Paco Contreras

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The following texts that I want to share with everyone are personal reflections, ideas and thoughts by writing, and some other text that it accompanied to a catalog some time ago. You could also say that they offer another facet of what I do, they linking to some of my works sometimes, and other times they are only an exercise in style for my own enjoyment.


I hope you like.





We are not artists



We are not artists, we are scientists, we need to investigate, questioning to reality about all kinds of things; we need to sorting, selecting and ordering to then be able to choose our point of support at any given time. This allows us to be engineers, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, building workers, and at the same time be philosophers, writers, actors, painters, scholars and lawyers...


We pay attention, we look what others don't look at, and we try to show it in such a way, that sometimes it seems to reappear or to come back to us in a different way.



Remaining anonymous



Our thesis is based on a question that arose after the reading of the texts proposed in class, and not only these, but also other texts that refer to Public and Private, to institutional or political vs. individual or independent, the activisms and globalization.


In this present so belligerent that it has touched us to live in, art, like life, suffers, it has convulsing and generates spontaneous revulsion reactions in any human being who prides itself of being it (except in some cases that I dont want to talk about in this article).


Today, more than ever, human life is threatened by the excessive power of a few. Not only the folly of war makes necessary the questioning of the political practices, of the institutional, but that also the daily life of every citizen is being affected largely by these,

Portrait of Inocencio X painted by Velazquez in 1650

since in my opinion any gesture that we do always has some political burden in greater or lesser extent, and there is not a slightest doubt that art is, or it must be political, committed to his time... and even in the negation of that condition, there is an inherent assertion of that essence (by contrast with that).


If, as all the ideas lead us to this, all art is political

(1)

, since that it is a cultural expression of any human society

(2)

(a form of communication) and at the same time is an act of individual freedom; why at the end it finishes being assimilated by the system (whether commercially, historiographically or iconographically) and ends up losing his critical and libertarian values.


The question we do to ourselves is this: is it possible to escape the constant integration or institutionalization of art, from the anesthesia that produces the sieve of the normative?


To this question there can serve different answers given by many thinkers or theorists, although in my opinion, neither they manage to eliminate the unwanted part of the equation, the institutional ogre, nor they accept that, playing with this one, even in pursuit of higher goals, sooner or later they will fall into the same trap that they wanted to escape from.



For Guy Debord

(3)

, in the 1970s, Western Society was suffering a large crisis of values, where spectacle and image in general were supreme on anything: it was no longer enough Being, but also Having things, or Pretending to have them. Both Market and advertising paralyzed our ability of decision, our freedom, bombarding our minds with consumption needs, which in any case were dispensable. He proposed a radical change, a criticism of the existing social conditions, and its conscious overcoming in pursuit of the invention of new laws that they will regulate relations among people, and not a continuation and perpetuation of those already created by others.


These expectations were never met, and today it seems more true that never its critical observations on the consumer society of spectacle that surrounds us.


In our opinion, the change could not split from a few leaders or guides like him (it were never wellcomed the saviors), it must have been a inner and personal revolution, spontaneous, something that it is really utopic.



It is hinted at the end of Ornament and Utopia José Luis Brea's text

(4)

, that the best way a contemporary artist has to overcome the powerful attractive forces of the institutional,

Stencil made by Banksy on a wall in a public space in the city of Bristol

it is to produce his works with a free, and utopian sense, trying to improve to humanity; this would be desirable, but I think the institutional would gobble this type of artists up too, much to their regret.


In Africa Vidal Claramonte's text

(5)

, there are a series of (women) artists whose works have tried to fight against female stereotypes created by the established power and against of how the image of women has been used by mass-media as a mere instrument of desire for the Western sexist culture (although in my opinion this is a characteristic of any patriarchal society, and not only the Western culture).


