Three Anachronisms

Bildschirmfoto 2017-09-22 um 14.07.05.png

The video installation “Three Anachronisms ” is a trilogy produced by Mario Asef between 2010 and 2012, in which the artist reflects on three aspects of the constitution of reality. 1. the appropriation and structuring of space, 2. the construction of time and 3. the relationship between information, nature and culture. But this trilogy is not a philosophical treatise, showing the functioning of these categories. The reality that Asef observes is constituted by deficiencies in three different kind of orders: the paradox , the coincidence and the failure.

The title reveals that the work is composed of three parts, which in turn indicates how the parts relate to each other. Although three videos were produced in a continuous period of time, the relationship between them is not time – or space. Like a medieval altar when deployed in their wings, in which each part represents different events occurring in different spaces and times, building a narrative that links different events, Asef’s videos are presenting singular facts. On the whole, however, the trilogy builds a representation of the event of Asef’s research (social reality as a construct), the variety of approaches, contexts and reflections come to change and destabilizing reality itself exposing their shortcomings.

The urge to ask about reality is given in advance and the formal aspects of video. Close to a almost pasiv camera, Asef dispenses the staging. The facts are far away so that the artist can modify them directly. The fixed camera and the presence of common places (the terrace , the museum, the square) confirm here that the camera is negotiating with what is put in charge directly without preamble. The presence of a theoretical body, which is the basis for his work, the constant readings of sociological, philosophical and archaeological theories construct the objectivist building from which Asef casts on reality.

However, Asef demonstrates, this building is full of cracks and at risk of collapse: Reality and objective look come to be refuted from the realm of words. With the use of language Asef separates the video from his documentary content and purpose. In each of the videos, the text does not run as a subtitle, but as title, positioned in the center of the image itself, breaking the hegemony of this enthroned in the middle of our field.

While the use of textual -visuals make the ground of the building tremble, irony –an important feature on Asef’s work– completely destroys this building. Heir of the tradition of Argentine literature, where the derision on reality allows to open hyperreal worlds that never stop to reproduce itself (Cortazar and Borges), Asef destabilizes images, concepts and categories with which we build the platforms for which we travel reality. To provoke laughter, Asef allows us to enter a new order of the visual and begin to think the unthinkable .

In some cases , especially in „Edad de Hielo“, irony emerges with absolute stylistic elegance. Here the “subject matter” is only one, a plastic bag. It moves on a grid plane formed by the tiles of a square. The movement serves as a metonymy of movement between Y – X, the variables of space and time of a Cartesian plane, where we can generate scientific conclusions. However, when you look closely, the tiles are cracked, or out of square, so the mathematical grid that measures the movement ends in maladjustment, failing and causing uncertainty about the conclusions, the origins of those and their causes.

Jorge Sanguino

La siesta en la Alcazaba

„La Siesta en la Alcazaba“ draws a line through the urbane landscape around the Alcazaba of Almeria, Spain for telling the story about the make of cities and the evolutionary process of appropriation and domestication of space.
duration: 7’ 34’’ min
Mario Asef © 2012

Mausoleum

The consecutive shots between the interior and the garden of a museum are the starting point for a speculative reflection on time and its ways of representation.
duration: 6’ 06’’ min

Mario Asef © 2013/14

Edad de Hielo

On an elevated, concrete area a plastic bag is picked up by the wind, spinning it on its axis and pushing it around a pedestrian zone in a circle. Several passersby come into contact with the bag, shifting it off its course. But eventually the bag returns to its original starting point, thus completing a cycle.

duration: 8’ 48’’ min
Mario Asef © 2011

Advertisements

What does a line think?

