Latitudes / Imagen MAS/MUSAC / Fermín Jiménez Landa


Laboratorio 987, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), León, Spain, throughout 2011

With the participation of: Pennacchio Argentato; Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum; Uqbar (Irene Kopelman & Mariana Castillo Deball); Fermín Jiménez Landa & Lee Welch

’Amikejo’ was an exhibition season comprised of four exhibitions presenting new works by artist duos at MUSAC’s project space, the Laboratorio 987. Amikejo was a tiny state that existed from 1908–1920 between the Netherlands, Belgium and present day Germany and was founded on a desire to foster more effective international communication through the synthetic language EsperantoAmikejo means ‘place of great friendship’ in Esperanto. This episode-place was a unique synthesis of cartography, language, nationhood, politics, economics and subjectivity, and was entreated as a twin site to Laboratorio 987 by lending its name and conceptual borders to the exhibition series.

For the first exhibition, Neapolitan duo Pennacchio Argentato presented a new installation based on an exhibition's expectations of performance and interactivity. By transforming the Laboratorio 987 space into an interior akin to an abstract fitness gym, the duo framed their own activity by addressing the ideas of leisure and overproduction, work and non-work. A series of rough concrete “muscular” sculptures resembling prototypes for exercise machines seemingly promised engagement through, as the artists describe, “yet all without seeing or offering any end result”. Alongside the inactive machinery, a companion sculpture focussed more specifically on body building. An image of former professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger revealing his muscles prompted a consideration, within the context of an art space, of a self-made aesthetics based on pose and theatricality.

For the second exhibition, the Basque/Dutch duo Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum took the woodturning hobby of a retired factory worker – Gorkum’s grandfather, Jos van Gorkum (1911–1996) – as the point of departure for a self-referential exploration of the notion of artistic production. Central to the exhibition was a selection of objects made by Jos van Gorkum which the artists were able to locate in the homes of family members across the Netherlands. Jaio and van Gorkum also learnt how to use the original lathe on which these items were made, connecting their own labour as artists to the spare-time activity of a pensioner. The by-products of this process were incorporated as the supporting elements of the platform on which the original objects were displayed. In addition three monitors showed a corporate film of the Lips Propeller factory where Jos van Gorkum worked before his retirement; the original lathe being used to make some of the 49 legs which support the platform; and the scanning of magazine clippings and sketches of wood-turned objects which had been collected in a cigar box.

In the third chapter, uqbar (Irene Kopelman and Mariana Castillo Deball) explored the “interchanges, mutations, transmutations, metamorphosis and contaminations that working together entails... the not belonging to one or the other but rather creating an in between zone”, as the artists have described. The artists investigated the principal of chirality or ‘handedness’ – the property of an object that is not superimposable on its mirror image. Uqbar took this phenomenon as a metaphor of two organisms working together yet being completely different and alien to each other. The exhibition featured a spiral staircase, which served as a viewpoint for other artefacts and objects. Uqbar created a psychedelic chiral ecosystem, featuring hanging papier-mâché epiphyte sculptures and enlarged stone microfossils, as well as “Banyan tree drawings, a video of a chemical reaction, fables among non-humans and drawings of hybrid creatures”.

Fermín Jiménez Landa & Lee Welch did not know each other before the invitation to participate in Amikejo. As if engaged in international diplomacy, the artists had to understand each other personally and artistically before issuing a joint statement based on what they agreed and negotiated. Jiménez Landa and Welch chose to establish their collaboration in relation to the notion of the micro-nation and devices which delineate sovereignty – borders, stamps, anthems, and so on. Their exhibition comprised a constellation of diverse elements, some of which were directly apparent in the exhibition space, while others documented occurrences at remote locations, or existed only in the imagination. Portals or border markers hosted further two-dimensional and video works. A marching band from León was recruited to compose and perform a national anthem for a new autonomous island state and the founding of this micro-nation was documented in video and photography.

The publication includes specially-commissioned essays by Peter Osborne (Professor of Modern European Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University London); Ryszard Żelichowski (Professor and Director for Scientific Research at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences); Theo Beckers (Former Professor of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University and currently faculty member of the Tilburg Sustainability Center and Visiting Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences); Prof. Dr. Menno Schilthuizen (Research scientist at NCB Naturalis, an endowed chair for Insect Biodiversity at the University of Groningen and an Associate Professor at Leiden University); as well as texts on each exhibition; reprints by Giorgio Agamben and Georges Perec, installation views and artists' biographies.

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