The stance that it defends against the Institutional, starting from the point of view of artists women, it is which attempts to change, or rather, to update artistic modes generated by being a women

(6)

, but, in our opinion, perhaps this stance just extends the scope of the Institutional to accommodate that art of genre, reviled by the dominant male trends (in the same way, she could have written her text related to other minorities such as ethnic, homosexual or socials minority). This does not contribute to any solution to the question proposed by us.



David G. Torres in his article Who's affraid of Jenny Holzer?

(7)

, he does not propose a solution, if not a resolution: there is no possibility of political behavior in art that do not start or not appear from a strong, clear and open engagement with the own work. It has nothing to do with the fact that to win or not, but simply by the fact of being in a situation to discuss from fair terms: simply affirm that one exists.

(8)


Picture of a work done by Jenny Holzer in 1982 for the electronic display Spectacolor in Times Square

Maybe this is the only answer or viable proposal to make: work and work with the hope of improving something, however small that it be...



We do not believe so. On the contrary, we think that there is also another possibility to escape the institutional absorption: we propose the realization of an anonymous art, a kind of art that intended to be just art, communication, that it rejects the blandishments of capital, fame and power (even though we know that an anonymous art would surely enter in conflict with the artists ego, and in general with the vanity of human being).


This anonymous art, having no face (no signature), it could be done by anyone and in this way it would be a true social and political art that would escape any manipulation from the Institutional power.


If the artist as such, disappears, although not its renewal and utopian urge, perhaps the power of the institution backs down, it should not have what to sort, because someone who is seeking this utopia, he or she should be an anonymous artist to that effect. Thus, all the good will and the disinterest of the human being would be an artistic act itself.



(1) "[...] the search for an experience which splits from the Institution becomes one of the few ways which we have yet for understanding, as noted Valcárcel Medina and Juan Hidalgo some time ago, that all art is political. And this is like that because of a very simple fact: after the failure of the avant-garde in its attempt to transform society, art has become one more piece of the postmodern spectacle. Transmuted, therefore, in one of the sophisticated pieces of the cultural mechanism; his integration into the system of consumption has led to their transformation into a market product and, therefore, into something with exchange value but not with use value", PÉREZ, David, Y la nave va: la institucionalización omnipotente, Papers D'Art , nº 74, 1r semestre 1998, Girona, ED. Fundació Espais, p. 31

(2) In our opinion, art, like a communication media (with the neighbouring or with the beyond), it needs some person able to read the message, and this is why it is indissoluble from the social, from the collective; at the same time, it seems to us that with politic matters it occurs the same: every society is governed by a series of power (political) relations, that they arise from that same community, and that, as pointed to Foucault in his afterword to the book Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, "The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between pairs, individual or collective; it is a mode of action of some over others. Which of course it means that there is not something like the Power, with capital letter or not, which would exist universally in concentrated or diffuse form: there is only the power exerted by one over other; the power only exists when it is exercised [...]"

(3) DEBORD, Guy, Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency's Conditions of Organization and Action. Founding document (1957), Fuera de Banda , nº 4, electronic edition, http://www.sindominio.net (A traslation to English can be found in situationist international online website)

(4) BREA, J. L., Ornament and utopia. Evolutions of the sculpture in the 80's and 90's, ARTE: PROYECTOS E IDEAS , n° 4, mayo 1996, ED. UPV, Valencia.

(5) VIDAL CLARAMONTE, África, Women artistic interventions , in Muniello, Óscar (Coord.), The past 30 years. Panorama of contemporary art. 1960-1990 , Oviedo, Caja de Asturias, Obra Social y Cultural, 1995.

(6) "Female artists I have been mentioning, they wish to make it clear, in short, the relationship between the established power and traditional image that it has been given of them; the relationship between consumption and desire; between the capitalist market and contemporary art. I started this intervention wondering if art should or not be political and answering to that question affirmatively. I think cited works, and many others, they confirm the need for art to be committed, above all in a historic moment like ours in which prioritizes the de-ideologization and the values of what has been called X generation", Ibidem. p. 373-374.

