LEANDRO ERLICH

Nací en 1973 en Buenos Aires. Vivi en EE.UU y en Francia. Hoy vivo y trabajo entre Buenos Aires y Montevideo. Recibí becas del FNA (1992) y de Fundación Antorchas (1994-95). Participé en decenas de muestras individuales y colectivas en el país y el extranjero:  MUNTREF (Argentina, 2016), MALBA (Argentina, 2015), GLOBALE ZKM, Karlsruhe (Alemania, 2015), Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea (Corea, 2014), XXI Museum of Contemperary Art Kanazawa (Japón,2014), ), Galería Ruth Benzacar (Argentina, 2012), SongEun Art space (Corea, 2012), Izolyatsia (Ucrania, 2012), Sean Kelly Gallery (EE.UU., 2011), Centre Pompidou (Francia, 2011), Luciana Brito Galería (Brasil, 2009), Fundación Proa (Argentina, 2009), Museo Reina Sofía (España, 2008) ), PS1-MoMA (EE.UU., 2008), entre otras. Mis obras están en colecciones privadas y públicas como la Tate Modern (Londres), el Centre Pompidou, el Musée d’Art moderne (París) y el XXI Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Kanazawa, Japón). Participé de las bienales de Saõ Paulo (Brasil), Shanghai (China), Echigo-Tsumari (Japón), La Habana (Cuba), Estambul (Turquia) y Whitney (EE.UU.), entre otras. Representé a la Argentina en la Bienal de Venecia (2001). Recibí los Premios Joan Mitchell Foundation (2001), UNESCO-Bienal de Estambul (2001) y Leonardo (MNBA, 2000), así como el Premio Konex (2002 y 2012).  En mi trabajo desarrollo la estrategia del desplazamiento, la descontextualización y la duplicación, que activan la ambigüedad visual. Enfrento al espectador a elementos de la vida cotidiana en entornos que desafían las leyes físicas y modifican las formas de percepción.

LEANDRO ERLICH CV

Exposiciones individuales

2016
Espacio Publico de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires / Arteba. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Centro de Arte Contemporáneo – Museo de la Universidad Nacional de tres de Febrero. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Galería Nogueras-Blanchard. Madrid, España

2015  
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina
ZKM / GLOBALE. Karlsruhe, Alemania
National Performing arts Center-National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts. Kaohsiung, Taïwan

2014 
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Kanazawa, Japón
Braverman Gallery. Tel Aviv, Israel
Art Front Gallery. Tokyo, Japón
Hanjin Box, National Museum of Contemporary Art. Seoul, Corea

2013   
Galería Nogueras-Blanchard. Madrid, España
Hospice Saint-Charles. Rosny sur Seine, Francia
Barbican. London, Reino Unido
Luciana Brito Galeria. São Paulo, Brasil

2012   
Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Usina del arte. Buenos Aires, Argentina
SongEun Art space. Seoul, Corea

2011   
Sean Kelly Gallery. New York, Estados Unidos
Galleria Continua. Le Moulin, Francia

2010  
Museum of Latin American Art. Long Beach, Estados Unidos

2009  
Luciana Brito Galeria. São Paulo, Brasil
Museo Nacional Reina Sofia. Madrid, España

2008
Galería Nogueras-Blanchard. Barcelona, España
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Madrid, España
Galleria Continua. San Gimignano, Italia
PS1 MoMA. New York, Estados Unidos

2007  
Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte. Buenos Aires, Argentina

2006 
Galeria Brito Cimino. São Paulo, Brasil
Museo d’Arte Contemporanea de Roma. Roma, Italia 
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin. Miami, Estados Unidos

2005 
Galería Nogueras-Blanchard. Barcelona, España 
Le Grand Café. Saint Nazaire, Francia 
Albion Gallery. London, Estados Unidos

2003  
Centre d’Art Santa Mònica. Barcelona, España

2002  
Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie. Paris, Francia

2001  
El Museo del Barrio. New York, Estados Unidos

2000  
Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1999 
Kent Gallery. New York, Estados Unidos
Moody Gallery. Houston, Estados Unidos

1997  
Consulado General de la República Argentina. New York, Estados Unidos

1993 
Centro Cultural Recoleta. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Espacio Giesso. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1991  
Centro Cultural Recoleta. Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

Exposiciones colectivas

2015 
Nagoya City Art Museum. Nagoya, Japón
Galería Xippas. Punta del Este, Uruguay
La Maison Rouge. Paris, Francia
PROA. Buenos Aires, Argentina
OCA, São Paolo, Brasil
Tripostal. Lille, Francia
Galleria Continua. Paris, Francia
Gare du Nord. Paris, Francia
Quai d’Angers. Angers, France
Galleria Continua. La Habana, Cuba

2014   
Sydney Art Festival. Sydney, Australia
Centre Pompidou Collection, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. Kobe, Japón    
Bariloche, Argentina – In Situ. Arte en el Espacio Publico
Oi! Art Center. Hong Kong
Tecnopolis. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. Mar del Plata, Argentina
The Bunkamura Museum of Art. Tokyo, Japón
Festival Images. Vevey, Suissa
Casa Daros. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Montevideo 2nd Biennial. Montevideo, Uruguay
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. Kobe, Japón

2013  
Shanghai International Arts Festival. Shanghai, China
Museum of Contemporary Art. Tokyo, Japón
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art. Aichi, Japón
Tecnopolis. Buenos Aires, Argentina
PROA. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Maison particulière (art center). Bruselas, Belgica

2012     
Echigo-Tsumari Triennale. Niigata, Japón
Art museum Z33. Hasselt, Belgica
Fantastic 2012. Lille, Francia
Centre Pompidou. Paris, Francia
Le Voyage à Nantes. Nantes, Francia
Tecnópolis. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Walker Art Center. Minneapolis, Estados Unidos
New Orleans Museum of Art. New Orleans, Estados Unidos
Museo cantonale d’arte e Museo d’arte. Lugano, Swissa
Izolyatsia. Donetsk, Ucrania
Louvre Abu Dhabi, Gardens of Manarat Al Saadiyat.
The Armory Show. New York, Estados Unidos

2011  
Museo de arte moderno de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina
104-Centquatre. Paris, Francia
Centre Pompidou. Paris, Francia

2010  
Caves Vranken/Pommery. Reims, Francia
Lugar Algum, SESC Pinheiros. São Paulo, Brasil
Setouchi International Art Festival. Setouchi, Japón

2009  
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. São Paulo, Brasil 
Fundación PROA. Buenos Aires, Argentina

2008  
Singapore Biennale. Singapore
Liverpool Biennale. Liverpool, Reino Unido
Le Moulin. Paris, Francia
Chanel Mobile Art. Hong Kong; Tokyo, Japón; New York, Estados Unidos

2007 
Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation. Miami, Estados Unidos 
University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Tampa, Estados Unidos
Lentos Museum of Modern Art. Linz, Austria
Sudeley Castle. Winchcombe, Inglaterra 
Casa de Cultura. Buenos Aires, Argentina 

2006
PhotoEspaña 06. Madrid, España
Echigo-Tsumari Triennale. Niigata, Japón
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, Francia 
ArtesMundi Prize, National Museum. Cardiff, Gales
Palais de Tokyo. Paris, Francia

2005 
51a Biennale di Venezia. Venezia, Italia
Meatpacking District, Nwe York, Estados Unidos
Prix Ricard Paris, Francia

2004 
Galeria Brito Cimino. São Paulo, Brazil
Université de Rennes. Rennes, France
XXVI Bienal Internacional de São Paulo. Sãoo Paulo, Brasil
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Kanazawa, Japón

2003  
Printemps de Septembre. Toulouse, Francia

2002 
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. San Francisco, Estados Unidos
Busan Biennale. Busan, Corea del Sur
III Shanghai Biennale. Shanghai, China

2001 
Kent Gallery. New York, Estados Unidos
49a Biennale di Venezia. Venezia, Italia
VII International Istanbul Biennial. Estambul, Turquía

2000 
Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, Estados Unidos
White Box Gallery. New York, Estados Unidos
Modern Art Museum. Fort Worth, Estados Unidos
VI Bienal de la Habana. Havana, Cuba
The Museum of Fine Arts. Houston, Estados Unidos
Fondo Nacional de las Artes, ARCO. Madrid, España

1998  
The Museum of Fine Arts. Houston, Estados Unidos
I Bienal do Mercosul. Porto Alegre, Brasil

1996  
Centro Cultural Recoleta. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1995 
United Nations. Buenos Aires, Argentina 
Galeria Ruth Benzacar. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Peru Square. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1993  
Casa de Catalunya. Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

Premios

2013 
Nominación Zürich Art Prize. Zurich, Swissa

2012  
Fundación KONEX. Buenos Aires, Argentina

2006 
Nominación. ArtesMundi Prize. Cardiff, Gales
Nominación. Prix Marcel Duchamp. Paris, Francia

2004 
Artist residency. Centre International d’Accueil et d’ Echanges des Récollets. Paris, Francia

2002
Artist residency. Cité Internationale des Arts. Paris, Francia
Fundación KONEX. Buenos Aires, Argentina

2001 
Joan Mitchell Foundation Award. New York, Estados Unidos
UNESCO Award. VII Istanbul Biennale. Estambul, Turquía

2000  
Premio Leonardo. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1998  
Eliza Prize. Core Program, Museum of Fine Arts. Houston, Estados Unidos