csm_MA2_f23812ac62.jpg

Statements – exhibition view Manière Noire, Mario Asef © 2015

Language is not a welcoming land, as much as we tend to forget about it in daily communication. Reality is also not a welcoming machinery, though it seems that we have grown used to its rusty hinges. Mario Asef’s work detains both language and reality (the cultural engine that produces it) with a minimal intervention that modifies their landscape. He respects the structural elements of language or cultural situations, he studies them. And then he introduces a slight modification that provokes a twist, a bristle that detains some elements of our cultural structure in an unexpected angle. Finally, he puts them back to roll into the structure, now affected and changed, and, most of all, exposed to our perception. The ground of facts is a spiderweb (Der Boden der Tatsachen ist ein Spinnennetz), we read in one of his statements, which could easily be understood under the logic of the aphorism. Common sense is a fragile territory, and our security cannot be anymore established in the ground of facts. Language also abandons part of its power here, and there is rarely a statement in Mario Asef’s work that is not slightly touched, brought back from its bombastic character (*here maybe another example from Mario) into a natural move. This is also a general trait of his work. Again, something is modified, and our perception and thought are affected, but this is done elegantly. A scarce or apparently casual line drawn there where you would not need it or expect it, can be enough sometimes. In Asef’s pieces danger is not in tragic and dramatic exposures. It lies right before us, in a very small margin that has been taken out or changed.

A thesis is a Japanese Garden (Eine These ist ein japanischer Garden) says the writing on the opposite wall. It would actually be a relief to think that we can bring our walk through the garden to a memorable ending, the hill that offers us the harmonious view of our thoughts and actions. And we might need indeed a breath into this fragile (or solid sometimes) phantasy before going down back to the garden. This closeness and return to the material is a recurrent question in Asef’s work. Be it a brick, a cake, debris, a lottery poster or the ink of words on the page, the materiality of thought is always perceived. Thus, there is never a two-dimensional experience, space, even in a small caress of volume is present. And this is especially striking in his statements, where language thinks (as it happens with the aphorism) within a very small margin of space and through very few elements. But the weight of the word on the white page (which could turn this kind of writing into visual poetry or slogans) is too much, it unbalances sensitivity. And there is where the line appears. It is never a decoration, and its relation to the words is not clearly stated. But it seems to have the function of bringing back language a little closer to its materiality, even to remind this inked decisions that there is a void around them. Casual, programatic, or even ironic or playful sometimes, the lines that appear in Asef’s work create a relational tension that incorporates language but also goes beyond it. Those lines need to be handled with care, and cannot always be trusted. So the best thing we can do is to approach the ear, the eye, and ask them what are they thinking in there. For there will be no better clue to understand and enjoy the unbalanced garden they are part of.

Ernesto Estrella

Manière Noire

 The Author

Ernesto Estrella Cózar is an educator, poet, and musician born in Granada who  has lived in New York between 2000-2012. He completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University, and between 2007 and 2011 he was assistant professor of Contemporary Poetry at Yale University’s Spanish and Portuguese department. Since the spring of 2012 he has turned to Berlin as a second base for his artistic and academic work. As a musician, he concentrates on the voice’s potential to explore the poetic process through sound. In this vein, he has created a wide array of performances that have been presented at international festivals in Argentina, Uruguay, Austria, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Russia, Finland, Latvia and the U.S.  Since his arrival to Berlin, he has been teaching seminars at Potsdam University. Moreover, in 2014 he launched The Voice Observatory, along with sound and conceptual artists Mario Asef and Brandon LaBelle. Funded by Berlin’s Senate, this laboratory of investigation offers regular seminars, workshops and performances related to the voice in its acoustic, communicative, performative, and socio-political dimensions. Most recently, his work in cultural management and civic education has led to the creation of the Nomadic School of the Senses.


Faraway, So Close!