(7) G. TORRES, David, Who's affraid of Jenny Holzer, in Papers D'Art, op. cit.

(8) Ibidem . p. 39


Art in public space: Multiple views on public space.
Series of talks on public art. Cartagena 2006.



The rubric 'Art in the city' gives meaning to the confluence of two multifaceted (and perhaps monstrous) creatures: the artistic question (Art) and the public question (what it is common to everybody: cities, forests, seas, the common territory, furthermore Health, Education, Law, Customs... in other words, the management of our cities and our Country)


The lecturers of this series of talks came to show that one of the nowadays most discussed artistic issues is the use of public spaces as support for the expression of individual ideas that affect or should affect the way we look and we interact with the environment in which we inhabit, cities. Also it was sought to publicize and discuss meanings of the public question, and how the Art and artists deal with the problems generated by its management, use and abuse.


Live Street Art on a wall of a street in Cartagena, accompained with a djs session

What we call public spaces, beyond common places of occupation, enjoyment or discussion, they represent the inevitable closeness in which all are involved.


We must consider Public space as all that it is presented to us outside of our homes after sliding the bolt (although sometimes the private space also can become something public). This would include the landing of stairs and the same staircase, or the lift in their case; the hall of the building or the parking, street, square or park; the exterior of the building (its façade) we have to front or a side of our visual field; billboards of all types (We do not forget that they are stands that our rulers manage); the signals of traffic, signs and street lighting; cars and in general means of transportation in the cities; the exterior and interior of institutions in the public service (again appears that word); institutions and private banks, hospitals, every kind of facilities, bars and clubs... every place which need of customers (people). Finally,

One of the performances that were carried out in the streets of the city

we would have to take into account also the media (except printed media), which, although they do not occupy a physical space in cities, actually, do occupy a significant and sociological space within a Public meaning (they are accesible everywhere...)



All of the above could be defined as Public space, with the usual restrictions set by the laws and customs that we all supported when we signed the current democracy that governs our country.


Then, how I was saying, everything represents an inevitable closeness in the sense that living in a society means to participate in a partnership of a group of humans who seek to cooperate with each other to achieve to live or to survive, avoiding conflicts and help each other to achieve the welfare state. This implies to maintain bonds at family and friendship level first; then at the community level or at the quarter where we live; after that, the following level as citizen or inhabitant of a town, followed by the level of a geographic specific region and in the final level there would be the relations of social or national identity (laws, language, traditions, gastronomy...)


All this merely reinforces the idea that public spaces are that places which we agreed together for a common use, for communication and exchange, and as a scenario for those relationships that happen beyond the Self.


We must agree on that these spaces are or should be available to any citizen or group that request them to exercise their (Democratic) right to express themselves, to expose their ideas, their complaints and criticism, desires... and to sum up to say or do what they want with the tacit consent of all other individuals of that consensus society.



It is and must be equally acceptable a demonstration, a religious act, a march, an architectural proposal (or it is not true that architects build images or visions of the city/ society), the advertising of the new season of the Corte Inglés Shopping Center, or turning a street into a pedestrian area, or the creation of a highway with their crossings and roundabouts...,

The public space of Cartagena was flooded with pieces of art installed in many city places, as the tribute that Domingo Llor dedicated to the film <em>The planet of the apes</em> and that shown in this picture

and we should also accept, within this same freedom of action, all the opposite reactions to the previous points.



All of them, as acts of presentation or representation of the Becomings of a society, and one city more in particular, they expand and modify the vision of what we find after sliding that bolt to our private space. I dont know if it is for good or bad, whether has a use or not, if it is to enjoy or to argue; this is which it decides each one individually..., but what I do know is that these are the rules of the democratic or social game in which we are all immersed.


Within this framework is where artists who try to communicate with public, can find another close and accessible scenario (and perhaps more free) beyond art galleries and museums, where to contribute to the advance or debate of the welfare state.



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