Magnet River *

Fragments to your magnet

Text by Adolfo Montejo Navas, translated by Nigel Greenwood. Originally published in Lapiz 281/282 2013-2014, on the occasion of the Magnet River, curated by Juli Susin and co-coordinated by Adriana Almada, at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, during the Curitiba Biennial, Brazil, 2013. With Andy Hope 1930, Veronique Bourgoin, André Butzer, Jonathan Meese and Juli Susin.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil, 2013

In the biennalised environment of the official artistic events, where the presentation of art is subject to ceremonial conceptualisations and patterns, a proposal like Magnet River, framed in the Curitiba Biennial, celebrated for twenty years in the Brazilian state of Parana, places our perception on alert as everyone knows, the selection of loose works is more and more common; disperse artists and eclectic geographical panoramas to compose these events, although later they pretend to use a type of a storyline to cement it all together. Deep down, the biennials are usually a species of trade fair.

In the case of Magnet River, we have seen another type of experience: a small collective exhibition armed and curated by artists, governed by a conceptual magnet. The different artists united by Juli Susin,1 among which we find “Andy Hope 1930”, Jonathan Meese, Andre Butzer and Véronique Bourgoin, have built an aesthetic archipelago where what joins them is that what separates them, in such way that the exhibition is presented as a sortilege of frontier objects,2 nearly unfinished forms and coded images of a larger diversity than any common denominator that could relate them.3

In spite of this apparent absence of a clear axis, the exhibition has some sotto voce cardinal points, a submerged beam of senses. The title is the first, as it refers to the theme par excellence: time, and even the works united here are nothing else than part of magnetic translation, the material and immaterial alluviums that the affluent drag towards a determined course, that, as Lezama Lima said, are “fragments to your magnet”. The always-elusive substance of time shows here dissimilar effects, as it should be, in concordance with its well-known relativity.4 Recurring to the mimesis of the clock is not necessary – here invoked with two explicit images, and metamorphosed into others – , because there are other resources and artefacts to try measuring or capturing the temporal passage.

Although, one of the most enigmatic works is the image of a clock belonging to Juli Susin, with a period taste, large, black and white, nearly a reference to the humorous cinema of Harold Lloyd, although in this case the hands are phantasmagorical marks, unreal in their movements - like time is in its appearances and disappearances. The iconography of this clock places its signs in a disbandment of signs, the hands thrust like arrows (the arrows of time), as if time was temporary due to the mechanism of the artefact What has no dimensions is present here, metaphorically speaking, disturbingly like one of the aesthetic axes of the exhibition, in a more lacerating than friendly way.

Summoning5 is next, another work in synchronisation, with a certain flavour of Max Ernst, to his universe of collage “entre-periods”, at the crossroads between the anthropomorphic and the bestiary. It is a small-scale clock-sculpture with tentacles reaching towards the visitor in an unsettling way. The clock-minotaur of Andy Hope 1930 that is identified with the labyrinth formed by the nature of time is inscribed in a book-box. a Duchampian valise that includes) an edition with preparatory drawings of the metamorphosed clock, the same object to scale and outside of the box, a photographic image of a performance where the real scale of the sculpture is seen. The book, like an architectural structure, includes – or, better said, engulfs – images and imaginary.

The first clock I mentioned became independent of time and its servitude, and its sphere with hand-arrows is piercing the space of the sphere, getting out of its circular continuum offering other movements like escape lines. However, if the first is an image in movement, a video inscribed on an object, the second is a phantasmal object, an animated being from a bestiary, surrounded by its edition-box as a theatre scenario, and remitting to a scene from a B series terror film, with its appearance of perverse toy.

This work shows that based on an editorial work, in this case, from Royal Book Lodge,6 established by Juli Susin, Yasha Gofman ans Véronique Bourgoin, adjacent artistic strategies could still be invented, and the raw imaginary material of books can be used – either as the book of an artist, as an object or in any conceptual order – as a driving lever for the search of a new range of senses that exceed the initial geographic territory,7 aimed at diverse aspects, sometimes associating books with videos, performances, paintings, drawings, objects or installations.8 This is not usually very common, especially in the biennial field, which are more lineal than what they seem regarding their exhibition proposals. The Magnet River proposal has therefore cultivated, another aesthetic seed, thanks to which the constellation of pieces from different artists can be allied for the configuration of a single piece with collective spirit, that way creating a “rotating” dynamism in which pieces are interpenetrated or are associated, as if they were in a current or immerse in an amniotic liquid- Alternatively, as if they were breathing the same climate, in spite of different artistic temperatures. In fact, there was a certain sensation of fluidity in the air, or liquid fluency: the exhibited frontier objects show associable artists, allowing a certain communion in spite of their disparity - Summarising, together they form a flow that inevitably results in associating to a post-fluxus memory, especially if observed like in this project the world of edition, the diversity of aesthetic proposals and the collective communion were placed in the foreground, without forgetting that certain objective devotion, the humoristic freedom and the diverse origin of the artists, both regarding geography (Germany, Russia and France) as regarding ways of approaching art.9

