Going back to the past is more common than we tend to be aware of; and taking a glimpse at the future, guessing or trying to predict it and even aiming to modify it, also tends to be a fairly recurring attitude. Both situations have been addressed by art on countless occasions, during all eras, latitudes and in diverse cultures. As an example, cave paintings and prehistoric monuments were, most likely, advances of reality and propitiatory mechanisms to obtain celestial, divine or natural favors.
On multiple occasions art has also taken works of the past to recreate them or simply reproduce them under a mimetic learning lens; and within this increasingly present departure of postmodern art, a respectful attitude for the previous document has not limited creative possibilities and re-signification whatsoever; on the contrary, it has been propelled into previously unexplored territories, opening up new possibilities of interpretation and expression. Likewise, the historical event has been present within the domain of art to trace its importance to posterity and has adopted various interpretations that walk between the classic memorial and the more contemporary digital recording version.
In Emergence-y, we witness a way of alchemically converting a previously unregistered fact into an aesthetic event of inexhaustible interpretation and emotional and moving capability, by means of a powerful spatial intervention of the exhibition’s setting. The image of the sudden appearance of a P-38 fighter aircraft on some beach in the sea of Wales, spread by the media among their unstoppable information flow, is the catalyst device for the artist’s visual approach to an event which inevitably refers to the self-destructive warlike attitude that has unfortunately accompanied mankind along much of its historical evolution, featured here specifically about the sinking of a World War II bomber that emerges for a few days after 65 years of striving to be visible once again.
The art-work thus becomes a device to reveal multiple meanings by addressing symbolic interpretation possibilities through its exquisite visual aesthetics against an event that remembers a hostile, rough and violent past. Opposing the dark, destructive past to which it refers, the bomber’s dissolved image faces the body of water’s staggering immensity to remind us of disappeared absence, of sensibility’s eternal presence, and of the possible transformation of the aberrant into something magical, fantastical, and dreamlike. Over the subtle and vague, the heavy and solid aircraft beautifully emerges right where the waves eternally—though barely palpable—kiss the sand, producing an out-worldly sort of phenomenon that melts ‘gravid’ with subtle, aqueous with earthly, past with present, material with virtual, ongoing with memory. The piece hence emerges, retaking the ingredients of this bewitched mixture under a sensible urgency, to propose an art-like message of fortunate depth.
Emergence-y hence carries Michel Foucault’s historical notion, proposed in the introduction to his Archeology of Knowledge. A new way of addressing the historical document is raised, no longer immobile or to simply interpret or question its truthfulness, but as something vital that must be observed from within itself, its own spheres, and the worlds it addresses to be elaborated. Emergence-y assumes a consistent attitude with this new version of history in which “the linear supports that had been the object of research until then were replaced by a game of in-depth tearings”. History approaching archeology seems to make clearance, thereof defining an active role for the work of art in relation to its apprehended objects, which consequently achieve an infinite capacity of opening to new readings and the ideas hiding behind; likewise, playing an interdependent role while revealing the events both represented and actively witnessed.
From this approach, Emergence-y imprints the historical piece in the depths of collective historical consciousness, deeply rooted in the poetic and transcendent notion, just like the aircraft emerges from a hidden depth to manifest its presence in the surface of consciousness. As Jung’s notion of what is hidden and repressed in the unconscious, repeatedly beating until triggering its appearance in the conscious world, the P-38 indicates the irresistible condition of a dark past that returns to deplore its perennial presence. The evident replacing the concealed, embodied in the aesthetic version of Emergence-y, refers to the idea that “art should help reveal the dark side of light where the world’s poverty and misery accumulate, to heal and enlighten new territories”. With all the semantic power of the work’s title, addressing both the emergence—as outbreak, sprout—and the emergency—as unexpected accident which requires special attention, Emergence-y recovers the randomness and evanescence of another world; historical, liquid, ghostly, appearing everywhere and nowhere, unfathomable, ephemeral and of virtual quality. Almost dream-like, as mild memory appearing without notice, it reminds blurry beats that manifest themselves to accuse the horror of the almighty attitude of war’s spirit.
The message thus extends to question the notion of modernity that claims infinite development and rational progress as unique alternative to be in the universe, exhausting the possible democratic, equitable and poetic transformations in the world to change a situation of imbalance, poverty, inequality, intolerance, extremism, subjugation and destruction; an emergency needed to be urgently addressed. Against the necrotic condition imposed by war, in its emergence, the fighter appears as a messenger of life drawn from the original matter of existence, referring to a particular heroic vibration to be reborn in water and talking about "[...]a Western world aware of this unstoppable degradation and tempted to restore good old values [...] to save its own identity".