1996 
Core Program, Panamerican Cultural Exchange, Fundación Antorchas. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1995 
Premio Braque de Objetos, Embajada de Francia & Fundación Banco Patrícios. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1994  
Fundación Antorchas. Buenos Aires, Argentina

1992  
Fondo Nacional de las Artes. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Colecciones

21st Century Museum of Art Kanazawa. Kanazawa, Japón
Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation. Miami, Estados Unidos
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, Francia 
Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma. Roma, Italia 
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museum of Fine Arts. Houston, Estados Unidos
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León. León, España
Daros-Latinamerica. Zurich, Swissa
Fonds National d’Art Contemporain. Puteaux, Francia
New Orleans Museum of Art. New Orleans, Estados Unidos
The Israel Museum. Jerusalem, Israel
Tate Modern. Londres, Reino Unido

Selección de Obras

La Democracia del Símbolo
2015/2016 Intervención en el Obelisco e instalación en MALBA Buenos Aires, Argentina
La Democracia del Símbolo
2015/2016 Intervención en el Obelisco e instalación en MALBA Buenos Aires, Argentina
La Democracia del Símbolo
2015/2016 Intervención en el Obelisco e instalación en MALBA Buenos Aires, Argentina
Port of Reflections
2014 Dimensiones variables. Rampas de madera y muelle, estructura metálica, barcos de vidrio ber, rieles de metal; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
Port of Reflections
2014 Dimensiones variables. Rampas de madera y muelle, estructura metálica, barcos de vidrio ber, rieles de metal; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
Port of Reflections
2014 Dimensiones variables. Rampas de madera y muelle, estructura metálica, barcos de vidrio ber, rieles de metal; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
Port of Reflections
2014 Dimensiones variables. Rampas de madera y muelle, estructura metálica, barcos de vidrio ber, rieles de metal; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
The Swimming Pool
2014 Estructura metálica, madera, plexiglás, agua, escalera 300 x 600 x 350 cm 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
The Swimming Pool
2014 Estructura metálica, madera, plexiglás, agua, escalera 300 x 600 x 350 cm 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Le Monte-Meubles
2012 Estructura metálica, resina de fibra de vidrio, juego de muebles, ventanas de madera 1400 x 1000 x 650 cm Place du Bouffay, Nantes, Francia
Le Monte-Meubles
2012 Estructura metálica, resina de fibra de vidrio, juego de muebles, ventanas de madera 1400 x 1000 x 650 cm Place du Bouffay, Nantes, Francia
Bâtiment Shikumen
2013 Impresión, luces, hierro, madera, espejo 800 x 600 x 1200 cm Shanghai International Art Festival, Shanghai, China
Bâtiment
2011 Impresión, luces, hierro, madera, espejo 800 x 600 x 1200 cm Nuit Blanche, Paris, Francia
Le Cabinet du Psychanalyste
2005 Dos habitaciones de dimensiones idénticas, muebles (sofá, estantería, escritorio, sillas), alfombra, cristal y luces; dimensiones variables PROA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Le cabinet du Psychanalyste
2005 Dos habitaciones de dimensiones idénticas, muebles (sofá, estantería, escritorio, sillas), alfombra, cristal y luces; dimensiones variables PROA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Swimming Pool
2001 Estructura de metal, madera, plexiglás, agua, escalera 300 x 600 x 350 cm Pabellón argentino, 49ª Bienal de Venecia, Italia
Monte-Meubles, L'ultime déménagement (frente)
2016 Impresión Inkjet sobre papel texturado Hahnemühle William Turner Edición 1/5 75,30 x 62,20 cm
Pulled by the Roots II
2015 Impresión Inkjet sobre papel texturado Hahnemühle William Turner Edición 1/5 74,20 x 92,90 cm
Obelisco sin punta desde Diagonal Norte - La Democracia del Símbolo
2015 Impresión Inkjet sobre papel texturado Hahnemühle William Turner Edición 1/5 102 x 140 cm
Sailboat and Reflection - Black Bronze
2015 Bronce 130 x 52 x 21 cm
Proyecto Obelisco en La Boca
1994 Hierro 168 x 17,5 x 17,5 cm

Textos

FICTITIOUS ARTIFICE. Por Nicolas Bourriaud

In 1943, in a brief text entitled “Circular time,” Jorge Luis Borges presented his vision of history: composed of cyclical movements, it constitutes a kind of perpetual calendar to which periodically return, like the seasons, the same situations and the same characters. The Pythagoreans already believed in the repetitive nature of life, in the mathematical character of events: “If they are to be believed,” wrote Simplicius, “I will give this same speech again, holding this same staff and you will all be seated as you are now, and so on for everything.”(1) This idea of eternal return, which would be introduced by Nietzsche centuries later as a way to accept existence such as we conceive of it, represents in a way the utter flip side of the conception of art history that governs contemporary art: if we no longer adhere to the progressive and teleological vision of modernism that dominated the twentieth century, it is nonetheless difficult not to instinctively perceive the evolution of art as a succession of innovations or transgressions, the presence of repetition being, on the contrary, definitively associated with handicrafts or mediocre art, and “déjà vu” considered to be a major flaw. Some contemporary artists, however, ascribe another signification to the eternal return, and the value of a medium in its own right to the figures of said “déjà vu.”

The leading characteristic of early 21st century art is its renewed relationship to time: to the contrary of the modernist conception of unidirectional temporality in which the future represents the sole pole that attracts us, history as it is presented by artists today appears to be made up of a multitude of heterogeneous temporalities. This is what we can refer to as a heterochrony, meaning a temporal system in which the past, the present and the future find themselves co-existing, overlapping or superimposed on one other. Art today travels rather easily from one era to another, from prehistory to futuristic utopia; in formal terms, one can find a tactile screen and a painting in the same work, which explores the present in accordance with the past, favoring split forms and visual fragmentation, archipelagos and constellations. Grids, sequences, clippings, clusters and pop-ups… Jorge Luis Borges revealed a heterochronic conception of History when he spoke of “Kafka’s precursors,” maintaining that every great work invents its genealogy and creates, in reverse, a new history of literature. In other words, there exists an infinite amount of “plagiarism by anticipation,” to borrow the term used by OULIPO (the “workroom of potential literature”), within the history of art and literature. A work of art has an effect in two temporal directions: turned towards the future, it produces descendants; sinking into the past, it modifies our vision of History. Every work then represents a point of bifurcation: like in Borges’ short stories, its present is undecidable and traces converging lines from one chronological pole to the other. For that matter it is because of this undecidability that we should reject any artistic teleology: assigning a historic end to art is to subtly depreciate the movement that led to it. One can even add that assigning origins to artwork relies on a similar negation, as the historical discipline is in motion as well, and just as uncertain and complex as the prediction of the future. Our era appears to be characterized by the appearance of works of art that do not claim to belong to a present, and which deliberately choose not to place themselves within a contemporary esthetic framework. In another time period, these works would have been categorized as classical. This was precisely Borges’ objective: produce texts that cannot be dated, which could have been written during Antiquity as easily as in the near future. 

It is impossible to understood Leandro Erlich’s work without situating it in the general context of this Borgesian esthetic; not because both men hail from Argentina, but because Borges’ thinking has subtly seeped into our consciousness over the past thirty years, to the point that it represents a solid alternative to Western modernism: cyclical, labyrinthine, heterochronic, his work could be defined as reflective of a dizzying classicism. The forms used by Borges certainly belong to the history of literature, but they bolster avant-garde content; the appearance is simple, but the process forms a maze; the narration is linear, but it proposes infinite detours. The “Library of Babel” described by Borges in his famous short story is also circular in nature, though it relies on the permutability, the combinatorics and the deciphering of an enigma. A library without visible limits, it contains every possible combination of the characters of the Latin alphabet. Its structure is composed of innumerable galleries that are identical in every way, each with an open side that is connected to a hallway, and flanked by a bathroom on the left and a sleeping compartment on the right. But “in the vestibule,” explains the narrator, “there is a mirror, which faithfully duplicates appearances. Men often infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite—if it were, what need would there be for that illusory replication?”(2)  For Borges, the mirror is above all an evocation of the infinite; it thus echoes the properties of a work of art, which relies on “the promise of a revelation that never comes.” It is in this context that Leandro Erlich finds his place within the legacy of the Borgesian esthetic: made up of mirrors, reflections, pretense, deceptive illusions and mise en abyme, his work commonly appears as apparently mundane fragments of reality, but which lead to physical and mental labyrinths. 

Two windows with a view of a cloudy sky produce the sensation of being seated on a plane in flight (El Avion, 2011); a door, at the rear of a gallery, seems to open onto a moving subway train (Subway, 2010); a bannister, situated horizontally, upends our bearings in space (The Staircase, 2005)… Erlich’s installations systematically threaten our spatial or temporal certainties. They deprive the spectator of his physical points of reference and drive him to stupefaction, even confusion, forcing him to relativize his position between the real and the artificial, logic and magic. As the result, the viewer is deprived of his reflection, confronted by an impossible landscape or a physical impasse, dissociated from his own image… One can evoke the “trompe-l’oeil” when it comes to Leandro Erlich’s artistic corpus; however, the desire to create an illusion only represents an initial element, a preface before a more complex figure is introduced within the spectator’s brain—the labyrinth. An eminently Borgesian formal model, the maze represents the pinnacle literary and artistic metaphor for the Argentinian author: all texts constitute, according to him, an immense palimpsest from whose center the reader should stray, and all labyrinths form a text whose corridors always contain a Minotaur. For Borges, literature’s basic premise can be found in its oceanic character: the writer simply builds on a past story, rewrites it by incorporating variants that are at times infinite, and integrates a preexisting tide. In this way, Pierre Ménard, the hero of one of Borges’ short stories, recopies Cervantes’ Don Quixote in the twentieth century, and the mere act of reproducing the same sentences in the same order, with an interval of a few centuries, suffices to radically change the meaning. Here, Pierre Ménard plays the role of a literary Minotaur, a copyist in the style of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet, a ghost violently introduced between the lines of Cervantes’ novel… But to which labyrinth is Leandro Erlich leading us?

