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The pieces of AES+F that are shown, until October the 7th, in the Art and History Museum of Geneva, cover the production of the last ten years of the Russian collective. The exhibition, from the first room, resonates as an exaltation of art as a product, an efficient mercantile materialisation of the artistic object in all its polymorphous capacity for the visual and financial consumption. The interrelation between Western classical art and contemporary languages, baroque stylisation and the artifice of a deliberately banal syncretism appear as used codes. Similar to Jeff Koons passed through the orthodox tradition of the Caucasus. But it happens to me with AES+F that what stuns me from its wild generation of capitalist beauty gives a glimpse of a pose that I cannot see in Koons, which I could call, in a very irregular way, spirituality. It is not about the references to scared art, nor of the presence of explicit religious figures, but rather of the set of vibrations that the work projects from a certain understanding of human experience.
The beginning of the exhibition route of this Theatrum Mundi already seems to be a declaration of intentions. An elongated room, in the neoclassical style palace that houses the museum, illuminated only by the reflection of a screen 14 metres wide by 3 metres high, in which one of the two video pieces that work as aces, Inverso Mundus (2015), is projected. The classic reference of the piece is the carnival theme of the inverted world that has appeared in the religious and popular imaginary since the 16thcentury, the medieval carnival in which the apocalypse is a libertarian weapon that can be used without reprisals once a year. The presentation in the work of this disruptive inversion is touched by that aura that emanates from the acidic and cruel way in which it works as a mirror.
It all starts with a cloudy liquid that forms a flow down a staircase. That is to say, everything begins with a cascade of shit that millennial workers make come out of tubes in front of a kind of translucent Agbar tower, while pieces of garbage fly through the air. Inside the tower, there is a board of directors that seems to be presided over by a redheaded Jesus Christ. All are very bored until a troupe of indignant arrives, in which they identify Franciscan, Hindi, hippie, unemployed, third age people. You realize that they are the doppelgänger of the board of directors, they make them stand up and take their place. The indignant board of directors, however, is also very much bored and does not even try to change the world. They therefore return to the streets, to squander their good intentions in high-class suits begging for charity on the floor. There are also non-human animals, and it is difficult to contain oneself before the sarcastically hyper-sweetened eyes of white pays with the wings and legs of chicken and dog. At the slaughterhouse, a big pig in an upright position with a blunt knife prepares to cut up the human hanging from the hook, causing a glorious torrent of blood. In a background of containers for maritime transport, beautiful women torture beautiful men while the Casta Diva sounds, with minimalist and ergonomic Nordic-style torture instruments. In a final exaltation of this liberation from fake instincts, the indignant take to the streets and the repressive bodies prepare to do their work, but they all end up in a renaissance lounge tent, wrapped in a delicious and pathetic ennui, slow motion eroticism, bloodless eroticism of the perfume advertisements.
With its digital hyperrealism and that mystique of detail, there is a sense of immersion, like a background noise or a permanent musical thread. At the same time, there is an inside-out game, in that deceptive feeling of post-Fordist conquest, of being able to reach desire as something tangible, the video pieces have their own merchandising: the instruments of torture are real sculptural pieces outside the audio-visual narration, fragments of it come out of it and are reproduced in prints on canvas or paper, not being simple accessories but complementing that immersion, that totality of the hegemonic gaze.
Some of the stills of Inverso Mundus chosen to move to the white range product category constitute the Inquisition or women labour series. In this umpteenth politically incorrect example, in which women torture men, without blood, one can read the emptiness of the binary role inversion discourse, replicating one of the classic patriarchal horrors – they will do with us what we did with them. Other moments can also be read from a gender perspective, with a bit of naivety, such as rescuing remains or searching for cracks, like the Last Riot sculpture, Girl with a bat, this bony girl who is very focused on taking action with her white lacquered aluminum bat; the iconic picture of Tondo #23from the same series, is presented as a trendy recreation of Giuditta e Oloferne by Artemisia Gentileschi, in which a non-white girl proceeds to slit the neck of a pale redheaded teenager. In view of certain recent events, they are presences of “the feminine” that we could include in a wish list for a making kin anti-heteropatriarchal, although they are also inhabitants of an amoral adolescence consumed by virtual violence and fed by bottles of Evian.
Like a mirror of spirituality in the days of the plastiglomerate, there is an exaltation of an amalgam of stereotypes, of individual and collective affectations, and a general feeling of profundis in which absolutely everything is at the service of dehumanization. Or not – absolutely everything is at the service of reflecting a too precise version of the human. The first part of this theatre of the world in its intention to reflect a dystopian panorama seems to me, in reality, to show that there has already been an installation in that dystopia, which has become precisely a form of supervened, cynical and unbelieving spirituality, a return of everything and even a yearning for bonds and affections that never materialize in anything that resembles satisfaction, a perpetual impossibility of a genuine interrelationship, of that making kin. Sometimes what is real contradicts this hypothesis and, without hope, of course, we meet, we are together, and we dance.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)