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HUMOR AND WHAT IS IMPERTURBABLE

By Juan Francisco Gárate  

 

Suddenly, sometime early morning on November 26, 2002 at the Inés de Suárez square in Providencia, an individual dressed head to toe in a red bead suit ran on the grass to then throw himself on a wall of rubber bands, crashing through it and falling onto the other side. A passer-by is practically centimeters away from the action, in the moment in which Mahaluf, the individual dressed in the red bead suit falls, after going through the rubber band wall, reintegrating and then vanishing into the public space of the square. The passer-by in question does not even alter his itinerary and follows his course, not believing what was happening next to him, in the same –public- space where his “routine” and the “event” of Mahaluf’s performance were taking place. It is an amusing anecdote. It puts into question at least two considerations of interest about contemporary art exhibitions beyond the limits of their cared for and restricted visible space: the first is that the representational mode of the work, in the manner of a public space performance would suppose a coexistence of the action of the artist and the relative act of reception on part of a diverse public that is surprised in the everyday use of an open social space. The second consideration lies in something we had already observed regarding the implicit action in the objects and materials of Mahaluf’s inventory, which share at least two simultaneous events: the objects, understood as such, unique and limited, are performatic effects (at rest), or rather, objects susceptible to modification from one state to the other (virtual objects).

 

The coexistence, our first consideration, would be given by the action of the artist coming out of his historically traditional field to find himself in a place where citizens break the routine of a space threatened by an act –Mahaluf’s “Nomade” performance in this case- out of every calculation and social expectation. In a way the relationship between the spectators, here regarding Mahaluf’s performance, keeps being –relatively- passive. The point is that the artist/spectator coexistence is produced in the suspension of space to turn it into the artist’s and the spectator’s “place”, beyond –as we said- the traditional field of art. Place, or rather, “event”; so that the artist goes on to look for the spectator and modifies his interest statute, this being the audience that goes to the museums or galleries to straight up run into with things called works of art. That is why we said that the spectator, in “Nomad” is relatively passive, his routine having been put in a momentary state of estrangement (the –not agonal- art/sport of a fellow dressed in a red bead suit diving into a rubber band wall) demands at least… a smile!

 

In the manner of a Bergsonian route –and speaking of the anecdote of the imperturbable passer-by at Mahaluf’s performance- smiling would not be but the way of social life against the rigidness of habits; in this sense Mahaluf’s performance would be conspicuously social or collective. The estrangement of performance in the public space not only puts us in the situation of it not being anything except a work of art -at least in this type of estrangement- but one could also think that it is about something like a Bergsonian “transposition” which would further reveal us the order of what is social, as a living field of relations versus what is automatic in certain social behaviors, all through an action out of the social behavioral protocol. In this case Mahaluf’s performatic work articulates –or should do so- a humiliation to the social state of inter-subjective relations. This is, something has to happen when a field of action is interfered with corporal economics a priori not able to be qualified. “Comedy can only begin at the point where our neighbor’s personality ceases to affect us.” (Henri Bergson, Laughter, 1900). But there is something happening in the imperturbable spectator/work-artist relationship, or more precisely, not doing so. If we arrive at an (over) understanding of this difficult relationship, where apparently a new attitude of no-empathy regarding the artistic (or any other) event prevails, then the event has never been such, since therefore we need the coexistence between a spectator and something exterior to him/her to move him/her in some specific way; without it, coexistence, there is no event but pure contingency.

 

Mahaluf has precisely set out to persevere with the problem and has to do stylistic exercises in the contemporary art hall of the Rancagua House of Culture. Here some issues regarding our second point of interest. After the National Fine Arts Museum (MNBA) exhibition, where we could understand the historical performatic effect starting from the organization of the process-related objectivity of Mahaluf’s work, is that we can comprehend the emphasis put on the “small history of procedures” of contemporary artwork production. I refer to examining the art of the second half of the twentieth century. I refer to the resistance of resistance of the materials with which works were produced and which gave way to new approaches on art, basically of a performatic order. Therefore I am establishing a map starting with dripping and Action painting, passing what –according to Danto- is what is “unperceivable” of the objects of consumption regarding Pop art works, or rather the dismissing  despair of works like “Buddha” by S. Levine, until reching the performatic objects of Janine Antoni.

 

In other words, the present piece by Mahaluf, Nomad V - Eternal Jump/Penultimate, is a work criticizing the media by which an artwork would have turned into one, in a recent history and precedent of the art of today. This is, like making the implicit relations in its own performatic work (de)genealogic to rearticulate a notion of art. One has then to imagine Nomad V – Eternal Jump/Penultimate as a scale model of the history of contemporary art under constant examination and requiring some kind of –performatic- effort to trace its own history, a matter, let it be said, of a tragic humor.