ArteBa, one of most advertised and recognized events of the local artistic scene, took place some weeks ago. The aim of said event, which gathers a wide variety of public, is to show the latest creative tendencies, offering an opportunity to test the consistence and originality of many of the current proposals, and to think about the place art occupies today. Therefore, I decided to go on an excursion to La Rural in order to see by myself what all this was about.
When entering the fair, one of the first things that calls my attention is the number of sponsors placed in different stands. Many business organizations and newspapers (including Clarin and La Nación) had their stand set up there. In this way, the first question of the evening is posed: which role these big conglomerations play on the coverage of the event on one side, an on the other on its implications regarding the artistic and conceptual integrity of the participants (since these organizations are the ones which award prizes to the people and provide grants, and even give materials for the production of works). It is difficult to imagine that the display of brands and ads is innocuous, especially when one enters “the Chandon neighborhood” where the supposed young talents are introduced, or the chosen pieces to compete for the “Petrobras prize” are seen. Furthermore, it will be in vain expecting to find any dissident voice, any review which does not refer only to the success of the call or to the exhibition as a magnitude cultural phenomenon. Does anybody think this situation is quite suspicious?
In a second critic line one may talk about the production itself, or perhaps what is more interesting about the predispositions that inspired it. And in this moment, it is worth making a more contextual analysis which links that permanent flirtation with decaying and dark figures, many times bordering on death, and the almost terminal state of current art. Mannequins with bizarre allergic reactions, fashion skulls, innocent teddy bears with broken bones, loser characters, and other miserable beings circulate through the works of this edition. The cult tendency towards what is depressive is particularly stressed in the creations of the before mentioned young neighborhood, for instance in the display of Bully’s Hearts, where works of “The campaign of the thousand drawings of Bullys’” are shown and whose slogan is “draw until die”. In this corner one may possibly find many drawings made with felt-tip pens, a wink connected with precariousness and trashiness, in which tribute is paid to many popular milestones of the 80’s and 90’s (Alf, Meteoro, references of Wes Anderson’s and Marty McFly’s movies) and more modern ones (Obama, Susan Boyle), remaking an antique iconography with a patina of pretended irrelevance that doesn’t convince or inspires anything. One of the many drawings proclaims from the wall “Depression is a superior state of the mind”, and for these youngsters who look like elder people rather than youths, this is probably the predominant mood. (See arteBa photo gallery)
Finally, I would like to comment what was supposed to be the cream and gold of the exhibition, that is to say the works chosen by a special committee in order to compete for the greater prize. Among them one could find, the “Professionals broadcasters read The Capital of Karl Marx” by the artists (?) Bruno Dubner and Rodrigo Moreno, whose concept was summarized as follows: “During the 56 hours that arteBa lasts, three professional presenters will take turns to read the 3366 pages of “The Capital”. Afterwards, a stand called “You are here” offers four different scenes so as to the visitor interacts according the case: pictures of wild landscapes to be observed, a room full of feathers to play with, and finally a fictitious reception stand, including the secretaries. According to its author Juliana Iriart, “the mystery of what happens in the stand is an axis of the proposal”… These two examples illustrate how people usually succumb to what is gimmicky and unsubstantial. To make the things worse, everything appears to be covered by great demagogy and snobbism, and to spot any sign of disapproval or of minimum questioning among the visitors turns to be utopian. If we were watching a mute movie, the subtitles of the scene would say something like “I don’t know what this is about, but I congratulate you!”, meanwhile the heads would nod and the main characters would exaggeratedly shake their hands. Sometimes, it seems that to belong to this clan which strolls through corridors smiling and affirming is one of the main attractions of this kind of initiatives, where the sentiment of ownership and communion is even more important than what is being concretely shown.
In a moment of proposal-making mediocrity in which the arising of innovative ideas is quite scarce, when recycling is installed over the own creation, and even when many of the new technological tools conspire generating more noise, one has the feeling that this crammed disconcert is crystallized in events such as arteBa. A place that ends up turning into a bastion for all those who resigned with art’s incapacity to positively affect our culture, content themselves with the idea of participating in a mimic of incidence, and obviously in toasting.