Art and theory, creator and critic, symbolic production and historiography are some of the category pairs that support Hander Lara’s more recent work, which was presented at the 12th Havana Biennial. In a coherent proposal, conceived as a series under the title of Art in Theory, he establishes a dialogue with a long tradition that intends to set the crossing and, at the same time, the limits between these two ways of positioning when faced with the creative event.
This approximation we are making now, for example, sees the artistic event not acknowledging the author’s original intentions. Even though it complements the piece’s creation –since it surveys, reads, interprets, and emits value judgements–, it probably leaves aside or promotes specific aspects that are different from those initially conceived by the artist. This should not imply any problem, for the act of dialogue with the piece does not depend on the one who realizes it, but on that one who comes back to it once and again in the subjective act of reception and individual aesthetic delight.
With that first view with which one scans the works, it is possible to notice a direct correspondence between its morphology or physical part and the title of the series. Printouts of some encyclopaedia pages on art have been glued to wood and PVC stands that are installed in a fragmented manner on the wall. On one side, the material and the text of the “theory” books on art; on the other, the title of the series that rapidly refers to that strength, give-and-take game between the two fields.
However, behind it, there is more than a simple correspondence between form –the material part of the piece– and content –suggested by the title–, a pair of complementary opposites that should had never been announced as separates due to the bi-univocal nature they have always had. This is so, because the “material” expression of art is not only the concretion of a kind of specific reflection that is indissolubly linked to it, but also the starting point of sensorial perception and comprehension processes that go beyond that idea.
Therefore, let us look for more.
On one side, art that manifests, translates, performs, acts, and participates in specific aesthetic, philosophic and social concerns of the creation world or in those that are merely outside art. It comes hand in hand with a subject that is no longer the renaissance genius and who no longer needs to dominate the techné –though this continues to be an extended value judgement in a wide section of the audience. The author’s intention intends to obtain given approaches and the resources employed will be directed to achieve some effect and reflections that are of his interest. However, his intention is no longer that of the piece that is hanged, installed or performed. It retains an author-like nature that allows it to be detached from the ties of “the author wants to say that” or “wanted to transmit that other thing.” Its iconic elements, its semes, each one of the parts that complete it will reset through the intellection of the subject who, not being its creator, comes close to it.
On the other hand, we have institutional procedures to come close to the artistic event: historiography, theory, and critique. The first one intends to carry out a sequence, and generally diachronic narration of events, academia, authors, and works grouped in historical periods, trends, styles, and movements. The value judgements exercised are normally constituted a priori, based on a work or creator belonging to a concrete historical moment and on the adaptation of its postulates according to this historical moment. This is usually the paradigm from which the “great” Art History is presented in encyclopaedias or specialized books, and one of the possible targets of Lara’s work’s critics.
Afterwards, theory studies, analyses, and deploys a category apparatus at the time it uses instruments from diverse disciplines to attempt a wider comprehension of creativity. Art theory, aesthetics, culture theory, semiotics, philosophical hermeneutics, and diverse study and knowledge systematization traditions are the base of a complex and articulated network to allows to continue by a path that intends, not the consecution of Hegel’s truth, but the approach, every time closer, to that we call “art.”
Simultaneously, the nature of critic tends to be more immediate, for it dialogues directly with the most recent production at the time, and lacks probably the certainty provided by time distance when value judgements are required. Its functions can go from the argument with artistic proposals –which makes it all the more known–, becoming a marker or thermometer of the daring nature of contemporary creation, until it works as a kind of mediator between art and public. And I say a kind of mediator, because the critique is never an explanatory act of the event, but the act of rendering specific instruments, stating possible interpretative hypothesis, and emitting criteria that generally judges creation qualitatively. The critique does not substitute the comprehension process, does not assume the place of the piece itself nor can stand as unique and exclusive criterion.
Even when the present series Art in Theory enjoys the benefits of the careful production, of the simplicity of constructed forms, its main contribution takes place probably in the field of most apparent tension since the second half of the 19th Century: the conflicting relationship between institution and art. Just as the pioneers of Dadaism of the early 20th Century and their conceptual heirs, Hander Lara presents a kind of work in which the idea occupies the main place, and not only that, but also the subversion of the kind of relationship to which it is opposed. Selection is essential here. Not only specific encyclopaedias have been chosen –Taschen, Illustrated Atlas of Contemporary Map–, but also this process has been operated twice, since the list represented artists is minimum and very significant.
Selected pages of creators like Piet Modrian, Jasper Johns, Murakami, Anish Kapoor, and Damien Hirst, cut into pieces installed one on top of the other, in some occasions, in others, leaving blank spaces, propose multiple readings. At first, there is a process of synonymy or correlation between the artist’s ex profeso selection and that of those publications –allegedly encyclopaedic. How Art History presents events? What is its action ratio? Who receive the “grace” of being part of these compilations? In a world in which pluralism is used as a flag, in which, for decades, standard paradigms have been subverted and a wide variety of artistic procedures are accepted, is it pertinent to continue working on the basis of exclusive strategies?
If we take into account the title of the series, we could perhaps object the rigour while mixing historiography and theory. That if we do not stop consciously on every interpretation possibility of the works and of all of them as a whole. But if we really intend to reach the end, the proposal of every single one of these pieces is the creation of a new and unique theory.
From the formal fragmentation of the pages presented to us, there is an allusion to the fragmentation of discourse or an incongruence between what is said and reality. Besides, the blank space between the parts composing the works speaks also of empty places, of things that occupy a specific place but which have not been mentioned. It is in this way that possible interstices, by means of which history can be intervened, are created. They allow, as well, the inclusion of other creators, and even the subversion of the analysis stated in these publications.
In this sense, the works acquire a playful nature in front of the receiver. The pieces not only unveil emptiness, incongruences, partiality, and exclusion of a specific Art History; they invite each subject to carry out the completions needed, to transform the approach, to change position. We go back, hence, to the title of the series, which not only and directly alludes to a historiography told under specific paradigms that neglect the vastest creation all along the development of mankind. It also makes direct reference to everyone’s ability to critically position when faced with given events and be able to construct new ways of thinking, dialoguing, and understanding. It is only in that way that the construction a new art theory is possible.