During the summer of 2016 I had the chance of spending a month in Japan. Writing this sentence I realise that it is another example of the usual constant inaccuracies with which we use the language. I don’t believe it is possible to experiment something as abstract as a whole country. Not even one’s own, let alone a foreign country. Just as it may not be possible to experience smaller territorial units, but yet too large, as cities. Probably the situationists wouldn’t agree on this affirmation, approaching me with drift and psychogeography as emotional understanding tactics of the urban geography. Although unconsciously, walking without a specific aim was something that I implemented during my stay in Sapporo, a city in the north of Japan created in the 19th century since the rational impulse proposed by Hippodame of Miletus many centuries ago. Its reticular plane can be seen in many other cities, turned into a paradigm repeated constantly in the history of urbanism. It appears to me to be one of the best examples that exist of the order pulse with which humans relate to the environment from a desire of constant domination. I command you, therefore you are. A command that, however, has to constantly negotiate with the different demonstrations of entropy that are produced through the human and nonhuman life of the different elements composing the environment. One environment. I always have the feeling that cities are never quite done, but are always to be done. And here I refer not only to their expansive condition, but to the constant transformation processes that occur within them. These force us to readjust our traffic time and again according to the requirements of this “minor” changes in their demanding fabric.
Wandering around aimlessly is something that the main character of The Walking Man, a comic book by Jiro Taniguchi that I haven’t read, did – and still does, because fictional characters have the ability of living in a floating time, in a sort of a present continuous. But even though I haven’t, I sense in the few images of this illustrated novel that I have seen a much less violent action than that of the situationists and their urban guerrilla. Now that the walks are becoming an owner’s priviledge or luxury – here paraphrasing Sartre in relation to the past – I wonder if being a walker might become a profession. A paid one. After all, someone has to be in charge of experiencing cities beyond the pragmatism of traffic, which occurs due to our need to get in time to some place in them, neglecting along the way everything that the city contains. Over the years I have started to envy the elder people, either because of their daily dedication to experience what is known as “dead hours” or because of their ability to turn a shopping centre into one more square of the cities, absent to the consumption imperatives that govern these spaces. Perhaps they are the only situationists that exist herein.
Of my walks around Sapporo, also Tokyo, I specially recall the fences used to mark an alteration within the functional pragmatism of the cities. Cracks, tears and burst seams in the urban fabric. And if I remember them that much is precisely due to that emotional dimension which situational psychogeography appeals to. But also because they bring into crisis the own concept of fence, which exists thanks to the empirical repetition and not so much from the abstract singularity. As simple as that the fact of repeatedly seeing an object typology – a fence or a chair – over the years produces the abstract idea of that object and not the way around, as centuries of Platonism have made us think. Years ago they told me that “ideia” in ancient Greek had two meanings: idea, as we use the term nowadays, but also shape. Taking this second meaning and not the first one, Plato might have been one of the first formalists in history. Since then I can’t help thinking that the abstractions don’t cease to be the sum of many individuals and that are their coincidences those that allow that common denominator we call concept. But since objects don’t exist in isolation, but in relation to each other – between them and also with other elements of the environment -, I think I came to the conclusion that those fences fall within the category of fence because of their disposition on the streets of Sapporo or Tokyo and not so much for possible similarities with the fences used in Europe to mark out a space forbidden to traffic. They worked as border elements between work areas and traffic areas.
But beyond this philosophical observation, my connection to those fences of Japan was above all emotional. They took me back time and again to the manga culture and to some of the different characters who have made it so popular in the West. Each encounter with them often took me back to childhood and the strong presence of Japanese anime in my daily routines at the time. They were fences with graphic representations of cartoons, placed in series thanks to the repetition of the elements. Dearly beloved elders, standing lizards or different demonstrations of Hello Kitty appeared on them. The fact that a fictional character like Hello Kitty can be part of the construction industry is something that I continue to find fascinating, just like the possibility of making reality entities that at first sight don’t exist thanks to the inherent materiality of their representations. And here I agree with the representatives of Speculative realism, who in the moment of eclosion of this philosophical tendency stated that our condition is as real as the one of those imaginary entities that don’t have a body “in itself” but which manifest themselves through many bodies – objects – which invoke them and through our practices, relations and emotions regarding them.
