Hugo Canoilas is an artist based in Vienna. He organized Dromosphere, the current show at Collicaligreggi with works of his, Melanie Bonajo, Vasco Costa, Filipe Feijão and Viola Yesiltaç. The exhibition sets the problem in the Mediterranean as “a cloud above our head” with the aim to place the works as receptacles for projections from the visitors with this event in mind. He’s currently in residency with Meris Angioletti, Danny Devos, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Thomas Knoefl, Mark Kremer, Emmanuelle Lainé, Nuno Luz, Ana Manso, Marco Pasi and Benjamin Valenza for Ficarra Contemporary Divan, where they think and act within alternative systems of knowledge that can offer new possibilities of work.
We asked the artist to compile a diary about the ideas at the core of these two projects.
I was born Portuguese but I will die Greek.
“A man who is born into a world already occupied, his family unable to support him and society not requiring his labor, – such a man, I say, has not the least right to claim any nourishment whatever: he is really one too many on earth. At the great banquet of Nature there is no plait laid for him. Nature commands him to take himself away, and she will not be slow to put her order into execution.
Under this system, each one by himself, each one for himself: labor, like all merchandise, is subject to fluctuation: hence the risk of the proletariat.
Whoever has neither income nor wages has no righ to demand anything of others: his misfortune falls into his own head. In the game of fortune, luck has been against him”.
Pierre Joseph- Proudhon, “System of economical contradictions; or, the Philosophy of Misery“, 1847.
All adrift & eating each other like in Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa”.
I cry out loud. I aim to stand out of the passive acceptance of the situation we are living in political and social terms, against the abundance of middle class problems in art. Although impotent, it seems important to state, to not accept, to criticize this sort of politics, with their dramatic decisions that seem made by all or with the connivance of all.
Some structural knowledge I got from the class of Political Studies (based on ideal politik) in art school seems to serve me here, for a formal analysis of politics without the fait divers of the real politik.
The first formal acknowledgment, is the division of politics based on strong ideas and the politics based on weak and elastic ideas.
The given examples of the strong idea politics are, most obvious, Nazism and Communism but they can be extended to many recent events.
In a political form that uses a strong idea, every act is accepted because it serves the aimed end. This means that in order to reach an idealized end (praising Apollo; a certain idea of purity) all means are possible. Here, all means – the political measures and the people, are transparent or meaningless, in order to reach the predefined end.
Opposed to this are the politics of the middle, made with weak and elastic ideas that takes Poetry has its best example (as counter image to the above mentioned examples).
In the politics of middle, the means (the people) are opaque and are active voices on an undefined end. The people (the middle) are the end of this politics.
The Etruscans, with their openness and ethics that one can discover through their mural paintings in their tombs, come to my mind as a possible example. In D.H. Lawrence’s “Etruscan places” one can understand the ethos of the Etruscan people by a close look at their frescoes. The first marks on the wall with a pointed metal, the remade drawings and the final painting are equally visible (one step doesn’t erase the other). One can see the acceptance of something in permanent movement; an attempt to improve like when one is making a sketch – which allow us to see his/her failures. The way we look at those paintings allow us to measure the human like the state of disease in Nietzsche’s oeuvre.
From these simple assumptions it’s easy to understand my detachment from the oppression of the sort of politics that is ruling Europe. The IMF and the Troika operate like the plague in Camus eponymous novel. In its political form, it’s evil. In the real the misery and costs on the human tissue contrasts violently with the news that state Portugal as the hero of recession, that I read in economy newspapers. No excuses such as the need of a 2% of economical growth per year can be taken into account. All those goals and idealized ends, serve to suppress the people by a form of politics that is wrong; that reduce our life to, paraphrasing Wally Salomão: “We live only because humans live!”
This issue is not about one thing or another; to grow or to live like the PIGS do. What is at stake are the pillars that sustain this unbalanced and ecophagic world. Shouldn’t be Europe, with it’s size and history, to reinvent herself?
Examples such as Degrowth or the work published by Group Krisis offer us alternatives. In fact the Group Krisis simple and accessible book Manifesto Against Labor, identifies labor as the key tool to re-shape society by dismantling the structure that rules our lives. Other alternatives, less accessible, such as the holistic school programs serve as counter positions to the free state schools – available to all, that champion competition instead of solidarity; that suppress the inner feelings of the children by educating them with the will, perspective and needs of the adults; that will not allow children to become autonomous beings.
Also struggle forms like those of Provo are examples that should allow us to prevent what Jean Luc Boltansky alert to (that it’s the clear critique that allows the system we live in to evolve).
The idea that it’s art, politics (the ideal politiks) and philosophy that offer grain to the human, saving him from tabula rasa, clashes with the fact that all these areas are not playing in the real but segregated in their own bubble.
Art cannot change the world. Art can offer an image for politics because they run through life like parallel lines that don’t touch each other (although they affect each other). That offered image, is for me, the creation of a space to receive the non-negotiable differences.
Art in its ephemeral communities (around an event, one work or in the perception of the whole, in one’s perspective about art) has the quality of gathering that non-negotiable differences (i.e. a group of antagonist people in political terms who praise the same work of art for different reasons or perspectives; the individual interest in art forms that, in their content, are antagonist forces).
This saves us from a possible bridge between an ethics, offered by art, to politics, following the division of forms of politics above mentioned (i.e. Conceptual or Minimal Art use a strong idea in their modus operandi). Such dilettante collage of the political plane into the artistic would probably reduce our choice to Poetry “as the least aggressive of human activities” (Wally Salomão, again and again!)
But we are (happily) far beyond such a codification. Art is that super elastic structure I mentioned above, a system that lives from its negations, that enlarges with the cyclic attempts to commit suicide. Art lives as much from its mainstream as from the small run art spaces that operate in small neighborhoods. Art needs this weed (being the flowers the mainstream), this space in between, that operates in a small scale directly into the life of a small community. Art is a sort of permanent fountain of energy where every minute something happens with importance, at least for one individual.
But the image of art, the new image offered by art, can just happen collectively.
Art needs testimonies to exist and these testimonies are the people, that can make art (with no mediation) exist here and now.