GRAF brings you the programme of contemporary art in Catalonia. The agenda that combines all agendas.

January 2019
by Glòria Guso

Speculating based on the fallen superhero

The other day, at CCCB, Sara Ahmed talked about raising the voice. This gesture, as a protest or as a way to point out a problem, has specific implications when it is made from within the institution which, in some way it belongs. She talked about the act of recognizing the problem before it can be pointed out. And also, I think, about the responsibility –individual or collective- of the action of raising the voice. With these ideas around my head I spent my last days in Barcelona, visiting exhibitions, talking with artists, listening to music, reading.

“Come down the cloud and leave your fears aside”, begins the new Deerhunter album that came out on January the 18th. More political than the previous ones, less self-absorbed, it is quite dark. The title says it all: Why Hasnt Everything Already Disappeared? A clear awareness of the state of things that, from a certain impotence, expresses an apocalyptic vision. The same sensation I got from Perfectamundo, the installation by Joel Dean at Cordova. It seems the image of an atomized society that drowns -in wine- while some angels watch from above, through the background noise. A bit like in The sky over Berlin, Wim Wenders’ movie, but much more pessimistic: it sank me with the allusion to Superman becoming tetraplegic. Even so, two turns that appeal to hope and open the field of the possible. The first is the story of James Earl Jones in the text that accompanies the exhibition and that connects Darth Vader with the character played by Christopher Reeve. In some way, it is an invitation to get out of silence, to raise your voice. The second is Fertile, the piece that Dean has installed outside Cordova´s space, on the ground area of the tree and which title already says a lot.

If everything has not yet disappeared is, in part, by the transformative capacity of things, the organic ones in particular. It is towards that direction that Martin Llavaneras points out with Medicane, his next exhibition at Bombon Projects. Can we continue to call exotic plants those that have grown around us for years? What is the reason of the adaptation of tropical plants into the Mediterranean environment? Martin Llavaneras uses fiction to speculate on the function and uses of plants that we are used to seeing in different spaces (the house, the office, the restaurant, the hotel), in person or via social networks like Instagram. Beyond a story that revolves around industrial agricultural production and logistics in an international scale, Medicane is a formal exercise that plays with motives and materials, creating a scene in which exoticism and “co-working space” minimalism shake hands in monochrome flat bas-reliefs or sculpture.

This experimentation of form makes me think of Peya, the three-dimensional drawing of Anaïs Senli that hangs in the lounge of the Motel One Ciutadella hotel, two steps away from here. Also using the speculative and fiction, Peya represents a hybrid between the root from which the characters of Ursula K. Leguin, a jellyfish, a lichen and a spider feed are fed. In other words, Peya is a chthonic entity that seeks to generate collaborative survival strategies in a moment of uncertainty; a fictional being that allows us to imagine new forms of life and resistance in an increasingly hostile environment.

Fantastic beings, processes of change, anguish and adaption manoeuvres to extreme conditions. All seem to me proposals for answering the question of why has not everything yet disappeared, but also I glimpse a type of plea in favour of hope, or a certain optimistic promise of future in these works. Going back to what Sara Ahmed said the other day, perhaps the responsibility that artists assume today is this: to recognize, to point the finger, to speculate with language, to indicate possible clues to follow.

Text by Glòria Guso for GRAF. Glòria is a researcher in art ans social sciences.