By Ana María Lozano
Q. Why didn't you make it larger, so that it would overpower the observer?
A. I was not making a monument
Q. Then why didn't he make it smaller, so that the observer could look down on it from above?
A. I wasn't making an object
Tony Smith's answers to questions about his six-foot steel cube.
The above quote is made by Robert Morris in his famous text Notes on Sculpture, written in 1966 and published in Artforum. The text was, in turn, edited and translated by the Spanish magazine Trama, Magazine of Painting, from which it is taken by Simón Marchán Fiz, who includes it in its entirety in his book "Del arte objetual al arte de concepto"; version, this last one, from which I, in turn, take it..
-The text that follows has to do with the superimposition of images; with the folding and retraction of memory; with the appropriation and circulation of symbolic objects; with the interpretation of scales and spatial games.
It is curious that it is the same century that invented photography and tourism. And it is understandable. The 19th century, which saw the emergence of new actors within a system of production in transformation, such as the industrialist, the proletarian, the worker, the patent hunter, would define time, space and speed in a different way. The games of economic speculation profited from the desires of the subject, to whom was sold, perhaps for the first time in history and for the economic and technological conditions of the moment, the intuition of a closer globe. Photography, travelers' books, chronicles, brochures, postcards and even carte de visite, would deliver images of remote places of the world, exotic and attractive landscapes and architectures, which perhaps could not be accessed physically but, eventually, if from the image, collected in the albums that were treasured in the newly renovated reception rooms.
Colonial thinking made the other an inferior, but attractive and desirable being. The desire to know foreign cultures and territories was fed by an enormous printed and photographic production, and even pornography.
This same century is the great moment of the miniature building. The solidification of collecting, through the creation of museums; its gradual opening to the general public; the taste for archaeological elements and monuments of the past, which came so strongly from the previous century, were factors that contributed to the emergence of the pleasure of recognizing monuments made on a domestic scale. The doll's house sees its best moment also in the 19th century, where the elites could enjoy a romanticized design of the private space, then recent invention, with the most minutely described furniture details.
Susan Stewart would dare to think of an aristocratic entertainment that would play, in the fiction of A Doll's House, with miniaturized territories, where it would be feasible to romanticize and exoticize the peasantry itself, disregarding famine and forced displacement and, instead, enjoy charming picturesque and pastoral narratives.
It could be defined with these stories, the eagerness to grasp a contractible world before an expanded subject; a subject with a city in a bottle, -like Kandor in Superman-, a sort of tyrannical superman, who holds the domain of the sign-monument, who redefines its semanticity, its contexts and narratives. The monument made artifact would obey symmetrically to the miniaturization of a satirical and politically accurate text, like Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, maliciously turned into an adventure story for children.
This modern subject, powerful in his intimacy, master of his domesticity, western, consumer of the world; physical and media tourist; collector of the foreign; will be the great consumer of a contemporary kitsch, holder of plastic money, of a mouse and a remote control, means through which he incorporates the world. We recognize him in the second part of the twentieth century and in our current twenty-first century.
The monument has its purpose in memory, in the intention of preventing disappearance, dissolution and oblivion. The historical monument, whether natural or cultural, transcendent for art or for science, for architecture or for history, seems to possess the qualities that would guarantee the will of conservation and care, which would appeal not only to the inhabitant of a territory, but to that of a country, and indeed, to any inhabitant of the globe.
The monument, by being singled out for its singular properties, exposes the otherness of the monument, which, in contrast, seems worthy of being demolished, replaced, erased. By being exceptionalized, the monument is isolated. It is fragmented from its surroundings, its context, its history, its location. To that extent, it is deterritorialized, making it, to a large extent, a building without history, exempt, anomalous. The gesture that mentions it as preservable, defines the other, the fugitive, the ephemeral: buildings, urbanizations, complexes, shopping centers, bridges, towers, factories, would constitute architectures of the ordinary that, by not entering the realm of the exceptional, would be potentially dispensable.
The insulae or islands extend into the green area of the patio of gallery nine eighty, so characteristically delimited with an organic periphery, typical of the grammar of the architecture of the time. The islands are supported by separate, circular, artificial, autonomous and clearly delimited micro-territories. As floating architectural models, they stand on such a scale that they participate in that indefinable space mentioned by Morris in the document cited above, vacillating between the objectual and the monumental, between the intimate and the public. To this I would add that the islands are allied to form expandable and nomadic archipelagos, floating fragmentary and transhistoric, between being a souvenir or an obsessive model.
Made in stone by the pre-Columbian forgers of Huila, with whom Nadín Ospina has developed other projects; the souvenir-monuments, the name I now give them, because the two words together produce an uncomfortable contradiction, exhibit in their condensed, miniaturized space, the distinctive details that make them characteristic, and therefore, recognizable, a fundamental element in the culture of the tourist consumer, flattered by his ability to identify his miniaturized portable, internet and television world.
The material translation carried out in stone will be one of several, since they will constitute translations, the elimination of the grandeur and, precisely, of the monumental scale; the enveloping and excessive relationship of its own scale; the fractures of the links between the monument, its space and its geography; the disconnection with the determining historical processes, in the framework of which they were carried out, as well as of the conditions of production, characteristic and different in each monument cited. Once these contextual elements are eliminated, what remains is the form, the mere form, the quotation, its surface, its materiality, in an interpretation that forever differs the discursive and ideological content of that particular cultural production: Colchester Castle, the Crysler Tower, the Pyramid of the Moon.
Homogenized by an amalgam that has turned them into a matter of cultural and tourist consumption, the souvenir-monuments, circulate giving place to another element, also savored by the media world, this time characterized by belonging to the world of nature, but, eventually, more marked by culture and by the signs of authoritarian domination of the human will than any landscape art. Nepalese Bonkei links bonsai, water and earth. In this case, the tray that contains it is neither lacquered nor oval; it is a perverse monument-souvenir. The conjunction produces a sarcastic scenario, a dramatization of a simulacral world, the time of the world as image; a moment in which diversity and heterogeneity have become scale models, regulated, ruled, their capacity to emit memory cut off.
The terrifying image, transhistoric and postcolonial, where the consumption of the image dehierarchizes, and the simulacrum metastasizes, signals the historical moment of the multiculturalization of the cultural sign. In Stuart Hall's terms, the apparent tolerance and inclusiveness of societies that boast of being multicultural, is none other than being societies where difference is absorbed by the dominant culture and dissidence is added to the hegemonic voice, disappearing in a silent and imperceptible dilution. Insulas appears as the image of the disneyzation of the world, in whose delirious process, a fragmentary, deterritorialized territory is exposed, in which the contemporary subject, pseudo-tyrannical consumerist of his small environment, seeks to approximate the experience of the world, to, definitively, keep it away.