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.
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
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
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 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.