What was mainly latent in this exhibition is, deep down, the recognition of the articulation of images as important, their synesthesia, although inhabiting a world of entropies. This vision of a group has been its medullar characteristic, and is summarised by the table that occupies the centre of the hall hosting Magnet River in the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (MON)10 of Curitiba. On that table, there was a range of multiform, intriguing graphic editions,11 a pop style cutout sculpture and a video entitled Keramik Fog, another great moment of the exhibition: an animation video by Juli Susin made with a clay mutating representation that never stops at all. The clay character passes through continuous forms, producing visual surprise, all types of images, in an accelerated metamorphic sequence and inside an imaginary realm that includes humour and recalls primitive cinema. Besides the symbolism that indicates the atavistic connection12 of ceramics with the earth, the allusion to our end converted into dust offers a dramatic component – and temporary flavour – not evident at first sight of this work, with its whimsical group of forms and visual coincidences.

As a group, Magnet River forms part of an aesthetic that is happily situated on the borderline of several things, due to the porosity between language and world, in which not only the specific art chassis is implicated, but also general contemporary visual culture. Mere the images form a paradoxical order, fruit of porous aesthetics that include impure, imperfect, even nearly defective images, if considering some high visual manufacture criterion that also governs the artistic industry, the limit with kitsch and the surreal, the re-reading and invention, visual culture and artistic intra-history, Magnet River feeds its forthcoming flow receiving the tributaries of its works as polyglot aesthetic components, carriers of several aesthetic ideas. Some monolithic truths13 of our period, like the “real time” and the documentation/information, stand out due to their absence. These images aspire to something else, to another nearly “a-aesthetic” course. This way, the poetic laterality of this project has overcome the narrative literality that could have stalked it with arguments or histories. The view of this exhibition originated from another time sensation, more lateral and fleeting, less frontal and lineal, which allows understanding the exhibitive sinuosity its meanders and deviations – that invited to gravitate around those images with some recurrences and points of contact, following a half-hidden or camouflaged map.14 Beyond that, that denoted vibration of time is placed in the tuning fork of contemporary subjectivity, in a coded combinatory in a series of images and identities that are associated to the correlation of life. The tension was breathable in the triad formed by time-identity-life, as it appeared as a spell, or even an exorcism, in the Facebook period15 – that space where the defeat of real subjectivity is not hidden, but rather exhibited pursuant to semi-manufactured identity fictionality.

In this exhibition, there was a rare atmosphere, sometimes at the limit of the artificial, where diverse aesthetic situations seemed to simulate a disturbing series of collage, in which the absence of glamour and of symbolic monuments is combined with a monstrous element of terror, forming part of the everydayness of our time without tomorrow and without a maximalist Utopia in sight, If the exhibition itself created an atmosphere that equally exhaled exhibitory rigour and strangeness, it also provoked a certain climate of built, fictional and complicit atmosphere, with certain humour not exempt of melancholy, Nearly a six-way humour (six poesies) that needed reading and activating as ars combinatoria. Inquest into the identity, into its recognised heteronomy, simulated an intermediate scenario, a territory of artificial paradises that even Baudelaire had never dreamt of,16 with series of identities crossed among the works, with mutual signals and appearances and accomplices of the artists, with convergent, shared visual sensations…

That way, the exhibition opened to diverse conceptual sensations and at not such structured or homogenous times, Several of the works have a retro, melancholic air about them—like the irony of all times—and are open to diverse aspects: from family ties with early films and with the experience and objectualism of Fluxus to the presence of the popular imaginary or the metalinguistic quote cult. In such way, that the main character of this exhibition was the ironic construction/deconstruction of that presented as an aesthetic subversion offering presence and representation and a side of shade.

In this exhibitory collage the main character of subjectivity gained strength before the circular wheel of time, although this seemed to be enclosed in the limits of life, of its circumstances. Moreover, at the same time, that subjectivity was exhibited in nearly an exhibitionist way. For example, the photographs -performance of Véronique Bourgoin that present scenes of theatrical intimacy post Cindy Sherman17 full of dramatic strangeness and absurdity, as if these images contained more optical and existential unconsciousness that that they already show. The surface of the images relate something that they should not complete: An insufficient “theatricality in life”, and with the identity of the artist – portrayed in formal, hierarchic, of being observed poses – in state of doubt an mystery (sometimes with Andy Hope 1930 as a guest18 in the scenes, due to these coming from Sweet Troubled Souls an installation of this artist), where we recognise a deployment of both comic and sinister situations, causing a successive and hilarious subversion of identifies.

The collage of Jonathan Messe,19 the interventions on photographs, abound in the broken shape of a never safe identity, that limits with animality, with the culture versus barbarie conflict. Meese seems to focus his view to the evilness of contemporaneity, next to its invasive. violent side, as if it was “the side of the beast” a face-off of time and matter, that German culture knows both how to investigate and sanctify. Next to these photographs. there is a séries of books of artists done between 2006-2012, the covers of which are intervened with pieces of ceramics,20 of wild, nearly outrageous three-dimensionality, once again with logos or ensigns. These allusions are presented as a short-circuit, a caustic déclaration of heavy history – so linked to time – , as necessary contemporary archaeology.

Curiously, the prehistoric forms contained in the outrageous painting of Meese,21 on strong physically hard surfaces, with three-dimensional éléments are signs partially shared with the paintings of Andy Hope 1930, where the grotesque and the mask also appear, and the chromatic liberating imagination owes much to Cobra, to the signs of aesthetic freedom. A certain brut side is présent in the work of these three artists, either on canvas, engravings or drawings, or on the mirror with ceramic interventions from Susin, also with archaic signs. Masks, skulls and antediluvian monsters – like that of the Time Master, by Andy Hope 1930, with his dragon and walking dock – that also subverted the signs of neo-expressionism and of other artistic imaginaries. The héritage of the grotesque and of Duchamp, for example, also undermines in the “man-scarecrow” of Susin (Carré jaune avec carré rouge, 201322), that seems to be a contemporary emblem of our condition, with its empty being, or better said, “in the open” and half in collage, and with a mirror that reflect the external images in the place where the face should appear.

Another aspect is the skiing boot in an aquarium,23 sculpture-object by Susin that also produces perceptive perplexity: Loss as a relic of a contemporary aqualung (due id stylish design) and intervened with pieces of golden ceramics attached, the piece alludes to a “lost step”, submerged in the timeless aquarium. In addition, another aspect can be seen in the serial work of esoteric aspect by Andre Butzer - temperas in black and white that satirise about the simple, yet poetic structure of horizontal and vertical lines in dreamt balance, and that articulate with a series of “N-shaped sculptures (a letter with a symbolic sense of initiative, with its formal Semitic origin indicating the serpent, and is at the wisdom and eternity) - These paintings are presented as symbolic bastions24 written by the artist with references to Hyperion, Empedocles. Patmos, Pindar, and Apollo… all a cultural and mythological Creek substrate, perhaps indicating our fate.

There is a piece that corresponds to that I same process, or better, “drifting”, in this case: The Day of Creation, a black and white video by Juli Susin that alludes to the eternal return, to the to-and-fro of things. At night, a man (Francois Lecoq, alter ego of author); rows restlessly to reach an imaginary riverside in Paris (la banlieue?), on a truck and with waves created by black plastid surfaces. As Adriana Almada stated (co-curator of the Biennial of Curitiba and coordinator of this exhibition): “Susin works the idea of threshold, an endless threshold”, that is to say, an eternal return and a return that remits to Ulysses. The nearly grotesque situation and sublimed to action, with powerful music by Anton Bruckner is re-dimensioned in a subtle artistic and cultural metaphor that could serve as an emblem/culmination to this exhibitory project.

There was a freedom25 of visual imaginary in this exhibition that included a hybrid, mixed selection of a diverse type, from the high and low culture, without scruples regarding generic and time fields, including that imaginary from the most popular industrial culture and references full of artistic complicity from a more restricted atmosphere, anachronistic aspects and very “updated” data In other words, it was formed from works that maintained a certain internal dissonance within the general score. In this sense, it has been a bold exhibitory project and, at the same time, harboured certain modesty, ingenuity and lucidity that seemed to reclaim the recuperation of the pristine look, nearly with a lost innocence and unit. Therefore, it was a dialogical, sincere, obscure, transparent and hermetic, silent and full of noise,26 naked, and full of tricks selection, as if the image were safeguarding secrets.27

This exhibitory project, in its extraordinary revitalisation of the act of linking heterodox things, supports and diverse aspects, is an example of how time can cut across aesthetic bodies, its matter, oscillating between books by artists, videos, sculptures, photographs, paintings, poems-object and installations, as a constellation, all plagued with cultural nods (Méliès, cinematographic comedy, the comic, Duchamp, Beuys, Broodthaers…) Summarising, this is the living image, presented in synesthetic and not anaesthetic state. But it is not only a kaleidoscopic and mutating proposal, but an aesthetic allegory, where the movement of the hands of a clock that disappear or the navigation in kayak with plastic waves, on a truck; or the android sculptures and the expanded and enigmatic books of artists feeding a restless collective that serpents between the works towards a collective reason, always offering a rare visual and cognitive perplexity, amen to presenting images that make us think where we are and who we are.

Finally, it is worth stopping at two aspects in symphony that take shape in this exhibition. In first place, the liquid metaphor of language: its talking condition, that names, as the condition of the river is to move things and connect points, margins, riversides: establishing a current among the works.28 That way, images flow and languages circulate. In second place, the way that contemporaneity was contemplated here, we could say “conquered”, because as understood by Giorgio Agamben (and earlier Nietzsche and Benjamin), there is no other possible way of being contemporary than with a disconnection and time lag with the current period, which evidently happens in the imaginary presented in the exhibition. It is in this new contemporaneity that the aesthetic un-rhythm and the temporary no-coincidences are understood, and, summarising, that other relation with the times of time. As stated by the Italian philosopher: “He who does not perfectly coincide with time and does not adapt to its pretensions, truly belongs to his time, and is truly contemporary, and then, from that distancing and that anachronism, he is more capable than the others of perceiving and grasping his time”. (What is contemporary - 2006/2007). That way the time-beast that devours us with its historical sphinx was there, in Magnet River, where another misadjusted, achronic vision, divided into in several periods was being offered, and where all the works were turning-points, discontinued, aesthetic objects of an immensity.

  1. _mg_7677Asuncion, 2014. 

  2. _zan8055 Juli Susin, Violent Noon, Curitiba, 2013 

  3. _mg_2611 View of the Magnet River exhibition with Air Conditionné by Véronique Bourgoin - photography by Juliana Stein, Curitiba, Brazil, 2013 

  4. _mg_2481 Composition alogique, Andy Hope 1930 and Magnet River, video by Juli Susin  

  5. img_0749 Andy Hope 1930, Summoning, Royal Book Lodge, 2009 - 2015 and video by Juli Susin, 2013.  

  6. cartes Tobias Hauser, Royal Book Lodge, 2012 

  7. andy-14-copie Andy Hope 1930 , Robin - Dostojewski, Berlin, Royal Book Lodge, 2013 

  8. _zan4311 Juli Susin, Time Master, 2013 

  9. img_0877 View of the Magnet River exhibition, Oscar Niemeyer Museum 

  10. _mg_2658 Magnet River in Oscar Niemeyer Museum 

  11. andy-12 Andy Hope 1930, Livre 2, Royal Book Lodge, 2013 

  12. _zan1963 Juli Susin, Keramik Fog, 2013 

  13. img_2766 Le Chiffre Souverain 

  14. jonatahnmeese Camouflaged Map 

  15. _7 Jonathan Meese, Keramik Book, by Royal Book Lodge, Paris, 2010 

  16. img_1075 Juli Susin, Paradises that even Baudelaire had never dreamt of, 2012 

  17. veronique_-andy-hope-_-musee-2 Véronique Bourgoin, Andy au Musée Freud, London, 2008  

  18. doz105 Véronique Bourgoin, Andy Hope 1930 as a guest, Paris, 2007 

  19. meese-15 Jonathan Meese, Berlin, 2002 - 2013 

  20. _10 Jonathan Meese, Dr. Keramik, by Royal Book Lodge, 2010  

  21. meese-17 Jonathan Meese 

  22. img_0838 Juli Susin, Carré jaune et carré rouge, 2013. 

  23. _mg_2491 Juli Susin, Lost step, photograph by Juliana Stein, 2013 

  24. _mg_2609 André Butzer, N, Rangsdorf, 2013. 

  25. nimayer-_-andy-5 Composition alogique, Andy Hope 1930, Berlin, 2013 

  26. butzer-1 André Butzer, Untitled, 2013 

  27. andre_butzer4 André Butzer, Das Mädchen, Montreuil, 2003 

  28. img_0902 View of the Magnet River exhibition, Curitiba, 2013