His work never relies on references; one can, at most, detect allusions to a few installations by Dan Graham or Bruce Nauman that play off temporal shifts or architectural absurdity. Rather, visible reality itself is referenced, i.e., the most mundane aspects of daily life: subway lines, swimming pools, elevators, entryways, stairways… Art history does not appear to exist within these installations, which use their venues as a neutral support, a sidereal void that opens onto distant realities. A Leandro Erlich exhibit creates this void, nullifies the gallery, and pierces through the walls: his job consists of making us forget that it is art, which then ceases to be a factor. The spectator finds himself confronted by an experience, whose esthetic nature matters little.

For all that, is Erlich aiming to negate reality? One of his first influential pieces, Turismo (2000), presented at the Havana biennial, offered visitors the chance to transform themselves into skiers hurtling down the imaginary Alps via a film set whose backdrops proved to be utterly realistic and produced believable images. The search for absolute contrasts therefore guided Erlich’s debut: between the tropics and the snowy peaks, between the pastimes of the capitalist world and the reality in Cuba, Turismo’s impact came from a cheerful act of violence against reality, as if art was taking on the agonizing role of discovering what was possible and proposing ironic alternatives. The artist defies reality, he doesn’t care about it. What interests Erlich is the viewer and the mental sensations he draws from the experience in which he is immersed: “The relationship of my work to kinetic art is pertinent,” explains Erlich, “but unlike many kinetic artists, the surprise of my optical illusions is the starting point in my work, not the end. It is the moment when the experience begins, making it interactive. There is nothing uglier than those works that propose interactivity or participation in the form of ‘push this button’ or ‘put your head here.’ One needs to want to continue to be involved in the work by one’s own will. The viewer must create his or her own time beyond the time of a ‘temporal’ work, such as film or theater. I am interested in the fact that, in the visual arts, time does not belong to the work but to the viewer.”

The experience in question is that of discomfiture, of extreme disorientation. This is particularly apparent in El Living (1998), an installation composed of a living room whose partition contains two openings: one is a mirror that reflects the room, while the other is a window that shows, on the other side, a room that is exactly the same, but inverted, as if it was acting as a mirror, but one in which the spectator’s image does not appear. For the individual, the loss of his reflection, shadow, and image represents an experience of absolute disconcertment: such experimentation with doubles, or lookalikes, a great theme of romantic literature, takes on a different depth today thanks to the emergence of digital “avatars.” Erlich’s work never alludes to either a screen or a digital universe because both are wholly dedicated to the pixilation of the human experience: cut out, cropped, downloaded, the individual sees himself reduced to the status of an “editable” image ad infinitum, captured by invasive devices. As for the viewer-actor of Bâtiment (2004), he is asked to find his place within the image. The work is composed of a building facade, with all its recesses, balconies, sculpted decorations, and Mansard roof, placed horizontally on the ground to serve as a reference point for the participants: they “hang on” to the décor, while a mirror tilted to 45° reflects the image on the ground onto a vertical plane, thereby giving the illusion of a true facade and the feeling that the laws of gravity have been suspended…

The sole contemporary that can be compared to Erlich is Carsten Höller, though the experiences proposed by the latter rely more on scientific bases than on metaphysical ones: when Höller provides goggles that flip perceptions upside down to the visitors-cum-guinea pigs at his Cologne exhibition, he highlights the fact that the human eye is corrective in itself (much like a camera obscura, the brain corrects the signal recorded by the optic nerve), and that our sensitive bodies are deceptive machines. The construction of visual devices that aim to lead spectators astray, or the practice of disorienting them through the duplication of forms and their positioning as mirrors, makes Carsten Höller a type of alter ego for Leandro Erlich. Both envisage art not as a mere means of expression, but as an activity that consists of inventing experimental apparatuses.

Considered as a whole, the generation of artists to which Leandro Erlich belongs maintains an ambiguous relationship with reality; however, the dominant aspect of this reality is generally social or political, and is most often considered within the framework of critical commentary. Art from the 1990-2000s is voluntarily dedicated to the study of representations: culture, social interactions or political relationships represent languages that need to be analyzed as such. This art focuses on the socially constructed character of elements formerly considered to be “natural.” As for Erlich, he maintains conflicting relationships with perceptible reality itself within his works, or more precisely with the supposed stability of visible phenomena. The major themes of the art of his generation appear to be foreign to him: politics does not exist in his work except by allusion; questions of gender, biopower, post-colonialism or cultural conflicts are singularly absent. In fact, all that is cultural is absent from Erlich’s works, which appear to belong to a world that is already globalized, without determinate origins, devoid of any national ties or social affiliations. The elements at play in his optical illusions boil down to a reality that is visible; interactions between people and this world resemble special effects. Reality is contradicted within its own language, that of appearances; human beings are obligatorily disconcerted by this, submitted as they are to experiences in the course of which their faith in reality is put to the test; as for the special effects, they function as a metaphor of art itself, wherein the artist presents himself as a critical conjurer competing with the truth. Except that here, as in the spectacle described by Guy Debord, the truth is nothing more than a moment of falsehood… Before such works as Stuck elevator (2011) or Shattering door (2009), the viewer can’t help but experience the feeling of “disquieting strangeness” theorized by Freud, that unheimlich that represents a moment when our certitudes are displaced: we exist in reality, except…

To achieve this displacement, Erlich uses all the elements available that diffract reality: reflections, lusters, liquid, clouds, gas…

The series Single cloud collection (2012) is composed of three displays presented as they would be in a museum, each one containing, when the viewer looks at them straight on, a small, utterly realistic cloud, a cumulus floating within the narrow parameters of the box. It would be worthwhile one day to study the artistic troposphere, and question the evolution of the figure of the cloud up until now, when it has taken on new significations. Used to represent or symbolize masses of data (from the iCloud to the “cloud of information”), the cloud seems omnipresent in contemporary iconography: it plays a capital role in the modeling of the digital universe and in the formalization of networks, notably in works by Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe and Laurent Grasso. It is not by accident that clouds emerge repeatedly in Erlich’s work, notably Smoking Room (2006), where the illusion of cigarette smoke blurs a glassed-in space, and El Avion (2011), not to mention the series Skylight, The Cloud story (2009), where they unfurl within the frame of a fake window. The cloud is a major element of the romantic esthetic, an expressive material used to suggest human passions or the creator’s feelings. With Erlich, nothing of the sort: it represents a type of challenge. Colossal, inaccessible, difficult to reproduce within the context of optical realism, the cloud is the sublime tamed, a tiger transformed into poodle, the deluge become tap water. In other words, an image of the technological universe in which we live, in which the most gigantesque atmospheric phenomena or the most colossal sets of data are reduced to the size of a screen. But the cloud also represents, in Erlich’s work, the cornerstone of an esthetic problematic haunted by illusion and legerdemain, that’s to say by the nature of reality. Evoking the definition of what is real that was supplied by Jean Baudrillard (the real is what can be reproduced exactly), Erlich never stops testing its resistance. The central subject of his work is none other than the human regard, the way in which we use our eyes to evolve within reality, and how this optical perception lends itself to a mental projection, thanks to which we can survive the ongoing disruption to our reference points. To see is to affirm something. The visual process entails movement, speech, an act of construction. Beyond the subtle mechanisms put in place by Leandro Erlich to deconstruct the visual discourse, his entire corpus revolves around an inaugural act, a theoretical device displayed in an installation that, incidentally, he reworked multiple times, The view (1997-2005): it is composed of a variety of juxtaposed scenes, resembling a building seen from a frontal cross-section, in which dozens of people are carrying out their daily lives. An attentive and fastidious observer, the artist shows himself to be a panoptic being, capable of taking stock of the chaos of existence.

(1)  Simplicius, cited by Roger Caillois, “Les Thèmes fondamentaux de l’œuvre de J.L Borges,” in Les Cahiers de L’Herne / Borges (Paris: Biblio, 1981), p. 183.

(2)  Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel,” Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin, 1998), p. 112.

(3)  Leandro Erlich, in Lost Garden, 2009.

 

 

EXTREMELY SIMPLE AND DREADFULLY CONFUSING. Por Jacopo Crivelli Visconti

Extremely Simple and Dreadfully Confusing *

“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”
“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly:
“it always makes one a little giddy at first—”
“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.”
“I’m sure MINE only works one way,” Alice remarked. “I can’t remember things before they happen.”
“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.