Thinking about my childhood brings me back to thinking in the potential of the territory as a mechanism – perhaps involuntary – of resistance against the human imperative of order on the environment. However, the word mechanism itself contradicts this affirmation. To arrange is to put in order according to a purpose or an objective. A contrivance, at first sight, allows neither the disorder nor the involuntary character of it. But still it is like this how I now understand the waste ground near the house of my parents. According to the urban policies, which interprets the territory mainly from its economic potential, could also be defined as an “abandoned” lot. And here I can’t help wondering where the abandonment condition of a portion of territory, which simply doesn’t follow the velocity desired by the logics of urban development, derives from. Just like I wonder why we keep understanding that a street is empty simply because there are no humans walking on it. Back to that lot, I remember that one of my favourite pastimes during my childhood and teenage years was projecting, precisely from the imperative of order and organisation, a park or a residential area in that waste ground. I wished with all my might for that solar to be turned into something else, to be an example of urban development within a city known by its lack of planning, its countless waste grounds and its chaotic growth. Since relatively recently, my perception is the opposite. That waste ground seems to contain the possibility of a temporary autonomic area untied from any human activity. Having said that, I have never been a great admirer of this concept coined by Hakim Bey. That waste ground is perhaps more similar to the area in Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatski Brothers. Especially since even I resisted myself to cross it during the years that I lived in that city, as if it contained a strange power to avoid direct contact with the human or as if the dystopian were a tool to protect the material from the human. However, I believe that it is the notion of third landscape of Gilles Clement the one which best applies to the situation of this fragment of city that fails to be city and that, however, could contain a truly free biological, material and objective system. Alien to the man’s action in spite of being a result of it. A space relatively exempt from the sophisticated recording equipment in which we relate to each other. If altering the preconceived function of things is a way of reappropriating them and therefore another practice of control and dominance over the material environment, could allowing the possibility of the dysfunctional, even the loss of human action, within urban space be a first exercise of anthropocentric humanity?
Although choreography is something we associate with the human body from its frequent link to dance, it is a form of knowledge that refers to structures. A knowledge not exempt from the dynamics of power that exist in any form of organisation of life. The choreography is born by capturing the dance from the state power. But it is as well a way of organising the movement that we can apply to time – for example, memory – but also to space. We could even think in the movement of the clouds or in the activity of climate change as a choreographic exercise. Understanding the city from a choreographic perspective hopelessly brings me to dance although they are activities that can exist with independence to each other. Dance as the non-organised presence of the bodies that enable the choreographic structure of the cities. And by bodies I mean both ours and those of the different elements that appear and disappear in concrete places of the urban fabric. In contrast to choreography, which tends towards the abstract from its structural dimension, dance is inherently material. It needs the corporeality to be produced. In spite of the existence of certain programmatic situation in our displacements around the city, our movements are conditioned by elements to which we generally don’t pay attention. The invisibility of certain jobs is something that is also applied to the material environment. I think of the daily cleaning of many cities, but also of the objects that are materially present, frequently dedicated to the care of the city, and to which we treat with considerable indifference until our bodies collide with them, altering and interrupting our traffic. And this alteration is also of an emotional nature. I also think in how other elements are made present when they stop functioning as they had been doing until then. In situations as common as tripping with a tile of the sidewalk and realising that, effectively, a sidewalk is not a unit surface but a set of relatively small elements that, thanks to their meticulous juxtaposition, produce the simulation of the indivisible. Walking within a city has always appeared to me as a sort of obstacle course of which we are not aware. A constant negotiation between the human and nonhuman when it comes to occupy what is known as public space.
