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JULIA SPÍNOLA, ALEX REYNOLDS
Curated by Sofie Van Loo
STIFF HIP GAIT, the exhibition curated by Sofie Van Loo offers a space of dialogue between the work by Julia Spínola and Alex Reynolds. The exhibition dives into the process of measuring oneself with the space made by and in between the self and the surroundings. Julia Spínola offers a possibility of reframing a performative action into a layered sculpture, while formulating repetition and evolution in sizes, shapes, directions and quantities of movements in relation to actual objects. The result is an evocative connection between the artist’s experience and the viewer imagination of it, that moves onto self and collective reflection. By means of objects which can or can not represent stand-still of a cinematic process, the installation of One left-handed and one right-handed, and one-left handed and one-right handed (2014) let the viewer taste the small variations presented and be accompanied through an imaginary walk. Alex Reynolds’ video De Día (2014) gives a “reverse” perspective into another kind of walking experience. The artist proposes a combination of archival low-fi videos, which has simultaneously an intimate and thriller-like flavour, and recall, through a wise use of the cuts and the cadenced superimposed text, questions around the fleeting liminal condition and possible manipulation of the self. Alex Reynolds’s work is about the subtle, powerful, not easily recognizable inducing influences of the other into the self, and about the paths they create.
STIFF HIP GAIT, l'exposition curatée par Sofie Van Loo se présente comme un espace de dialogue entre les travaux de Julia Spínola et d'Alex Reynolds. L'exposition explore le processus de mesure de l'individu avec l'espace créé et existant entre le soi et ses environs. Julia Spínola intègre dans son installation sculpturale une action performative, imprimant sa répétition, sa progression et une quantité de mouvements dans les différentes échelles, formes et emplacements que prennent les objets présents. Le résultat est l'élaboration d'une connexion éloquente entre l'expérience vécue par l'artiste et l'imagination du 'regardeur' sur celle-ci, qui renvoit du soi à sa réflexion collective. Au moyen d'objets qui peuvent convoquer les images fixes successives de la cinématographie, l'installation de One left-handed and one right-handed, and one-left handed and one-right handed (2014) laisse le spectateur goûter à l'évolution changeante d'une marche imaginaire. La vidéo De Día (2014) d'Alex Reynolds nous propose l'expérience d'un marche d'un autre genre, dans une perspective "à rebours". L'artiste combine un montage d'archives vidéos basse définition, au parfum simultané d'intimité et de thriller, et s'interroge, par le biais d'une utilisation bien sentie du cut-up et de la surimpression de textes très rythmée, sur les états liminaux fugaces et la possible manipulation de l'autre. Le travail d'Alex Reynolds s'intéresse aux subtiles, puissantes et difficilement reconnaissables influences de l'autre sur soi et les orientations inductrices qu'elle crée.
STIFF HIP GAIT, gecureerd door Sofie Van Loo, biedt ruimte voor dialoog tussen het werk van Julia Spínola en Alex Reynolds. De tentoonstelling duikt in het proces van jezelf te confronteren met een ruimte die gecreëerd werd door een zelf en diens omgeving en de ruimte die zich tussen beiden bevindt. Julia Spínola biedt een gezichtspunt op de hervorming van een performatieve actie in een gelaagd sculptuur. Hierbij gaat ze herhaling en evolutie herformuleren met behulp van bewegingen van verschillende groottes, vormen, richtingen en hoeveelheden die in relatie lijken te staan met werkelijke objecten. Het resultaat is een beeldende connectie tussen de ervaring van de kunstenaar en de verbeelding van de toeschouwer, dewelke verschuift naar zelf- en collectieve reflectie. Door middel van objecten die al dan niet de stilstand van het cinematografische proces representeren, begeleidt de installatie One left-handed and one right-handed, and one-left handed and one-right handed (2014) de kijker doorheen een denkbeeldige wandeling terwijl deze op pad wordt genomen langs verschillende sculpturale scenario’s. De film van Alex Reynolds, De Día (2014) confronteert met een terugkerend perspectief op de ervaring van de wandeling. De kunstenaar toont een combinatie van low-fi archiefbeelden, die zowel een sfeer van intimiteit als van een thrillerachtige atmosfeer oproept. De film die tot stand kwam door gebruik te maken van een intuïtief en intelligent gebruik van snijden waarbij de ritmische afwisseling tussen de verschillende beelden ook op de bijgevoegde tekst wordt aangewend, doen vragen rijzen over de verglijdende liminale conditie en de betekenis van mogelijke zelfmanipulaties. Het werk van Alex Reynolds handelt over de subtiele, krachtige en niet makkelijk herkenbare invloeden van de ander op het zelf, en over de wegen die daarlangs kunnen worden verbeeld.
