Windows must attend to a constant identity crisis. They go unnoticed, only to rouse attention when they are dirty or somehow obstructing the view. In a museum or exhibition space, where they compete with artworks for attention, even soiled they may go unseen.
Often one to consider art-making from an unexpected perspective, particularly in his use of everyday materials, Catalan artist Ignasi Aballí proposes with Un paisaje posible (A Possible Landscape, 2017) an altruistic gesture in defense of windows. Down with indifference!
First presented in 2006, Un paisaje posible has this year been recreated in the form of site-specific installation for Despacio’s panoramic windows, activating not only the panes of glass but the sprawling view of San José they look on to. The work draws attention to the glassness of the glass, to its transparency, and to its relegated position as an often invisible middle ground—but also to the efforts we make to establish taxonomies in order to classify and organize the visible world. The result is an instant activation of both surface and background, with the descriptors applied on the interior suggesting infinite possibilities outside. The artwork is by design incomplete and contingent, entirely modifiable by the view, the weather conditions, and the position of the viewer—a small shift to the left opens up a host of new readings to the imaginative mind.
With this work Aballí gives away his love for words (and his appreciation for specific ones such as “transparent” or “screen”) and his frustration with the medium of painting. In his search for different art materials, Aballí has throughout his career utilized more contingent media: the daily newspaper, dust, sunshine, glass. With Un paisaje posible, the artist uses existing windows to create a map without a fixed terrain, an indexical cartography with movable referents.
The work also puts forth an effort of classification, tapping into visual conventions from science and textbooks to chart the physical and the visible and invisible real, but also the non-real, the possible. Aballí’s labels suggest ever-changing conditions: Does that sign point to a building? Where is the condensation? Can you spot the pollen? There’s no raindrop today, but will there be tomorrow? Is all the dust concentrated there? What about the combat plane? It’s not there but it could be.
By including the labels in several languages, Aballí invokes another custom of didactic displays but conveys his awareness of artworks’ (and the art-viewing public’s) peripateticism. While necessarily non-exhaustive in its selection of languages, it reflects generosity while proposing a multilingual poetry: how may an English or Spanish speaker interpret “Stickstoff,” the German word for nitrogen? By extension: how are we different; how are we the same?
In subverting the usual relationship between outside and inside and proposing a static piece that is nonetheless open-ended and playful, Un paisaje posible invites new ways to consider the view from Despacio’s top floor. By extension, it suggests to us viewers different ways to experience our own windows and those views that have become unremarkable. We may think of creative ways to name the things we see, but also those we may not. What labels or markers might we use to activate our spaces, remedy our own ennui?
Thoughts by Paula Kupfer
This work was commissioned as part of Despacio’s site-specific installation program and will be on display throughout 2017. It follows an installation by the Austrian artist Maria Anwander, presented in 2016.
Ignasi Aballí (Barcelona, 1958) received his Fine Arts degree from the University of Barcelona in 1981. His work has been exhibited in the Drawing Center (New York), Printemps de Septembre (Toulouse) and at the Venice Biennale in 2007. It has also been shown in museums such as the Serralves Museum (Oporto), the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham) and the ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany). Last year he opened his extensive solo show at Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.
With the courtesy Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico.