Cristina Garrido and the Aesthetics of Speculation
Joshua Simon Curator and writer
Fragment of the text published in the catalogue of the exhibition Generación 2015 Proyectos de Arte Fundación Montemadrid, La Casa Encendida (Madrid, 2015).
A fake domesticated palm tree and a white standing fan rest on a colourful carpet next to a black hula-hoop which is lying on the floor. Around them an open movers’ cardboard box, a fake dwarfish Doric column, a portable straw separation-screen, all freestanding and positioned next to each other. Adjacent to them a rack with a hanger and a black-and-white sweatshirt with a grid print on it, and by the wall one can recognise some half-emptied liquor bottles. Leaning against the wall are three wooden planks, above them loosely hangs a colourful print of a Macaw parrot. Is this the aftermath of a house party or a gallery opening? Is someone moving in or leaving an apartment? Is this a showroom for set designers? What is Cristina Garrido showing us in this display of objects she entitles #JWIITMTESDSA? [Jus what it is that makes today´s exhibitions so different, so appealing?]?
Paraphrasing Richard Hamilton’s seminal 1956 pop collage “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?”, and turning it into a Twitter hashtag abbreviation, Garrido expands from the consumerist attributes of domestic space that Hamilton has already recognised to an investigation into the speculative nature of contemporary exhibition and art-making. From Pop Art’s depiction of the absorption of production surpluses, to the deployment of speculative patterns of economic strategising, Garrido’s seemingly nonchalant deployment of stuff is framed by her ongoing research into current trends in what we call contemporary art. A list of certain things seems to be needed in order for today’s exhibitions to be so different, so appealing: birds, bottles, unframed canvases hanging on the wall, cardboard boxes, circles and spheres, creased things on the floor, fans, grids, monoliths, references to the ancient world of Rome and Greece, plants, rocks, rugs, bulky square-shaped TV monitors, stands with hanging elements, objects leaning against the wall and on the floor, wooden structures and vertical flags—all these Garrido found to be essential elements in exhibitions of contemporary art.
As she explores these compositional and material choices, Garrido situates the notion of the contemporary within the logic of finance capital. A recent inquiry into the perception of what is good art has been conducted by artists Hannah Rosa Oellinger and Manfred Rainer in Vienna. In their ongoing project, Oellinger and Rainer question the criteria by which young artists examine and judge contemporary art. Through a series of surveys, they conclude that artists choose to show things that have “worked” for other artists. Their research shows that compositions, themes, materials, colours, gestures and claims that have already proven effective for other artists (either critically or economically), are those that are accepted as “good art” within contemporary art and are therefore most likely to be repeated.
For Garrido, it is not a specific image or a discernible material that testifies to a sociological or anthropological true nature of contemporary art. In #JWIITMTESDSA?, Garrido explores the aggregated presence of things that testifies to an economical logic which underlines contemporary art. This is the logic of speculation in which measure is replaced by matrix, where a bet is placed
on and against another bet. While measure relates to an actual perceptible thing, matrix does not have a stable point of reference—it is a reference to other references. The bet is not placed on a thing but on other bets. Italian sociologist and philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato explains how, under finance capital, the future comes to haunt and control the past and present: “All financial innovations have but one sole purpose: possessing the future in advance by objectivising it.” He writes, “This objectivation is of a completely different order from that of labour time; objectivising time, possessing it in advance, means subordinating all possibility of choice and decision which the future holds to the reproduction of capitalist power relations. In this way, debt appropriates not only the present labour time of wage-earners and of the population in general, it also pre-empts non-chronological time, each person’s future as well as the future of society as a whole. The principal explanation for the strange sensation of living in a society without time, without possibility, without foreseeable rupture, is debt.”1 Those operating within the logic of contemporary art must feel familiar with what Lazzarato is describing here.
In #JWIITMTESDSA?, we see exactly how the logic of financial speculation is explored in the art world. Through her research into what exhibitions look like, Garrido has sketched the outlines of speculation and counter-speculation. This is not your typical case of well-established art-market bashing, but an investigation of a new realm which has been penetrated by the logic of financial speculation: visual culture. In a way, with this Garrido has developed a complementary practice to that of German Pop artist KP Brehmer (1938–1997), who has invested himself in the visualisation of global capitalism. Through a form of infographics that counters the kind used by financial newspapers, Brehmer has produced drawings, prints, paintings, films, objects and publications that use common information systems as templates – figures and charts, maps and graphics – and in so doing he linked data management to the operations of capitalism and anticipated many of the aesthetic attributes of capitalist realism. Garrido builds on and reverses Brehmer’s proposal as she explores how the exhibition is related to the aesthetic economy on which it speculates.
Finance, which is speculation on debt, colonises the future. Debt has a time-machine-like quality that freezes power relations, and speculation, says German philosopher Joseph Vogl, is an “assault of the future on the rest of time.”2 Within this economic and political reality, Garrido proposes to observe how debt is plasticised, how it materialises as objects and compositions, how things – actual things – look and behave when they become speculation on display.
1. Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebte Man, Semiotext(e), 2012, pp 46-47.
2. See: “In The Pull of Time: a conversation between Joseph Vogl and Philipp Ekardt,” Texte Zur Kunst, No. 93 - Speculation, March 2014, pp. 108-120.