By Sofie Van Loo
“But the splendid clarity of your intelligence, and the remorseless honesty of your intellect (these Latin words I owe you; these qualities of yours make me shift a little uneasily and see the faded patches, the thin strands in my own equipment) bring you to a halt.”1
“And now it is clear that there are only two ways of coming to a conclusion upon Victorian literature — one is to write it out in sixty volumes octavo, the other is to squeeze it into six lines of the length of this one.”2
The title of this exhibition, STIFF HIP GAIT, can in first instance be thought of as an allusion to the paralysing impact of the neo-Victorian state with a religious revival, which has projected (the aftermath of) his/her power(less)-hungry sterility onto the imagination and the intelligible. This could have been encouraged by the implementation of a view of what it means to be human within either a too rigid biological-rational system of thinking or a similar identity model, as well as by the idolization of youth, a generation, the self (this should not be linked to atheism). It comes as no surprise that this has led to an isolating, as well as a social and a perverse longing for religious recycling or spiritual ecology — a recycling apparently also of those who, or that which, was previously consumed. It is not the monopolizing interest of perception and shamelessness that were carried to their grave, but (amongst other) critical thinking, philosophy and the artistic imagination. There was for example the construction of a narrative epilogue to philosophy and the imaged/imagined image, which are now allegedly taken care of by poetry. How people deal with the truth is decided and interiorized by themselves, though we bear the responsibility thereof. Human beings, each human being, has the right to secrets, to secrecy. Pressuring someone to share his or her secrets is like an act of stealing, a form of terror, though some things can be shared with someone else of one’s own free will. But how free is this will, if people are (not) under artistic, erotic, economic, political and social pressure? Neither the market nor politics, neither the art world nor the public can undo the fact that art is not at all a weapon, though it has the potential to hit home. For some, the generosity of the imagining-intellectual can come across unbearable/intolerable, (anti)elitist and even impossible from a social point of view, but it is probably simply necessary, though it may seem that this generosity is without immediate benefit. It appears that not everything can be expressed in terms of capital and/or (a)social/political commitment, without for that matter being a religion—though indeed it may somewhat resemble one. Perhaps once more the mistake, or at least the confusion has installed itself between the idea of imbuing with soul/soullessness and imagination. The question is therefore why ‘imagination’ is considered more dangerous than ‘being imbued with soul/indifference’ and how we must deal with that. Parallel questions could be: what is being turned into a utopia and how is this effected?
Artistic imagination and (political) philosophy are kept alive in the sculptural and filmic compositions of Julia Spínola and Alex Reynolds. Both artists stand for a concept of style that resists the sterilization of the imagination and the intelligible. In their work they opt for an ‘immaterial perversion (i.e. reversal) of decadence’ that turns inhumanity against itself by lending precedence to a minimal linguistic imaging-intellectual principle ‘in’ the work of art, which prevails over all other criteria. This should not be understood as subservience with regard to a sensational l’art pour l’art; neither can it be reduced to a mere form of animism—it is a matter of subscribing to a humanistically inspired principle, that has dealt ex-clusively with the inhumane excluding inclusion of monopoly thinking.
In that sense, STIFF HIP GAIT can also be viewed as a bi-modernist reflex that has become aware of the backlash of the above, and that results in an alternative concept of style between eroticism, imagination, thinking and knowledge. In this context, rhythm is not necessarily slowed down, though it is challenged. It is not (dealing with the) imagination, thinking and knowledge that turns out to affect the body and reason, but the real or imagined intimidation. Apparently, what matters is not mixing up the two.
