The other side

Patrick Heron, Brushstrokes Nº 3: 1998-1999, 1998-9
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By LUÍS FELIPE SOUZA*

Considerations about the exhibition on display at the Santa Mònica Interdisciplinary Center for Contemporary Arts.

In the heart of the city of Barcelona, ​​amid the frenzy of passersby who appear and disappear on the Ramblas, there is the immersive artistic exhibition entitled The other side, available to the public, until June 02, 2024. The Santa Mònica Interdisciplinary Center for Contemporary Arts offers, free of charge, an experience that invites participants to make a change in the way meaning is organized. The exhibition is made up of several artists. It has the participation of writers, psychoanalysts, philosophers and anthropologists who participate in the experience that seeks to offer glimpses of the structuring decentralization of subjectivity.

The exhibition operates on the logic of estrangement. Initially, the visitor experiences this strangeness when faced with a sequence of events, as they are asked to leave their belongings outside the exhibition. Then, there is an estrangement of one's own through the growing distrust of the convictions that form the Self and the personality. The experience proposed by the Santa Mònica arts center advances as the most fundamental assumptions of reality are called into question.

At the beginning of the route, participants can choose quirky clothes from a large closet to dress up. As an invitation to create a body based on new references, one can leave in the anteroom the certainties that populate the logic of consciousness. In the first immersion room, we are individually invited to lie down on a mattress in a dark room. The waterbed moves in ripples that accompany the voices that induce the visitor to an encounter with death. The opening for content as surreal as dreamlike to be part of the new reality created allows for a sensitive experience during the course of the exhibition.

The body, as conceived by psychoanalysis, does not end in its capacity for self-referencing. There is a threshold in it that surpasses the capacity of representation, namely the split left by submission to language. The process of constitution of subjectivity, identities and personalities, leaves an inassimilable remainder that appears in the gaps not filled by consciousness. The drive throbs in the body, which resists symbolization.

The other side explores the possible limits of experiencing what in the body falters and shows itself only partially in dream lives. It is an attempt to communicate with the point where knowledge fails to establish meaning, with the visitor lost amidst the instinctual tangle that is revealed throughout the exhibition's corridors. The surplus of life that is beyond the symbolic meaning, from which reality is tributary, is shown daily, despite the inability to symbolize it making it seem like just an amorphous piece of furniture that occupies an entire room.

From the beginning, the exhibition's intentions to establish bridges that rise to the point where the other side may be accessible to the waking state. The subject who had let himself die in the first room could, finally, distrust his convictions by getting rid of the literalness that induces him to read reality through an empiricist scientificity. The aesthetic/sensitive experience of the exhibition also supersedes attempts to make sense. The route takes the visitor through corridors of frames with binary codes, formed by zeros and ones, which generate oblique figures. The figures formed by data prove to be fragile in configuring a logical meaning for what is happening there.

The distrust of the reality that surrounds us increases when, in the next room, we hear the talk of an interactive work. This is a woman who, in a video, instructs us to invert the logic of artistic appreciation. Her request to participants follows the call for a change in the evaluation of works categorized as more or less valuable. The aesthetic sense that praises the beauty of form disappears when it opens to the nonsense that supports the bricks that make up reality. The exhibition impacts the most unnoticed guest by exposing him to the dominant anguish of when images impregnated with certainties fall.

Not knowing, and just surrendering to death and the unreal, is fraught with agonizing anxiety. It is about encountering the frontiers of the representable. We are exposed to this confusing entity that underlies representations. The induction to death with which we were received at the beginning of the exhibition warns us not to try to make that experience one that is self-referential, but to let ourselves fall into the imagelessness in which the drive that permeates human experiences predominates.

The visitor sees himself resurfacing in the birth of a new body that was built for him, further removed from the limits of knowledge. This body, with new surrealist clothing, appears in the room that characterizes a birth. In it, we need to sneak between the tight walls of a vaginal canal to end up in the birth of a body that now recognizes its image as a garment of linguistic codes. The categories that govern reality prove to be fragile, the drive insists on signaling that there is something beyond knowledge, builder of nomenclatures and identities.

The austerity of the drive that permeates death, sex and desire is revealed to us when the pretensions of concatenating the experience that occurs in the arts center to a more logical rather than a sensitive sense are abandoned. Upstairs, the visitor can inhabit a house without reflections, without letters. The opacity of the newspapers, the mirrors, the television that announces individual things at high volume, seems to remind us that the grammatical logic that organizes our lives no longer prevails there.

The teeth scattered throughout the house appear as reminders of the rest which, in the body, marks life. The immersive experience in Santa Mònica confirms the falsifiability of self-image, according to which the subject references himself in the world.

Philosopher Eurídice Cabañes, who like other thinkers participates virtually in the exhibition, comments on how the virtual and the real are less disparate than they may seem. The real body, as biomedical discourse insists on calling it, changes in different ways through its own productions. The multiplicity of possible lives in the digital-virtual world also offers itself to the tangible world when the physical body perceives the symbolic and imaginary layers that produce it. The philosopher demonstrates how particular experiences change in different relationships, as well as how the subject's relationship with himself changes when the production potential that comes from this entity that inhabits the body without letting itself be represented is recognized.

The exhibition organizers, Ferran Utzet and Enric Puig Punyet, warn that the passage to the “other side” is an encounter with incoherence that lies outside the organizing categories of reality. The dichotomy that shapes representations, such as man and woman, madness and wisdom, virtuality and reality, gives way to the meaningless of the drive. The participant continues through the artistic labyrinth like a sleepwalker who touches the walls of the unreal, recognizing himself where he does not exist.

*Luís Felipe Souza is a master's student in work psychology at the University of Coimbra.


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