When I was 22 years old, I drove forward the total de-materialization of the artwork by means of operations with the social matter through mass media and diverse communicational structures: messaging circuits articulated by posters, telephones and answering machines, systematic transformations of the urban environment, media conferences, antihappenings, multimedia shows, etc., which I carried out in different spaces in the form of collective or individual projects. In May 1968, in Message, at the Di Tella Institute, I spoke of the “dissolution of art in social life”, a notion first outlined by Octavio Paz when commenting on the experiments we made together with Eduardo Costa. I participated in the group of researchers, philosophers, architects, analysts, semiologists and artists that gathered mainly around Oscar Masotta, such as Eliseo Verón, Oscar Steimberg, Alicia Paéz, Nicolás Peyceré, Diana Agrest, Gandelsonas, Juan C. Indart and many others. As several Argentinian artists, I withdrew from activity towards 1969, after mixing media hypoteses with artistic-political actions (Tucumán Arde, Sobre magazine). Since 1969 I turned towards social research and political epistemology. In the early 1980s, I wrote over fourty songs for the pop-rock band Virus, which led the young musical movement. I organized several multimedia shows, party-performances and an anti-disco movement named Club Social, Deportivo y Cultural Eros (Recrudece at the Olympia, Body Art at the Palladium, Decadance at the Opera, “Los 13 chicos más lindos”, a remake of an Andy Warhol work at the Experimental Center of the Colón Theater). In 1988 I began making individual “works” again with an installation at the ICI, which recalled the 20 years gone by since 1968. With Kiwi Sainz I developed Fabulous Nobodies, a brand with no products which published its advertisements in magazines. In 1994 I launched a media campaign against discrimination based on the release of T-Shirts with the motto “I have AIDS”. Since 1998 I have been working in the development of multimedia networks for artists and technologicians through project Bola de Nieve, Chacra99, Ramona magazine and Venus Project for which I received the Guggenheim grant. In 2001 I began to experiment with dark spaces: I produced the installation No soy un clown at Belleza y Felicidad. In 2002: Darkroom, a performance for infrared beams and a single spectator, also at Belleza y Felicidad.
Vision of art
1. Choose a work that represents you, describe it in relation to its format and materiality, its relation with time and space, its style and theme; detail its production process.
The Darkroom is a performance for a single spectator, which takes place in darkness and is visible through an infrared camera. As in “I Am Not a Clown” (No soy un clown), I tested the subtraction of light, the reduction of the perceptual elements, the confusion of time and space. I wanted the spectator to enter a situation both minimal and unforgettable. I made tests for months and could not achieve what I had initially imagined would be the vision of live fragments of peopled which I tried to light with small and very precise lights. When I recalled the night shot effect, I tried it with that and it worked, but I needed to extinguish the individual identity. Gordín helped me design some neutral masks (which naturally look like his characters). The infrared camera eliminated all colour, which was something in which I was interested. Once all this was defined, the rest followed easily: it would be for a single spectator who could register the situation or not. It would have daily, but at the same time quite strange elements; a two-metre ironing board, cinema seats, hairdresser hairdryers, which could figure an alternative world, similar and at once distant. I already had Beauty and Happiness’ (Belleza y Felicidad) basement in mind. For the performers (who could not see anything) I had thought of movements that had not been aestheticised but rather common and repetitive. About 130 people came who reserved their place and many recorded with a video camera, in such a way as to then be able to edit the scenes to produce a document (www.proyectovenus.org/darkroom). It was the second time in my life that I managed to immediately achieve what I had proposed: the spectator went through a border into another reality, or at least that is what they said.
Since then I have tried to continue with the Darkness Lab but I have not found support and at the same time I do other things like Really Cool (Culísimo) and other linguistic, political, decorative and urban projects.
2. In general terms, how would you suggest to approach your work?
What could be called my oeuvre is something diffuse, inapprehensible, dematerialised. I would like to be able to read everything I do in my life as a trajectory, which is difficult because it has always jumped abruptly from one thing to another. It is frequent for someone who sees, reads or listens to something I did to be surprised: I did not imagine you do or did this, are you the same one who did this, that or the other?
A general reading of my work is difficult because I have intervened in different worlds, unconnected, and people of the arts or books tend to refer to the same two or three things.