Experiencing projected, imagined intimidation, turns the person into an animate being, as if he or she supposedly has secret powers one would like to have him/herself. Experiencing real intimidation turns humans into inanimate human beings in that case, as if a secret has been literally squeezed out of a human. In the complex, layered, interdisciplinary practices, and in (seemingly) formless work, the corrective rape of an imagined intimidation with real intimidating consequences has surfaced. This sort of artistic practice is not iconoclastic. Rather, it triggers a shift of the image in a manner that is as layered as possible, probably because something cannot be borne/supported that is of importance. The expression STIFF HIP GAIT is used mainly in a medical context: The patient will walk by rotating the pelvis and swinging the legs in a circular fashion. Stiff Hip Gait occurs in ankylosis of the hip. This is a stiffness of a joint due to abnormal adhesion and rigidity of the bones of the joint, which may be the result of injury or disease. The rigidity may be complete or partial, and may be due to inflammation of the tendinous or muscular structures. Noma — a gangrenous disease still widespread among malnourished children living on the borders of the Sahara desert — can cause ankylosis of the maxilla and mandible, impairing the ability to speak and eat.3
At a given moment, the title of this duo exhibition — Julia Spínola, who lives in Madrid, and Alex Reynolds, who lives between Berlin and Brussels, have known each other for years — seemed obvious, though as such the exhibition did not refer to the disorder. Yet both artists represent the refusal to contribute to a culture of starvation, cleansing, or uniformization. There is for that matter precious little to dance, when ‘the hips that should not lie’ (Shakira) are envisaged and made responsible for ‘cultural or social infertility’ (which does not imply a preceding real intimidation of manliness). Indeed, an imagination can find itself in a situation that makes it obvious that thinking is propagated, but not necessarily supported/ borne. Not every situation relates this to a ‘false/authentic’ assumption of the role of the victim. The STIFF HIP GAIT is not a modernist gallop or a parody of the photography of the in-/out movement of Eadweard Muybridge or Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotography. Referring to Bergson, Georges Didi-Huberman wrote in his monograph on Marey’s work: ‘In short, there are two historic ways to be mistaken about movement: the Greek or metaphysical way (which dissolves duration in a fiction of eternity/Phidias) and the modern or scientific way (which dissolves duration in a fiction of instantaneity/ Étienne-Jules Marey).4
Apparently, the social longing for both an all-embracing timelessness and the constant presence of ready-made answers is problematic — these are precisely the two elements that characterize our time; it is the same longing that seems to cut space in two. What is central in Spínola’s and Reynolds’ work, is (musical) rhythm, (dealing with) movement, proportion, determining distance, (com)position, posture, shift, moving, mental space, eroticism, manipulation, propagating/carrying, language and the contact with a person, between persons. This exhibition materializes as a way of dealing with the faltering course of events, or with the interrupted course/path of a human being, who, despite the situation, is taken for a walk, and entrusted to the care of nightly snow, neon light (Alex Reynolds) or the splendid colours of yellow apples (Julia Spínola): pick the night and (just for once) throw an apple. The light of night, the neon light and the colours of the apple do not coincide with the light of the sun, but (unlike the universe) they can be embraced, as well as being released, set free.
Alex Reynolds creates performances, soundscapes and films with documentary/ philosophical overtones, in which image and language are now very balanced, now scour along each other intensely. In her previous film Spinario (2012) the artist reflects on the ego, identity, compulsive control and the loss of it. It narrates a bizarre, almost futuristic story with a main character who is administered drugs every day in order that each day she can start work as a clean slate. Spinario was inspired by Vanessa Able’s short story Second Winter. At a time when we are continually confronted with the idea that there is ‘too much ego’, it turns out that there actually is too little ‘I’. The ‘I’ is either preoccupied with the representation of the other, or compulsively imagining the other. This results in a substitution of the self and the other. Using charm, aggression or narcissism, the other is then forced to abandon or surrender the self. Reynolds shows us the consequences of the ultimate boundary of empathy and indifference. The film Spinario starts with the suicide of the brother of a woman called Carmen, told by the protagonist Clara, who has just been dropped off by a chauffeur at her work, apparently situated on a storm surge barrier, amidst a landscape of wind turbines. When she has recovered her own subjectivity, her own memories and feelings — she wanders in the city — she leaves the premises and goes outside and is therefore kicked out.
