Small Data: Trial/Error

Miguel Ángel Sánchez
January 4, 2021
DEMOCRACIA, "La vérité est toujours révolutionnaire", 2009.
DEMOCRACIA, "La vérité est toujours révolutionnaire", 2009.

Twenty-three years have gone by since I began to get obsessed. It was not the mere awakening of an interest, but rather the colonisation of gaze and thinking from which I have not been able to get free. Just a few certainties, but I could swear that the inability of moving away from this influence might be attributed to the impossibility to come across the ultimate reason justifying pertinences and needs. But in fact, why should I search for an ultimate reason? Why should I cling to reductionist certainties?
Many readings have accompanied this obsession, although here I will only mention two of them. The first one offered me an image that I feel is still liberating, which I stole in 2005 from Gerard Vilar in Las Razones del Arte (The Reasons for Art): I understood that we could visualise the reasons for contemporary art as a many-branched delta; both the aggregation of sedimentary material and the tributaries flow into the same sea and make up a self-regulated ecosystem. Every reason for art would therefore navigate through different intensities and flows, despite sharing the same field of discursive power. This image allows me to have more space and time to think about complementarities rather than exclusions, and, more than anything else, it cancels out any claim of absolute pertinence. I am interested in art, in any expression of it, but, despite having shaped a specifically-oriented programme in the art gallery I founded and co-direct with its team, I consider that, if after so many years, productions, exhibitions, presentations, texts, art fairs, travels, sales, convergences and divergences, I had discarded proposals that diverged from the areas I prefer most, I would have lost interest and the spell would have turned away from me.
The second reflection, which I just stole at the end of 2020 and I make my own, comes from Baptiste Morizot and Estelle Zhong Mengual, who in Esthétique de la Rencontre (Aesthetics of Encounter) try -and I think succeed in so doing- to diagnose one of today's main trends in the delta: that of inexpressive practice, what some authors identify as the "t.a.c."; that is to say, the temptation of contemporary art to unavailability. It would mean a reaction against the paradigm of cultural consumption that requires a thoughtless and continuous assimilation without any sedimentary process. I understand the unavailable strategy, although we cannot deny that this indiscernible grammar has an opportunity cost that I believe we cannot afford: it clears out unscrupulously the transforming potential of art and its impact on the furthest reaches of social and political spheres. Wherever we look we will see many hands rising to caricature the pretended political and social potential of art.
I wonder whether too much is being expected from artistic practices, mostly given the fact that they are only just one more piece of the complex human puzzle. Furthermore, I do not want to be content either by thinking that I should be satisfied with the undeniable generation of background noise and the increasing inoculation of ideas and egalitarian energy towards some areas of social stratification for whom everything is fine and who may continue to be unwilling to accept the blatant claims for equal rights in our context of moderated censure; or with the unavoidable fighting resistance of the politicised practice in contexts of embarrassing institutional repression, or the complicity with collectives claiming respect and inclusion. It is at this point that I am selfishly interested in seeing what is going on with "Small Data". I am very much looking forward to progressively receiving short texts and outlines of ideas from people whom I am interested in or that I admire. And not so much because I feel that essentialisms, but rather potential and scarcity, should be clarified; to discern if, in the medium-term they may help me carry out an exercise of strategic analysis that will deserve eventual publicising: strong and weak points from within and threats and opportunities from outside the practices, productions and contents that, let me repeat once more, non-exclusively, I have been interested in editing by means of the exhibition programme and the public activities in ADN.
I would like to conclude with a statement that has brought me more rejection than support, for it does not give comfort to any of the factions that only wish to follow their own drift across the delta. I cannot dissociate emotion, content and meaning; unavailability seems egotistical to me, sheer insubstantial aesthetisisation and aseptic inoperative and discouraging criticism. Let us see whether we are able to catch a glimpse of the interstices.