Eric del Castillo / Riot!
Before everything else, a question:
– For which specific procedure does Eric del Castillo reach in the creation of new discursive platforms he introduces to the space of Salon Galić in Split?
The possible response might be the so called „postproductional“ procedure that was brought to the discipline of art history by Marcel Duchamp and his ready-mades, and theoretically actualised and explicated by Nicolas Bourriaud more recently. According to that procedure, the artist perceives contemporary culture and every part of it as an information warehouse from which he selects fragments used to create new, meaningful complexes. The artist takes finished images or objects and, by using specific interventions, places them into new relational networks, enabling them to adapt to a completely different semantic surrounding and unexpected interpretations. Such ecologies and reutilisations are actually the protocols of articulating new discussions that are often very critically determined.
Resistance and immediate (re)action are intrinsic to every avant-guarde or neo avant-guarde procedure. In the context of such approaches, more precisely letrical and situationist practices, détournement stands out as a method of subversion and initialisation of new discursive platforms based on the edited original. These platforms are almost always ones of confrontation or rebellion. Finally, Bourriaud’s „culture of use“ – and use is the minimum of détournement – is the affirmation and advocacy of the concept of „unrest“ and continous mutation, the concept of evasion of any kind of final classification. Unrest and mutation are supported by reinterpretations, collaging, remixing, recontextualisations, etc. It seems that the „culture of use“ and détournement are important segments of Eric’s artistic methodology, and their inherent idea of protest is projected to the narrative framework of the whole exhibition ensemble and its main title – RIOT!
Of course, call to détournement is not arbitrary because such procedure operates with urban space and originates from activistic attitude. Going through situationist acts, Chris Jenks considers it as a possible methodology of exploring the city. The streets are the site of public protest and unrest. It actually becomes a diagnostic place for societal neuralgias: various forms of violence and exploitation, multidimensional deprivations and social isolation, societal ruptures caused by economic or other inequalities. Global problems, „policies of the world“ and destructive „parasites“ of society are exposed, and support, balance, justice and humanity is advocated on the streets. It is right here that the world is seen through constant mutation, perhaps even in the collapse, i.e the dynamics of multilayered crumbling.
It seems that Eric Castillo’s RIOT! paraphrases and reactualises essential questions posed by Bernardine Dorhn in the foreword of AK Thompson’s Black Block, White Riot: Antiglobalization and the Genealogy of Dissent (2010).
– How do I actually become a political man? How do I learn to live differently so others can live too? Do I really want to learn to live differently so I could live authentically, democratically, equally, humanly?
In recent times, answers to these question are articulated through the sort of visuality amalgamated by Eric Castillo, through RIOT!
Activist practices and tactical media animate civil awareness and warn about the wide spectrum of endangered human rights. However, governing ideological framework, supported by systems of control and surveillance they bring into everyday life, most often perceive activists as threatening subjects, even as potentially criminal and terrorist agents. Apparatuses for protection of the existing order are being generated and they deliberately blur categories. Oppositional attitude, dissent and defiance are often interpreted as fronts for terrorism. As Thompson subsumes in the mentioned book, governing ideologies supported by media practice and various campaigns contributed to the view of anti-globalist movement activists as a conceptual version of the strange and unintelligible „the Other“. Negative media campaign and discomfort caused by the „strange and unintelligible“ supports „clearer“ and „more acceptable“ concept of law obiding citizen that played a key role in the stratigraphy of the society of control. Thompson further warns that, because of the increased use of anti-globalist activistic procedures, individuals are threatened by exclusion from the category of citizens and enjoying their inherent rights.
The idea of confrontation is present in all of Eric del Castillo’s artworks, without exception. We are talking about digital collages (flags), objects, installations, on-line archives, absorption of his compatriots Alredo López Casanova’s and Huellas de la Memoria Collective’s work – ( Eric constructs whole part of the exibition inspired by the insights from the horror of Mexican reality!) – but also about other procedures comprising the experiences of rebellion and compressing topics such as revolution and war, social unrest, consumerism, inequalities generated by various oppressive political and economical systems. As Eric himself confirms, poetical, political, ethical and aesthetical elements are present and structured in his work. Sometimes, the serious discourse of our time is observed through the ironic and contradictory visual language of popular culture. Furthermore, in the exhibition subtext, Eric questions if, and in what measure, the idea of rebellion is present in art at all. In the exhibited artworks he does not focus on a particular geographical area. Instead, by making collages from different visual templates, he accentuates the universality of protest and rebellion, whichever impulse they are caused by. It does not matter if it is Syria, Mexico, the United States, Greece, Turkey, or some other place.
As a „visual remixer“, Eric creates a base of images, a kind of memory compendium via which a possible history of revolt through the last very vibrant decades is presented. Eric’s treatment of the theme is very broad: from powerful documentary photographs to the weakened idea of protest translated into fashion (almost fetishist) application. Eric’s archival accumulations and constructs evoke the memory of revolt, but also clearly inform about the insecure, unstable and threatening life context. He is interested in the strength of the visual, a specific place where art and revolution, idea and use, representation and act intertwine. Not necessarily in that order and in those pairs.
At the very end of this short textual explication, there is a question: activism or passivism? Reality or deception? Red or blue pill (Matrix, 1999)?
Bourriaud N., Postproduction, Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World (New York: Lukas and Sternberg, 2007.)
Jenks Ch., „Watching Your Step: The History and Practice of the Flâneur“ (in: Visual Culture, London: Routledge, 1995.)
Thompson AK, Black Block, White Riot: Antiglobalization and the Genealogy of Dissent (Edinburgh, Oakland, Baltimore: AK Press, 2010.)
Eric del Castillo was born in Mexico City in 1962. After studying film and painting, in 1986 he began his artistic career using the techniques of collage, appropriation and remix. Although his work in the 80s was dedicated to performance, object interventions and installations, collage extends throughout his artistic work not only as the most important artistic technique, but as a way of thinking and acting in general. He lives and works in Split.
In 1995, he received fellowship from the National Fund for Arts and Culture (FONCA), Mexico, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), USA. In 1996, he was resident artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Since 1987, he has participated in 14 solo shows and more than 100 group exhibitions.
The most important are:
2014 Scherzo Vol. 2. Institute for Contemporary Art. Zagreb, Croatia.
2013 Scherzo. Galerija Meštrović, Split, Croatia.
2005 Anthologie der Kunst. Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Akademie der Kunst Berlin, (2004) and Zentrum fur Medienkunst. Karlsruhe (2004) Germany.
1998 Abductions, Instituto Cultural Mexicano, San Antonio, USA.
1996 Open House. Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA.
1995 Telling Stories/Telling Tales, The Banff Centre for the Arts. Alberta, Canada.
1993 Small Worlds. Galería del Progreso. Madrid, Spain.
1993 Collage of the 20th Century. Museo Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo A.C. Mexico City.