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The performatic relation of things

By Juan Francisco Gárate


We spoke of domesticity in art (and even of all things that are not) in relation to the work of Sebastián Mahaluf some time ago. Of course. Mahaluf’s recent work confrontationally reminds us that such domestication has at least two considerations to make: on one part the positive nature with which the objects within the “universe of art” are seized, and on the other, the implicit rejection, something like a constitutive negativity, in the objects to be seized, positively at least. A matter of interest as far as it allows us to locate the substantial differences between things in the field of art. In effect. There are works that are reductive because they are measurable, and its whole imagination –the understanding of a thing- would be limited to the coordinates of its appearance. But there are works that are possible to be seized only in the condition where the work itself has weft its own negativity. In this way all of its imagination is unfolded beyond the work itself. An example is the recent exhibition (MNBA, 2006-7) that showed a suit made of thousands of red beads on a lit surface in a room weft by thousands of silver threads arranged in the manner of a vault. Of course, one could think of the exhibition of an art object in the same way as so many other objects the museum hosts. But there is notable difference. The exhibited suit has a constitution out of the common, because it does not allude to “civilizing” clothing, the one we use in order to sort the condition good manners and decorum impose. There is nothing left but to think of the suit as a perfomatic event –and not an object- since it fits someone’s condition of use, the very artist in this case. The point is that the possibility of what is performatic –in its imagination- is only discernible at least in two aspects, a before and an after. How is this? Very simple, in fact. The red suit is nothing but the moment in which an event unfolds, continuous but of diverse tonalities. In a way it is a –recent- archeological piece which appears to rearticulate its action. That is why it is exhibited, to understand, not necessarily its limits as a thing, but the possibility of its history. And in the same virtual way to imagine its new adventures. In other words, the shine of light multiplied by the millions of suit bead edges is nothing but the possibility to find that which came with it, and in that process, we as spectators are driven to imagine the work, to finally imagine art.The matter then is to “elasticize” –to use one of Mahaluf´s ideas- the “hardness” –to employ a general idea- of some kinds of things.


A matter of interest in the performatic susceptibility of Mahaluf´s work is in the reutilization –and not recycling- of a group of works that are always there to organize a universal relation. It has to pointed out that the vault of the work at the MNBA is made of rubber bands, something that has come up previous but differently, in “Nodo” for example (CCE, 2004-5) in which they appear (virtually) “holding and bringing down” the building in which they were placed; or in the “Mnémica” performance (Die Ecke gallery, 2005) in which the own artist’s resistance is submitted to the tension of the rubber bands (that were used in “Nodo”). What is relevant is that these two fields concretely appear in the “Superficie y Resistencia Nómade” (“Surface and Nomad Resistance”) performance (Inés de Suarez square, 2006), simultaneously assuming both fields of the work that seemed or would rather be thought of differently, although these elements had always had a certain susceptibility of relation, at least in virtual terms (the concrete condition of what is lax/rigid of the rubber bands in the architectonic space, reconverted in rigid/lax after the installation at the CCE, etc.). Then, there was nothing left to do than making them converge. The best way was through the performance being placed in the public space, a way also virtual from the performance at Die Ecke, in which Mahaluf leaves the room –to the outside, in the distance, towards the public space- once the rubber bands that held it together were cut.


The suit was inaugurated as an event as part of an action that the artist held in a public square (Ines de Suarez, 2006) on which a wall of rubber bands placed horizontally between the trees. The artist, with the red bead suit, ran and jumped towards the wall, passing through it. Precisely what is hard and what is soft is nothing but two simultaneous moments, feasible to be sorted, to find the work’s substrate. Or in other words, the performance is the possibility in the relations between what is hard and what is soft, between the artist and the world, beyond the sacredness of the museum space. Suddenly what is rigid is altered in all of its socioeconomic expectations (the colored acrylic beads are the cheap way out to the illusion of the fantasy of luxury, apart from always and automatically being a trinket) used to manufacture a suit the artist has a  link to the happening. This is important because it allows one to think of the object exhibited at the MNBA as a performance and not an object necessarily. There precisely lies the susceptibility of what is performatic. A performance today supposes the conversion of all the objects and places as new contexts. That is, Mahaluf’s strategy has been such that it has not only created an “object”, but, most importantly a context. And the issue continues then, when I find out that what a context is I grasp the thing itself; not the work of art as a thing, but art itself. That is why it is important to affirm that the performatic action in Mahaluf is a kind of relation with the field of things, like a relation to understand not only a work of art but the movement that constitutes it as such.


The exhibited suit is apparently no other thing than the virtual moment in which the only reality is found in the imagination of that which was and what is to come. In this way are required to sort the object to find ourselves with the thing itself. We run into Mahaluf’s work reconsidering art itself in the museum hall.


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