I LIKE THE WAY IT IS WRUNG, 2008
neon bianco, cm 245x60
Installation shot, Stefan Brüggemann, Becky Beasley, Ignasi Aballì
ADHERED TO THE EXHIBITION SPACE, 2008
scritta bianca in vinile, cm 282x40
Why is there something rather than nothing?
(Perchè c’e qualcosa piuttosto che niente?)
Ignasi Aballì - Becky Beasley - Stefan Brüggemann
Curated by Filipa Ramos - Galleria Galica, Milan, September 2008
from 19.09.2008 to 15.11.2008
Inaugurazione: 19 settembre ore 18-22
Apertura straordinaria in occasione di START: sabato 20 settembre ore 11-22, domenica 21 ore 11-19
What is the sense of using a sentence by a Baroque philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), as the title of an exhibition that shows nine works of art in which the concepts they articulate are as important as their imagery (and sometimes even more), and mostly minimal and monochromatic? How can a metaphysical interrogation that deals with the existence of God be transported into the field of Contemporary Art?
In 1714, Leibniz presented a short account of his philosophy, The Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on a Reason, to Prince Eugène of Savoy, in which he included the query that gives title to this exhibition, «Why is there something rather than nothing?».
The German philosopher made this short collection of essays at the same time as he was writing Monadology – his biggest contribute to metaphysics. It is often said that Leibniz's methods and concerns anticipate the logic of analytic and linguistic philosophy of the 20th century. Giving a more modern definition of concepts, defining that these concepts play the same role if the words that express them are interchangeable – without affecting the truth-value of the prepositions in which they occur – Leibniz allows the substitution of one definition by another and thus opens the door for the games of language that play an extremely important role not only in analytic thought but also in contemporary creation.
The sentence used for this exhibition, Why is there something rather than nothing? can also be interpreted at the light of an interplay of words: the term ‘nothing’ is on a par with ‘something’, even having a certain priority over it. As the French philosopher Henri-Bergson states, this ‘nothing’ is an effect of language.
This exhibition will take this sentence in which Leibniz tries to give a logic proof of the existence of God based on a pre-phenomenological argumentation (if the visible world exists and it can be perceived, then it must have been created by God. This enunciate, as we have seen, also gives way to the logic structure of analytic perspectives) to explore a series of concepts around the idea of nothing, in opposition to that of something.
Leibniz’s sentence will put together certain aspects of the work of Ignasi Aballì (Barcelona, 1958), Becky Beasley (UK, 1975) and Stefan Brüggemann (Mexico DF, 1976), whose practices articulate a common reflection on nothingness, developed around the concepts of incompleteness, absence, mistake and reuse. ‘Nothing’ becomes ‘something’ when the artists declare it to be an important part of their creative process.
The question, Why is there something rather than nothing? underlines and reveals the use that these three artists give to the exposure and enhancing of mistakes and errors, or to the presentation of works that seem to be left unfinished or seem to be exhibited with the stated wish to assume irregularities, incomplete or unfinished processes and moments of their production.
Thus, the act that puts together the different works is the presentation of the ‘back side’ (or the hidden one) of creation, assuming that mistakes are an important element of the artistic process, and enhancing an attitude in which the most important part doesn’t lay in what is visible, but in all the premises and procedures that are underneath the final result. These elements become themselves the crucial figures to be seen, assumed as they are.
Ignasi Aballì’s work ‘Algo’ (Something) consists of two small square reliefs painted with the same paint of the wall underneath them. They are almost imperceptible and can only be noticed by the small shadows they cast and define the geometrical shape of the new coat of paint. In doing so, time and life become perceptible, for the colour of the wall has changed from when it was first applied to this present moment. This work is not made to be contemplated, it is an act that leaves an almost invisible residue; it needs to be discovered, as it gets lost among the walls of the gallery. In this specific case, the question Why is there something rather than nothing? assumes an ironical sense, as the ‘thing’ in itself has almost no visual representation.
The other two pieces presented by the artist deal with the notion of mistake.
His ‘Error’ (Mistake) is a photographic reproduction of a crumpled piece of paper in which one identifies a typical print test done by a home computer printer. This page comes out when the printer has an error (thus the title, ‘Error’) and has to be restarted. It is a complete waste, the material residue of a mistake. Its complete uselessness is enhanced by the way in which the artist crushed it. However, he decided to depict this sheet of paper that was ready to go to the garbage bin, and therefore he inverted the destructive act, made it visible and assumed the importance of that useless and destroyed object in his whole creative process. Aballì’s work creates a dialectic between waste and production, as if one could not exist without the other, assuming that mistakes are a fundamental element to his creation. This picture is celebrating a negative act – that of the printer and that of the artist when he crumpled the error page, thus turning it into something worth seeing.