My present relationship with entities such as ramona or the Proyecto Venus (Venus Project) – which are based on concepts of mine that I do not consider as “artworks” in the traditional sense – as well as my proximity to certain legends (Di Tella Institute, Tucumán Arde (Tucumán’s Burning), Lucha de Calles (Street Fighting), the Virus band, Eros Club, Rojas C.C., etc.) perhaps obstruct the reception of what I am trying to commit now.
I aspire to make a difference; in this sense I do politics, though the orientation may not necessarily be clear.
In one of the meetings in support of León Ferrari, the painter Nigro denied my access claiming that I am not an artist. He may be right but I at least try.
3. In reference to your work and your position in the national and international art fields, what tradition do you recognize yourself in? Who are your contemporary referents? What artists of previous generations are of interest to you?
In the 1960s my referents were from my generation or slightly older: Carreira, Suárez, Costa, Masotta, Ferrari, Greco, Noé, De la Vega, Minujin, Macció, at some point. The work of Pablo Suárez convinced me that I could not dedicate myself to anything other than art. I am interested by many artists and I am constantly discovering more and more, some who no longer work or even live. I mention the first that come into mind. It is impossible to remember all of the good ones, but I prefer to forget some rather than not mention any. 1980s-1990s: Melgarejo, Eguía, Schvartz, Stupía, Gómez, Pombo, Harte, Gordin, Maresca, Inchausti, Pastorini, Schiliro, Kuropatwa, Gumier, Hasper, Siquier, Jitrik, Costantino, the writer Prior, Pastorino, Goldenstein, Avello, Joglar, Aisenberg, López, Dios, etc.); Laguna as an integral artist. 2000: Oligatega, Bianchi, Estol, Brahim, Villamayor, Moszynski, Pruden, Melero, M777, Subscription, Sanguinetti, Mitlag, Solaas, Marcaccio, Lindner, Battistelli, Barilaro, Da Rin, ... and at least 20 or 30 others.
In a good book of contemporary art it is difficult not to look into at least half, for one reason or the other; to name a few: Ant Farm, General Idea, Mc Carthy, Kelley, Naumann, Fischli & Weiss, Mueck, Wall, Orozco...
4. Choose works or exhibitions from the last ten or fifteen years which in your opinion were very significant and explain why
Though they do not enter into the period, The Silhouette Hit (el Siluetazo) and the dozens of initiatives of artists from the 1980s who came of age with the Rojas C.C. and Beauty and Happiness (Belleza y Felicidad) because they showed the autonomous power of the artists to propose different points of view to the official ones (especially Gone With the Wind (Lo que el viento se llevó), by Maresca, and the exhibitions mentioned above). The Kuitca Fellowships because they are a refinery for a good section of the younger artists just like the first Zero Curriculum.
Obviously the mega-exhibitions like De la Vega’s, Grippo’s, Ferrari’s or Kuitca’s, which allowed one to see the whole body of work and in a way to go beyond prejudice. “Savon de corps” – a piece which in itself I do not like – because it showed how conceptually indelible the reception was in the local scene. In fact, these artists disputed the space in the media with the ancient cast of the arts that has been crawling on for 30 or 40 years.
On another key, Godín the Painter (El pintor Godín), installation and performance at the door of the ICI, 1992, and Jitrik at the FLA, the GAC Cartographies, several at the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art (MamBA) like Peralta Ramos, Azaro, Heredia.
I recall, and I am not sure if anyone else does: the exhibition of Daniel Melero’s mother’s ashes, the interventions by Reynolds.
Recent works I have liked or that have moved me: Felicia and Bloom, Tartaglia’s street artworks, Bianchi’s installation at Beauty and Happiness (Belleza y Felicidad), several exhibitions curated by Hasper, Avello in Dabbah Torrejon, Avello and Prior – their pumpkins in particular – in Van Riel, Mondongo’s Riding Hoods (Caperucitas) in Maman. Gómez from the Parakultural, and always Suárez.
5. What tendencies or groupings from common elements do you see in argentine art of the last ten or fifteen years?
I found 50 tendencies. The classification is neither pure nor exhaustive. Some works can be in two or three categories at once. With this list it is possible to classify almost everything. For example: urban existentialism, Palermo teddy bear-ites, geomedreary craftsmanshipism, bolchic biennially retentive, etc.
Knitwork (similar to “genre”)
Baby carts with TVs inside
4th edition existentialism
Humbleism (a few drawings just like that)
Kitsch & cheap
Neo voodoo (little saints and evil spirits, etc)
PC (politically correct)
Paint paint paint paint
Video and sauce