09.26.2013 / 11.30.2013
In its second solo show in Barcelona, Adrian Melis presents at Adn Gallery: Time to relax. Instead of focusing its research in the imposed socio political frameworks existing in Cuba as he did in his first exhibition, the artist confronts here the Spanish contemporary situation centring his attention in the dichotomy of concepts such as presence / absence, voice / silence, leisure / claims, political discourse / social reality.
Throughout the six proposals [Ovation (2013); Replacement Points (2013); Light off (2013); Time to relax (2013); Moments that shaped the world – Primavera Sound (2012) and The best effort (2013)] that can be seen in the gallery, the artist suggests new ways of looking at present problems from a subtitle and poetical angle. It is no longer a matter of examining the grey areas of the system nor pointing out the parallel activities that can be produced to escape the control, the Cuban artist brings in Time to relax the subject to the foreground. Thus, the subjectivity of the witness becomes the leitmotiv and essential tool to read the exhibition; Adrian Melis gives voice to different collaborators yet not visible in the projects they exist behind the photographs and installations.
Ovation (2013) – is an on-going video loop which assembles images of the Spanish Parliament since the spring of democracy in the 70s. All the selected scenes show images of deputies applauding. This work allegorizes a system that seems to be distant from social reality: it elucidates a ritual of celebrating the passing of laws that are to be derogated upon an eventual change of government, in an everlasting confrontation that has nothing to do with the needs of the people represented by politicians.
Replacement points (2013) - In the twenty photographs of the series Replacement points, Melis highlights the tension between presence and absence, voice and silence related to contemporary political and social events. The images taken in the city of Barcelona and its suburbs show freshly painted walls hiding phrases of social protest previously written on. These phrases appear below the photographs, in the form of subtitles that decode neutral images.
Light off (2013): an arrangement of four transparent cubes which are lit internally by coloured lights changing at irregular intervals from green, to red an then to blue. Visitors are invited to take a seat. The lights are connected to a website created by Melis which it –self is connected to the Spanish stock market index, IBEX 35. Via the website´s connection to the stock exchange the green light signals that the index is rising, the red light indicates the fall, the blue light indicates periods of stability.
Time to relax (2013) The photographic series consists of sixteen shots taken from homes expropriated by banks in Spain in the last two years. Melis depicts views from windows, balconies, terraces which don’t belong anymore to their owners: sky views, trees, antennas, walls and buildings compose a mosaic of lost intimacy and daydreaming. Each shot is post-produced incorporating the date of eviction and the name of the bank owner of the rather poor real estate.
Moments that shaped the world – Primavera Sound (File II) (2012) – juxtaposes images from a popular music festival in the city of Barcelona and the audio archive of the manifestations and street protests of the M-15 movement, which marked the most recent socio-political events.
For the installation The best effort (2013), the artist initiated four advertising campaign in Spain for few jobs. The incoming calls of job-seekers are redirected to one of the telephones that is installed in the exhibition space at Adn Gallery. Each advertising is connected with one of the four telephones displayed at the gallery. At the same time, each telephone is connected to one speech of the four Spain’s prime ministers: Felipe González, José María Aznar, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy. Every time someone calls regarding these jobs and depending on the add one of the audios is activated and can be heard at the exhibition room. All of them are optimistic and positive speeches about the Spanish growth and the creation of multiple jobs, the progress and increase of Spanish economy as well as the development of the country. While the ringing phone itself is ignored and not picked up, the four Spain’s primer minister’s speeches are replayed repeatedly, making visible the gap between the realities of the working world in the country and the dynamics of contemporary politics.
Time to relax portraits Adrian Melis as an artist willing to explore social anthropology who ultimately is transformed into an ethnographer and even accomplice in the manner Miguel Ángel Sánchez (director of And Gallery) suggests in the catalogue incipit: Adrian Melis – The value of absence a co-production by Adn Galeria and the Cultural Institute of the Council of Barcelona:
The artists’ implication has to deal with the social problems which still emerge in unfair specific situations, even if they take a diffuse or elusive form in order to be immerse in what Hal Foster identified in the middle of the 90s as a “cultural expanded field”. It is precisely in this cultural expanded field, horizontal, synchronic and social where the American thinker places his “artists as ethnographer”. This paradigm instrumentalises the sociologic mapping looking mainly for the efficacy of the denounce. However as we know, after so much time thinking about the social and political role of art, the enunciation of hegemonic tools is not always effective per se. “From one side, the comprehension itself can hardly transform consciousness and situations. Exploited do not need to be explained the laws of exploitation. It is not the comprehension of the status of existing things which fosters submission, but the absence of the positive stimulus for a capacity of transformation” as says Jacques Rancière and I absolutely agree. *
The task of the “Artist as an Accomplice” is to enable this space, generating positivism, redistribution of visibility and confidence. Mapping a context and unmask the dynamics of the oppression is not enough. It seems that in current times, many artists follow this attitude and contribute to the community in an active way. Indeed, it is in this paradigm of effectiveness where the potential of Adrian Melis’s projects lies.
*Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics.