimmicky, the chameleon-like, the changing, the random, the impossible, the transitory,” reads Natalia. The cloud as a manager. The cloud is a container of thunder. The cloud is a container of rain and clearings.


In his presentation, Phillip Maisel screens a video recorded during his confinement, which is backed up with his live voice, on an old monitor he presents us with a video of the cloud as a container of thunder. Also, on an old monitor, he will show us a short video, a shot of a moment of American
exaltation. And in the attic of the Ricson, in the two rooms, the collages that he has been produced during these months are spread out. LAYERS. Each of these three forms becomes a layer that reveals, with the addition of the rest, the heteronymous universe of the artist, the constant of joining concepts and breaking assumptions.

The video that Phillip presents us with a live voiceover feels like a loop, but it is not: an old man runs in circles on the roof of an apartment in Barcelona and from the common image of the confinement the artist creates new layers. He has produced the music with his mobile phone, and according to Maisel the video sampler and the live voice “feels more like a lecture than a performance”. The image of the running man becomes cathartic, stable, proceedable. Phillip Maisel’s voice contrasts poetically with the visual anesthesia. He recites an anecdote in first person, a synesthetic experience of a sparrow that one day evoked in him an audiovisual delay, “an un-syncing of the senses”, the starting point of the Barcelona loop. He also discovers the false dichotomies in which he thought during the lockdown, this unique occasion of the parallel world, inexplicable and apparent nonsense on the “multiple realities as truth”.

“Desire and refusal

attraction and repulsion

accidental and deliberate

precision and something loose

conviction and uncertainty

repetition and progression

Help, hurt”

He rambles between copies and originals, opposites and indefinite time strips with paragraphs from his diary. “There were three days in April that I mistook for August”.

The loop ends. Phillip is silent and walks over to the old monitor on the side of the Ricson. He activates it, we are getting closer. The video he now shows us portrays the crowded celebration of the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States. Freshly edited, this 2017 video seems out of all possible time. With a curiously retro aesthetic through the elements Maisel highlights, the images of family footage and collective celebration define with a certain irony the exacerbation of American nationalism.

In the end, we spread out to admire Phillip Maisel’s collages, located in the mezzanine. We lose ourselves in his forms and the new imaginaries that he proposes and that, perhaps, in a certain way, are yet to come. We mix, finally, as entities made up of layers that create multifocal landscapes, strata of strata of strata, now already earthquakes, clouds, mountains.

Categories: Paratext report |

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