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LAST / FIRST

by Juan Francisco Garate

 

The work of Sebastian Mahaluf makes it possible for us to always understand art in moments, at least of fundamental moments: an action and its resting. Moments of such a mode that the understanding, of a work that occurs in a present tense, can be transgressed through a metaphysical thought, as a display beyond the presence of the work facing the spectator. With this, I mean to say that the work is perpetually in motion and that its resting is only the way of the reception; it is the moment –epistemologically said- of the understanding about something and not said thing as such. Now, the thing as such in this case is not a mere thing but a singular thing: an artwork. Up to a certain historical point, the issue could be easily decided. Art enjoyed a privileged regime in the order of things. A work of art was notably far from the other things, from its simple material configuration. But after the ready-made the question of art and its privilege of distinction was not so simple. Of course, the objects in UNFOLD/DUPLICATE are in consequence of a reading of what is contemporary, in which the work of art is indiscernible, meaning that perception can not receive the singularity of the work of art in relation of mere things. And if they are recognizable as singular things they await to go down in the “immanence of perception” of the cultural hyper-production of things. In this respect new criticism has been formulated accusing the passive nature of the (subject) spectator who already has a post-aesthetic status: the regardeur spectator (Ives Michaud, Art in its Gaseous State, 2007), this is, a super-aesthetic spectator. This question is relevant as far as aesthetics, far from being “suspended” –as one would guess with the duchampian ready-made- to liberate judgments on works of art  outside of formalism, has ended up finding something like an a priori “aesthetic attitude” (is the (post) modern art museum not the leitmotiv  of the shopping mall?). 

 

This question places us in front of the old ontological problem of the work of art. Apparently, art today has become difficult to discern as far as it is part of a limited production of objects perceived as…objects, this is, objects without privileges relating to other objects. I mean the conditions of “style” in terms of art history, (Arthur Danto, Three Brillo Boxes, in After the End of Art, 2005), to infer not only the broad exercise of determining a work of art respecting the other objects, but, and more specifically, a work of art respecting other works of art with the same devices for example.

 

UNFOLD/DUPLICATE is a work that remedies the poverty today’s post-philosophical and/or super-aesthetic works of art suppose. We find objects here. A web of rolled rubber bands leaning on a wall, a model of acrylic cubes, as a topographic allusion centrally placed on the gallery floor. A red shoe of beads on a box of electronic devices; a small plasma screen in the back of the gallery in which a self-portrait of the artist in different angles in circular movements can be seen. All the elements are eventual objects in the work of Mahaluf, in the mode of “residues” (the rolled rubber web); and performatic objects: one as a momentary “substitute” (the rigid surface the –now- residual acrylic cube model supposes), and the other as an objectual performatic “extension” (the red bead shoe missing in Mahaluf’s previous inventory of objects and performatic clothing). These are all performatic objects. A question that is confirmed in the instructive of reading that the self-portrait constitutes on the wall in the back of the gallery. At any moment in which we relate to the self-portrait, we instantly realize its sequence repeating itself to the point in which we begin to witness the screen. We only realize at the end of the route, once we suppose the installation as a staging of objects. What there really is at play is the performativity of the objects in a situation of resting, in other words, of a moment of inflection in the movement of the work. What we see is nothing but the mode in which the objects escape us from the conceptual freezing of things. And there lays the importance of the instruction manual the self-portrait supposes, as the new objectual element, but at the same time, as the philosophical question that has been operating forever in the work of Sebastian Mahaluf, to put the discerning nature of the spectator with the works of art to play.