The Night Face Up


This exhibition was inspired by an intuitive insight into the history of Latin American literature, its real and magical narrative and by the total artists whose fates are etched into it. It is intended as a visual and poetic story spun by contemporary creators, where artworks transform into texts. The exhibition features artists of the Americas as well as their European counterparts; most of these people have complicated biographies and a propensity for openly commenting on the oppressive political reality of today. This adds another layer to the exhibition’s theme of dreams and unfulfilled hopes.

In one of Julio Cortázar’s short stories, the protagonist is shifting between the realms of reality and dream. As the story progresses, the dream takes over, gradually becoming more real than reality, and in the end he, a modern man who lives in a civilized world, finds himself centuries earlier, lying “face up” – as per the title of this story published in 1956 – on the sacrificial altar of the Aztecs.

To Roberto Bolaño, gazing into the infinite sky has a different, though no less woeful dimension. The Chilean author sees the blue expanse as a medium of anxiety. In Bolaño’s novella Distant Star (1996), the main character, a fascist avant-garde poet and assassin, writes disturbing poetry in the sky, among the clouds, with the smoke from his military fighter jet’s engine.

The exhibition, inspired by Cortázar’s narrative and Bolaño’s artistic dystopia, creates a space where the everyday escapes our context-born intuition. In this imaginary land, which the whole of South America, the homeland of both above-mentioned writers, might as well be to Europeans, many things look awry, as if reflected in a mirror: realism and magic are one and the same here and time is non-linear – it doesn’t flow, it circles.

The exhibits tell a story of an endless journey through extraordinary worlds: the real ones, divided by the borders of countries and continents, and the magical ones, limited only by our imagination. In both cases, it’s ruthless dictators who rule these worlds, suppressing any sign of freedom, and sycophantic propaganda poisons the iconosphere. An environment like this one is conducive to rebellion and anarchy, which are supported by fatalistic yet hopeful songs and poems.

In such a system, is art a cultural remedy that transcends territory and reality, capable of bringing about a common understanding and initiating a dialogue? Or maybe the agency of art is another utopia, an expression of trauma, a catastrophe of interpretation, and ultimately a failure of individuals?

Entangled in the realms of both reality and dream, this poetry turns into a message about transient boundaries; encrypted in this message is the terrifying truth about reality, sometimes expressed metaphorically, at others literally. Its authors find inspiration in everyday life and stretch the limits of language. Their art becomes a wild, insane, untamed instrument, which lets secondary visual forms take precedence over the meaning of words and grammar, thus eventually equating itself, paradoxically, with propaganda clichés. The language of everydayness, which they protest, is oppressive, it encroaches on all aspects of life, but revolutionary slogans are no less oppressive either. When all is said and done, the governing principles of art and revolution have long lost their innocent flair, and graphic text has gone beyond the limits of poetry – it is easy to spot it on red, black, green and multi-coloured banners alike.

On the photo:  CADA, NO+, 1983