‘Listado de Errores’ (List of Mistakes) is part of a series of works that Aballi has been creating in which he cuts different words from newspapers and puts them together according to their significance. In this case the artist selected the word ‘Error’ (Mistake in Spanish) and individuated it from hundreds of different tabloids. It shows how errors produce news, reflecting on the importance and impact of wrong and incorrect acts on our society. Errors are not only cancelled and erased, we talk and reflect about them, they are as vital as positive acts. There is a certain dose of cynicism in this work: wrong acts – in itself and without their context – are celebrated, making us remember the endless list of news we heard or read about mistakes.
Stefan Brüggemann’s text piece, ‘I LIKE THE WAY IT IS WRUNG’ appears to be a celebration of mistake. The word ‘wrong’ seems to be misspelled and the viewer doesn’t understand if it is intentional or not. Brüggemann often plays with orthographic errors. As he states in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist (2003): When you write with a pen, you often make mistakes, and then you reread it. (…) Sometimes it's very instantaneous. There are always mistakes and failures in my work. I don't like perfect works. I think it's good to be vulnerable. It's always a place of contradiction and danger. However, in this case the artist is using the past tense of the verb ‘to wring’, which means to squeeze or twist something. Thus ‘I like the way it is wrung’ has this ambiguous sense of assuming the importance of mistakes – in a tautological way if one thinks the word ‘wrong’ is misspelled – and of declaring the appreciation of twisted and contorted things.
Brüggemann’s (DELETE) is in close relation to Aballi’s ‘Algo’, in creating a work that can hardly be seen. The word (DELETE) is written on white vinyl attached to the wall of the gallery, which is also painted white. It can only be perceived through the brightness of the plastic in which the letters are written. It ironically assumes the act of erasing, of making something disappear, almost a memory of something that was canceled. We will never know what it was deleted, and the only residue left was the act in itself, that even if it is barely seen, it is still there.
In Beasley’s work, everything seems to be hidden inside its content, as if we were looking at a tiny fraction of an iceberg, without acknowledging its real size and content. The title of her works give us a clue, almost a sign, of what is locked inside the object or of its image, but the most of the times this index leads us to frustration, for there is no actual way to reach the content.
‘No Content’ says Brüggemann in one of his most famous text pieces. But if there is no content, what is the need to express it? Once again, why is there something rather than nothing? And why is Aballì showing us his mistakes, papers that contain a failed act, an incorrect outline or simply something that the artist didn’t want to show?
Becky Beasley’s Malcontenta is a black and white photograph of an object that resembles an empty bookshelf. However, the viewer doesn’t know if the object depicted really exists. He is not allowed to understand the function of this object, or even if there was a functionality behind its creation. He only perceives what is given, and there is an obvious sense of frustration left.
Gag, on the other hand, is an object. It almost gives us a clue of how the imaginary bookshelf of Malcontenta would look like in terms of materials and textures. However, the word gag is something – normally a piece of cloth – that is put over a person’s mouth to prevent her from speaking or crying out. This little sculpture is a black, shinny surface assembled with a wooden structure, a black box that cannot express anything due to its title. Once again, it seems like Beasley is trying to prevent her own cries or explanations from being expressed.
Dead Air consists of two identical matt hand-printed fibre based photographs of a black gift bag. This piece has two possibilities of being presented: as a diptych, called Dead Air, or individually and then the isolated picture changes name to The Gift.
Dead Air is a phenomenon whereby a broadcast unintentionally becomes silent or blank. Beasley was inspired by Heinrich Boll’s short Story Murke’s Collected Silences. Murke, a radio editor, collects pieces of ‘dead air’, dreaming to produce a long silence that he can privately listen to.
This work reflects about the function and use of the act of collecting, (even when one collects nothing but silence), about our relation to objects: we produce them, we give them away and we accumulate them. We can’t live without them, and often the more useless they are, the more we need them. Most of all, we tend to forget that they will outlive us.
We commonly see Silence as an interval, as an empty moment in which nothing happens. Silence is in deep relation to death, something that photography continuously celebrates. However, as John Cage expressed, until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. Works of art will also survive us: viewers, collectors and creators. When we become nothing, they are that something that attests our presence, that activate the dispositive of memory.
Quoting Leibniz once again, we live in the best of all possible worlds, even if it is still full of failures, absences and mistakes. But these are, exactly, what make us move ahead and what give sense to present something rather than nothing.