Of breaking and ripping
Cristina Arrazola-Oñate, María Cañas, Eli Cortiñas and Momu & No Es
29.11.2016 – 11.01.2017
Of breaking and ripping includes an exhibition and personal presentations of the projects and career paths of four artists – four who are five, since two of them work as one – who use public images or pre-existing codings grabbed from different sources and re-used to extract a third meaning. Who adopt, cite, twist and recontextualise the icons of popular culture and leisure consumption, with an implicit or explicit sense of criticism. This is the first instalment of Intermitents, a regular cycle of events that – with an open format – covers the practices of moving images or motion pictures on all supports and media, and in all their manifestations.
Intermittences of breaking and ripping
The cast of this programme is, in a manner of speaking, the result of an audition and of a hunch about linking four artists based on certain common aspects that I had glimpsed. The first is an appropriationist and furtive passion to work with public images that already exist, which are more sought than found (as expressed somewhat inaccurately by the term: found footage), grabbed from different sources and re-used to extract a third meaning. Working with such ready-to-consume images and also on the codes that they emit.
This activity consists of two parts, as a result of an open proposal and from the dialogue with the artists themselves. The first is a continuous display of the artists’ pieces, in a loop. The second is a series of presentations, talks and meetings over four consecutive days that will provide a broader insight into their career paths and the approaches and processes involved in their work.
Cristina Arrazola-Oñate presents the five submissions of Plano contra plano, which doubly links issues of gender with film genres, the role of women and men and society and their representation in audiovisual fictions. In each instance, the artist works on a recognised specimen of those genres from the factories of dreams and nightmares – including A and B-series films as well as artisan and auteur films – and applies different approaches and procedures that also include a piece in the compiling-cumulative tradition of stereotypes to distil the stem cell from it, the archetype of a certain mould.
The latest riotous pieces from María Cañas’s recent and forever frenzied production are included. As if in a digital blender, her ripped, punky video collages zap the fleeting traces – spread across the network of vanities – of the profane cult to the smartphone and other forms of artificial intelligence for the inept (La mano que trina). Or the constant stream of the crassest television programmes, polluted by the slurry of the faecal matter that it spreads and feeds on, but redeemed and consecrated by the supreme values of bad taste and grossness (Fuera de serie). From this, the archive terrorist from Seville concludes that “another kind of television is possible” (which no longer has “to come through our screens” as it can now be distributed via an unleashed network). And, as one of the best-known compositions by the spoken-word performer Scott-Heron proclaims, “the revolution will not be televised”.
Eli Cortiñas presents her most recent piece, The most given of givens, a triptych of projections in which she fine-tunes the procedures – juxtapositions, echoes, counterpoints, image beats – of previous multi-screen composition works. Unlike other videos that she based on a single source, on footage from Hollywood, independent and auteur films or simply a small, distinct point in a particular shot or scene, here Cortiñas combines material from various sources – images and sounds (not always in synch due to the sliding of cuts from one screen to another), including adventure and blockbuster films on the one hand and auteur films on the other, as well as some documentary images taken by the artist herself. Akin to the concept of experimental ethnography, the piece is about the myth of Tarzan – the ape-man, a “noble” white savage – motivated in part by the artists roots on the Canary Islands and their proximity to Africa.
Momu & No Es’s projects combine elements of performance, outlandish fiction and visual bubblegum. Here, they present Soft Mud and the Fanboy, a piece originally created for the exhibition entitled “Pop Politics: Activisms at 33 Revolutions”. The core component is a narrative dappled with loud and marshmallowy colours, effects galore and borrowed video clips that get mixed up with the staging that envelops them. It all becomes an apotheosis of simulacrum and splitting, which includes the group La Casa Azul and the Mexican singer Silverio as paradoxically real fictitious characters in a moral-less story that becomes a pretext to explore the construction of a relationship between idols and fans, and also emotions, palpitations of desire, the sense of community and the fleeting years of youth.
 A concept introduced by Catherine Russell in her book of the same title Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.
 Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Móstoles, Madrid, 2012-2013.
