João Silvério
Curator and writer.

‘Glimpse.  An Art of Microseconds’
Text of the exhibition An Art of Microseconds. 3+1 Arte Contemporânea (Lisbon, 2018).

Installation view of the exhibition An Art of Microseconds. 3+1 Arte Contemporânea (Lisbon, 2018). Image: João Ferro Martins.

The work of Cristina Garrido (1986, Madrid, Spain) is essentially based upon an operative research on the conditions of possibility of the status of the work of art in its relationship with the social devices and protocols that constitute platforms of visibility for artists’ work. Her practice has a strong conceptual, and therefore reflexive, component, although never straying far from an aesthetic and visual component that combines very disparate methodologies and media, such as video, sculpture, installation and multiple objects reproduced by the artist as icons representing the contemporary art system. In this regard, language (and polysemy) establishes a correspondence between the symbolic value of a designation, a visual sign, of a museum or an art centre, for instance, and a critical and analytical discursivity on that sign and its validation within the universe of visual representation, and thereby on its social and economic impact.

These are not uncharted waters in this artist’s work reflection: in 2016, she presented the series An Unholy Alliance, which points to the disproportions, which are notorious in contemporary art magazines, between the amount of pages of advertising and the number of critical, audience-formative texts. As Daniel Garza-Usabiaga remarks in his essay for the exhibition1:

An Unholy Alliance (2016) is a work that compares the number of pages ascribed to advertising to those containing specialized texts across six magazines that circulate internationally: ARTFORUM, Frieze, Modern Painters, MOUSSE, ArtReview and Art Monthly. To do so, Garrido has used the pages to create several spherical papier-mâché volumes. Displayed on a table, these objects resemble a collection of rocks. However, they show the disproportion between the large number of advertising pages (commercial galleries, public institutions, biennales, fairs and other periodical events) and the increasingly diminishing amount of critical content in printed publications.”

Installation detail of the exhibition An Art of Microseconds. 3+1 Arte Contemporânea (Lisbon, 2018). Image: João Ferro Martins.

The current solo exhibition, An Art of Microseconds, unfolds across the gallery’s two rooms, which correspond to the aforementioned critical dimension. On the one hand, it examines our ability to understand the systemic analysis that Garrido lays out before us on the economic and social conditions, and contradictions, ensuing from the irreversibility of art market strategies, as they spread and integrate promotional devices that rapidly transform the singularity of an art object into an object of consumption, i.e., discardable and quickly eroded. This transmutation takes place on self-portable platforms that self-regenerate in an infinite succession, every microsecond, turning contemplation into a glimpse that the viewer absorbs, in the most literal sense of what Guy Debord termed alienation. On the other hand, the exhibition ransoms a conceptual and pictorial legacy, patent in the original series of paintings/objects titled Risk Management Paintings, as well as a documental/fictional dimension, in the video Boothworks.

The paintings on the walls, as well as the papier-mâché rocks in the aforementioned series An Unholy Alliance, are seemingly abstract and geometric paintings, with a symmetrical composition and a balanced palette. However, a label, which is part of the work, converts these abstract paintings into analytical graphs of the financial engineering required by the gallery to keep up with the art fair calendar regardless of the works and artists it exhibits and the costs associated with representing them. In the same work, we are confronted with a reference to the visual and aesthetic experience it convokes and, at the same time, with the financial means necessary to make it visible, and consumable, in different markets.

Following the same line of thought, the video Boothworks describes, under the guise of a fictional discourse, the entire process that a gallery must undergo to participate in international art fairs. The narrative is essentially made of images emblematic of the whole process, from the concept, to the model of the fair’s exhibition space (known as booth), its installation, the number of visitors, space massification and accumulation of works, questioning that space, ironic but critically way as a self-portable, itinerant, nomadic exhibition device subject to high profitability tests according to the investment to sales ratio, which, in turn, points to the statistics in the Risk Management Paintings. Garrido questions the capitalist and mercantile logic that normalizes artistic practices, the viewer’s relationship to the space, and even the curatorial function, and, thereby, the absence of critical reflection and the notion of time that every work requires in order to be observed, entering into the sphere of “product”, as an asset that can be swiftly replaced by another on the wall and be broadcast in a matter of microseconds across various digital platforms as typified image. Moreover, the construction of this work is structured by the sound montage that confronts us with a series of deposition-like statements by contemporary art personalities and agents who have reflected on these issues from the 1960s onwards: Lucy Lippard, Miwon Kwon, Germano Celant, Renée Green, Seth Siegelaub, Joseph Kosuth or Hélio Oiticica, among others. It is paradoxical to listen to the illocution of their words while visualizing the actuality of the images of a mutant universe, which had been questioned decades ago, but in another temporal coherence that Cristina Garrido’s work recuperates.

1. Daniel Garza Usabiaga, A Tacit Agreement (2016).