Paratext #27 by Sergi Botella

Paratext n#27
June 20th 2018
by Sergi Bottlella

Birde Vanheerswynghel (Exchange Grant Sala d’Art jove-HISK)
Liv Schulman (International Residence)
Andrea Ganuza (Hangar-Workshop 7 Exchange Grant)
Mercedes Mangrané (Long-term residence)

There’s no time for negativity.

One would like to know absolutely nothing about the artists who gave a presentation, nor about Paratext itself. And thus, be able to approach this text with absolute impartiality. But working with the Hangar team and being directly responsible for the Paratext, I believe gives me a certain advantage. Okay, I will accept this, but it’s the second thing I’ve considered. And not that the supposed impartiality has been the first thing and this reminds me that many times we rely on certain negativity to sponsor a goal and thus have an alibi in case it goes wrong. Reading an online comment from Diplo (yes, the one who performed Daddy Yankee’s “Gasoline” on Saturday on the main stage at Sonar night), he said that there is no time for negativity. And in this day and age, I think, that’s essential.

We started a little late and I was as always nervous. When the lights went out, Luciana introduced the activity, and immediately Birde Vanheerswynghel, who has been at Hangar for a month via Sala d’Art Jove and HISK, began to explain how she works with her drawings; these, sometimes are monochrome with different shades and sometimes just strictly black and white, which look like fashioned photographs, and partially they are. What is, a photograph, if not? A captured instant of the manipulation of light, and that is what she generates with her drawings, firstly designed on small paper sheets which later are enlarged in larger structured formats. To do so, she uses natural oxidation processes or adds layers of paint and redraws them. Birde starts out from basic shapes that she then modifies to represent invented landscapes. And that is what strikes me most about her work: this ability to generate nature as if she had an algorithm that allows infinite results, a generator of natural environments. Something interesting is the point of view, in each of her representations there is no place for the subject. The perspectives and the place from which the drawing is constructed does not seem human, and I would say that neither animal. Sometimes it gives the sensation that it is a lost camera with autonomy to go on shooting photos and move among lush forests, jungles, and invented vegetation. If J. G. Ballard is anywhere, it is surely in one of these impossible gardens. Birde added that this work process also responds to her vision problems, which does not allow her to work comfortably directly on large formats, and that is what I mean when I defend that “there is no time for negativity”. She ended with a stereoscopic format video and with Birde as the main actress, placing us in a slightly spooky fictional situation, using a halfway between punk comedy and sci-fi B low budget series, which is all very British. I saw Hitchcock and was reminded of Bigas Luna’s fabulous Angoixa, all with careful post-production and fantastic sound. The script, in a way, refers to the precariousness, not only of the artist but also to the problem of the price of real estate. A very well-produced work.

Liv Schulman, an international resident Argentinean artist, began with her proposal. Something I would like to call a linguistic performance. With absolute control of the audience, challenging them with her gaze, walking around the chairs or questioning one of the supposed assistants situated at the end of the room, holding her coffee mug in her hand, she explained to us ideas about the economy, about capital and its relation with the birth of states, as well as about eroticism, which she expressly emphasized at times with her body and voice. On top of a tablet she placed laminated images, where Spinoza was portrayed, and while she was pronouncing sentences at the same time, she dropped the images that somehow reinforced the understanding of the concepts. Liv’s work is halfway between theoretical talks and induced performance, all very psychoanalytical. Exercises that serve her so that she can navigate through concepts linking ideas, embracing the lexicon with formulas to solve problems that she raises and resolves. I return to the idea of “no time for Diplo’s negativity” what was explained was powerful, threatening but real, very emotional, global, and personal at the same time, issues that we all know about but that we put aside to live a little calmer. And she was launching them quite naturally as if teaching a lesson in economics and emotionality to big kids. The piece called Formal Economy can take on different forms, as it happened in May 2018 at Alt Cph in Copenhagen; thus, we saw something in the process, under construction; in short, what she was working on during her stay at Hangar and will continue to shape.