Carolina Jiménez

Boersianer-Diagram-negativo

Börsianer / The Operators, diagram – Mario Asef © 2009

Mario Asef’s first studio visit with Node’s resident curators was, for me, one of the most motivating
moments of these ultimate months. It was the last studio visit of a long rainy Berlin day. The eight
of us were exhausted and immediately ‘occupied’ the green carpet of Mario’s studio. What could
have been an awkward meeting (because of our tiredness), instantly turned into an extraordinarily
appealing talk. Every piece of work he showed us led to a conversation about several topics,
sometimes related to art, sometimes to philosophy, politics or social relations. When the visit
finished most of us felt the need to somehow try to work with him. We wanted “more Asef”.
For Faraway, So Close! we selected three pieces from Mario Asef’s video series History is now:
Börsianer/The Operators, Man’s on Moon, and Revolution after Revolution.
In his videos, Asef brings us back to the concept of intra-history, introduced in 1895 by the Spanish
philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in his book En torno al casticismo or to the most recent vision of
micro-history by the Italian Carlo Ginzburg. For Asef, history should be interested in the routes
whose principle leading roles are played by its peripheral actors; that is to say, the paths followed by
those men who make history in an unconscious manner, by those who do not aspire to the title of
heroes. The historical event is not the monumental fresco that encourages the mythification of
politicians, military men and priests, the traditional heroes of history… Mario Asef decodes these
concepts, recovering “micro-historical moments” (as he points out) in order to reveal the present as
historically significant.
Börsianer/The Operators juxtaposes the apparently sterile composure of the Frankfurt Stock
Exchange with the life of homeless people from the suburbs of the city. What at first sight could be
regarded as two antagonistic worlds become the two sides of the same instinct of survival. Abstract
values versus reality? Civilized world versus wilderness? Every downturn of the financial market
becomes crucial to our lives, as nature is experienced as an all-embracing fact and dictator of
reality…like the bucolic backdrop shown through the glass of an aquarium.

Skizze

man’s on moon, diagram – Mario Asef © 2006

Man’s on Moon looks back to 1969, when Commander Neil Armstrong became the first man on the
moon. This scene, broadcasted to every television of the Western world, incarnated the faith of our
civilization in technology and science during the Cold War era. In the same year, one of the most
feared serial killers of America, Charles Manson, was arrested. His arrest marked the milestone of
the end of the hippie-era, the end of Martin Luther King’s dream… In Man’s on Moon, Asef cuts
together sequences from the Apollo 17 Mission and audio extracts from Charles Manson interviews,
reflecting on the social dynamics that lead to an ontological discussion of truth and reality.
In the words of Asef, “when a staged revolution is part of a country’s historical reality it shapes the
direction of everyday life”. Filmed in three Romanian towns (Sibiu, Pitesti and Bucharest),
Revolution after Revolution examines how advertising strategies of the post-Communist era are
digested as part of Romanians’ everyday lives. The modern architecture of the sixties and its dead
ideology forms the background where citizens become actors (or heroes?) and revolution turns into
allegory.

revol-groß

Revolution after Revolution, video still – Mario Asef © 2006

The illusion of security

“We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation… we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.”
George Orwell, 1984