In her work, Reynolds responds to the deep-seated propensity for psychology/psychoanalysis of humans/ the world — a propensity which now seems to have become a political and military weapon, an instrument of terror. In Le Buisson St Louis (2007), for example (a documentary for five screens), a family is interviewed about a house the parents had built in the wake of the student revolt of May 1968. After the parents divorced, the relationship of each member of the family to the house has become increasingly alienated. In several of her other works Reynolds reflects on the ‘I’: in When Smoke Becomes Fire, My Love Reveals Things Unknown Were Mine All Along (2010), an installation with slide projectors, and in the epistolary project But They Are Not You (MAP, Stockholm, 2012).
It strikes us in Reynolds’ work that each human being has a subjective gait, i.e. a way of moving (oneself). What matters seems to be rediscovering one’s own subjective way of walking. At Komplot, the artist shows her most recent film, De día (By Day, 2014, co-produced by Artium, Vitoria-Gasteiz). The film starts with nocturnal snowscapes; these images alternate with ones of a man who teaches someone (who remains off-screen) how to drum by playing an air drum, simulating the drum sound by beatboxing. An off-screen man asks a drowsy woman, ‘What are you thinking?’ Meanwhile a woman walks through several passageways, each time opening or closing a door and switching the light on or off. The sleepy woman answers, ‘I don’t know.’ The man continues, ‘Are you thinking about the sea?’ She answers, ‘A little. The Pacific.’ He continues once more, ‘The Pacific Ocean? What’s there?’ She answers, ‘Well, ocean.’ Several characters that walk about are introduced and phrases such as ‘She likes us when we appear to follow her,’ ‘We make her feel loved,’ ‘With one of us, she feels pain’ and ‘But the one she likes best, we do know’ are added to the image. A car drives down a misty road through the mountains. In this dark film, practice, rhythm, love, suicide (see also her film Spinario, 2012) and the (mental/thinking) perambulation in passageways, as well as the road movie aspect are central. In De día, Alex Reynolds shows to teach someone something and to think of the other (for love?) can also turn into egoistic, manipulative processes if they are meant to neutralize someone. In De día, the focus is mainly on the fine-tuning of the distance between a talking image (so to speak) and an appealing/telltale story in which the rhythmic shift, which is also applied to a sentence, turns out to be the tuning element. If this image does not exist, which may not be the case if the imagination has not taken place/time, the appealing/telltale story is without buffer or resistance and an aggressive tone soon prevails. In De día, Reynolds shows how easy a more than loving gesture or learning process can turn into a manipulative practice that undermines a recorded part (respect). In that case thinking readily becomes believing suspicions and making things unthinkable. Within the image, Reynolds confronts us with a cultural taboo that plays a part at a personal level. Instead of supporting the obfuscation that currently takes place, she once more faces the taboo, while at the same time presenting a rhythmical reflection that effectively deals with this taboo.
After making small paintings for a short time, the Spanish artist Julia Spínola started to add geometrical figures, photographic details, and materials such as paint and tape to A4-sized sheets of papers — her collages/drawings. In 2008 Spínola made many (collage)drawings. The various elements in the images were arranged according to the laws of physics (gravity, pressure, weight, movement/transfer, tension/relaxation etc.), which she didn’t name Geológicos until 2009. In the same period, Spínola also makes drawings in which she integrates a photographic detail, which in 2009 are given the title The Leftovers. Furthermore, the artist as a registering machine, writes observations concerning the dynamics of movement in public spaces (situations, attitudes, positions, codes, mutual distances, etc.) inside her own body; these observations are as it were used to support both series of drawings — in this case departing from their own (ana)logic. Spínola especially studies the gestures and codes that link one action to another. The perception of the artist can be approached departing from the physical, mechanical and relational glance of a registering machine. Julia Spínola develops an abstract-realism as a sculptural figure-object, which through the introduction of a sequence-gesture causes the two distinct observations to shift, in its turn leaving behind enough at another (more political) level that can then be switched on as an action code. In her studio, Spínola makes these gestures-that-hang-between-people-and-things — gestures that are not necessarily part of her immediate surroundings or direct experimental context, yet become mixed-up with it, impose themselves. The private performance comes to the viewer through photographic images which to the artist are just preliminary sketches. A criss-crossing rhythm can be sensed between the resistance of the language/phrase and the resistance of the imagination/the image; the