GALERIA CHILENA – CONDOROS/MISTAKES
At the core of the idea of this show, what called our attention at first was the role of art inside the comic strip: when Condorito visits an art show, or becomes an artist or gallerist, most of the time what we see is a show of “modern art”, with great masters of the 20th century, cartoonised. In general, art within Condorito, a classic piece of history or a kiddie doodle, can never escape from being punked. It might be interesting to analyse how this presentation of the modern, ridiculed and despised, might still be the closest approach to the art world for a really wide audience of readers of Condorito throughout the third world.
The curatorship of Condoros/Mistakes focuses on a technical profile instead of the contents of the works –just like the magazine includes good and bad jokes, about different subjects. It’s a risky move, an open curatorship without vanishing point; there is no theory to illustrate, no exposed problem and no suggested solution, just a bridge that leads to a world away. Artists were invited to produce an abstraction, a cartoon of their own work, or to drown in a tide of familiar images. There was a maximum size, a rule to produce a “rollable painting on canvas” and a restriction to use exclusively the colours of the print of Condorito magazine (i.e. orange, black & white). The result of the call is a number of paintings, some of them fashion elements from the comic, some relate to the particularities of one artist… but the exhibition is still not about the comic or the characters in it, it’s about itself, about how it develops and adapts to different environments, and about how this show, as always, redefines and adds a new layer to GCH history. The show aims to place the viewer within the weirdness of a strange place called Pelotillehue.
This exhibition was previously presented at Galeria Metropolitana, a non for profit gallery located in a peripheral zone of Santiago, a raw metallic warehouse built right next to the home of its owners. (Luis Alarcon & Ana Maria Saavedra, email@example.com)
For its London happening, Condoros/Mistakes has received the kind support and guidance of 24/7 Gallery (Pablo Leon de la Barra, Sebastian Ramirez & Beatriz Lopez, http://www.24-7bombthemuseum.org), Gasworks Residency Programme (Alessio Antoniolli & Mia Jankowicz, http://www.gasworks.org.uk) and it’s been partially financed by DIRAC, Cultural Division of the Chilean Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thanks to everybody for everything.
OPENING NIGHT IN PELOTILLEHUE
Condorito is perhaps the best known Latin American comic strip. Even though it is written originally in Spanish, Condorito is “translated” again in Colombia and Mexico where editions are made for the rest of Latin America for no other reasons than the Chilean slang is incomprehensible for most other native speakers. Because of this, many people think that Condorito is a comic strip of their own country, so Colombians may think it is a Colombian cartoon and so on. It is a very popular character and it may be seen to represent several cliches of the Latin-American idiosyncrasy and of popular characters all over the world. Condorito is a picaro, kind of a rogish character, somewhat lazy, simple d’esprit but smarter than one could think. I remember a strip, where Condorito was the dumb of the town, fooled by everyone. The trick was to offer him to choose between a 100$ note and a 10$ one, and he unmistakably would choose the smaller one. People was never tired of tricking him and laugh in his face. Then somebody asked him why he acted the way he did, and he said, ” because otherwise I wouldn’t get all this money every day”.
The caricature has no continuity and Condorito can play different characters every joke, although there are some basic roles like the girlfriend Yayita and her parents (by the way, the only filial relationship of all the strip), the compadre Don Chuma, the drunk of the town Garganta de Lata (tin throat) and so on. Sometimes you can find Condorito in an historic or thematic strip as a gangster, a twirling eyed wacky in the sanatory, an indian, an artist, an explorer in the jungle, a butcher and so on, but most of the time he is just a guy from the town of Pelotillehue. He himself has a nephew and the same for his girlfriend Yayita who has a niece, adopting Disney’s family model of uncles/aunts and nephews/nieces.
Condorito’s humor is very special, many times just boring or plain stupid, others very perplexing and absurd. Almost every joke ends after the punch line with a character falling down in perplexity marked by an onomatopoeic Plop! written on top. Nevertheless, there are some specific absurd strips that end up instead with a character demanding an explanation, Exijo una explicación!, very much what the reader himself could say after reading such a piece.