One of the biggest problems of public space is that being everyone’s, it ends up being no one’s. It is, in addition, going through one of the biggest contemporary mythologies: freedom (of humans). It belongs to us, precisely, from the potential character and not so much effective of its property. It is a space built from the norm, juridical but also tacit. A set of rules and dispositions that, just like many of the elements that inhabit in the urban space, gains presence when it breaks or alters. In fact they are intimately connected. Altering the function of its material construction is punishable by law. The individual action over a body invokes the power of the general structure that regulates it. Here we could say that choreography punishes dance when it exceeds the action radius planned for its movements. Or that order sanctions entropy. But if choreography exists – the imperative of a movement without rest of the bodies -, maybe choreopolitics – a reconfiguration of the movement that disagrees with the mandates of power – exists too. It is here where detention of human traffic becomes a practice of resistance. As the unexpected displacement of the urban objects may also be an exercise of rebellion. Is a reconfiguration of the social through the reconfiguration of the material possible? And then I think of a public space in which it is indeed possible to appropriate its elements altering its original function. Change their place, position or height. Turning a banister into stairs. A banister into a slide. A scaffolding into a castle. A fragment of sidewalk into a contemplative mosaic. Turning domestic, which doesn’t mean private, the public space. Turning a banister into the head of a bed and a grid into a box spring. Several cobbles into the seat of a stool. A scaffolding into a shelf. A portion of road into a wall painting. All of them are seemingly naive exercises that, at first sight, have little to do with political dissent. And, however, they note a key aspect of the political transformations that we barely ever take into account: that maybe a reconfiguration of the social is not possible without previously -and during the process- going through a reconfiguration of the material. Because the impersonal is also political. But this would be a first stage, aware that the truly radical exercise with regard to the environment is to be absent from him. To stop trying to dominate things, from the practice but also from supposedly liberating theories which are still organised according to our necessities and hierarchies.
Sonia Fernández Pan
The English expression Loop-Hole literally means «a hole in a loop», but it can be translated as a «legal vacuum», a «gap» or directly as a «gateaway».
With this expression it is explained how whenever there is a loop – a loop, a knot, an obstacle – this same loop opens a space -hole- through which to run away. It is frequently used to talk about legal gaps, safety lacks and, in general, everything that escapes to classification, security or discipline system.
With this project, Antonio R. Montesinos tries to continue researching methodologies, concepts and subjects that are common to his work, such as urban wandering, photography or the recycling of found objects and materials. At the conceptual level, it is intended to work once again on «the ordered and the entropic», the reinterpretation of rules, the playfulness and how we can exercise a certain range of freedom when we use the structures that organize our daily experience in a distorted way.
Therefore, the exhibition aims to exhibit a series of pieces that play with/subvert certain structures that organize our movements in the public space. Structures such as fences, public signage or hygiene processes.
Maintaining continuity with the previous exhibition, the artist delves into reusing objects practice, once recovered from the urban environment. If previously from a neomaterialist approach, now addresses its decontextualization from post relational assumptions, in a certain way, in order to work toward the search of new ways of dialogue between them, with space and with passers-by. The previous phase of the process is framed in an exercise of deliberate but random drift, in the situationist sphere, understood as a propitiatory context of situations for action and play and as an important platform for social criticism and a shuttle to the empowerment of the activist citizen collective.
Random is part of the game; on the other hand, the random experience is the essence of the ludic, that has been vindicated from different positions of the unsatisfied avantgards. According to Huizinga, the spirit of transgression and the fundament of culture lies in game. The concept of entropy is not strange to this artist´s creation, whose latest projects reveal how mess and the effect of random are present in the whole system. And it´s precisdely in those marginal gaps or interstices of the systems where the possibility of dissenting actions can be found, fighting against the abuse of regulations by the public powers. The ludens artist prefigures a ludens city as a collective action, expression, confrontation and cultural production space, where citizens in their wandering through the non-places, prefigured by the alienating norm, find the possibility of generating alternative choreographies, facing the predetermined ones, as many as their free creativity is able to conceive.
In this context, is not out of place the allusion to the International Situationist, a movement that has already become a reference for the history of fine arts and critical culture, without losing its validity in the field of action aimed to subverting the established orders. Constant, who was part of it, along with others such as Asger Jorn, Raoul Vaneigem or Debord, focused his work on constructive, urban and utopian issues, starting from a philosophy of deviation or drift, recycling, manipulation and reuse of objects found in order to resignification them or to make of them another works. He advocated a different way of doing to achieve a new life, in which it was possible to develop the creative potential and the playful impulses of citizens, erasing the borders between art and life, according to the situationist ideology. The situation would be understood as a transient micro-environment and the deployment of events for an unique moment in people’s lives, as was expressed by Constant and Guy Debord in the Amsterdam Declaration. A whole battery of methods and strategies to deal with the collective alienation of a model of society that is too utilitarian. Constant formulates the concept of a playful society in which the goal is transformation through creation, which will not happen without conditions of total freedom, once all authority has been dispensed with, education is replaced by learning through play and collectivized the ownership of the physical space. Nothing will be permanent, once imposed or induced habits has overcome.
The MNCARS scheduled in 2015 an exhibition devoted to Constant. The previous year, another one, titled Playgrounds drifted around the relationship between game and the public space for leisure, with the socializing, transgressive and political potential -Huizinga- of the one, reinforced in the binomial asociation with the other. Public space began to be conceived as an element under political control during the S. XIX, hence its rational and utilitarian planning, also to obtain an economic benefits, as with the free time of the people. Guy Debord defines it this way: urbanism is the conquest of the natural and human environment by a capitalism that, developing according to the logic of absolute domination, can and must now reconstruct the totality of space as its own stage. As answer, certain avant-garde movements were thoroughly employed in questioning these uses and abuses and in proposing alternatives to subvert, reinvent and transcend living according to the statu quo, through an art that produced no objects but practices, such as performances, installations and relational art, aspiring to something more than the mere exercise of survival.
Susan Sontag conceives the work of art as a singular and untamed experience endowed with a political dimension of incalculable scope. If on the one hand, J. Ranciere places on the margins this kind of art that generates political meaning, in the broadest meaning of the expression, on the other hand, Loreto Alonso establishes some special categories, all of them inhabitants of the interstices left by others, that far from belonging to alternative worlds, they are tactics in the predesigned insides and outsides, thanks to which it opens the possibility of new approaches full of creative potential and capacity for resistance against the established order and that aspire to modify the conditions in which they take place. But it is Michel de Certeau, in The Invention of the Quotidian, who maintains that it is in the interstices between production and consumption where there is a realization, manufacturing and creation space. The consumer, in its assimilation and appropriation of the environment, reinterprets the dominant order and diverts the proposed guidelines. To a rationalized production, expansionist and centralized, noisy and spectacular, corresponds another astute, silent and almost invisible production, which operates not with its own products but with other ways of using existing ones. Hence the differentiations that he establishes between strategy -the set of actions exercised by power- and tactics -which the common man carries out in response to counteract, if not annul, the previous ones-. And, consequently, the distinction between place and space, locating the first one in the sphere of the ordered and unalterable, while the second one, which has not the univocality and stability of something circumscribed, appears as a crossroads of mobile entities … .. it is a practiced place. In a scenary of unless possibilities, each and every one can contribute to the emergence of a creative swarm -Joseph Beuys proclaimed that every human being is an artist-, engine of that cultural plurality that is the indispensable barrier against any authoritarian temptation and that is in the inception of the universal and egalitarian collective culture advocated by Constant in his New Babylon, which he labeled as a model for reflection and play.
To Boris Groys, utopian aspirations lead artists beyond their historical context, because the imprint of art in the world is broader than the effects of politics, so often the cause of its devastation; In addition, art anticipates the future and its long lasting presence ensures the possibility of modeling it.
Antonio R. Montesinos, once again, makes a playful-creative exercise in the pieces of his last individual, Loop Hole, ensued from his deviations by the social space of the city, either by capturing, or by collecting elements present in him, again transferred to photographs or pictorial sculptures, or sculptural pieces to be laid on the floor or hanged in a wall, with undoubted installation vocation. With all of this, he elaborates a speech about the need to construct and reconstruct in an unless way the scene of the everyday, at the same time, as cause and effect of the constant creation and recreation of the forms of behavior that determine the forms of life; our position and disposition toward it. They are a proposal, among the infinity of possibilities, about how to modify all that is presented to us as definitive and unquestionable, with a clear intention to generate disorientation, and to stimulate the inclination towards the ludic and the creative potential, associated with it, that we all possess , more or less obviously or latently.