—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Utopia of the Mirror
At the outset we know that something doesn’t fit, it is displaced: before we stop to try to understand, even before we become aware that we need some time to consider and understand it, we know that something is out of place, something is uncanny. At first sight, the context appears familiar, almost banal: a hallway, a living room, a hair salon, a glass and mirror shop, at most a psychoanalyst’s office.[1] But where we do not normally look, maybe because we think we have already seen everything, a slight change is enough to disorder and upset the situation, making the house of cards fall, thus revealing the papier-mâché scenery, à la The Truman Show, through which we always move. And the more untouched and identical to itself all the rest remains, the more harrowing and destabilizing will be the presence of that single, apparently insignificant detail which, suddenly and inexplicably, has slipped out of place. It is the things that remain identical that make the scenery appear; it is in continuity, and not in rupture, that the most radical changes are manifested. According to a cabalistic parable, the kingdom of peace will be exactly like this world we now live in: “just as our room is now, so it will be in the world to come; where our baby sleeps now, there too it will sleep in the other world. And the clothes we wear in this world, those too we will wear there. Everything will be as it is now, just a little different.”[2] The question, quite evidently, is to define this small difference, to perceive what it is that makes things, though they are the same, so ontologically other. In his celebrated essay Das Unheimliche [The Uncanny, 1919], Sigmund Freud argued that a profound sensation of uncanniness can be brought about by the appearance (or, more often, by the disappearance) of something at the same time familiar and unknown. Freud’s analysis began by considering E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story Der Sandman [The Sandman], and in fact the concept of the uncanny has been used frequently for the interpretation of classics of fantasy literature, such as Le Horla (1887), by Guy de Maupassant, whose protagonist, in one memorable passage, tells about a mirror that would not reflect his own image: “Eh! well?… It was as bright as at midday, but I did not see myself in the glass!… It was empty, clear, profound, full of light! But my figure was not reflected in it … and I, I was opposite to it!”[3] In one of his most well-known installations, El living [Living Room, 1998], Leandro Erlich placed the visitor in an analogous situation, that is, in front of a mirror which, uncannily, replicated everything around it, except for the image of who was looking into it: upon entering the empty, apparently simple, nearly aseptically bourgeois empty room, the visitor had the sensation of “recognizing” – for being so familiar – the easy chair and sofa of the same white upholstery, the small low table with the magazines meticulously piled on it, and the reproduction of a self-portrait of Andy Warhol on the wall. However the scene’s suspect and fragile familiarity broke down at the moment the visitor, while absentmindedly wandering around the room, noticed that the mirror hanging beside the poster did not reflect his/her own image. In the following years, the artist delved into an exploration of this mechanism and its implications in other installations, introducing subtle yet fundamental changes, progressively increasing the sophistication of the mise-en-scène. Installations such as The Glass Shop (2005) or The Hair Salon (2008), for example, amplify this effect by multiplying the number of panes of glass and mirrors, proportionately increasing the feeling of disorientation. Emphasizing the cleverness of the mechanisms that allow the installation to function, and which are skillfully yet never completely concealed, is fundamental: it is this consideration that reveals how reductive it would be to consider uncanniness the central characteristic of those works. In fact, the initial feeling of bewilderment and surprise is transformed once the visitor perceives the mechanisms that regulate the “machine” – which s/he generally does relatively quickly, since Leandro Erlich’s constructions, though impeccable, are almost always extremely simple. By managing to decipher the enigma of the image’s disappearance (or, in other cases, its displacement), it is as though the visitor begins to feel that s/he is looking, so to speak, from inside the artwork, and not from the outside. That is: s/he is looking simultaneously from the inside and from the outside, as in Foucault’s description of a mirror: “In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.”[4]

The Importance of Revealing His Tricks

But according to Foucault’s definition, the mirror constitutes not only a utopia, but also a heterotopia, that is, an other place, contemporaneously within and outside of the world, at the same time fully real and absolutely unreal, a place and a non-place. The space of the heterotopia is variable; it can be merely transitory or permanent, mobile or fixed, chronological or physical. As examples, Foucault cites pregnancy, the insane asylum, and the honeymoon, to which we can add Leandro Erlich’s installations. In works such as Bâtiment [Building, 2004 and 2006] or La Torre [The Tower, 2008], the effects pointed out by Foucault are amplified: if any mirror constructs an unreal space around the person looking into it, in this case the viewer occupies a different position within the new image, that is, one sees where one is not, and also, paraphrasing Foucault, how one is not, since both cases involve the illusion that one is floating in the air. The photographs[5] that show the faces of the “users” of the various versions of Bâtiment, in particular, seem to reveal, behind the smiles, a latent qualm, the fear that – despite that they are lying firmly on the ground – the reality they are seeing could ultimately prevail over what they are feeling with their body, dropping them into the void. It is fascinating, from an iconographic point of view, to compare the positions of the “characters” of these installations with those of the baroque ascensions, such as that of the Sant’Ignazio Church in Rome,[6] perhaps the most famous of all, in which angels, prophets and saints also seem to float more by the force of some invisible machine than by divine intervention. It is also noteworthy to consider the baroque era’s fascination with mirrors, machines, illusions, and especially the construction of labyrinthine and apparently unending settings, giving rise to the theatrum mundi metaphor. Velázquez’s Las meninas [The Maids of Honor, 1656] is above all the celebration of this real space that became theatrical, while also demonstrating its author’s virtuosity: not only his pictorial mastery, naturally, but also the mechanical, almost manual skill evinced in the laborious positioning of the mirrors, the characters, himself, and, primarily, the spectator. And in fact, precisely as in Leandro Erlich’s installations, while observing the works of the baroque masters, one becomes the “character,” s/he is drawn into the work itself, whether it is a canvas, a sculpture, a text, or a theatrical play. Shakespeare’s exhortation in the prologue of Henry V, for his audience to see the horses which are in fact only being described,[7] is a celebration of the vortex that immerses us in the story, in a profoundly baroque way, as it points to the scene’s simplicity, revealing both the precariousness of the framework that supports it and the grandiosity of the enormous theatrical machine. The baroque artist does not hide his tricks, on the contrary, he makes them visible so that his ability will be more evident, and to enlarge the metaphor of the world as a mise-en-scène: he takes us by the hand and brings us backstage, he points to the nakedness of the king, to the pettiness of the Wizard of Oz. In the same way, and unlike an illusionist, who aims to keep his audience in a constant state of doubt, Leandro Erlich reveals all his tricks: “The viewer can trace the process; it’s recognizable. The trick is not presented to deceive the viewer, but to be understood and resolved by him. Such an engagement with the work involves the viewer’s participation and leads to the thought that reality is as fake and constructed as the art; it’s a fiction.”[8] Despite the minimalist and concise aesthetics of his works, and their undeniable simplicity, it would perhaps not be mistaken, therefore, to affirm that Leandro Erlich is essentially a baroque artist, which allows for another baroque and likely arbitrary digression: to read the way in which the artist appears in some of the images serving as records of his artworks (searching for his absent image in the mirror of El Living, or observing Le cabinet du Psy, 2005), as a silent and perhaps unconscious homage to baroque painting’s recurrent inclusion of hidden and nearly secret self-portraits, always at marginal and decentralized positions…[9]

A Dangerous Place

It would be mistaken to consider that this baroque (that is, theatrical, utopian, narrative and fantastic) dimension is contradicted by the coherence with which the installations and the objects produced by Leandro Erlich over the last fifteen years have dealt with everyday situations and contexts, in many cases, as we have seen, situated in a common household setting. The choice of the very peculiar universe of the bourgeois home is perfectly justified by the ease with which it can be theatricalized: “my work has always sought to establish a relation with everyday life. With the spaces in which we live and move. Considering the spaces as a decor where a theatrical play takes place. The relation with them and with the experiences we have in them has always intrigued me.”[10] The impossibility of objectively and unquestionably fixing the limits of everyday life has certainly contributed to its becoming, in recent years, a central concept in contemporary art,[11] thus evidencing how the Argentine artist’s installations, despite their undeniable originality, are profoundly in tune with the zeitgeist. In the specific case of Leandro Erlich, however, the concept seems to be less inapprehensible, its physical coordinates less unstable and fleeting. This is possibly due to the fact that the everyday life we encounter in his installations is, evidently, that which we know from our own first-hand experience, from having lived in it, but it is also, in a subtle yet undeniable way, filtered through the prism of cinematographic iconography. The citations are not literal, they are merely allusions, just as, for example, the photographs by Cindy Sherman or Gregory Crewdson allude to Hollywood iconography, without citing or paraphrasing a specific film; but it is undeniable that the house the artist has been patiently building, adding more elements from a distance of years and thousands of kilometers is, at least in part, a celluloid house. The doors that open to reveal the absence of the lighted bedroom that we imagined lay behind them (Las Puertas, 2004) are already familiar to us from countless terror films, and the baroque yet bourgeois staircases (The Staircase, 2005) seem to be straight out of a Hitchcock film. And by way of cinematographic imagery Leandro Erlich leads us to an openly dreamlike universe,[12] in which bulletproof windows seem to echo into the infinite (Ventana Blindada [Bulletproof Window], 2009), skylights open onto a Rorschachian sky (Skylight, 2009) inviting the viewer to play the child’s (and psychoanalytical) game of recognizing shapes in clouds, and doors are frozen at the instant of an inexplicable explosion (Shattering Door, 2009). What makes the dreamlike character of these artworks highly disturbing, besides their extremely familiar context, is the state of vigilance in which it is manifested: according to the artist himself, “Dreams are a realm where another logic of thought is accepted. From this point of view “dreams” are an extremely safe and protected place.”[13] On the other hand, Leandro Erlich’s artworks can be dangerous, insofar as they occupy a borderline space, a kind of skin between what in fact exists and what can only be imagined, as demonstrated by Window and Ladder – Too Late for Help, 2008, an anti-monument that simultaneously celebrates a city’s capacity for resistance and the power of fantasy over reality, consisting of a window suspended high above the ground – the triste, solitário y final[14] vestige of a house demolished by a tornado, or by the artist’s imagination. The presence of the windows (and of the skylight, which is nothing more than a window in a ceiling) is particularly significant: if the mirror, as we have seen, is a par-excellence baroque object, it could be argued that the window summarizes the Renaissance Weltanschauung, based on a well-known metaphor by Leon Battista Alberti, in his fundamental treatise on painting: “when I paint, first of all I inscribe a quadrangle of right angles, as large as I wish, which is considered to be an open window through which I see what I want to paint”[15]. It is through the open window that the gaze goes out into the world and expands in all directions; through it pass the infinite rays of an imaginary beam of light which, opening into a mathematically calculable spectrum, scans the world and makes it reproducible by the laws of perspective. In this sense, the artist is a scientist, able to methodically calculate measures and distortions: Alberti himself, at the beginning of his treatise, explains: “To make clear my exposition in writing this brief commentary on painting, I will take first from the mathematicians those things with which my subject is concerned (…) [but] in all this discussion, I beg you to consider me not as a mathematician but as a painter writing of these things”[16]. In other words, the similarity of painters and mathematicians (and, metonymically, scientists) can be so great that Alberti felt it was necessary to insist on being considered a painter, and not a mathematician.[17] The field of the Renaissance artist’s activity included techniques and knowledge today considered rigorously scientific, spanning from anatomy and botany, to ballistics, hydraulics and astronomy, as well as architecture and engineering, to cite just some examples of disciplines in which celebrated artists – such as Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Leonardo da Vinci – were outstanding, and which these artists considered as being interrelated, inextricably linked with one another. Leandro Erlich’s posture in regard to the relation between art and science is similar: “io credo che l’arte e la scienza si alimentino a vicenda. Entrambe le discipline necessitano della creatività per fare i conti con il mistero.”[18]

