It’s been said that art is an act of resistance, an act of liberation, or the product of humanity’s God complex, or any number of other things that have been said. For me, art, creation, is a re-run of a feeling, in the same way that palindromes re-run a word, surprising us. Art surprises, it gives us a new perspective, it inverts feeling. (palin (πάλιν) “again”) and dromos (δρóμος); “way, direction, run”).
New York, Brooklyn, 29 October, 2015.
Once again, Bruno and Arun meet in New York. As usual, there are conversations pending, and interminable disagreements. On Metropolitan Street, almost at the corner of Kent, in the Williamsburg district, they pause.
“This is a piece of shit,” says Bruno pointing at the graffito. “Noise, images. Just about any top model has more impact on the world than anything else.”
“I’m telling you, a guy like Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is like one of those flies that want to get out of the room and bang again and again against the window. It’s clear to them, they want to get to the other side, and bump, once again, they’re up against it. That’s the way it is. It’s a desire to play a role in the world. But there’s no way on earth anybody’s changing China.”
“Stop trying to change things,” replies Arun. “Art is art and the world is the world. I’m glad they’re separated by the glass. There’s no reason why the one should play a role in the other.”
“Oh, come off it! What do you want, do you think art is just about making the world a prettier place? Shouldn’t it be able to transcend things?
“Bruno, it’s not because anybody wants it to, it’s that art will always transcend things.”
“Come on Arun, you’re so infuriating. What I’m saying is that top models, footballers, or whoever, are continually sending messages, images, noise… These wretched people have stolen artists’ thunder. Ai Weiwei (艾未未) has no choice but to create a fuss, elevating himself to art, to be a work of art himself, a brand that produces more images, more news, than that top model…”
And Arun interrupts Bruno, because he knows this is a conversation with no end and because whatever Bruno says, for Arun art isn’t supposed to change anything necessarily, it’s just a way to pass the time on the other side of the window. Bruno puts his hands to his head and simply says that Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is also known as Ai Shen (艾神), which is to say the Divine Ai, or the God Ai, whichever you prefer.
The artist who painted the graffito has gone to the trouble of depicting Ai Weiwei (艾未未) as the Monkey King in Journey to the West. That’s why he has those features and facial hair and is wearing the magic head band the monk Xuanzang tricked him into putting on his head so that when the monkey misbehaved he would get terrible headaches. The red line could be from the tight headband, or could be the line that Ai Weiwei mustn’t cross in criticizing the Chinese authorities. The graffito is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn near to where Ai Weiwei (艾未未) lived while studying at the Parsons School of Design during the 1980s. More from Arun and Bruno in Watch it! , Operation Fun, Sex is Fun, and We Laugh Less.
On a day like today, November 21, but in 1898, René Magritte was born. In his honor, a few lines and this video, in which I link his famous “This is not a pipe” with Diderot and our book, Dibugrafías.
This is not a story
René Magritte spoke about how images deceive. Of his famous painting, «Ceci n’est pas une pipe» (This is not a pipe), he said: «The famous pipe. How people reproached me! And yet, could you fill my pipe? No, it’s just a representation… So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying…» Long before Magritte, Diderot said «This is not a story». Words deceive as much as images do. Liberty, happiness or justice are also merely representations we fill as we see fit. So who’s lying?
Of the 100 stories inspired by the paintings of Miguel Panadero I wrote, we ended up choosing just 51 for our book Dibugrafias. Here’s one we didn’t use, Pinocchio strikes again, which came to mind after reading this article, Una brillante escultura de Pinocho denuncia la corrupción en Recoleta (A brilliant statue of Pinocchio criticizes corruption in Recoleta) in Argentinean daily Clarín, published on November 2.
The artist, Alberto Echegaray Guevara, says the aim of the four-meter high statue, weighing 260 kilograms, is to highlight all the corruption and lying in the world. “Corruption is intrinsic to us, and is globalized. It’s the same with lying. Scientists say we lie between two and 200 times a day, it’s called the ‘science of deception’ and covers different types of lies. And when we can’t lie to anybody, sometimes we lie to ourselves. That’s the famous self-deception, one of the worst kinds of lying,” says the artist in an interview with journalist Maximiliano Kronenberg.
Alberto Echegaray Guevara’s credentials are nothing if not impressive. As well as being an artist, he’s a specialist in money laundering and crypto-currencies, a graduate of the Ecole Nationale D’administración in Paris, holds a Master in Arts from the University of Georgetown, and a post-graduate in Management from Harvard Business School. And it’s all true. Perhaps we can learn something from all this around these parts, where we see to love inventing qualifications!
Here’s what all those Pinocchios deserve, in this humble servant’s version of Miguel Panadero’s Pinocchio, as mentioned above.
PINOCCHIO STRIKES AGAIN
Pinocchio strikes again, he’s the handsomest, the best-paid, the guy with the most, and of course, the guy who…
The girl says it’s great that Pinocchio is the guy with the most, but that Eugenio, her boyfriend, says the same, and that somebody has to be the least.
Pinocchio tells the girl that her Eugenio is definitely lying and that what he says just can’t be true. The girl says Eugenio says that it’s Pinocchio who’s lying.
Pinocchio is angry because the world is awash with liars. Eugenio is angry for the same reason. The girl is angry with Eugenio as well as with Pinocchio and tells them both to quit striking again, left right and center, lying all over the place, because the whole thing has backfired on them. Now she doesn’t love either of them.
Aro Beach, May 31, 2014.
Photos: Jesús Pascual – IE Business School
Among the works I read out or recited at the Jardín del Romeral, the garden created by the reputed landscaper Leandro Silva, at this year’s Hay Festival Segovia 2018, this version of my short story Mr. No stands out. I have retitled it Mister Independence, from my book Dibugrafías, co-created with artist Miguel Panadero.
Mister. Independence is very much at home in Indepenland, as one might well expect. The country is his. Streets, avenues, monuments, when not expressly dedicated to his personality cult, at one moment or another, all refer clearly to him. Needless to say, in general, the atmosphere in Indepenland is an Independent atmosphere.
Nevertheless, certain voices have highlighted not just the opportuneness of a certain independence, but furthermore, the need to resume talks with Depenland and Mister Dependence, because at the end of the day, they point out, it makes as little sense to go around shouting and asking for independence the whole time as it does to go around shouting and asking for dependence, and that’s without getting into the childishness involved in being surrounded by so many peers.
At the poetry recital in the Jardin del Romeral, which once again I coordinated, I was joined by writers such as the British-Egyptian Sabrina Mahfouz, Wales’s Dylan Moore, German poet Michael Krüger, Brazil’s Alexandre Vidal Porto, Polish poet Dorota Maslowska, British-Spanish poet Bek Clark, and poet and journalist Carlos Aganzo. Also taking part were, among others, Caroline Michel, the President of the Hay Festival, Simon Manley, the UK ambassador to Spain, and the ambassador of the Netherlands in Spain, Matthijs van Bonzel.
I started to write when he had already painted something. Nevertheless, I would often tell stories he hadn’t painted. Could I have written those stories without that initial spark from his paintings? Is there a well somewhere we draw from for these stories? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?