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26 February 2013
Isidoro Valcárcel Medina: Doing it ourselves

Isidoro Valcárcel Medina invites the public in the exhibition “Vostè Mateix” (Do it yourself), at ProjecteSD, to reveal their identity, to make it relatively public by writing their name on a piece of paper that he has prepared using a specific format with an alphabet of a certain typeface. It’s an installation that modifies the exhibition space, so that if in the beginning all the walls of the space were empty, during the days of the exhibition, in theory, they will slowly fill up with cards with the names of visitors who have wanted to participate in what the exhibition proposes. Obviously this fact is subject to different factors that directly affect it, such as: the more or less participatory attitude of the exhibition’s public and the number of visitors that visit it. It’s an exhibition that proposes, through the text, that the visitor becomes the protagonist of the work, thereby shifting Isidoro Valcárcel Medina to the role of the real public, even though his name is also to be found on the wall.

All the names are written on the same type of paper, using the same marker pens and following the same typography, placing in this way all the participants on the same level, causing any differences between them to be found solely in the name. Each sheet of paper is reminiscent of the attachment of an application or some kind of bureaucratic form, those in which we are asked for our personal details. Like this class of documents, this work literally requires the action of the public for it to be carried out. And it’s not just the action, one could say the “correct” way of doing what is asked of us, that affects the installation but also the action of those visitors who don’t participate.

On the gallery sheet it explains that this work is simple only in appearance, that it entails a certain difficulty, as the spectator doesn’t just contemplate but also participates, literally making or completing the piece with their contribution. It also says that this requirement might suppose make certain spectators uncomfortable, though I doubt it. I doubt it because I don’t think that any visitor to the ProjecteSD will feel intimidated because the work consists in him or her writing their name on a piece of paper that will later be hung on the wall. The spectator can follow the request or not, but in either case if they don’t, I don’t think it’s because they are uncomfortable. And the reason I think this is because to start with, to enter ProjecteSD it’s all doors: first of all the visitor has to ring a doorbell, because the gallery is on the ground floor of a block of flats and to access it one has to enter through the doorway that leads onto the staircase of the neighbours. Once inside the stairway, the visitor has to open the main door of the gallery; then the door that leads onto the interior patio through which one accesses the exhibition space, where one has to open yet another door to be able to enter. If this ritual doesn’t manage to intimidate the visitor, then “Vostè mateix” also won’t.

What is more, amongst the names written, at least when I visited, one could recognise those of the usual people within the Barcelona art scene and it’s fair to say that in fact the large majority were there. It seems pertinent to pay attention to this detail because it could say two things: either 1) that there really has been a class of spectator that has felt uncomfortable with the proposal and for this hasn´t put their name, obviously someone (generalising totally here!) who is not familiar with contemporary art (given that it is well known that the names there are); or 2) that the only people who visit contemporary art galleries are those from the sector itself. I won’t venture to say which of these two options is the most likely because I am unaware of many aspects that might quite probably be significant. On the other hand, I also don’t believe that the aim of the installation is to function as a tool with which to analyse the Barcelona art scene and its spectators.

This probably won’t be the most outstanding installation by the artist, however many interesting points of reflection are located within it, that are coherent with Valcárcel Medina’s way of working, like for example the fact of having an ephemeral and by no means commercial result; that its evolution during the time of the exhibition depends on third parties; or that the artist tries to rid himself of the authorship of the work, given that the work itself is being completed by others and he has only brought together the necessary factors for this to occur.

In “Vostè mateix” this last detail is more than evident, as on entering the title already directs itself without any prevarications to the receptor, naming it, just as in the exhibition space the actual spectator is named. One has to say that Isidoro Valcárcel Medina’s own presentation of his text “Dobleces de autor” will complement and close the exhibition.

At the same time, in the Espacio Trapezio in Madrid, in the exhibition “Manifiestos. Voces individuales desde el imaginario colectivo” one can see a quotation of Isidoro Valcárcel Medina printed on a large sheet of paper, hanging from the wall, the work of the artist himself. In it he says: “There is no art that isn’t political (…), an artistic gesture is consequently a political gesture”. And even though in the installation “Vostè mateix” the political gesture isn’t nearly as literal as the simple fact of presenting this quote as a piece, the political intention can be found in the ephemeral and non-commercial quality of the work, and in the unusual fact of leaving the future and evolution of it in the hands of the visitors; ultimately of ourselves.

Anna Dot was born on a Sunday in April. She is from Torelló and works between two worlds, worlds that she cannot perceive as being in any way separate: one of artistic production and one of reflection, writing about contexts of art.

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