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Asier Mendizabal: Untitled (Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic)    May 31 - Jul 24, 2012

Installation View
Asier Mendizabal
Installation View
 
  
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This exhibition of new works by Asier Mendizabal is titled (or, rather, untitled) after one of the pieces in it. This would suggest that this piece, or its title (or lack thereof) functions as a key to access the content, the intentions or the links proposed in the show. It very obviously fails to do so. Not only because its rhetorical self denial as a title, some sort of paralipsis, shirks this function, but also because its allusion, between brackets, to linguistics evokes a formalist approach that hardly helps in identifying a narrative content.

The untitled piece is a sculpture of a strange virtuosity that reproduces an exercise of deftness, a common task of craftsmanship among carpenters to prove dexterity by carving out a chain, with all its separate links, out of one piece of timber, but this time out of a whole chestnut trunk. The monumental as well as dysfunctional scale of the artifact confronts us with an expectation of a metaphor, of a symbolic function, which is somehow negated by the open polysemy of such a loaded sign. It is, nonetheless, its metonymic behaviour that proposes a structural relation with the totality of the exhibition. The association of the structural elements, the links that form the chain, is one of repetition and difference, each of them being carved in a very gestural manner, reminiscent of certain expressive realisms, associated with an ideologically coded monumentality.

Also included in the exhibition, and in concert with this signifying spatial relation of contiguity, Rotations (Moiré/Foule), is a series of silkscreen prints that reproduce photographic representations of multitudes from the illustrated press, mainly from early 20th century publications. Mendizabal has often recalled the moment in which the first photographic representations of massive gatherings started circulating as a moment of selfawareness, in the advent of the mass as a political subject, determined by the form of its photographic image. The seminal descriptions of the mass in modern sociology, often deriding and distrustful, coincided with its first mechanic representations. Before the use of photography, the illustrated press represented multitudes with etchings, in which delicate filigrees formed abstract backgrounds of little stylized, indeterminate heads. Photography inadvertently introduced an interesting representational paradox, because if the main subject of these representations was the totalising form of the mass, randomly spread in the available street space, always shot from above, one could recognise the features of each individual constituting this very form, indiscriminately registered in the take.

The metaphor implied in this complex simultaneity of figure and background, form and content, in the particular case of the representations of the multitude, reminds us that the tension between these two modes of political subjectivity, individual and collective, has never ceased to be in the center of the discussion as much as hegemonic discourses have found a priority in concealing it. The mass printed reproductions, though, use a dot screen that overlaps the grid of little points with the pattern of little heads forming the crowd, often generating somewhat blurred optical effects very similar to the Moiré patterns that result from overlapping grids. The final form we recognize as symbolic is very often determined by its technical possibilities, and this determination conditions, in retrospect, the very subject matter it represents.

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