artwork

The Origin of Species

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Imperial Poem




IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2010.






The Falkland Islands, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Mount Tumbletown, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 165 x 306 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Falkland Islands, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 165 x 306 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, San Carlos, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 138 x 181 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Stone Runs Cat, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 138 x 181 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Stone Runs, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 138 x 181 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 10, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 11, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 12, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 13, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 14, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 1, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 2, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 3, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 4, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 5, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 6, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 7, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 8, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM, Portrait 9, Ink on Argentinian Phone Book, 110 x 82 cm, 2010.






IMPERIAL POEM - PINTA ART FAIR 2011, EDEL ASSANTI GALLERY, London, 2011.






IMPERIAL POEM - INTERVIEW PRESS, Penwin News, The Falkland Islands, 2010.





ERASING AND CREATING IN THE WORK OF CARLOS ZUNIGA (essay)

The artworks on display in the solo exhibition of Chilean artist Carlos Zuniga at the Edel Assanti Project Space consist of phonebook pages. On these pages individual names are carefully and systematically crossed out to subsequently unveil detailed portraits or landscapes. The precision by which the works are executed is remarkable. In order to construct these new images, Zuniga has to erase existing information. This becomes a highly meaningful operation considering the thousands of names from the phonebook pages at stake.

In the context of Chile, Zuniga's practice of erasing names could be seen as referring to the thousands of people who were detained, and who then 'disappeared' during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

An equally strong reference is made to censorship, a common practice during the repressive regime. The artist does not only point to this but embodies it: for Zuniga censorship is the very act that lies at the basis of his visual creation.

As Zuniga suggests, censorship is part of our daily life, we see it constantly around us and it can take many forms. The practice itself could be said to be paradoxical: drawing from Heidegger, censorship means destructing the argument while, at the same time, creating the evidence. In this sense it is a manipulation of the facts, a filtering of information. Erasing and unveiling, censoring and creating are therefore two sides of the same coin. This is clearly visible in Zuniga's work where a landscape or portrait is created by eliminating names and phone-numbers. A new meaning is thereby produced, superimposed onto the information already available on the phonebook pages. This process is similar to that of inscribing palimpsests.

The ancient practice of writing palimpsests on manuscripts came into being primarily due to economic reasons: when paper or parchment was scarce it was sometimes necessary to reuse the already written pages. This practice, therefore, was not aimed at erasing, damaging or destroying the information that was already present, it was necessary in order to be able to carry on writing. Zuniga, however, engages with the information given on the pages. His artworks can be understood as palimpsests in the archaeological and geological sense. According to these two disciplines, a palimpsest refers to the mingling of layers in the soil. As a consequence, it is no longer possible to establish which layer is older. In this sense, the palimpsest denotes a hybrid mixing of layers, to the point that they are indistinguishable and cannot be told apart. In Zuniga's practice, the phonebook pages and the superimposed image melt into each other to form a new work of art.

A number of Zuniga's images in this exhibition present the viewer with a landscape depicting the Falkland Islands. These are idyllic settings, such as Work Stones (2010). There are also portraits depicting local people living on the Islands. The Falkland Islands have a turbulent history: ever since the establishment of British rule in 1833, Argentina has claimed sovereignty over the territory. This eventually led to the Falklands War in 1982 and the subsequent defeat of the Argentine forces. The dispute over the control of the Falkland Islands has since continued and led Argentina to boycott the Islands. This blockade has prevented travel from Chile to the Islands and vice-versa, as well as the shipping of supplies, isolating them from the rest of the world. The negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom are still ongoing and slowly some routes to the Falkland Islands have been reopened.

To Zuniga, these events speak of the continuing legacy of British Imperialism. The ongoing negotiations testify to the fact that Imperialism and the notion of overseas possession have not yet been overcome in the 21st century.

The theme of the Falkland Islands raises questions about the meaning and relevance of social biology in the era of neo-liberal globalization. Through the idea of natural selection, Zuniga looks critically at society's adaptability to the free market economic system. This reflects a personal concern of the artist about whether to resist or - otherwise - to be swallowed up by the capitalist system. What are the chances of survival? This interest in Darwin's theories of natural selection and evolution also inspired Zuniga's work The Origin of Species (2006). In this video installation the artist carefully and patiently crosses, line by line, the whole content of Darwin's famous publication The Origin of Species (1859).

When depicting the Falkland Islands, Zuniga does not make reference to the War. His images of the islands are peaceful, even idyllic. As for the portraits, they remain anonymous. Nevertheless, his opinion with regards to whom the Islands belong to is clear: Zuniga uses paper from Argentinean phonebooks to represent the Falkland Islands and its people. In doing so, he directly relates his work to issues of identity. Using the Argentinean pages he comments on their communal identity. At the same time, however, he also points to issues of difference: some names are erased. This conforms to the notion theorised by Jacques Derrida, among others, by which identity can only exist in opposition to the Other. It is only by excluding (in this case erasing) 'them' that 'we' can define ourselves. Zuniga's act of erasing refers to the necessary and inevitable exclusion that is implicated in the creation of identity.

The practice of superimposing information upon the phonebook pages represents the political search for the collective over the individual. The phonebooks stand for a vehicle - albeit old-fashioned nowadays - whereby the individual is able to insert himself into the social network, thereby creating a social body. This body is a Body without Organs (BwO) in the Deleuzian sense. For Deleuze and Guattari the essence of the BwO is movement: it is never fixed. Moreover the BwO's absence of organs refers to the lack of organization and the fact that the BwO is not composed of parts that are distinct from each other. But while for Deleuze and Guattari this rhizomatic social body had strong political implications (for example, subverting the Western philosophic tradition and its longing for hierarchy and order), Zuniga wants to distance himself from any political task attributed to the artist. For him, artists do not have a social role: artists have never provoked social change. At best, Zuniga explains, artists can represent or reflect on society. Something Zuniga's works, without doubt, accomplish.

Michelle Franke - Stefanie Kogler - Miriam Metliss

London, November 2010.