In a way the structure of the joke, the absurd presented, can be related to the structure of modern art in general, where the spectator is rendered speechless or demanding an explanation. Also, the idea of the artist as a pillo, a picaro, is not foreign to the gesture of contemporary artists in general and specifically to that of Latinamerican artists. If one looks closer those places where art becomes thematic in the strip, one could spot many cliches of the popular idea of Art and Avant-Garde. Artists in the strip are depicted by the stereotypical frenchy attire of the nineteenth century canvas painter with a beret, scarce beard and a lace tie. At the same time paintings and sculptures are wildly senseless and abstract, satirizing the avant-garde, while one can still recognize Pollock, Magritte, Calder, Picasso, Malevitch and other common places of the XX century art. This impossible mix marks the baroque reception of art from the periphery, void of meaning and relation to an internal tradition, a pastiche of cliches and common places.
Artists as cheaters and charlatans, completely detached from reality, art collectors as extravagant and sophisticated rich dandies and art itself as completely whimsical, senseless, useless and unimportant, a pure subjective onanism. That is how Condorito as a mass media vehicle transmits, perpetuates and confirms the cliches of contemporary art to the uncultivated masses. But this is not a critique of that approach, on the contrary, what is interesting is how much truth it is unveiled. I mean, common places are true, that is why they are common in the first place, and that is why they are so empty of meaning. Despite the honorable exceptions, since Art is by definition an exception, charlatans are not unknown to us, and most of the time they are the rule. The reflective gesture of Condoro accounts for that attempt to affirm rather than contradict the cliches while going beyond to find what remains of art after art.
For Condoro, Galería Chilena has asked a bunch of young Chilean artists –the only thing relating them together being that they are all Chilean and have been part more or less of the project of Galería Chilena throughout the years– to paint a canvas with the color palette used in the Condorito strip, mocking an exhibition from the cartoon. Condorito was printed using two colors, a bright orange and black, and all the different possible mixes and shades.
Even when the exhibition is related to Condorito in this formal aspect, the name Condoro, echoes a different thing. Today “condoro” is used in Chile to refer to a crass mistake, to a goof up. Two different versions explain this use, one related to Condorito himself, the other one to Roberto “Condor” Rojas, perhaps one of the best goalkeepers Chile ever had. In September 3rd 1989, Maracana Stadium, a crucial world cup qualifying match against Brasil, Chile was loosing 0 -1 ten minutes before the end, the goalkeeper Roberto “Condor” Rojas faked being hit by a flare while cutting himself in the forehead with a razor blade he kept hidden in one of his gloves to force a cancellation of the match for security reasons. The cheat was discovered a few days later thanks to the TV cameras, the Chilean team was banned from the next two World Cups and Mr. Rojas was expelled for life of the professional leagues. And he was a great goalkeeper indeed. Nevertheless, things didn’t turned out so bad for him. After disappearing a few years from the spotlight, he turned himself to god into an evangelic church, expiated his guilts, and came back humbly as the goalkeeper coach from Sao Paulo team in Brazil.
As Galería Chilena declares, the gesture of Condoro implies taking the mocking reception of the first world avant-garde made by the mass culture of the third world, processing it through a second degree irony –negation of a negation, taking the joke seriously– resulting in third world art to be exhibit back in the first world. The transference process is evident in the production process, where artists are requested to paint canvases using a limited color palette that was characteristic of a low budget printed medium. This nonsense acquires a certain poetry in the fact that painting being a less technologically advanced medium than printing, allows achieving a virtually unlimited color palette while at the same time being the characteristic medium of classical art. The gesture then implies a complete process of cultural and media transference that attempts to reveal the nature of the relations between low and high culture and first and third world, which become the two axis defining the coordinates of Condoro.
How is art possible today from a Latin-American country where more concrete social needs are so evident? Where no tradition or filiations allows to relate any formal invention? Where no background allows a foreground to emerge? Where every attempt ends up unnoticed in the indetermination of the medium, waiting for recognition from the outside to validate its statute of Art? Make art in Latin-America today becomes an urgent task precisely because of this impossibility.