Priorities seem clear: first learn, then understand, and finally accept. The whole purpose here is not repetitive or blind obedience but disciplined and controlled minds… George Orwell could not anticipate the economic globalization and the sophistication of information technology in the Western world, but he formed the basis for understanding some of the most serious problems we face today.
Living in a contemporary world means to be surrounded by a multiplicity of electronic devices that gradually shape new borders of our personality. We expand and consider our private space to be inside our iPhones, computers and mailboxes. This unreal and imaginary possession of information can lead to manipulations, performed not only at an individual level. In particular, the lack of corporate and governmental transparency has been a topic of much controversy in recent years, yet the only tool for encouraging greater openness is the slow, tedious process of policy reform.
The Transparency Grenade by Julian Oliver for Studio Weise 7 was the central pivot on which the exhibition in the Fichte-Bunker turned around. It represented two actions: firstly, the invention and construction of an electronic device, and secondly, a situation. The Grenade itself was a replica of Soviet F1 Hand Grenade with a different mechanism of destruction, equipped with a tiny computer, microphone and powerful wireless antenna. It was also a situation, because it made the viewer directly responsible for pulling the ripcord to detonate the Grenade in order to unmask the decision-making processes of any corporate or Governmental Institution. Email fragments, HTML pages, images will be revealed, reminding the occasional user of his weaknesses and strengths. As stated by Michel Foucault, the individual is a part of the power structure’s cogs and secures it with his own attitudes and behaviors. However, and it may seem contradictory, this power (as read in George Orwell’s1984) is omnipresent and omniscient, a power that is constantly being apprehended, but which never answers. State institutions are mechanisms that seem to obey their own laws and rules, they are bureaucratic labyrinths completely unknown by us. Thus, we find depersonalized individuals facing an apparatus against which there is no way to oppose. Numerous references were forwarded about this in Faraway, So Close! by Argentinean artist Mario Asef, especially in the video piece Börsianer / The Operators, which juxtaposed the apparently sterile composure of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with the life of homeless people from the suburbs of the city. What at first sight could be regarded as two antithetical worlds became the two sides of the same reality. Every downturn of the financial markets becomes crucial in our own lives…
The viewer inside the Fichte-Bunker was confronted with a dystopic reality, a world not desirable, but conceivable. John Stuart Mill coined in the last years of the nineteenth century the term “dystopia” to refer to an unwanted society, opposed to utopia. Mill described an oppressive and closed-on-itself society, usually under an authoritarian government, but presented to its citizens as a utopia. George Orwell’s 1984 was one of the most refined examples of dystopia. It insisted, in a very persuasive way, on the power of technology as a basic tool for social control and the end of privacy. Orwell portrayed a society that to survive, created a perverse, permanent monitoring system from which originated an increasingly imperceptible but ever-present control, a subtle and not clearly coercive method that left citizens with the permanent doubt of whether they were being watched. It is through the uncertainty of not knowing how to maintain the subordination of being under surveillance, through a large and always-on screen, receiving and transmitting information, that individuals were handcuffed by their actions. All this, centralized by the everpresent Ministry of Truth, which was a pyramidal structure of white concrete over three hundred meters high. The Ministry of Truth acted as a vast Jeremy Bentham style panopticon that distinguished, watched and controlled all of what happened in that society.
According to Zygmunt Bauman, uncertainty about the future, the fragility of our social position and the anxiety of our own existence are persistent elements of our society. Therefore, one of the basic actions of human beings has been to preserve the order and to ensure its durability from incursions coming from the outside: an “outside” characterized by disorder and insecurity; an exterior that, in each historical moment has had different characteristics and traits, but always an enemy, an enemy that has always been the “other”. Against this “other”, that represents the fragility and the precariousness of daily life, all societies have been provided with multiple defensive tricks and tools that allow us to preserve, keep the acquired and make it our own. In this way, any risk must be eliminated in order to procure a comfortable place in a world that shows itself as threatening and hazardous. Uncertainty and confusion have increased with the rapid changes in recent decades of new information technologies and globalization. Cities, urban areas and transport are no longer safe places and have become a major cause of worry and insecurity. Now spatial structures conceived to isolate, exclude, reject, resist, camouflage, and absorb have been encouraged.
The need and desire to feel safe in today’s world has become a handy justification for the implementation of measures that threaten the foundations of democracy and social life. It is odd that cities had never before counted on so many security measures, but never before the feeling of insecurity has been so present. Agreements have been made, according to city planner Peter Marcuse , in order to promote the physical 1 “bunkerization” of space (controlled indoors, such as shopping malls or office buildings, containing within them all the facilities necessary to
work, eat or relax) up to the social “bunkerization” of all democratic activity (the limitation of movement, freedom and action, the decline in social and political participation, the growth of exclusion…). This creates new sociopolitical realities where security is exchanged for a restriction of freedoms. Power needs a fearful, insecure and vulnerable society. To keep it, people have to be submissive and in this way consolidate the power’s efficiency. However, we cannot forget that the expression of power is becoming less and less visible, and therefore its influence is difficult to recognize, to anticipate and bear up. The exercise of power is gradually more elusive and insidious, it is everywhere and nowhere, it is ubiquitous, absent, invisible… To this wicked and endless game, that creates fear and creates, at the same time, many and various systems to control it, also referred Faraway, So Close!.
Carolina Jiménez

1) Peter Marcuse, After the World Trade Center. Cuadernos de arquitectura y urbanismo, Barcelona. 2002

www.faraway-so-close.org

The Author

Carolina Jiménez, (Madrid, 1983). Journalist and cultural manager. Lives and works in Berlin. As a political journalist, she has worked in Spanish media like Cadena SER, Agencia EFE and Temas magazines. In the cultural sector she collaborated with contemporary art centers such as Matadero Madrid or La Casa Encendida in Spain. In 2012 he moved to Berlin after being selected to participate in the residency for curators of Node Center for Curatorial Studies. In Berlin she has curated the exhibitions Faraway, So Close! at Fichte-Bunker, We Can Draw It in GlogauAir and Coversation With Alice in Altes Finanzamt. He has been coordinator and manager of SAVVY Contemporary, award for best independent space Projekträume 2013  by the Senate of Berlin (Berliner Senat). She is currently in charge of the communication at Node Center for Curatorial Studies-Berlin.


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 560 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare

dream

Beschreibungen, artist book, ink and pencil on paper, 38,7 x 30 cm, 67 pages – Mario Asef © 2012

bankinggame-k

Banking Game, photography cibacrome 60 x 45 cm – Mario Asef © 2010


Lo único que cuenta es el comando evolutivo actual dentro del proceso evolutivo general

proceso evolutivo

Beschreibungen, artist book, ink and pencil on paper, 38,7 x 30 cm, 67 pages – Mario Asef © 2012


Der Mensch ist paradoxerweise dazu fähig, eine Wirklichkeit hervor zu bringen, die ihn verleugnet

paradox

Beschreibungen, artist book, ink and pencil on paper, 38,7 x 30 cm, 67 pages – Mario Asef © 2012


Je mehr Bedeutung ein Gegenstand aufweist, desto größer ist sein Wert und desto geringer ist seine Nützlichkeit

wert-nützlichkeit

Beschreibungen, artist book, ink and pencil on paper, 38,7 x 30 cm, 67 pages – Mario Asef © 2012


El Yo – voice over

el yo-k

El Yo – Mario Asef © 2014

No estoy muerto. Miro desde arriba este paisaje cinematográfico que fue creado para ser visto y no vuelo. No es un ángel ni un espíritu el que les habla. No es mi pensamiento el que están escuchando. Es una voz que grabé un año después de haber filmado estas imágenes. Aún así; el medio no es el mensaje – lo es quizás para un arte en decadencia, un arte muerto. Pero yo no estoy muerto. Con el tiempo esta aseveración también será una mentira. Pero eso ahora no importa.

Hans J. Williams ha muerto. El nieto del valeroso Charles M. Williams quien cayó luchando para liberar a este país durante las guerras cívicas. Murió pensando en que nadie lo recordaría y tuvo razón. A nadie le interesa el nieto de un simple soldado sin mayores méritos que el haber tenido un abuelo que soportó las atrocidades de la guerra para al fin morir por su patria. En una guerra civil las víctimas de ambos bandos mueren por la patria. Solo las que caen por el bando triunfante son recordadas por ello. Las patrias mueren sin hombres que mueran por ellas. Esa es la paradoja de la civilización: unos mueren para que otros vivan para contar la historia como propia. La historia los amalgama moralmente. Por eso “no existe prueba de civilización alguna que no sea al mismo tiempo una prueba de la barbarie” – Walter Benjamin, Illuminationen.


Libertad y Sujeto

La idea de libertad está directamente vinculada a la de sujeto. La función de ambas es la misma que la que se le da a la zanahoria colgada enfrente a los ojos del burro.

freedom-k

Statements, ink on paper work in progress, each 42 x 59,40 cm