A project by Avelino Sala curated by Fernando Gómez de la Cuesta
for ECCO Cádiz
(16/10/20 – 28/02/21)
After the false glow, after the dazzling brightness of the mirage, comes the moment of awakening from the dream, of realising that none of what we were living was true, that everything was a huge lie where the speculator found the ideal space to prosper and falsehood was rampant. Now it seems that we are at a turning point that marks the beginning of the unveiling and the hecatomb, that we are facing the burning of the curtain that concealed the stage machinery, that hid the perverse mechanism that made everything appear to be correct, convenient, ethical and aesthetic.
It may be that we are facing that great change resulting from the disaster we are living through or, on the contrary, a new magic show, an amazing trick by those conjurers who rule the world, by that coven of powerful demiurges who control the planet, by those reapers who continue to weave the spider’s web from which no one can escape. Extraordinary manipulators, with no face, no feet, no heart, no scruples, but with a strong hand, both left and right. The machinery has stopped pumping, the fuel no longer reaches the pistons, the air no longer reaches the lungs and most of the operators are tired of turning the crank, sick of excess, artifice and denaturalisation.
The place we inhabit, pretentiously idyllic, a paradise turned dystopia, is covered with the uncertainty that clouds any abrupt mutation, a thick and infernal fog that, at the same time, serves to hide a new and sophisticated swindle that will be the one that ends up evicting us. A moment of bewilderment and unease, but also of frustrated expectations, of injury and vindication, a scenario of debate, of combat and suffering that coincides, exactly, with the place in which we now find ourselves, with that space suitable for manipulation, concealment and escape; the trio of concepts on which this exercise in prestidigitation divided into three acts is developed.
Act I – Manipulation: the illusion that consummates the deception.
First comes the magic trick, the trap, that lie with the appearance of truth, that which confuses us, that which provokes our error, our conviction that we are in a reality that is not true. For a long time we have lived subjected to mirage and speculation, trapped by the black glass of our screens, by the cage of unfulfilled expectations and those desires turned into needs based on false promises. It is then that something happens, sometimes subtle and sometimes unquestionable, an event that alters our perception of what surrounds us, that reveals the trick of the sorcerer who hypnotised us, the machination, the conspiracy of the powerful, the plot that kept Truman trapped in the fiction of his own show. It is at that precise moment when we are ashamed that we did not see the blatant collusion, when we are ashamed that we are so gullible, so idiotic, so stupid. In “Castles Made of Sand” (2017) Avelino Sala talks about two obvious issues, on the one hand about the great farce that is politics, on the other about real estate speculation and deception. A magician handles a gold-plated deck of cards and confuses the spectator with his tricks, with the expert movement of his fingers, an audience dazzled by the glittering shine of the cards. The artist creates a parallel between the political trickery, the resources of the speculator and the trickery of a skilful gambler. The audience watches him being fooled, the (real) gold of the deck blinds them, not allowing them to see that all this is empty, about to crumble, like a sand castle, a house of cards. For “1935. Tabula rasa. Un atlas Mnemosyne diferente” (2017), Sala intervenes in a book of the History of Spain published in 1935 by the publishing house Espasa-Calpe, printed in the throes of the Second Republic and before the beginning of the Civil War, an action that consists of crossing out the entire volume with Tipp-Ex, page by page, word by word, image by image. A fascist concealment of history before 1936 that continues to be in force with such frontal facts as the denial and manipulation of historical memory. Here, Aby Warburg’s atlas of knowledge of European civilisation is transmuted into an encyclopaedia of the oblivion of our recent history.
Act II – Concealment: the dark advance.
Avelino Sala (like the masked philosopher) walks in camouflage with the will to enter and detonate the established, to activate change from the demolition of the useless, highlighting the perverse and stupid of a socio-political and economic structure that, instead of enabling us, oppresses and corrupts us. Larvatus prodeo” (2014) reproduces Descartes’ famous phrase in its title. A traditional Spanish cape hanging from a rope like a puppet, like an executed man, like a suicide, a garment that contains on its back, with the distinction granted by the embroidery in golden letters, the quotation that demonstrates the philosopher’s conviction about his method of knowledge. The very staging of the piece puts us in relation with the explicit and the hidden, with the false appearance of unclear conduct, with a classical garment that serves for concealment and for crime, but which is also associated with a sign of distinction, of lineage. A duality that has always characterised the double standard so present throughout Spanish history. In the series “(R)evolution of the Panama Hat” (2014) a similar dialectic takes place: starting from this well-known garment, the one that the Ecuadorian workforce wore during the construction of the canal of the same name, the artist begins a drift that leads him to turn it into a new icon of the workers’ struggle. The assimilation of this type of attire, of clearly proletarian origin, by the aristocracy and those in power, prompts Sala to transmute it into a kind of revolutionary balaclava, to turn it into a (not so) new symbol of struggle and resistance. Finally, “Censored” (2019), is part of an extensive project that seeks to unveil by appealing to painting and graffiti, confronting the material faction of repression, the most notorious one, the one with the flagrant attributes of a power that is exercised by the forces of order at the service of institutional violence, riot shields, rubber balls, uniforms, helmets and truncheons. A coercion that hides the other weapons, the other springs that the artist faces, much deeper, much more dangerous, that hide the sibylline tactics of states and corporations, of those who remain camouflaged to destroy our freedom, who have us subjected without us knowing it, methods written in invisible ink that are not perceived if the performance of this action painting does not intervene, of this disproportionate struggle of the creator against the new censorship, against repression, against manipulation, against anathema, against subtle purge, fluctuating once again between opposites, between the classic tactics of military camouflage, inoculating ingenuity in order to penetrate enemy lines and procure the detonation of that censorship which, at all costs, we must prevent from subjugating us.
Act III – The Escape: Escape manoeuvres.
Then comes the moment to slip away, to jump, to disappear in order to be transformed again. In “Escape Plan” (2017), the intertwined flags of the European Union, knotted like the sheets of prisoners who intend to escape from their cells, depart from the mast to mark the escape, the path for evasion, for the desertion of all those political superstructures that, in the end, have served no purpose. The dismantling of institutions is an obvious effect of the crisis in which we are immersed, of the exhaustion of ideologies, of the disbelief and alienation of human beings. This singular plan for an escape is completed with three iconic pieces that give shape to this devastating description of dystopia: “Europe is dead” (2017), a riot shield painted with the flag of the European Union, “EU as a Hammer” (2020), a hammer whose hilt reproduces the same emblem and “Europe vs Victory of Samothrace” (2020) where classical (es)culture, from the ruin of wounded art, stands on some of those books that have incardinated the political, social and cultural development of the West, but which the unstoppable becoming has ended up turning into dead paper, into words with hardly any meaning. The last series that gives shape to this project is entitled “Salto al vacío” (2020) and is the beginning of a more extensive investigation that locates its analysis in that precise moment in which decisions are taken, in that turning point that comes just after the debacle, in the complex context in which we now find ourselves: a situation of total uncertainty, of paradigm change. “Salto al vacío” is a study on doubt, on fears, on illusion and on that daring that leads us to carry out irreversible and passionate acts. A beautiful metaphor based on a qualified protagonist, a profile well known to Avelino Sala, on the figure of the artist, the creator and his blind leaps into the abyss. An impulse towards the unexplored that, despite the height, despite the risk, is not a suicide but a conscious, dangerous, enthusiastic and uncertain action, a voluntary and courageous act that implies going forward, towards that place that we want, that we love, that we desire, but that we do not know. by