Leandro’s Inventions

And mystery effectively pervades this world of fantasy in which the mirrors are not only surfaces that reflect our reality, but, literally, openings to a parallel reality, where everything seems possible and each thing refers to something else, bringing to mind everything from the tricks of illusionists who make their assistants disappear before our very eyes, to the ephemeral disintegrations, without consequences, of cartoon characters. Depending on the viewer’s mood and references, anyone appreciating a work by Leandro Erlich could recall Houdini, the films by David Lynch, Alice on the other side of the mirror, or Roger Rabbit, who can throw a large black spot on a wall and disappear through it, as if it were a real hole, and not only the image of one. Or perhaps the viewer will be reminded of La invención de Morel [The Invention of Morel, 1940], probably the most famous novel by its author, Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares.[19] It tells the story a fugitive hiding out on a Pacific island which is deserted until the inexplicable arrival one day of a group of tourists, who are gradually revealed as being nothing more than projections produced by a mysterious device invented by a certain scientist named Morel, a machine that recorded the tourists on their previous visit to the island, for one week, and now reproduces all their actions, in an endless loop. Having fallen in love with one of the tourists, the fugitive discovers how the machine operates and, even knowing that anyone recorded by it will die, he decides to turn it on again so he can record himself at her side, and thus pretend, for the rest of eternity, to be her lover. Leandro Erlich cites Bioy Casares, together with other names fundamental to 20th-century Argentine literature, among his references,[20] and there really are numerous points of contact between the novel and the themes recurrent in his work: the spectator’s constant uncertainty in regard to the nature of what s/he is looking at (illusion or reality?);[21] the uncanny feeling brought on by the inexplicably displaced details; the slightly out-of-phase overlapping of the world and its representation;[22] the spectator’s progressive discovery and comprehension of the mechanism that operates the machine and generates the illusion; the idea of creation as a process at one and the same time scientific and artistic, methodical, and nevertheless inevitably fueled by passion. The most fascinating aspect, however, is that the few architectural elements present on the island include a pool similar to the one by Leandro Erlich (Swimming Pool, 1999) inasmuch as “the water is impenetrable (at least for a normal person),” as well as a museum the fugitive takes as his dwelling and in whose basement – into which he ventures in search of medicine – he finds a series of nine identical bedrooms, all in a row, which immediately recall the infinite reverberation of Leandro Erlich’s Changing Rooms (2008). It is precisely here that the fugitive, before the arrival of the tourists, first experienced the impression that he was not alone, and it is generally in the museum that the most significant events in the novel take place. The white cube, eminently modern in its architectural characteristics (“a large building, three stories high, without a visible roof; it has a covered porch in front and another smaller one in the rear, and a cylindrical tower”),[23] arises as the ideal context for Morel’s projection machine. Ultimately, it is in the institutionalized neutrality of the museum and the gallery that Morel’s phantasmagoric inventions (and those by Leandro Erlich, por supuesto) can operate, filling these orphaned spaces of myths with the artist’s profusion of impossible realities, tangible dreams and inexplicable illusions, with his perfect mechanisms which, despite their undeniable simplicity, are ultimately dreadfully confusing.

* The present text develops some ideas contained in the text La invención de Leandro, published in the catalog accompanying the exhibition Fragmentos de una casa, at Luciana Brito Galeria, in São Paulo, 2009.

[1] In regard to the banality of a psychoanalyst’s office, it is worth pointing out that, according to Leandro Erlich, in Argentina, “la psicanalisi è popolare quasi quanto il calcio” (interview with Danilo Eccher, in Leandro Erlich, catalog for the exhibition at MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, 2006, p. 55).
[2] This parable is recounted by Giorgio Agamben in The Coming Community, University of Minnesota Press, USA, 1993, p. 51. It should be added that Agamben tells the story that Bloch wrote that he heard from Benjamin, who for his part had heard it from Scholem.
[3] Guy de Maupassant, Horla, or Modern Ghosts, English translation at <http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/9658/>.
[4] Michel Foucault, Des espaces autres (conference at Cercle d’études architecturales, 14 March 1967), English translation at <http://foucault.info/documents/heteroTopia/foucault.heteroTopia.en.html>.
[5] It should be emphasized that many of the images included in this book were provided by people who visited installations by Leandro Erlich. In the words of the artist himself: the book has also become interactive.
[6] The famous fresco there is by Andrea Pozzo, who painted it from 1691 to 1694.
[7] “Let us on your imaginary forces work:/ (…)/ Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them/ Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;/ For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,/ Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,/ Turning the accomplishment of many years/ Into an hour-glass…”
[8] Interview with Paul Laster, at <www.artkrush.com/175606>.
[9] But the reference could also be to Alfred Hitchcock, a master of the unheimlich and who, as is known, appeared for a brief moment in all his movies.
[10] Artist’s introduction to the work The Room, Surveillance 1 (2006).
[11] See Stephen Johnstone (ed.), The Everyday, in the Documents of Contemporary Art series, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008.
[12] The evident proximity between the universes of filmmaking and dreams was sanctioned avant la lettre by Prospero (in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, act IV, scene 1, 156–158), when he said “We are such stuff/ as dreams are made on; and our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep”, a phrase which was later used by Humphrey Bogart to close John Houston’s classic The Maltese Falcon (1941).
[13] In correspondence with the author, 15 July 2011.
[14] Literally entitled Sad, solitary and final, the 1973 novel by Osvaldo Soriano features one of the best titles in the history of Argentine and perhaps universal literature. Even more importantly, it constitutes a very good example of meta-literature and, just like the works by Leandro Erlich, seems to simultaneously refer to an infinity of different sources.
[15] Leon Battista Alberti, de Pictura, 1435, English translation at: <http://www.noteaccess.com/Texts/Alberti/1a.htm>.
[16] English translation at: <http://www.noteaccess.com/Texts/Alberti/1.htm>.
[17] It should be remembered that the treatise is dedicated to painter Filippo Brunelleschi, and it is directly to him, therefore, that Alberti makes his request not to be considered a mathematician.
[18] Interview with Eccher, MACRO, 2006, op. cit., p. 45.
[19] In the prologue written to introduce the novel, Jorge Luis Borges affirms: “to classify it as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole”. See Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel, NYRB Classics, USA, p. 7.
[20] In the cited interview with Eccher, talking about the importance of Argentine culture in his work, Leandro Erlich states: “credo che siano moltissimi gli elementi che configurano tale bagaglio culturale: dalla letteratura argentina, con i suoi celebri Borges, Cortázar, Bioy Casares, fino all’intrinseca complessità che forma la nostra identità nazionale” (p. 55).
[21] It is extremely significant that in the novel the fugitive plays a spectator’s role throughout a good portion of the book, acting as a mere observer of the tourists’ actions, before deciding to participate physically in the experience to be recorded by the machine. The analogy to what normally happens in Leandro Erlich’s works is evident.
[22] In the novel, this out-of-phase condition sometimes results in the appearance of two suns and two moons; among Leandro Erlich’s works, the best example of the use of the out-of-phase condition as a mechanism to engender the uncanny and to reveal the operation of the installation is perhaps found in El Ballet Studio (2004), in which three performers of Tai-Chi execute the same choreography simultaneously, in three adjacent and identical spaces.
[23] Ibid., p. 14.