The audio atmosphere of the work rounds-up the message, combining the sea’s own vital singing with those destroyer’s air bursts of the time; a message of aesthetical-social codes that is made possible through a careful installation in the hall. The ‘genius loci’ is—almost quite literally—flooded, activating in the viewer hidden perceptions that awaken fantasies associated to the eventual, the imminent casualty, and the astonishing appearance. The idea of breaking the isolation of contemporary art to make it more accessible is achieved by overwhelming shock and temporary redefinition. The intended permanence clings to the ephemeral, the instantaneous, the incomprehensible and the short-lived to deeply move the spirit of those who attend the art installation in order to link the work of art to the consolidation of a collective imagery and a lasting memory of meaningful poetic identity.
Inscribed within its blurry boundaries, the work’s components derive in a multi-dimensional structure of relative relationships that weave unexpected connections. In counterpoint with the conventional version of interpretation and significance of history, the fact is welcome to then translate it into a legendary event that goes beyond the time-like dimension and post-modern characteristics of the formless, the diffuse and the errant, sending the message from its deepest sense, the same as do the remains of the airplane from the ocean’s depth. Like the P-38, the art-work is unearthed in archeological—and marine—attitude with the help of the natural movements of water, to launch a cry of complaint towards celestial infinity and then return again to its awaiting stillness bedding.
The formal quality of the work as a point in nautical space transported to the exhibition venue is determined by the anthropological reference that marks or determines a specific place in the vastness, serving as indication, sign and trace. Therefore, Emergence-y establishes the notion of momentary territory "[...]" from the moment in which the media components cease to be directional to become dimensional, when they cease to be functional to become expressive. […] "The emergence of expression matter (qualities) is going to define the territory." In other words, the setting is defined by appearance, by halt, by rise; it’s the establishment what motivates the territorial sense of memory. The work becomes an object that facilitates and establishes the notion of temporary territoriality which refers to the divine dimension of Mnemosyne, recalling—in the sense of returning to the heart, to the essence of feelings; an image that sends a message emerging to appear again, to give in to the urgent call for a return of prudence, harmony, coexistence and respect. The craft embodies again its volatile, airy character, and tries to lift flight once more, fighting against the fluid opposition of the ocean that refuses and returns the war artifact back to oblivion.
Although by its ephemeral condition the mark left on the landscape by the historic event fades over time and is limited to memory or documentary records, Emergence-y eternalizes the latter and provides it with solid consistency to overcome the moment, thus building up ties that erase material limits through a palimpsest exercise.
Baudrillard, Jean, El paroxista indiferente. Conversaciones con Philippe Petit (Joaquín Jordá, tr.), Barcelona, Anagrama, 1998.
Delleuze, Gilles y, Guattari, Félix, Mil mesetas. Capitalismo y Esquizofrenia (José Vásquez Pérez, tr.), Valencia, Pre-textos.
Foucault, Michel, La Arqueología del Saber, México, Siglo XXI, 1978.
Orta, Jorge, en: Festival Internacional de Arte Ciudad de Medellín, Medellín, Secretaría de Educación Municipal, 1997.
Article for the Journal of Cultural NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF COLOMBIA, Medellín, No. 55, December 2010.
JUAN DAVID CHAVEZ GIRALDO (1966)
Architect, Master in Art History at the University of Antioquia, Candidate for Doctor in Arts from the same university, designer in his private studio, Titular Professor at the National University of Colombia and Associate at the UPB university, has held various academic administrative positions in both universities. Recipient of several national and international awards, winning some national competitions in architecture. Research on: education, school architecture, public space, art, planning, history and theory of architecture. Author of numerous articles and books: "School 21" (2006), "Theoretical Foundations for architectural design" (2008), "Habitarte" (2009), "Medellin, 333 years, 333 architectures" (2009) and "The pendulum home. Critical History of Domestic Space in the West”(2011). Director and co-author of “WORKS”(2008-2013). Speaker at national events and visiting professor at several universities.
 Michel Foucault, La Arqueología del Saber, México, Siglo XXI, 1978, p. 3.
 Jorge Orta en: Festival Internacional de Arte Ciudad de Medellín, Medellín, Secretaría de Educación Municipal, 1997, p. 16.
 Jean Baudrillard, El paroxista indiferente. Conversaciones con Philippe Petit (Joaquín Jordá, tr.), Barcelona, Anagrama, 1998, p. 23.
 Gilles Delleuze y, Félix Guattari, Mil mesetas. Capitalismo y Esquizofrenia (José Vásquez Pérez, tr.), Valencia, Pre-textos, 1994, p. 321.
ARQ. MG. JUAN DAVID CHAVEZ GIRALDO
Associate Professor National University of Colombia