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Spotlight

01 April 2021
Suppress inheritance About "Ugly Enemies" by Esther Gatón

Andrés Carretero

Among the many professional conventions that artists have to face, exhibiting their work in a commercial gallery is not one of the minors. The difficult relationship between the work carried out in the studio or workshop and its recommended public display, a simple displacement which allows the long-awaited contextualization in order to facilitate commercial exchange, forces them to ¾still¾ respond to a tradition, a genre and an inheritance: the problem of transubstantiation activated by the gallery’s spatial device, which collects art and constitutes, for the most conscious ones, a major concern. In the question “how to expose?” the where and the what are eluded, but the difficulty of rehearsing a transitory response inevitably involves its effects and determinations. In the exercise of this movement, the reflective intensity of an artistic practice is sometimes resolved.

The ugly enemies  that Esther Gatón has built and arranged in Cibrián Gallery (Donostia-San Sebastián, 2020-21) unfold through a morbid dependence towards the space they occupy and, following the imaginary of the last Anthropocenic turn of art with allusions to the underwater life, in which they could, tangentially, be inscribed, establish a form of quasi-biological interaction with respect to the architecture of the gallery. Under the coordinates of commensalism, from the Latin cum mensa, both the works presented and the space occupied, and their particularities, sit at the same shared table -the one that offers the exhibition moment-, in which the works benefit while the space is not harmed.[1]Esther Gatón has written about commensality, not commensalism, as an infrastructure for art in “Lo que la forma hace hacer. Usos y comensalidad” (Forms, uses and commensality. How they make … Continue reading

Would it be desirable for this relationship to turn towards a horizon based on mutualism? In fact, that tension runs through the showing and is glimpsed at some point. In this manner, we come across lighting designed to interact with the PVC curtains arranged behind the display case or the entrance showcase, which intensifies and perverts the character of the classic display window; as well as regarding the relative location of the successive connecting elements, staircase and lift; at the back of the room there are three false bases like small monoliths which imitate marble, in continuity with the floor finish; in the basement we are greeted by a series of narrow open mesh flooring platforms on which we can walk –or not-. Between the acrylic curtains and the ground plane, ignoring the vacant bases but colonizing the wall, under or next to the raised metallic planes “the pieces” are scattered, contradictorily anthropomorphised as ugly enemies under that common title: small organic and irregular sculptures of glazed porcelain and digital impressions on silk, among others. This schematic, arbitrary, interpretative duality between the sculptural objects and their respective staging, evidences the misleading perception that promotes them, playfully, the fabrication of fake appearances, the transition between genres and materials that is visible in the most successful titles of some of the facilities, such as Slimy Trampantojo (Slimy trompe l’oeil), Falso (False) or Lo Crudo y lo Cocido (The raw and the cooked); the physical concretion of this last reference to the well-known book by Lévi-Strauss embodies not the inexhaustible dialectic of nature and culture, or background and figure, but that of art and its exhibition. The fragile nuance of its tricky distinction.[2]On the exhibition moment as a trap see: Esther Gatón, “Sunburns”, A*Desk, September 28, 2020.

“El que Monta Cargas”, Ugly Enemies, Cibrián, 2020-21.

The short video that is integrated into the room with a calculated indifference deserves a special mention. El Que Monta Cargas(The one who lifts loads) is a neat artifact, with sci-fi low-tech echoes and Kubrick-style frontal shots, self-ironic and humorous, in which the artist herself appears literally dragging the filmmaker across the gallery floor. Art thriller. With an expository goal, focused on a nocturnal and autonomous dwelling of the white cube, it proposes a narrative journey through certain rare material natures ¾from the industrial-prefabricated to the sculpted, poor and mundane- and, avoiding spoilers, it reveals more than it promises, from the complex positioning of its author to the true protagonist of the film: the space where art has just been made.

In “Art in relation to architecture. Architecture in relation to art”, a seminal article published by Dan Graham in Artforum (1979), the American artist raised a reflection on the recent past of minimalism in allusion to the architectural infrastructure of the gallery, which functioned as an active part of the works. [3] Dan Graham, El arte con relación a la arquitectura. La arquitectura con relación al arte (Art in relation to architecture. Arquitecture in relation to art), Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2009. By taking the figure of Dan Flavin as a precursor, the link between art and the interior architectural setting was enunciated as something literal, immediate and specific. Without a relationship of continuity, Esther starts from the containment or restraint of the dependence on another art, on a sentimental education, even on a family impulse, to illusively repress that inheritance and thus follow her own path. Ugly, estranged, shared.

“Slimy Trampantojo”, Ugly Enemies, Cibrián, 2020-21.

“Garaje Spa”, Ugly Enemies. Cibrián, 2020-21

(Featured Image: “Lo Crudo y lo Cocido”, Ugly Enemies, Cibrián, 2020-21).

1 Esther Gatón has written about commensality, not commensalism, as an infrastructure for art in “Lo que la forma hace hacer. Usos y comensalidad” (Forms, uses and commensality. How they make things do things”, Materiales concretos, September 23, 2019.
2 On the exhibition moment as a trap see: Esther Gatón, “Sunburns”, A*Desk, September 28, 2020.
3 Dan Graham, El arte con relación a la arquitectura. La arquitectura con relación al arte (Art in relation to architecture. Arquitecture in relation to art), Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2009.

Andrés Carretero is an architect and a critic.
His practice covers an expanded conception of architecture traversed by art, theory and politics. Co-founder of MONTAJE.org — cooperative infrastructure of architectural production.

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