MANERAS DE HACER MUNDOS. Por Rodrigo Alonso

En el sueño del hombre que soñaba, el soñado se despertó…
Jorge Luis Borges 1

Un artista de Buenos Aires
En 1993, con tan sólo veinte años, Leandro Erlich desarrolla un proyecto singular: la posibilidad de construir una réplica del Obelisco de Buenos Aires – uno de los monumentos más importantes de la ciudad, de 68 metros de altura – en el barrio marginal de La Boca. La empresa supone una reconfiguración de la vida urbana de la capital argentina, para la cual dicho monumento es un referente de ubicación geográfica, escenario de festejos y manifestaciones sociales, y marca de identidad.

En esta obra jamás realizada ya se percibe el interés del artista por los desplazamientos y las operaciones que trastocan la habitualidad de los espacios cotidianos. Pero lo más notable en ella es su nivel de ambición, poco común en un país donde los jóvenes creadores deben adecuarse a los medios tradicionales ante la falta de recursos para la producción de otros tipos de trabajos. Erlich asume un proyecto que evidentemente lo supera, pero que de alguna manera también lo entrena para abordar aquello que se muestra, a primera vista, como imposible. Su herramienta más poderosa en estos años no es técnica, ni siquiera lo es su aguda imaginación, sino que es, más bien, esa actitud intrépida que lo anima a internarse en terrenos desafiantes y complejos.

Su obra actual conserva el germen de ese reto primero. Sus instalaciones de espacios simples, banales y cotidianos no buscan llamar la atención sobre éstos, sino que son dispositivos destinados a cuestionar las formas en que aprehendemos la realidad a partir de la precaria información provista por nuestros sentidos. Sus reproducciones de espejos, ventanas y espacios laberínticos no se agotan en la constatación del carácter equívoco con que se presentan a nuestros ojos, sino que se orientan a sembrar la semilla de la duda sobre toda aproximación al mundo que conocemos, a través de los datos suministrados por nuestra percepción. En este sentido, su programa es tan ambicioso como el intento aparentemente ingenuo de replicar el monumento más importante de la ciudad con tan sólo veinte años. O lo es aún más. Porque se dirige hacia facultades modeladas fisiológica e históricamente pero que atraviesan geografías y culturas, incluso en piezas con referencias muy locales como Turismo (2000) y Window and Ladder (2008).

Los estudios sobre la obra de Leandro Erlich resaltan su evidente relación con el universo poético de Jorge Luis Borges. Su afición por los laberintos, las paradojas y los espejos no deja ninguna duda al respecto. El propio artista ha declarado en numerosas oportunidades su admiración por el escritor, que en la Argentina es un referente cultural insoslayable. Sin embargo, existe otro aspecto que los une de manera íntima: la mirada distanciada, analítica e inteligente que ambos proyectan más allá de su entorno inmediato, y el permiso que se conceden para realizar sus aportes a la cultura universal desde una de las ciudades más alejadas de los centros culturales del mundo.

Se podría argumentar que en un mundo globalizado las distancias son relativas y que ya no hay centros privilegiados de producción de cultura, pero una rápida observación a la actividad cultural del planeta desmiente de inmediato esta afirmación demasiado optimista y posmoderna. En todo caso, sería mejor acudir a una explicación más plausible y reiterada: que la Argentina es un país conformado en su mayoría por descendientes de inmigrantes europeos que miran con insistencia y admiración hacia el locus de sus orígenes. Pero esto tampoco es suficiente, ya que existen miles de artistas y escritores de este país que no se sienten llamados a trascender las fronteras nacionales.

Leandro Erlich pertenece a una generación de artistas argentinos que se interesan por hacer oír su voz en la escena internacional, convencidos de poder realizar una aportación significativa al campo dialógico y reflexivo de la creación contemporánea. Como Tomás Saraceno (un artista de su misma edad), y más recientemente, Adrián Villar Rojas, reniega de los temas locales, y del tipo de producción low-cost y de materiales precarios que se asocia con los autores de América Latina. En contrapartida, sus trabajos emplean recursos sofisticados y los mismos niveles de realización de sus colegas del mundo. El uso frecuente de materiales y técnicas del ámbito de la construcción edilicia lo ayuda también a evitar los tonos locales, en la medida en que la arquitectura posee hoy un grado de estandarización tan alto que evade cualquier identificación con un contexto específico.

La relación entre Leandro Erlich y Tomás Saraceno es particularmente interesante. Ambos se orientan hacia el cuestionamiento de la realidad apelando a configuraciones y procedimientos que la relativizan; el primero, a través de diferentes formas de artificio; el segundo, mediante el recurso a una discursividad de ribetes utópicos. En su capacidad para trascender las imposiciones del mundo tal como lo conocemos, estos dos artistas encarnan un tipo de pensamiento que aborda críticamente determinados aspectos del mundo contemporáneo, recurriendo al ingenio y la poesía, la promoción de universos alternativos y el diálogo abierto con el público.

Este inconformismo es parte de una aproximación a la realidad que pregunta de manera constante por la naturaleza, el funcionamiento y los límites de las cosas. Al respecto, es significativa la situación que da origen a la obra Ascensor (1995), con la que Erlich participa del prestigioso Premio Braque de Buenos Aires. Según cuenta el artista, la idea que la generó fue proporcionada por las propias bases del concurso, que establecían que las dimensiones máximas admitidas para objetos eran de 80 x 80 x 180 cm. Tras preguntar el motivo, se enteró que eran las medidas del ascensor de la institución donde se desarrollaba el certamen, el medio que se utilizaría para introducir las piezas artísticas al lugar.

La obra reproduce la cabina de un ascensor con su interior y exterior invertidos: del lado de afuera se encuentran la botonera y la decoración típica de uno de estos dispositivos de transporte; en el interior, un juego de espejos produce un cableado virtual infinito. La anécdota es relevante en más de un sentido. No sólo por el ingenio con el que el joven artista se burla de las dimensiones permitidas, sino fundamentalmente porque en su interior el ascensor excede tal limitación a través del juego especular. En esta transgresión de los límites, Erlich cuestiona no sólo las reglas impuestas a la producción artística, sino también a las instituciones que las crean con arbitrariedad.

Casi de inmediato, su interés se desplaza hacia los juegos ópticos, las falsas perspectivas, y en particular, hacia la activación del lugar del espectador. Las instalaciones Neighbors (1996) y The View (1997-2005) construyen un punto de vista que ubica a éste último como voyeur. La primera propone observar el pasillo de un edificio virtual desde la mirilla de una puerta; la segunda, invita a espiar, a través de una persiana, las actividades que los habitantes de un edificio realizan con las ventanas abiertas.

A diferencia de lo que sucederá después, aquí los espectadores no pueden ingresar a las obras; sólo miran desde el espacio que les ha sido asignado en el exterior de éstas. Esto permite que, mientras esperan su turno, asistan al acto de observación de los demás. Se establece de esta manera una situación especular mediante la cual el futuro mirón toma conciencia del acto que está por llevar a cabo. En las próximas instalaciones será un espejo, por lo general, el encargado de enfrentar al público con sus propias acciones.

En The View aparece por primera vez un componente narrativo fuerte, que será poco frecuente en el trabajo posterior de Erlich, pero que se hace indispensable para sostener la mirada durante un tiempo prudencial. Con la reaparición del video en sus obras recientes, la narrativa vuelve a ocupar un lugar destacado, pero ésta se basa ahora en una suerte de temporalidad cíclica y repetitiva, en la cual se va diluyendo el interés por la progresión de las imágenes (Subway, 2009; Elevator Pitch, 2011; entre otras).

De hecho, la utilización de la imagen electrónica en las obras de Leandro Erlich es menos narrativa que espacial. En consonancia con el resto de su producción, el video introduce un ámbito virtual, un espacio-otro trasladado a la galería, generalmente mediante un marco o decorado que lo adapta a las exigencias de una escena. Las secuencias audiovisuales – que muchas veces no poseen sonido – se ajustan a los parámetros de la verosimilitud cinematográfica en tanto ella es la responsable de lo que consideramos realista. Pero no hay un uso argumental del medio. En todo caso, es el marco que cobija al video el que aporta los elementos necesarios para que éste adquiera carácter narrativo (en su mayoría, los videos simulan estar del otro lado de una ventana, en un espacio adyacente).

La abominación de los espejos
Con la producción de El living (1998), Leandro Erlich adquiere el impulso definitivo que lo ubica en el camino hacia la madurez estética y conceptual. Aquí la arquitectura cobra protagonismo y el espectador pasa a ser un agente exploratorio que, engañado en su aproximación primera, debe reajustar su lectura hacia la comprensión de los mecanismos que gobiernan su mirada.

La instalación muestra un living cuya pared presenta dos aberturas: una de ellas es un espejo que refleja la habitación mientras la otra es una ventana que se abre hacia un cuarto exactamente igual al primero pero invertido, a la manera de un espejo en el cual no aparece la imagen del espectador. El descubrimiento de este espejo que no refleja es estremecedor y en algún punto siniestro. En el cuento Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, Jorge Luis Borges ponía en boca de su amigo Adolfo Bioy Casares una frase igualmente inquietante: “Los espejos y la cópula son abominables, porque multiplican el número de los hombres”.2 ¿A qué se debe el carácter abominable de la reproducción?