(Felipe Fernández is a freelance writer and philosopher currently based in Santiago de Chile)
So WE ARRIVE in £ondon around october the 5th, and WE DIDN’T really know where we were standing at. WE THOUGHT the best time to do the show would be parallel to the FFF 2004 (Frieze Fair Frantic) WE HAD a couple of place possibilities to set the show: a company basement on Rosebury Avenue in Clerkenwell, an empty apartment in Long Street, in the East End. WE CHECKED these spaces and WE WEREN’T really dissapointed, but WE THOUGHT, since the main characteristic of GCH is the lack of space and the following need for spaces that are specifically chosen for a certain exhibition form, these spaces are privated of something fundamental: a little soul to it, something in the spirit of CONDOROS. So WE WENT out looking for new spaces, deciding the East End would be the best place to land, because WE KNOW people usually won’t travel much to go see an art show by unknowned foreigners, so the OOBAH-DOOBHA blocks around Hoxton/Hackney/Shoreditch would be right on the way to the local hole or some more familiar venues. So WE ARE walking around the neighbourhood taking notes and eleven-cypher-numbers from old front store’s awnings: a pet shop, an old hair saloon, a flower shop, little spaces, old, frayed, fucked up, dirty –WE LIKE to call it “character”. WE MEET the Tower Hamlets Property Services officials, WE UNDERSTAND the “unreal” quality of our timing and the strangeness of our requirements, specially with a budget quite close to nil. The following strategy happens through personal interviews with random honest well intentioned beautiful people that WE MEET at openings, after parties, bars where you can smoke at. Everybody thinks the idea is wikkid and bloody brilliant and everybody knows somebody, an artist friend who lives in a bigass loft, who’s got access to a kinda-gallery usually interested in crazy last minute projects. WE SPEND hours calling people WE DON’T even know how they look like: “…Hi, this is Galeria Chilena, WE ARE an art clique from Chile, WE ARE trying to organize a painting show here in £ondon by this weekend…” people freak out. Somebody tells us the british “need to know in advance”, and it’s fully understandable.
Pablo’s house was our headquarters, and most trips in search for place started passing through the underpass of UNION WALK, just a block away from Pablo’s. Time is running out, WE VISIT a burnt house, a micro cinema, a photo studio, a bar, WE THINK of squating Damian Ortega’s “Spirit” piece for White Cube on Hoxton Square and just plaster the paintings on it for one night. At this point the story of why WE CAME here, how WE THOUGHT of the show and all of our good intentions and hopes about it comes out of our mouths as a strip of tied colorful napkins comes out of the mouth of a dreaded magician. This drains a lot of vital energy out of you and it also kills the surprise.
The choice of hanging Condoros on Union Walk comes out as a better option, the best. WE KNOW opening night is what’s all about so why doin a week long show?–a week during which three sleepy people would come by as you freeze and drool in a lonely art room.
Condoros is a show about stereotypes, and putting it down on Union Walk is all about the stereotype WE SOUTHCORNERS had about £ondon: a cobble stoned dark alley roofed by rail tracks, where turds and piss greet you as you hurry up along the written brick walls. WE GREW up thinking of £ondon as street, punk, rock, puke, alcohol… fog, of course. Not only Clash Pistols the Ripper John Merrick et al. It’s always dump when we think of £ondon; it’s perverted, dirty and somber. Painfully attractive indeed. In total independence, this bridge where the gutter becomes a gallery and viceversa, under the big wing of being a citizen of the modern age. The bridge has light and roof and location. One of the lights gets on and off every minute. Commercial or friendly aquired spaces are steps we have already taken, now WE TRY to revisit the city, appropiating its base, standing at the edge of the oldest laws. So thank the godess drinking in the street is allowed here in £ondon, art opening without booze is useless as tits on a board.
Cheers to us all, hail the andean vulture!