rhythm of the zigzag line causes the phrase and the image to move again, or conversely, allows a break. In a first stage this sentence-object seems indeed to suffer from syntactical errors or spelling mistakes, or from so-called stumbling errors, but because the image does not literally turn into a lecture or treatise, the gravitational force of the image is retained. As an artist, Spínola does not skip any stages to create the image. She uses photography to present the image in an imaginary way in public space — not as a memory, for it has never known a past, except for the temporary presentation that lasted long enough to take the photograph. The work is created in the studio, photographed in the street as a brief sculptural structure; it is then removed from the street and returns to the studio before it finds a place for itself in, for example, an exhibition space. In a work dating from 2013 the artist showed two rows of twenty collage-drawings or models that seemed to be screened as if they were a sculptural animated film — as if for a moment a faltering film has come to a stand-still and can only be restarted by a walk from the viewer. Now it is the viewer himself or herself who needs to walk from one scene to the other in order to see what has (not) happened in some or other act. Yet it is not the viewer who needs to fill in the image. The image can simply be seen from different perspectives. Julia Spínola shows us how a circular reasoning is dumped as fall/decline through bringing a sculptural animated cartoon to a standstill and she makes us rediscover the filmic interval scene by scene as a walk along different scale models. The depicted imagination of the circular reasoning is presented as the protagonist and then removed as image from the scene. It is remarkable that in this case turning into a sculptural model seems sufficient to cut short the virtualization of the mental and return to an imagination that deals with (ir)realities. In her work the artist turns away from empathic-apathetic circular reasoning, which she effects by letting the circle/circular reasoning stumble over itself; as a result, a rhythmical structuring form and a formal pattern make a shifting reappearance in the image.
STIFF HIP GAIT also sounds a bit like The Drum in the Mouth (the title of an earlier Spínola exhibition in Ghent, 2013), which could be read as drunken talk, but which however could be similarly defining with regard to the chemistry between the erotic, thinking and imaging/imagining life of people and the shifts/displacements of and in this world. To date, imagination cannot be thought of at a political level, because a number of crucial steps have been skipped — steps that define and ‘mould’ the gait, the way of moving. In the work Spínola shows in an adapted version at Komplot, namely One left-handed and one right-handed, and one-left handed and one-right handed (2014), a sloping surface is present in space. This sculpture has been painted in two colours that are based on the comparison of the colour of the apple and the colour of an apple on a colour chart. Several wooden boxes accompany the sloping surface; the front of each of these boxes can be viewed as the materialization of a sloping street, over which the hips and the two legs (of the artist walking to her studio) seem to be crossed. In that sense STIFF HIP GAIT can be seen as the materialisation of a movement, which despite the hardening appears light, in particular when we let our gaze wander inside the boxes, from which one by one surprises or emptiness approach the viewer.
In recent years it has often been claimed that demographics alone determine what happens and what does not happen in the world, but if that were the case, it would mean that to date there has never been a democracy. One cannot miss democracy if there has never been a real democracy — in fact, what we have had is a pre-democratic era. In that sense it could be claimed that it is possible to pass from a pre-democratic to a democratic era, but to begin with this should materialize and acquire meaning as a personal choice.
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1- Virginia Woolf, The Waves, crit. ed.with an introduction by Kate Flint, Penguin Books, 2000, [The Hogarth Press, 1931], p. 63.
2- Virginia Woolf, Orlando, Vintage, 1992, [Quentin Bell and Angelica Garnett, 1928], p. 190.
4- ‘Bref, il y aurait deux façons historiques de se tromper sur le mouvement: la façon grecque ou métaphysique (qui dissout la durée dans une fiction d’éternité/ Phidias) et la façon moderne ou scientiste (qui dissout la durée dans une fiction d’instantanéité/ Étienne-Jules Marey).’ Georges Didi-Huberman, Laurent Mannoni, Mouvements de l’air. Étienne-Jules Marey, Photographe des Fluides, Art et Artistes Gallimard/Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2004, p. 226.
The exhibition is supported by Artium Vitoria-Gasteiz, Galéria Heinrich Ehrhardt Madrid. Komplot is supported by Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Municipality Vorst Commune de Forest, COCOF, the Flemish Community and the National Lottery.
Photo Credit: Adriaan Verwée
Julia Spínola: One left-handed and one right-handed, and one-left handed and one-right handed (2014)
Alex Reynolds: De Día (2014)