Museo Reina Sofía presents the project Do you want a master? You will have it! by Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, within the Fissures Programme, a space open to creation by artists which the Museum permanently bets for. “The real buffets you continually, and art is a way to manage and negotiate the anguish it causes you,” affirms Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa. The title of his exhibition refers back to the words of the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan in his reflections on the “discourse of the master”. Through two pictorial series (charcoal drawing and watercolor), shown in Espacio Uno (Space One), and two animations screened in the Sala de Protocolo (Protocol Room), Agirregoikoa invites us into the scenario where “the real” emerges as that which human discourse tends to conceal or render symbolic: violence, sex, the death instinct.
Do You Want a Master? You Will Have It! displays images whose hermeticism, like the title’s, contrasts with their immediacy. They are family scenes held up to the viewer’s gaze, but at the same time they refer to that which tends not to be expressed in words: violence, degradation, obscenity, terror – everything, that is, which Lacan grouped around the concept of “the real”, and which is left in the gutter of each discourse. It is what cannot be symbolized or reduced to a sign owing to the potency with which it emerges from the human psyche, yet it is there, and its presence is a strong one. After inviting us to enter “a world of pain” in the first room, the artist sets up a dialogue between two pictorial friezes. In the upper one, he likens the behavior of a human being to that of a dog, the animal most closely linked in the collective unconscious to the idea of a “master”. Superimposed on the nightmare of the wild dog with a capacity to kill is the process of training, while similarly imposed upon the human being is its master: the State and culture in all its forms. The crepuscular image of three public personalities makes up the lower frieze. The death instinct, a taboo absent from every verbal discourse, emerges here in the body language of the old man. The title of this second frieze, Mutar (‘Mutate’), generates eloquent connections with Lacan’s discourse. Characters who have been associated with forms of political, aristocratic or sexual power here mutate towards their conversion into human ruins. The master, who once established the laws to be obeyed and exercised dominance as an example of excessive and authoritarian vitality, has been tamed by means of watercolor. However, this sweetening of the images is not intended to erase the dreadful memento mori they exude. On the contrary, it underscores it.
The two series are exhibited on the top and bottom strips of the wall, and so on the periphery of the space where the viewer is accustomed to seeing art works. The area of the main discourse, the center, is empty. It is a white wall, and the attention has to be directed away from it. As Lacan put it, the real is displaced, but it is there. Completing the show are two projections in the Sala de Protocolo (Protocol Room). They engage in a dialogue with the previous room based on a critique of culture as a way of taming the socially perturbing. The phenomenon of skaters, born as a creative proposal for reformulating the inert elements of the city, is today integrated in the system, as can be seen from the logos on their once speechless boards, which used to bear solely the illegible sign of the scratches caused by use. In the meantime, the generation which rebels, swollen with freedom, destroys old icons but generates new masters. “Culture is one of the most pathetic things that exist,” says Agirregoikoa. “Our destiny will largely depend on our geopolitical location, and on the wealth and antiquity of the one which has fallen to us by luck. For instance, when Rauschenberg erases De Kooning, that’s a work of art, and when the Taliban wipe the Buddhas off the map, they’re savages […]. Culture should not be confused with education, although the boundary is usually impossible to define. […] It’s re-education that gives us the keys to escape from the traps that they lay for us, and which we fall into.”
Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa (San Sebastián, 1963) studied Fine Arts at Universidad del País Vasco and L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris, as well as Philosophy at Université Paris VIII. He currently lives and works in the French capital. He has exposed individually in several institutions, including MUHKA in Antwerp, Artium in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Sala Rekalde in Bilbao and La Casa Encendida in Madrid. Among the collective exhibitions in which he has participated are La Chanson at CAAC (Seville); La osadía del bufón at Centro Cultural Torrente Ballester (El Ferrol); Monkee see, monkee do at Centro Cultural Montehermoso (Vitoria-Gasteiz); Antes que todo at CA2M (Móstoles, Madrid); Panorama de Arte Brasileño at MAM (São Paulo) and the Lyon Bienniale (France). Museum Guggenheim and ARTIUM Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, in Bilbao and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela have Agirregoikoa’s works included in their collections. Sharp irony and caustic, black humour are recurrent in Agirregoikoa’s work. The artist himself points out that his pieces correspond with thoughts, “flashes”, that emerge unexpectedly and become drawings, banners or videos. According to him, life is that way and he has merely shown his perception over things, to reply, in a very personal way, to the amount of mixed, absurd, contradictory information the media provide us. In some occasion, Agirregoikoa has declared that he doesn’t intend to give ethic lessons or moralise on our society. “There is no resentment either”, he has specified, finally revealing that humour, indeed, flourishes in his works. “It is inevitable. I laugh about it because it’s really sad. It is all so ridiculous!” “Fisuras” Programme Museo Reina Sofía enhances notably the bet for emerging art through this programme, with the aim of giving as many chances as possible to guest creators, who develop a specific project for each occasion. With no fixed exhibition space or definite duration, Fisuras (“Fissures”) in some way breaks the most traditional exhibition form, which the visitor is used to find. The main intention doesn’t only focus in answering to the intellectual and formal preoccupations of the artists, but also to ensure these constitute as a reflection on the Museum and its functions. Recently, Paloma Polo has exhibited in Fisuras. After Agirregoikoa, Azucena Vieites will. In September 2013, projects by Alejandra Riera, Flo 6x8, Maria Loboda, Gabriel Acevedo and Manuel Saiz will see the light.
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