En la literatura, las leyendas y los mitos, los espejos aparecen muchas veces ligados a referentes mortuorios. La ausencia de reflejo recuerda de inmediato a la historia del Conde Drácula, quien pone en evidencia de esta manera su falta de vida y realidad. El mito de Narciso deposita en la duplicación especular la causa de la muerte de su protagonista, enamorado de su propia imagen hasta abismarse en ella. En la teoría lacaniana, la fase del espejo constituye una instancia clave en la construcción de la subjetividad y en la autoaprehensión del individuo como ser imaginariamente completo; la incapacidad de superar esta etapa en un momento clave de la vida puede llevar a diferentes formas de anulación o autodestrucción.

Sin embargo, la inquietud que produce esta obra no se reduce al descubrimiento del falso espejo. Existe, además, una tensión entre realidad y representación – desplegada a través de un magnífico trompe l’oeil – en la que se postula, de alguna manera, la posible falsedad del mundo que habitamos. “Más que la preocupación por la esencia del modelo y su reconstrucción puntual – sostiene Severo Sarduy – [el trompe l’oeil] parece empecinado en la producción de su efecto. De allí la intensidad de su subversión – captar la superficie, la piel, lo envolvente, sin pasar por lo central y fundador, la Idea – y la agresividad que suscita en los reivindicadores de esencialidades la extrañeza de su teatralidad que funciona como en un vacío”.3 La vacuidad de ese universo representado como espejo del nuestro, no hace sino señalar la latente vacuidad del que le sirve como modelo.

“Esta eficacia, la de hacer visible lo inexistente – continúa Sarduy –, no parte, sin embargo, de la afirmación o apoteosis de una personalidad, de un estilo, sino al contrario, de su disimulación máxima, de su anulación: mientras más anónimo en su ejecución, mientras menos se exhiba o denuncie el trazo, más eficaz es el trompe l’oeil”.4 En el límite del engaño, la obra no delata la mano de ningún autor y deja al espectador solo frente a la conmoción de su universo perceptivo. El descubrimiento de la trampa produce un efecto de extrañamiento, en el sentido brechtiano del término. La pieza muestra los mecanismos mediante los cuales produce la significación sólo para que, en el momento crítico, el espectador reflexione sobre la precariedad de sus interpretaciones a partir de los datos que provee la experiencia desnuda.

Así, la instalación se proyecta más allá de la mera superficie de lo reproducido para internarnos en la examinación consciente de nuestro entorno. Como sucede con las fotografías de Jeff Wall, la puesta en escena nos reconduce a considerar críticamente los vínculos entre realidad y representación, a agudizar nuestra percepción de lo cotidiano, a indagar en los cimientos culturales de la mirada, y a sopesar los efectos de la cosmética espectacular habituales en nuestro entorno contemporáneo.

Como sostiene Jacques Lacan: “el mundo es onmivoyeur, pero no es exhibicionista: no provoca nuestra mirada. Cuando comienza a provocarla, entonces también empieza la sensación de extrañeza”.5 La sala invertida en El Living se descubre dotada de una mirada independiente de la posición del espectador, ajena y desnaturalizada. Esa mirada lo preexiste, lo transforma en actor del “espectáculo del mundo”, al decir de Maurice Merlau-Ponty. Esta conciencia de convivir con otra mirada es, quizás, uno de los aspectos más perturbadores de la obra.

La fascinación por lo especular se aprecia en numerosas obras de Leandro Erlich, aunque de maneras muy diversas. En Cadres Dorés (2007), aparece materializada en dos pequeñas instalaciones enfrentadas que reproducen el efecto-infinito de la oposición de dos espejos. En Sidewalk (2007), los edificios de una gran ciudad se hacen presentes en la galería a través de sus reflejos en un charco de agua. The Ballet Studio (2002), introduce un elemento más curioso: aquí, la reproducción de dos espacios iguales pero invertidos se completa con una coreografía estrictamente sincronizada, interpretada por dos bailarinas muy parecidas y vestidas de igual manera. El “reflejo” ahora tiene vida propia ¿Pero cuál de los dos espacios debería ser considerado como tal?

En Changing Rooms (2008), el espectador es invitado a atravesar espejos hasta perderse en un espacio confuso y laberíntico. La multiplicación de los diminutos vestidores que se continúan en diferentes direcciones genera una sensación inquietante y claustrofóbica. La repetición da paso al virtuosismo escenográfico que empata los objetos de la realidad de una manera tan precisa que cuesta aceptar el engaño, incluso luego de haber traspasado los marcos dorados que deberían contener espejos en más de una oportunidad. Adivinar el funcionamiento de la pieza es menos importante que admitir su funcionamiento magistral.

Sumergirse en lo cotidiano
La pileta (1999) constituye otro hito en la carrera de Leandro Erlich. Mientras en El living el espectador es introducido de manera gradual a la irrealidad del simulacro, aquí es lanzado de lleno en ella. Ingresar literalmente al interior de una piscina es una experiencia que puede provocar sensaciones equívocas, pero todas ellas ajenas a nuestro vínculo con lo habitual. El color celeste de las paredes, los reflejos ondulantes, la luz que nos llega atravesando el espejo de agua, construyen una experiencia excepcional e inmersiva que se adelanta a su posterior captación por el intelecto.

Reflexionando sobre el ensayo The Sublime is Now, de Barnett Newman, el filósofo Jean-Francois Lyotard se pregunta: ¿Cómo se puede pensar en lo sublime como “aquí y ahora”? ¿Acaso lo sublime no es algo más allá de la experiencia habitual? Su conclusión sostiene que la experiencia del aquí y ahora, que debiera ser una de las más cotidianas, se ha vuelto inusual.6 En la obra de Leandro Erlich, la conciencia del aquí y ahora precede a su intelectualización ulterior. Aun cuando después se descubra el artificio, existe una primera afirmación del espectador en sus propios datos sensoriales que induce esa “suspensión del descreimiento” que Borges exigía para la experiencia estética.

El shock que produce inicialmente la pieza merece algún comentario. En la década de 1930, Walter Benjamin lo saludó como una de las aportaciones más originales del cine a la recepción artística, y ubicó sus antecedentes en las prácticas vanguardistas del dadaísmo.7 Hoy ese efecto forma parte del repertorio de los medios de comunicación que recurren al sensacionalismo como método de atracción de las masas. Sin embargo, la perplejidad que provoca La pileta posee un sentido diferente. Pues si los dadaístas acudieron al shock para conmover la cotidianidad y los mass-media lo usan para alejarnos de ella, los artistas contemporáneos apelan a él para reafirmar la experiencia cotidiana, para exaltar el aquí y ahora de su aparición.

Según Fredric Jameson, la desrrealización presente en una buena parte del arte contemporáneo conlleva una aguda reflexión sobre la realidad.8 Pero, ¿a qué realidad refiere una obra como La pileta? En unas entrevistas radiales, Claude Lévy-Strauss notó cómo el impresionismo se orientó hacia los paisajes en el momento en que éstos estaban desapareciendo como espacio vital para el habitante de las ciudades del siglo diecinueve.9 Quizás se podría afirmar que en La pileta, la vivencia del ocio, del disfrute de los sentidos, del placer de la recreación, plasma una experiencia cada vez más distante para el habitante de las deterioradas metrópolis contemporáneas.

Desde el punto de vista formal, la pileta juega con un conjunto de inversiones: adentro/ afuera, arriba/abajo, interior/exterior, etc., que reaparecen en obras como La torre (2007), The Shaft (2011), Staircase (2005), y en varias instalaciones basadas en videos, como Le Regard (2011), Subway (2009), o Window Captive Reflection (2013). También introduce el interés del artista por las perspectivas bajas y elevadas, que puede apreciarse en Eau Molle (2003), Sidewalk (2007), Window and Ladder (2008), Double Skylight (2009) y Le Monte-Meubles (2012). Finalmente, aparece aquí por primera vez el motivo recurrente del agua, que anima piezas como Rain (1999) o Eau Molle (2003), entre otras.

Creatividad colectiva
Turismo (2000) es una obra atípica en el trabajo de Erlich, pero con ella se inicia una serie de proyectos que otorgan un lugar protagónico al espectador. Es atípica porque se trata de un trabajo en colaboración (con Judi Werthein), pero principalmente, porque los artistas son los encargados de organizar y hacer funcionar el dispositivo ficcional en el que se basa la pieza. En las sucesivas, Erlich estará por completo ausente, depositando en el público la responsabilidad de activarlas.

La obra reproduce un estudio fotográfico compuesto por un telón con un paisaje nevado, varios tipos de trineos y nieve artificial. Durante largas jornadas, una multitud de cubanos se apiñan frente a la instalación para obtener una fotografía polaroid que los muestra en un entorno invernal, armado al mejor estilo hollywoodense. Aquí la puesta en escena es evidente desde el principio. Pero, paradójicamente, el artificio desaparece al final: las fotografías nevadas parecen reales, o en todo caso, detentan la realidad prefabricada propia de cualquier estampa turística. La principal nota de realismo fue concebida por el propio público, que comenzó a acudir a la sesión fotográfica con ropa de abrigo, a pesar de las altas temperaturas del noviembre cubano.

