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Mommsen35 - Berlin, Germany

January- March 2020

Risk of disappearing: Juan Nazar and “Hey, You Have Just Ruined Everything”


Traversing through different languages and supports, the work of Juan Nazar manages to establish connections either by coincidence, accidentally or unexpectedly, which allows for the allusion both to moments of classical history and to moments of the continuously moving present. Different journeys through the Mediterranean (Italy, Greece and Turkey) were instances in which the artist was able to come into contact with forms and volumes that we relate to the dawn of Western civilization. Parts and capitals of columns, figures that could allude to every trace of collective cultural memory and every possible archetype, are in Nazar's work communicating vessels between levels of language, agency and organization of the exhibiting experience. 

To find a ruin, the remains of something, a trace, is equivalent to making contact with different stages of being in the world. The ruins both alerts and recalls, it’s part of a living, fluid and diffuse memory: at what moment did that which survives come to an end? In what place was the present found? What is becoming? The artist's work addresses these questions through strategies and tactics based on game and chance. Carrying out genuine excursions to the Mare Internum, and in an almost novelesque attempt, Juan Nazar travels to the Mediterranean, where rafts carrying human beings disappear along with the vicinities between north and south, west and east.

Different in situ documentary photographs of archaeologically valuable remains on the island of Aegina are arranged throughout the space in the manner of a barely sufficient lexicon, a continuum of relationship between object and physical possibilities for recognizing the passage of time. The objects from the past are before us and relate to us in a mirror-like way. The proportions of our bodies and perspectives shape the world like a projection. Each piece of ruin will thus have the form that our perspective allows for.

Focusing on the coexistence between languages and materialities (photographs intervened with paint, collage-like compositions that articulate the different levels of difference), the exhibition room at Mommsenstrasse lies opposite of the presumed linearity and historiography of a museum, paradoxically basing itself on the main elements one can find there. The remains of watchtowers, walls and statues, fragments completed through manual contact and mirroring, are collected in the room as pieces of a narrative: to explore the form and meaning of the stone, to find the stone inside the stone. To gain entrance into these fields of relationships, the artist's invitation ironizes the human body’s models of exhibition and representation according to the classic parameters of representation, while at the same time liberating a childish eye that establishes relationships of reflection with the reality that surrounds it -- sometimes so functional that it crosses over to an imaginary level of childishness without the need to resort to symbols.

Photographs of the site, a sculpture in the middle of the room that combines all the artificial with all the material, suitcases resembling boxes for transporting works - coded messages, made out of the most diverse objects made and found, interpretations of specific units of space, memory, matter and life. This is the place of the unknown. Nazar's device works in a created space, faraway from any western origin myth and close to the will of life and the formation of the future. Here, all material and perceptual remains of creation are game and chance at risk of disappearing.

Teobaldo Lagos

I am alluding here to the opening verse of Poem X, Chapter II of Pablo Neruda’s "Canto General": "Stone upon stone, and man, where was he?/Air upon  air, and man, where was he?/Time upon time, and man, where was he?" (Translated by Jack Schmitt, 2000) (Cf. Neruda, P.: Canto General, 1950 in, According to Cedomil Goic in "Alturas de Macchu Picchu: La torre y el abismo” (Heights of Macchu Picchu:  The tower and the abyss), the figure of the stone, as well as those of man and air, are used in a strategy of "coincidentia oppositorum", which seeks to lead to a state of existential straying upon contemplating the past and ruins as a testimony of, on one hand, a millenary presence, and on the other, the absence of a narrative regarding this presence (Cf. Goic, C.(Ed.): Los mitos degradados: Ensayos de comprensión de la literatura hispanoamericana, Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi, 1992: 70-72).

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