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

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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

El Yo – voice over

el yo-k

El Yo – Mario Asef © 2014

No estoy muerto. Miro desde arriba este paisaje cinematográfico que fué 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”.1

1– Walter Benjamin, Illuminationen.

CROSSFADE – History as told

Introduction

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas was an event that would irrevocably change the course of history of mankind. By the time the first explorers had landed, an invasion of the continent had already become inevitable. For sixteenth century Europeans, South America became a screen onto which they could project their fantasies of discovering a new Eden. Many of them lost their lives in pursuit of this illusion, while many Native Americans lost theirs in a struggle to defend their way of life. One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare.

In the early twentieth century, the accidental arrival of a species of ant in Europe drastically modified the coastal environment of the European Mediterranean. Shiploads of Argentinean grain, sugar and wood exported to Europe brought with them the species Linepithema Humile, also known as the Argentine ant. This ant is notorious not only for its exceptional reproductive capacity, but also as an invader that kills and enslaves other native species. From Genoa to the Atlantic coast of Portugal, a stretch of nearly 5,600 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast, there exists a so-called “super-colony” of the Argentine ant.

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Crossfade, c-print A4 – Mario Asef © 2012

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The Individuals

Since the middle ages Europeans apparently developed a certain “shock and awe” war strategy: an astonishing brutal attack in order to break down the fight spirit of the opponent. The “Hun Speech” of Wilhelm II for example, addressed to the German troops led to the violent suppression of the Boxer rebellion in China in 1900 with the purpose of clearing the way for the German culture once and for all: “No quarter will be given! No prisoners will be taken!“

The Argentine ants are very aggressive and due to their quantity take other ant species without difficulty, even ants that are much larger. Argentine ants are unremorseful and brutally attack their adversaries until the enemy colony is destroyed. Even a nest of killer bees would probably not be able to counter against an invasion of Argentine ants. They also attack bird nests, driving off the mother bird and killing the young.

Gaucho-k

Crossfade, c-print-collage A4 – Mario Asef © 2012

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Changing the Social Organisation

In the early phase of the invasion of South America the Europeans were friendly and cooperative to each other. But as soon as the continent was under control, the different European nationalities started to fight each other. Since the nineteenth century national associations of immigrants in Argentina strained to soften the process of adjustment. Different European communities such as the Basques, Catalans, Italians and French united in mutual aid societies and groups. The new ideas that came with the migrants from Europe led to the rise of the labour movement and allowed for the emergence of anarchism, socialism and syndicalism.

While Argentine ants from rival nests normally fight each other to death in their original habitat, Argentine ants from the super colony in Europe have the ability to recognize each other and to cooperate even if they come from nests at opposite ends of the colony’s range.

The Linepithema Humile is a polygynous and polydomous species which means that one colony can have more than one queen and several habitats. And so, when workers from different colonies meet they do not treat each other as rivals which provides the Argentine ants an evolutionary advantage over other ant species.

comando-k

Crossfade, drawing A4 – Mario Asef © 2012

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The Social Stomach

(Mate)

This drink is made from infused dried leaves of yerba mate (holly Ilex paraguariensis). The term “mate” originally referred to the drinking bowl (from the Quechuan term mati, bottle gourd), but is today used for the drink itself. Drinking mate is traditionally a social event around La Plata River. It is served with a metal straw (bombilla). When mate is drunk in a group, the same bombilla is travelling from mouth to mouth. Mate is offered to every visitor, traveller or friend as a welcoming gesture. Drinking mate is a communicative practice which offers an exchange of information among the participants.

(Crop)

An Argentine ant has more than one stomach. One stomach is for itself, while the other is the crop that is used to feed others. With their mouths pressed together the ants feed each other. The food comes out of one ant‘s crop and into the other ant‘s mouth. Pheromones come with the food and are exchanged as well. They keep information on needs, excitement or danger. Pheromones can also create a bond or friendship between colony members, helping them to work together.

mate-k

Crossfade, drawing A4 – Mario Asef © 2012

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Impact on the Environment

The death of millions of indigenous people during the years of the colonization of South America and further periods of European invasion was not caused alone by physical violence. The massive death rate, which decreased the indigenous population by 90 percent, was also due to diseases like influenza and chicken pox, which came with the invaders. In addition to this, slavery was another important aspect of the high native death rate, where indigenous people died because of bad nutrition and hard labour.

The Argentine ants have made a severe impact on Europe’s ecosystems. They have conquered and monopolized the land of South European ant species because of their social rules: The Argentine ants drive out or kill the native ants of a newly invaded territory and steal seeds from their beds. As noted by Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland: “Cooperation allows the colonies to develop a much higher density than that which would normally occur, eliminating some 90 percent of other types of ants that live near them”.

windpocken-k

Crossfade, c-print-collage A4 – Mario Asef © 2012

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Conclusion

Human migration is often caused by extreme conditions. Migration is used as a strategy to survive or to obtain a better quality of life. This is the reason why people from areas with lower resources and higher competition emigrate to areas with higher level of resources. The majority of immigrants in Argentina came from Europe, mostly from Spain and Italy but with a substantial influx of British and Germans. Also notable are Jewish immigrants escaping persecution. The total population of Argentina rose from 4 million in 1895 to 7.9 million in 1914, and to 15.8 million in 1947.

The extreme domination of certain species within an ecosystem shows clear evidence of a system out of balance. The Argentine ant marked the ecosystem of the European Mediterranean coast to such a degree that the notion of that Area without Argentine ants influence will be inconceivable in the future. It is men who probably created the ant mega-colony by transporting the insects around the world and by continually introducing ants from three continents to each other, ensuring that the mega-colony continues to grow.

zufall-k

Crossfade, drawing A4 – Mario Asef © 2012

History is Now – the third text

Dirck Möllmann

Mario Asef’s camera simply observes—it does not monitor (by recording everything in a blanket manner), it does not stare (by focusing unscrupulously), it does not gather (by picking up everything that passes before its lens), but it is just there, it observes what is happening, very directly, in the margins of goings-on and locations. It seems completely natural when a plastic bag catches its attention, following it as the wind buffets it about on a square in Buenos Aires (Edad de hielo / Ice Age, 2011). Or when it beholds a preacher for world peace at an intersection in London (Pass Over, 2003-5). Or it sits as a silent guest behind the visitor’s window at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, registering the activities on the dreary floor in front of it and what is happening on the other side of the door outside (Börsianer / The Operators, 2009): the operators are working in the cut-throat field of global speculative trading as if in a semi-public cage, whereas those stranded on the streets are left to face its consequences with their own bodies. Images of artificial nature mediate between the agonal spheres.

The attentive gaze of Mario Asef’s camera quietly watches the everyday details of the world, thereby making it possible to draw conclusions about farther reaching injustices. Because of this his videos are not image apparatuses that produce big dramatic impressions, seduce through beauty, or seek to overwhelm the intellect. For Asef, video is first and foremost a simple technological possibility for splicing together observations of daily life, recording visual sketches, and later for tying these together artistically into complex layers of meaning. Inherent to the pensive observing of goings-on in public space is a claim to the public sphere. His videos not only address spaces and instances of authority or conquest, such as stock exchanges, revolutions, war, post-colonialism, or global trade, but they also undermine their appeal to power by showing the somewhat peripheral moments of everyday life and portraying the emptiness with signs of thoughtfulness and helplessness, with empathy, but also with humor and a sensibility for the small pleasures on the margins. In a certain sense, Asef’s particular narratives of daily experience perforate the ideal texture of a world conceived as a coherent actuality. Idea and reality are related together in a thought experiment that Asef, elsewhere, calls History Is Now.1 According to this motto, history would not be viewed as a resolved occurrence of the past, but seen as a process characterized by various temporal experiences that takes place in the here and now, without knowing what is next. It is the conception of a history that is continually transformed by stories. With Asef the historical occurrence becomes an open situation that evokes a “third text” between the signs.

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Edad de Hielo, video still – Mario Asef © 2011

“Bolsa de comercio” means stock exchange in Spanish, but an ordinary plastic bag is also called a “bolsa.” With this commerce-bag double meaning in mind, Asef follows the movements of a plastic bag in a pedestrian zone in Buenos Aires in his video Edad de Hielo. Like a tumbleweed in the Wild West, the bag careens around the square. During the eight-minute long video the object comes to life for the viewer, becomes a lung that inhales and exhales, is stepped on, pauses, and with the next burst of wind becomes active again—what existential happenstance! What’s more, a voice-over in Spanish talks about nature as the only corrective factor in man’s striving for objectivity and ends with the rhetorical question: What remains after all the acquired knowledge and various prognostications other than concrete experience? Asef observes what’s happening with the camera in order to create a situation out of them in which the viewer is able to move or think more or less freely. Therefore it is necessary to leave the stories open-ended, to not tell them all the way, to not dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, or provide them with an ending. Asef’s videos are based on detailed observations on a sculptural level. They do not provide an overview. They present modest materials in the streets of Buenos Aires or in post-revolutionary Bucharest (Revolution after Revolution, 2005), they portray desperate moments on the alleys of Frankfurt, or dogmatic monologues from jail. The scenes of underdogs, be it people or things, are spliced together with centers of power such as the stock exchange or the lunar conquest. In Man’s on Moon (2006), for example, one sees images of the moon landing, astronauts in spacesuits and their vehicles, while Charles Manson raps in staccato against society in his typical nagging voice. Both spheres, the extraterrestrial and the outcast, are in need of a survival capsule and thus Manson sees eye to eye with the man on the moon: “I am a mechanical man.” It is about the big questions, about the spirit that animates.

