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Iván Argote. Un millón de amigos

Personal show curated by Albertine de Galbert.

In collaboration with Galerie Perrotin Paris, Hong Kong and D+T Project Gallery.

A couple comfortably lays down in a public garden. On their clothes, we can see the shadow of a hand caressing them softly as part of the couple’s intimacy. The gesture is absurd – they do not feel the caress- but it is very emotional. The physical contact never happens, and this distance  creates a double gap between the artist and the subject: the hollow of the hand and the hollow of the shadow; the negative colour body as a trace.


In a conference called "The Hollow of the palm and the infrared love ", the psychiatrist Jean-Pierre Klein proposes a definition of tenderness: “The tenderness implies two present subjects. It is not about possession, nor submission - which treat the individuals like objects -, neither passion nor addiction - which cut off and melt together parts of individuals.” According to Klein, tenderness depends on the “right distance”, short enough but no too short to be nothing, just the necessary to separate two free individuals in a relationship.


In the work of Iván Argote, Colombian artist living in Paris since he did his studies in the Fine Arts School, there are few pieces of art in which the idea of “short distance” does not appear as a leitmotif.  As a thief leaving behind the safe intact, Argote never takes his robbery to the limit. Paradoxically he protects his targets, as in the work called Turistas (Tourists)(2012) , where he covers with indigenous ponchos some historical statues made for the glory of the conquerors. This gesture is still tender and heart-warming, despite his frontal criticism against a political power that stands as heroes figures who contributed to the massacre of many indigenous tribes.


The action of covering and its comforting dimension, also takes place in the work called Dándole peso a los besos (Giving weight to the kisses) (2012) in which the artist and his collaborators, literally covered a rock with kisses, during the shooting of the film called La Estrategia (The Strategy) (2012). The giant rock was located on the banks of a Colombian river; during decades rivers have dragged the traumatic history of battles between guerrillas and paramilitary forces. The action of leaving kisses -as someone leaves lipstick kisses on mirrors- seems to conjure the past.

This humoristic or irreverent approach to sometimes dramatic historical and social issues, this tender language is formally expressed in Argote´s work. The choice of employing a Super 8 to shoot his film: Historia de la Humanidad (History of Humanity, 2011) or using a poor image, quoting Hito Steyerl, as opposed to the high-definition image, also gives sensitivity and familiarity to these works. In Historia de la Humanidad the artist and his family re-act some “great moments” of human history in a family- style video.


Similar to artists like English Stephen Willats, approaching the difficulty of coexisting in the urban context, Iván Argote is an activist of the contact and the relationships. He stages the pathetism of everyone’s solitude by breaking it and recreating possible links. In the piece Un año al día (One year per day) (2012) the artist make an announcement, inviting anyone who wanted to celebrate his birthday at one of the rooms of the CA2M (2 de Mayo-Madrid Cultural Centre). The mini celebrations took place with unknown people during the three months of the exhibition. The Polaroid photographs exhibited in the gallery are the only traces of these events.   


Another activist “manoeuvre” is the project called Activisisim!, in which he organised a workshop at MAC-VAL Museum with kids aged from seven to four years old, providing them with tools for demonstrating. Again, he is robbing without actually stealing from anybody.  


At ADN Gallery, he presents these works and some others that wonder about the idea of “right distance”, difficult to identify but yet necessary to live with the other, with out annihilate them neither by assimilation nor execution.


Hito Steyerl  is an artist, writer and film director, his article at e-flux can be found at:

Disseny web: