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Recycling from the field of art: experiences to the limit

Recycling from the field of art: experiences to the limit

By Carmen Hernández

Today the term “recycling” represents a series of meanings that in the field of art are not devoid of social connotations related to caring for the environment and questioning the consumer society, although they are also aimed at destabilizing categorizations of the system itself of art, such as the modern notions of artist or author and of works of art that have privileged positions of power within the art system by conceiving artistic production as a special, spiritual, original, autonomous and transcendent power.


Transforming garbage into “art” is an objective that different activist groups and defenders of the environment are currently proposing. Although the practice of recycling is very old, the emergence of the term is quite recent and is associated with advances in ecological studies. Recycling is commonly understood as the reuse of objects and materials found in the immediate environment. The semantic load of the word has been expanded if one takes into account that in the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, recycling is defined as: "Repeatedly submitting a subject to the same cycle, to expand or increase its effects."

Today the term “recycling” represents a series of meanings that in the field of art are not devoid of social connotations related to caring for the environment and questioning the consumer society, although they are also aimed at destabilizing categorizations of the system itself of art, such as the modern notions of artist or author and of works of art that have privileged positions of power within the art system by conceiving artistic production as a special, spiritual, original, autonomous and transcendent power.

The practice of recycling in art owes much to the work of the artists associated with the so-called "new realism", who used all kinds of waste materials to make artistic pieces. Due to their visual impact, the cubic structures made by the Frenchman César (César Baldaccini) were especially striking, who resorted to compression of car bodies that were considered “scrap”. But this type of proposal was later described as “ready-made” due to the use of industrial objects, in the tradition established by Marcel Duchamp. Accumulation also began to be a common strategy since the mid-1960s, as a critique of the values ​​promoted by the consumer society and capitalist accumulation that affected the role of the subject as a cognitive entity. It is worth remembering that Jean Baudrillard warned about the displacement that was experienced from the authority of the subject towards the field of representations: “The critical function of the subject was succeeded by the ironic function of the object, objective and no longer subjective irony. From the moment they are manufactured products, artifacts, signs, merchandise, things exercise, by their very existence, an artificial and ironic function ”[1]. The gaze as a historical construction has made the world appear a field of power that has come to dominate the desire of the subjects and therefore: “The power of the object makes its way through all the simulation and simulation games, through the same artifice that we have imposed on it ”[2].


In summary, the practice of recycling in the field of art has a whole critical tradition towards the interior of the artistic system and towards the consumer society with its value implications in the world of objects, although the term has recently begun to be used in this ambit. In recent years, different artistic experiences have been observed that have used the recycling strategy. In Venezuela some group exhibitions have been presented, organized by state and private organizations, whose theme has been recycling. But many of these experiences do not go beyond stimulating a shift in optics without altering the models of production, circulation and valuation.

In Argentina, slightly more complex experiences have been stimulated, such as the Eloísa Cartonera publishing house, which was presented at the São Paulo Biennial in 2007 and whose objective is to stimulate the production of books in a more artisanal way to make known many authors who do not they have access to the editorial field. Also within this democratic perspective of knowledge and exchanges is the work carried out by the Reciclarte collective, made up of a group of artists who use recycling as a political activity.

This group, active since 2004, defines itself as:

“A space for meeting and creative expression, of elaboration and collective participation, realizing the re-construction of the social fabric, we generate solidarity actions through commitment and involvement for a world without violence and injustices, where diversity is a factor of unity and where the environment is considered the common good for the development of the life of all beings. We do it through «art with garbage» because art can be made by everyone and with everything, because "nothing is created, nothing is lost, it is only transformed ..." [3].

In 2008, two of its members, David Acevedo and Alberto Vásquez, set out to carry out the intervention of a space that contained about 30 tons of rubble, accumulated over a period of 20 years in a 700-square-meter premises of the underground of the Galerías Santa Fe, in the center of Buenos Aires, and that today they have called Espacio Ave Fénix. This challenge went beyond the possibility of having a place for the exhibition or dissemination of "works of art", since it represented the possibility of collectively transforming the existing materiality and turning the space into a place of artistic coexistence. They invited a group of seventy-four artists who worked for nine months on the transformation of the rubble from different proposals that were discussed in a group way, maintaining the premise of recycling: you could incorporate material into the space, but remove, any.

Espacio Ave Fénix opened its doors to the public on October 4, 2008 and since then it has become a place for multiple exchanges. The floor, walls and ceiling were intervened with permanent works, although some areas were left for temporary exhibitions. It is difficult to determine the limits between the interventions because the gaze does not rest. Despite the stylistic differences, the proposals are interrelated by the force of material hybridity. In some cases, knowledge of figurative traditions is encouraged, such as Diana Carnelli's narrative work on pre-Hispanic iconography, but perceptual experiences are also encouraged, such as the mirrors used by Joaquín Amat. In general, Espacio Ave Fénix is ​​an artistic experiment in process that should be evaluated over time from its condition of dialogue rather than as an artistic project. Although finally the interventions of the spaces have been identified with the respective authorship, without eroding the value system of the art field (since the pieces are still considered "artistic" and circulate as "merchandise"), this collective experience draws attention to the possibility of rescuing public spaces for social enjoyment. Recycling as "art" or production of meaning would have much more relevance if it is used as a strategy capable of overcoming the materiality of objects in order to incorporate them into everyday life, without forcing them to reproduce the fetishization experienced by the notion of "work of art ”.

Carmen Hernandez She is President of PAC - Contemporary Art Platform - Article of the Art Magazine of the Ministry of Popular Power for Culture of Venezuela

Notes

[1] Jean Baudrillard. 2007. The plot of art. Aesthetic illusion and disillusionment. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu Editores, p. 31.

[2] Ibid, p. 33.

[3] Cf. http://www.reciclarteargentina.com.ar/


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