De la abstracción a la concreción

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View A-A’, wall-drawing, insulating tape and nails on wall, 312 x 597 cm – Mario Asef © 2011

El dibujo mural View A-A’ realizado en el espacio de exhibición Essays and Observations en Berlín en el año 2011 resultó de la interrogación acerca del término ‘abstracción’ en las artes. En un intento de devolverle a éste un significado plausible y a la vez compatible con otras disciplinas.

En el muro divisorio de los dos espacios que conforman la galería realicé en una de sus caras un dibujo técnico en escala 1:1 del espacio arquitectónico situado detrás del muro. El material empleado para este propósito fue una cinta adhesiva de PVC gris que por su condición elástica fue fijada con clavos a la pared para impedir su contracción.

El dibujo representaba en trazos simples los muros y ventanas de la habitación trasera. El muro de esta forma cumplía la tarea de soporte del dibujo quedando superpuesto al motivo representado. Desde el punto de vista del observador, las líneas en la pared no parecían cumplir ninguna función y mas bien estar desplegadas al azar; no siendo el observador conciente de la representación a la cual estas estaban sometidas.

Semanas mas tarde se quitaron los clavos que impedían la contracción de la cinta de PVC, la cual, como es natural comenzó lentamente, a lo largo de los 7 días posteriores, a contorsionarse y a despegarse de la pared rechazando su condición de ‘medio de representación’ para concluir exponiéndose a si misma.

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View A-A’, wall-drawing, insulating tape and nails on wall, 312 x 597 cm – Mario Asef © 2011

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A ≠ A’ ≠ a ≠ a’

01

Die Repräsentation als Wirklichkeit, infographic, xerox print A4 – Mario Asef @ 2007

Abstraction is a process by which concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal (“real” or “concrete”) concepts, first principles, or other methods. “An abstraction” is the product of this process—a concept that acts as a super-categorical noun for all subordinate concepts, and connects any related concepts as a group, field, or category. [1]

Abstractions may be formed by reducing the information content of a concept or an observable phenomenon, typically to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. Abstraction (disambiguation)

La abstracción en su esencia es un verbo. Abstracción se define como el producto que resulta del ‘abstraer’ un factor específico –información, esencia, idea, etc. de un objeto o concepto determinado. El acto de extraer es la condición básica del ‘abstraer’ y el producto que llamamos ‘abstracción’ deviene en algo equivalente que posee ya un nombre propio – sustantivo, concepto, representación. Todos estos son abstracciones. Una palabra es la abstracción de un objeto, ser, acto o idea. De ahí que el acto de abstraer sea inherente a la acción de representar. Una idea es siempre abstracta al igual que su representación. Por ende la abstracción es inherente a la representación. Sin un abstraer no existe un representar aunque la abstracción no siempre devenga en representación.

El acto de abstraer es cotidiano y constituye el proceso básico para la generación de descripciones [2] del mundo. Somos tan susceptibles al uso de abstracciones que tendemos a obviar el medio de representación para focalizarnos en el motivo representado. Confundimos verbalmente la representación de un objeto con el objeto mismo. Le otorgamos a la fotografía el don de ‘congelar’ un momento para siempre. Confundimos nuestra memoria con los datos codificados por un video. Pretendemos reemplazar nuestra personalidad con nuestra identidad en las redes sociales.  En fin; nos esforzamos por sustituir la realidad [3] por su representación. [4] Nos movemos constantemente a través del uso de representaciones. Y nuestras representaciones se mueven en el área de nuestros deseos y decepciones –es decir, en el área de comprobación, realización y confirmación del mundo. Nuestras representaciones son tan reales como lo puede ser cualquier objeto o ser vivo ya que todo lo que creamos es real. El conflicto se da al confrontarnos con la idea de la existencia de una realidad absoluta separada de nuestras representaciones. Lo absoluto es una representación extremadamente simplificada de una condición. Lo absoluto existe como idea, como descripción. Y por ende no puede estar desliado de nuestras percepciones. Pero como construcción cognitiva lo absoluto no es una condición a priori del mundo extrahumano. Lo real es para nosotros la descripción de la realidad. Realidad y su descripción se confunden entre si y las discusiones sobre términos y condiciones de lo real son discusiones basadas en las diferencias descriptivas de la realidad. Pues lo real es abstracto; las texturas, el olor, el sabor, la luz, los sonidos y todas sus cualidades son abstractos. Nuestras ideas, conceptos y construcciones mentales son abstractos. Todos son descripciones de nuestras interacciones con nuestro entorno y son tan reales como nuestro entorno mismo. Existen en la interacción y nos permiten manipular y actuar con determinación.

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Die Repräsentation als Wirklichkeit, wall-painting, 11 x 67 cm – Mario Asef @ 2007


[1]  Jump up to Suzanne K. Langer (1953), Feeling and Form: a theory of art developed from Philosophy in a New Key p. 90: “Sculptural form is a powerful abstraction from actual objects and the three-dimensional space which we construe … through touch and sight.”

[2] Humberto R. Maturana, „Biologie der Realität“, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 1502, Frankfurt am Main 1998, Alemania. Página 33:  „Devenimos en observadores en el mismo instante en el cual generamos recursivamente representaciones de nuestras interacciones. Y por tanto que interactuamos al mismo tiempo con varias representaciones, establecemos relaciones entre ellas con las cuales podemos interactuar atravez de otras representaciones. Podemos repetir este proceso recursivamente pero nos quedamos siempre en el mismo nivel de interacción que es a su vez mayor que el nivel de sus representaciones.“

[3] Entiendace por ‘realidad’ al mundo objetivo, fáctico, exterior y por ‘real’ la descripción e idea que tenemos del mundo objetivo. Gottfried Gabriel, “Grundprobleme der Erkennntnistheorie von Descartes zu Wittgenstein”, UTB für Wissenschaft, Alemania 1993

[4] ver Jean Baudrillard, “Agonie des Realen” página 9, Merve Verlag Berlín, Berlín 1978


Shifting the Focus

Fiona McGovern

01 Raumprothesen – Mario Asef © 2009

The opening of Mario Asef’s exhibition Raumprothesen für frei zusammenwachsende Sozialorganismen (Spatial Prosthetics for Freely Integrated Social Organisms) at arttransponder was a big celebration. As announced on posters in the exhibition space, various Berlin-based street musicians, invited by the artist, played one after the other. The musicians hailed from northwest Africa, Turkey, and Russia, and also included a World Music DJ from Argentina. Toward the end of the night the musicians spontaneously improvised together. For viewers the gallery visit became a musical journey through world cultures whose sounds and voices became increasingly mixed over the course of the evening. At first the musical event seemed to be the focus here, however, during the remainder of the exhibition the essential conditions and multi-layered referential structures of the project became evident.

02 Raumprothesen – Mario Asef © 2009

The “Raumprothesen,” which give the exhibition its name, served as individual stages for the musicians. Made out of insulation board, the abstract geometrical shapes in the form of ledges and steps inconspicuously extended the stark architecture of the White Cube into the space. While the artist-designed objects that add to the existing architecture are certainly a focus of the exhibition, their designing points more significantly to a symbolic shifting of the categorization-defying architectonic remains—which Mario Asef groups under the neologism “Raumprothesen”—from the realm of urban public space to the (institutional) art context. In the sense of the dualism of Site (here: public space) and Nonsite (here: gallery room), once formulated by Robert Smithson, a kind of displacement also occurs here that changes our perceptions. Both of Smithson’s terms also explicitly refer to their respective phonetic equivalents of Sight and Nonsight: what consciously enters our field of vision first affects us and holds our attention. Shifting the Raumprothesen from urban space to the gallery space leads therefore not only to a revaluation of these elements, which are completely neglected—if not repressed—by city planners and architects, but generates literally and figuratively a platform for street musicians. In one’s perception of public space, illegal immigrants are—like some of the participating musicians—often degraded to objects that seemingly belong to the cityscape. Shifting the location of the musicians also signifies for them, in analogy to the Raumprothesen, a revaluation of their musical playing and their recognition as subjects of our society. If insulation board typically functions to isolate rooms acoustically, the voices of immigrants are now the focus of attention on top of them.

03 Raumprothesen – Mario Asef © 2009

This new form of public appearance didn’t seem to put all of the invited guests at ease; the fact that the Romanian musicians didn’t even show up for the opening night might be an indication of the explosiveness that goes along with this shift. The White Cube as an exclusive space closed off from the outside world becomes itself a far more open platform here; the borders between the experience of art and the urban everyday are permeable. Thus everything that transpires in the exhibition space also always points to its external reality. At the same time remnants from the opening night, such as scattered beer bottles or candy wrappers, become a part of the work as much as they are an index of a prior and potentially missed event. These can be appreciated during the concert-free period with a video from the opening celebration that plays on a small monitor in a corner of the room. Via this shift in medium a direct relationship is made to the video work Violinparis (2007)—presented at the same time in the exhibition—whose symbolism forms the point of departure and the basis of the questions being addressed here: with very little concern for technical effects and no subsequent editing, Violinparis presents the portrait of a Parisian street musician who plays her Turkish Rebec undisturbed and uninterrupted in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou while museum workers busily measure the square around her without paying her any attention. Over the years she has, as a matter of course, become a fixed element of the square, the sound of her instrument has become the constant soundtrack to local events. If, at best, she makes waiting in line for the Centre Georges Pompidou easier to deal with as a result of her playing, then in an exhibition context she is granted a presence and recognition that she hardly ever benefits from in everyday life—even if, or precisely because, a surprising number of visitors remember her from their visits to Paris.

04 Raumprothesen – Mario Asef © 2009

In a final action at the end of the exhibition, Mario Asef converts the here-mentioned shifts into a circular flow, thus turning the previously ideal repercussion of this project on external space into a material. As an art object, but mainly as prototypes of architectonic blank spaces, he places the slowly disintegrating insulation board-constructions in central locations around Berlin such as Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, and Mauerpark, reintegrating them (back) into urban space. They become a part of skateboard ramps, incorporated into graffiti, or used for seating. Now it’s only a question of time how long the impermanent material can hold its own ground.

Via this intermingling of two distinct spaces, each with their own inherent social customs and unspoken rules, Mario Asef’s exhibition project Raumprothesen für frei zusammenwachsende Sozialorganismen ultimately becomes itself a test case for urban development. A test case that demands a new way of looking at our architectonic surroundings and social interactions—both in the urban environment as well as the exhibition space.

05 Raumprothesen – Mario Asef © 2009

The Author

Fiona Mc Govern studied art history and comparative literature in Göttingn and Berlin. Since Spring 2009 she is a research associate at the collaborative research centre Aesthetic Experience and the Dissolution of Artistic Limits, Freie Universität Berlin and works on the adaption of curatorial approaches by artists since the late 1960’s.