Destroy (and reconstruct), she said
I see María Cañas, Eli Cortiñas, Momu & No Es and Cristina Arrazola-Oñate in the public square, about to be burnt on account of their resistance to a normative, patriarchal, bourgeois and capitalist order, recycling the ruins of iconic capitalism at a time of audiovisual surplus, controlling the reproductive function of art, shouting the words that María Cañas retrieves from Simon of the Desert by Luis Buñuel: “Do not burn at the fire of a vain contemplation!” I look at them and I see them kissing the fire of their visions, often anchored in pop imaginary and mass culture, and reusing the embers thereof. Those embers that, on some occasions, are their own images and, on others, are expropriated images from the history of film and television or the Internet (as vast dumping ground for audiovisual detritus in the case of the latter).
If Harun Farocki and many other authors invite us to be suspicious about images, then these artists’ way of doing it is to prioritise the imaginary over the image. According to Gaston Bachelard, the value of an image is measured by the extension of its imaginary aureole. At a time when the value of things (and works as things) is measured in an extremely one-off way, there is nothing more blessed than the idea of a trajectory, and the artists convened here respond to that idea, making the trajectory an occasion to construct an imaginary, a personal labyrinth with exit doors, a Wunderkammer full of nodules, of recurrent themes, that are at once identifiable and genuine. The artists convened here also share interests and visions: they explore the uncanny valley with more or less humour, with more or less sense of the absurd, they re-use existing materials from the history of images, they disassemble film and art genres, and they disarticulate gender perspectives from a feminist point of view of necessity, a consequence of seeing themselves as aliens in relation to the world. Aliens that, like satellites, stay off the planet but are linked to it because of the force of gravity exerted on them.
“I’m a fanny videns. Since I was a child, I’ve needed to be Martian or dirty,” says María Cañas. In Homo Videns, Giovanni Sartori indicates that “video-trained” man is becoming incapable of comprehending abstractions and understanding concepts. These artists’ position will be the opposite. As genuine fanny videns, they will use the forceps of their intelligence and sensitivity to give new meaning to existing images, always excessive in a culture of omnipresent screens and interfaces. The artists are gleaners; their gaze is ecological in its approach, in the sense that they recycle images without adding hardly any new detritus of cognitive capitalism, and also in the sense that they study the relationships between beings and the environment in which they live; they understand the medium is the mediasphere, that is, the images themselves.
They are good daughters of the cooks who, with four ingredients, manage to make the best recipes: do it yourself, as we have always known it. All of them use what Hito Steyerl calls “raw material”. This consists of low-definition, basic images and material, and they construct rich allegories with whatever it is they have to hand, like a “handful of [digital] detritus” from our culture to question its foundations. Cortiñas applies this to her exhibitions, Momu & No Es to their performance experiments, and María Cañas and Cristina Arrazola-Oñate to their video collages and audiovisual pieces. The editing room is a cooking, stomachic, uterine, stitching and re-stitching space.
As horsewomen of art and audiovisual media, they mount (or edit), dismount (or unedit) and remount (or re-edit) the images and conventional places on which culture is built. Like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, they are visionaries in their works, provocative (provocare, call forth, challenge) in their visions.
“Destroy!”, they said, and immediately afterwards “Reconstruct!”, return the fire to the ashes and to the embers in the hyperpopulated solitude of visions; make possible worlds grow and give potential meanings to a world that is practically impossible to name, to see, to transit.
 Alluding to the novel Détruire, dit-elle (1969) by Marguerite Duras.
 FAROCKI, H.; Desconfiar de las imágenes, Ed. Caja Negra, 2013, Buenos Aires.
 BACHELARD, G.; L’Air et les songes. Essai sur l’imagination du mouvement, Librairie José Corti, 1943, p. 5.
 María Cañas, in the special Metrópolis programme (broadcast on La2, 27 September 2015) dedicated to the artist.
 SARTORI, G.; Homo videns, Ed. Taurus, 1998, Buenos Aires, p. 17.
 STEYERL, H.; Los condenados de la pantalla, Caja Negra Editora, 2014.
 Adaptation—and translation into English—of the Spanish title that María Cañas gave to her latest audiovisual workshop: “Con un puñao de detritus”.