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Bothered by the Border, video still – Mario Asef © 2007

Bothered by the Border (2006-8) creates an entirely difference situation. The camera shows a man singing karaoke music live on a square in the middle of people. Mario Asef had been invited to South Korea. There he visits in a park a karaoke meeting point for war veteran retirees and spontaneously sings a song. The camera is located in the crowd and shows him at times as the singer and at times the dancers beside him. Asef heightens his exotic foreigner status by singing in overtone in a foreign language. He imitates a Tuvan song from Mongolia newly set to music by the folk rock band Yat-Kha. No one understands what Asef is singing and no one is bothered by this, on the contrary, everyone is quite amused. Even a few women join in among the large number of older men. Asef later recounts that they are prostitutes who visit the meeting place regularly and are paired with the elderly gentlemen by younger men behind the scenes. Nearly all the seniors were soldiers in the Korean War, which sealed the split between North and South Korea in 1953. It is their meeting point in Seoul and Asef seeks out this particular situation. After the fact, he dedicates the lyrics of his song Bothered by the Border on the split through Korean society to this generation of fighters. The subtitles, added later, construct for us viewers a narrative space in which anecdotes are combined with tragic history in a light-handed manner.

Asef is not so interested in sociological milieu-studies or the psychological intimacy of individuals, which are often tritely put forward especially in art these days. Instead, in his videos he compiles meta-stories on the formation of narratives and history itself. Sabeth Buchmann, in conversation with the artist, coined the designation “social Minimalism”2 for his three-dimensional work, insofar as traits of historical Minimalism of the 1960s to the 90s (so-called object-based art, concept art, institutional critique, contextual art) are recognizable but are underpinned with socio-cultural meaning. During the course of this discussion it becomes clear that classifications or genre-specific categorizations are in fact possible, but for Asef (as perhaps for every artist) not really applicable. This is because he himself is always questioning art-critical categorizations as well as conventional histories, forsaking market-oriented genres, and breaking apart clichés.

Mario Asef’s video works demonstrate that history and stories belong together. In them, an artistic method is developed that makes use of oppositions to create new images in the viewer, a “third text” of open-ended interpretation, a sentiment or a mood, rather than explaining in alternation. In talking about the science of history Hayden White said: “Also Clio composes poetry,”3meaning that in representing facts analytically science also employs poetry, but its methodology does not disclose this, thus concealing its literary strategies in explaining events. Mario Asef uses, wittingly or unknowingly, the ideology critical insight of “Metahistory” (Hayden White) by uniting history with contemporary perspectives. He elevates his right to the public sphere not as a bold demand, but by realizing it with artistic methods, thereby creating visual poetry.

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Börsianer / The Operators, video still – Mario Asef © 2009



1 Mario Asef, History Is Now, videos: Pass Over, London – 2003/2005Revolution after Revolution, Bucharest – 2005 – Man’s on Moon, 2006  – Bothered by the Border, Seoul – 2006/2008 – Börsianer/ The Operators, Frankfurt am Main –  2009 – One-Euro-Land, Bremen – 2010Surf, 2010 – Edad de hielo, Buenos Aires – 2011

2 Sabeth Buchmann and Mario Asef, “Dialog,” in Empirien, eds. Mario Asef and BrotfabrikGalerie (Berlin, 2009).

3 Hayden White,  Metahistory. The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, 1973).

The Author

Dirck Möllmann *1963 in Wetzlar, since June 2012 in Graz,

curator of the Institut für Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Steiermark, Universalmuseum Joanneum.

Curator of the Hamburger Kunsthalle 1996-2009; co-founder of VIDEO Club 99, Hamburger Kunsthalle 1999-2009; Stile der Stadt, Plattform für Kunst im öffentlichen Raum, Hamburg 2006-2012; collaboration with the Galerie für Landschaftskunst, Hamburg.

Exhibitions (selected): “SNAFU. Medien, Mythen Mind Control”, Hamburger Kunsthalle 2007, “MAN SON 1969. Vom Schrecken der Situation”, Hamburger Kunsthalle 2009, “Spring” Kunstfrühling, Gleishalle Bremen 2009; sculpture project “raumsichten” for the binationalen offenen Museum “kunstwegen” Grafschaft Bentheim (DE) and the Provinz Overijssel (NL), 2009-2012.