Hi Rodrigo. I am enjoying your pills. Last week I was in Basel at the Art Fair. I had to think of you often. The atmosphere was one of grand slam grandeur with a strange undercurrent of pending collapse. The sensation, distraction and pulse of unprecedented amounts of money being injected into the hope of making more, filled me with doubt. Hopeless? No not entirely, like it or not, the whole thing, in all of its extremity, provoked further questions and consciousness.
I wandered around looking at things, trying to figure out where the long hours I spend working in my studio are connected to this thing called the Art Fair. The 14 Rooms, a new event dedicated to performance, which cost an extra 18 swiss francs to see, were rather dull, other than perhaps, the effort of the young man running the tongue in cheek art swop shop entertainment room and the architectural staging done by Herzog& Demeuron, that had something of a stop over motel for a quick blow job on the run. But then for this I could just as well watch a reality show on TV, or pullover at the Sleep Easy off I-65 and experience at least something that is not more or less than it assumes to be!
Marina Abramovic presented a woman dangling upright against the wall of an otherwise empty room, with only her crutch perched onto a small hard protruding phallus shaped saddle and tiny supports for her heels and arms to prevent her from falling.
It seemed to me to be a deeply sad thing, certainly so when one thinks of people who exactly at the same time, are being blown to pieces, not so far away in Syria and Irag- and here at the fair, one was paying 18 francs to see someone strung to the wall so uncomfortably so – to apparently cleanse themselves through pain. I did not stay long and left feeling restless, unfulfilled and pissed off. In another room titled ‘veteran’, a man (african origin) dressed as a soldier stood facing the corner off an empty room. I noticed he was fiddling with his cellphone in a hidden way; it seemed he was checking the time. He looked bored and miserable. Probably having confirmed his break time, he left the room hurriedly whilst pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. No-one was really looking at his ‘performance’ and I am not sure what there was to see, if anything. The empty room was heavy with dead weight. I thought if I was a veteran and would see that room, I might go amok and want to shoot someone. Was that what the artist wanted from me? If it was then I would say it was cheap. I mean did he seriously begin to enter the world of a veteran who returns home having to digest the reality of the people he has killed or witnessed being killed in the call of duty?
It had cost 100 francs to come up from Lugano, 50 +18 francs entry to the fair and on top of that a hotel room for 2 nights: I told myself to make the trip to see what is going on. The return on the expenses seemed questionable.
But then again, were they? Rodrigo we have talked here and there about doubt. Doubt has become a sort of hidden condition, something one is not supposed to own up to. But the confusion and doubt incurred by the lack of substance in so much of what was shown at the fair can stir the will, existentially so. Force one to sink or swim. Force one to think. This year I met an increasing number of people apparently also becoming doubtful: people asking the same fundamental questions you ask. Questions about the validity of prices, validity of quality, validity of artists and gallerists. I met buyers who openly expressed the yearning to get beyond sensationalism. Doubt at best can fuel change.
I returned to my studio motivated, with a deep hunger to close the door and work; to reexamine yet again, to look at what I don’t know, to doubt deeper in an attempt to discover what it is that gives way to universal substance that can be shared by others.
Last but not least, the sensationalism was not the only story present in Basel. At the Beyeler Museum, the Gerhard Richter exhibition was a sort of rescue: it had the audience vibrating. People were looking intently at the works, feeding on them. They were talking and exchanging thoughts and experience; there was excitement, energy and a palpable sense of discovery that occurs when art deeply affects human experience. The last time I recalled such a buzz was at a Turner retrospective in Zurich where young and old were eating the works like they were freshly baked that morning. Looking at the Richter paintings and the fervor with which people were experiencing them, I thought it does not matter who did them; it matters that they have been done. Perhaps it is here where art and fashion divide. Fashion is about identity, works of art that reach this sort of resonance, no longer need the artist, gallerist or art fair to do so: they go beyond of their own accord.
So yes, your pills help to strengthen the bones Rodrigo!
Hope you are well.
When are you coming to Lugano?