Already halfway through the session, Andrea Ganuza, who won the exchange grant between Hangar and Medellín in Taller 7, asked us to go outside, sitting us in the middle of the square, and quickly arranged some objects and drawings in card format, as well as a bottle of liquor to end the display. She explained her experience in Medellín; elusive with the objective of her residency, she went on to the experiential and personal. Thus, she focused on the memories of her stay in the city, and later she presented the drawings, which the attendees passed on from hand to hand. She assured us that the experience has changed her life to such an extent that she is returning to Medellín to stay. And that is also to change one’s life through artistic practice. Thus, the drawing cards of La lluna, L’esquerda, El gat blau, Taller 7 or Libido work as illustrated souvenirs, almost like souvenirs of oneself. Her vision of a walled city, where the layout of the different districts is classist, is also very positive (as Diplo told us), whether we like it or not. And another aspect Andrea focused on is the cure for the negativity that Medellín has to offer. The legacy of violence and plundering of Colombia has been and is of such magnitude that the people there LIVE with capital letters and value life down to the tiniest detail. Thus, the vital implication and the fact of not wanting to let go of the need of this city made Andrea keep a third of the bottle of liquor that she offered to us all and to drink to close this circle, and I suppose to be able to open new ones.

We returned to the Ricson room. Mercedes Mangrané, a long-term artist in residence at Hangar, reviewed her career beginning with watercolors over industrial pieces. I mentioned Settai Komura, the Japanese designer, illustrator, and painter, a key figure of the Shin-Hanga movement of the early twentieth century. She explained to us why she addresses her needs in a small format, focusing on detail. Like Birdie, sometimes she paints with a single color, and other times she combines tones in a very balanced way, achieving palettes similar to those of the textile industry. Mercedes Mangrané’s paintings illustrate details of details, and over time these have extorted into a figuration that has already transformed into a kind of soft abstract expressionism; an example of this is the body of work under the name “Sostre” (Celing), which began in 2017 and is currently still in progress. The windows volume material, lights, beams, or parts of things that obsess her, interest her, or she simply needs to represent. And, the obsession with parts of domestic architecture, is what the Shin-Hanga movement was proposing, among other things. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to see the evolution of her work up close now find pictorial solutions in which large amounts of oil paint are already structured; images closer to the installation or, if I may say so, to three-dimensional painting.

Mercedes was the artist who worked on the project for the Night of the Museums 2018, in collaboration with the Botanical Garden of Barcelona and Hangar, and so she prepared a tour called Flirteig, altering the guided tour of the space. A soprano singing next to the ponds frog chorus, illuminated posters on the floor with historical information about nature and its relationship with romanticism or courtship, among other aspects. She also showed us a video in the Botanical Garden installation that she screened at the end of the session. In this one, a mixture of progressive audio (music by Raig-60 / Ander Agudo) along with images of flowers and nature, as well as modernist railings and other allusions to private property, structure the work that uses video clips or advertising language to find a documentary video solution that, forgive the insistence, reminds us of what Diplo said: “There is no time for negativity”.

Artists’ responses on the following sentence:

“There is no time for negativity”.

Liv Schulman

“I think it’s a slogan of capitalism as a productive form of positivity. We are in a context where somehow, we are not allowed to regret the loss of something too much without it becoming the loss of productivity and reproductive capacity. As work is based on the exploitation of the self as service or comfort, negativity would generate an excess of lack in a world where only adding and proposing is possible”.

Andrea Ganuza

“Life spits on me, luck cheats me, glory eludes me, death catches me!”

‘La vida m’escup m’escup, la sort m’enganya, la glòria m’esquiva, la mort m’agafa!!!!

Mercedes Mangrané

“Well, the following comes to my mind: we are in an era in which feigned enthusiasm and narcissistic complex abound. Through achievement, success, coaching, and a thousand and one pro-common practices, fears are suppressed or hidden, and that’s why we become excessively sensitive to negative criticism, practically non-existent in the artistic field.
Negativity also reminds me of the difficulty I have in saying NO, and putting it into practice to take care of myself and look for the space I want in life.
Sometimes it is associated with being a hater, or with individualism, or with something potentially harmful. You can channel the negativity of the world as well, and transform it into a dignified rage or poetry, or new worlds that are inevitably in this one (painting, video). It can be a driving force”.

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