Turismo activa una serie de interpretaciones inmediatas. En principio, introduce a sus protagonistas en una experiencia a la que pocos tienen acceso, no sólo porque en Cuba no nieva, sino más bien, porque la posibilidad del turismo suele estar vedada a sus habitantes. Incluso son pocos los que poseen fotografías, ya que no existe en la isla la manía fotográfica propia de nuestras sociedades capitalistas. Hay, por otra parte, una reflexión sobre la forma en que los medios modelan nuestra relación con el entorno. La fotografía, productora de sensaciones tan vívidas que llevaron a Walter Benjamin a afirmar que “la diferencia entre la técnica y la magia es, desde luego, una variable histórica”,10 existe hoy casi exclusivamente del lado de la técnica, como un formato de registro estandarizado. Poco queda de su magia inicial, a no ser para los cubanos que la transformaron, con su imaginación y sus sueños, en el reservorio de una situación vívida.

Otro caso destacado es el de las diferentes versiones de Bâtiment (2004-2013), realizadas en espacios públicos de París, Londres, Shanghái y Buenos Aires, entre otras locaciones. En ellas, la fachada de un edificio reproducida al nivel del piso pero reflejada en un enorme espejo que la erige a la mirada perpendicular, permite al público crear situaciones de alteración gravitacional. Como en Turismo, una fotografía tomada con el encuadre preciso oculta el artificio en forma tal que se hace difícil descubrirlo si no se ha estado presente en la producción del registro.

La creatividad de la gente que “usa” la instalación es tan grande que el artista se ha dedicado a recopilar las fotografías tomadas por los usuarios, transformando a algunas de ellas en obras autónomas. Las expresiones de los rostros, las posiciones estudiadas, la complicidad momentánea con los demás para no echar a perder el engaño, y la velocidad con la que se comprenden y adoptan los mecanismos ficcionales para utilizarlos en la construcción de imágenes verosímiles, ponen en evidencia la eficacia relacional de la instalación y su capacidad para despertar la imaginación del público.

En una línea similar, aunque menos multitudinaria, Le Cabinet du Psychanalyste (2005), The Chairman’s Room (2012) y La Répétition (2014), animan también a la participación del público en forma creativa. Aquí, éste debe ocupar ciertos lugares que se corresponden con los espacios vacíos de una escenografía exhibida detrás de un vidrio reflejante. La posición correcta da vida a un escenario virtual poblado por los cuerpos fantasmagóricos de los participantes. Desde la serenidad de su ubicación, éstos pueden analizar el funcionamiento de los efectos ópticos, la importancia capital de la luz, las imprecisiones del acto de la percepción, las variaciones de los puntos de vista. De esta forma, se busca que su intervención sea, a la vez, lúdica y reflexiva.

Tipologías de la magia
Desafiar la gravedad, invertir los espacios, engañar al ojo, transformar al espectador en voyeur, forzar las perspectivas, manipular la duplicidad, instrumentar efectos especiales, incentivar la curiosidad, convertir al espectador en actor, activar escenarios banales, trastocar la temporalidad mundana, expandir espacios, abrir ventanas a otras realidades, reinterpretar lo cotidiano, suspender las definiciones de lo verdadero y lo falso, construir verosimilitud, provocar identificación, potenciar lo insólito. Estos son algunos de los recursos que Leandro Erlich ha desarrollado en su todavía relativamente corta carrera. A través de ellos, pone en entredicho la habitualidad del mundo en el que vivimos y de los automatismos en nuestra relación con él.

De esta forma, Erlich pone en escena su espíritu inconformista. No ya el de los jóvenes revolucionarios de los sesentas, sino quizás uno más modesto pero no menos efectivo, que se niega a aceptar la realidad tal como se ofrece configurada al hombre contemporáneo. En sus piezas los límites entre realidad y representación se confunden, no sólo para denunciar la construcción insidiosa de la realidad, sino además, para indicar las posibilidades reales de reactivar la experiencia a través de la representación. Sus obras causan extrañeza, asombro, desazón, reticencia, desconcierto, sospecha. Pero casi nunca indiferencia.

Notas:

1. Borges, Jorge Luis, “Las ruinas circulares” (1956), en Borges, Jorge Luis. Ficciones. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1986.
2. Borges, Jorge Luis, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, en Borges, Jorge Luis. Op.cit.
3. Sarduy, Severo. Ensayos generales sobre el barroco. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1987.
4. Ibídem.
5. Lacan, Jacques. El seminario 11: Los cuatro conceptos fundamentales del psicoanálisis (1964). Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1991.
6. Lyotard, Jean-Francois, “The Sublime and the Avant-Garde”, en Benjamin, Andrew (ed). The Lyotard Reader. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
7. Benjamin, Walter, “La obra de arte en la era de su reproductibilidad técnica” (1936), en Benjamin, Walter. Discursos interrumpidos I. Madrid: Taurus, 1974.
8. Jameson, Fredric. Ensayos sobre el posmodernismo. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Imago Mundi, 1991.
9. Lévy-Strauss, Claude. Arte, lengua, etnología. México; Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 1975.
10. Benjamin, Walter, “Pequeña historia de la fotografía”, en Benjamin, Walter. Op.cit.

LEANDRO ERLICH. Por Victoria Noorthoorn, 2000

En sus recientes instalaciones, Leandro Erlich logra lo imposible: llueve adentro de la galería. Una señora camina vestida por el fondo de una pileta llena de agua. Un espejo refleja el entorno del espectador pero no su propia imagen. Creemos a partir de ver y de la experiencia, y Erlich nos lo recuerda con maestría. Nos prueba que las ilusiones pueden ser verdaderas, y lo demuestra tanto a través de la concepción de sus proyectos, como en la obsesión por el detalle y la perfección de la mano de obra. Sus obras plantean preguntas sobre la naturaleza de lo real, y permiten lecturas metafóricas y simbólicas sobre las distintas situaciones cotidianas en las cuales nos coloca.

Erlich trae a su Buenos Aires natal la instalación que presentó este año en la Bienal del Whitney. Allí construyó un espacio con ventanas a cada lado en cuyo interior llueve. Creer o tocar con las propias manos, esa es la alternativa. Al recubrir las paredes interiores con ladrillo a la vista nos descoloca, puesto que de esta forma percibimos al espacio donde llueve como el espacio entre dos edificios, sólo que aquí este espacio nunca tocará el cielo, y la lluvia caerá de todos modos. Erlich trabaja con el reconocimiento virtual de esas situaciones que tan frecuentemente nos pasan desapercibidas, y genera preguntas acerca de la naturaleza de las ilusiones, o, más precisamente, sobre la naturaleza de lo real cuando lo real se torna artificial.

Erlich es un conceptual realista en la mira de espacios cotidianos, que luego recrea y altera de modo tal de desestabilizar las experiencias usuales de los mismos. Por ejemplo, en El Ascensor (1995), cubrió su exterior con la típica fórmica que recubre los interiores de los ascensores porteños. Pero cuando el espectador abre la puerta, en lugar de encontrarse con el piso, se encuentra como colgando en el espacio indefinidamente. Y en El Living (1998), Erlich también desafía expectativas: los visitantes entran a un living donde se sienten molestos al tomar conciencia de que mientras el resto del cuarto circundante se ve reflejado en uno de los espejos, la propia imagen está ausente. El Living, tanto como otras obras, arroja al espectador hacia el terreno de lo ambiguo. Incluso surgen preguntas de carácter político, como ser el por qué de la ausencia del reflejo del espectador en el espejo.

Pero volvamos a Lluvia: esta obra desafía la premisa incuestionable de que sólo puede llover afuera. Al hacer visible el límite físico de la construcción (no sólo la terminación del espacio en “L” sino también el límite dado por la altura de la galería) Erlich hace clara su intención de permitir la revelación del truco, mismo si éste actúa como anzuelo y nunca como fin. Hace su trabajo accesible, al referirnos a nuestras experiencias cotidianas y a la lógica, y al evadir conscientemente cualquier forma de alta tecnología misteriosa. Relata una historia a partir de un detalle. En Lluvia, nos aproxima a lugares tan familiares como las gotas cayendo y señalando caminos sobre una ventana, o la fascinante aparición de la lluvia cuando súbitamente un rayo la ilumina.

Dadas estas “performances” y puestas en escena, podemos referirnos a Erlich como a un gran maestro titiritero, que dirige y rediseña la experiencia de actores que inconscientemente siguen caminos previamente demarcados. Como si tuviese un acto preparado para nosotros, un acto que sorprende, molesta, e induce a creer. Pero por sobre todo, Erlich realza los componentes emocionales y perceptuales en el arte. Nos engaña por un momento, nos deja boquiabiertos por más tiempo, y continúa.

 

TURISMO. Extract from the prolog of the homonymnous book. Por Leandro Erlich & Judi Werthein

We flew to Cuba from New York via Jamaica, with twelve outsize crates, two suitcases, and 6000 Polaroid films. We were going to take part in Havana’s 7th Biennial, the subject of which would be “Communication in Difficult Times: One closer to the other”…

In this case, for Cuba, we wished to compose an idea that would allow us to come into close contact with the Cubans. A project connected with the reality of Cuba and which would result in an actual meeting with the public, rather than the mere manifestation of an artist that was alien to their context. The meeting place would mean for us to transport a landscape and create a fantasized, longed-for situation.

We encouraged the participation of the public, creating the experience of their being tourists. Tourism is a globalizing industry that encourages communication between different countries through traveling as a form of recreation.

For Cuba today, Tourism represents a highly complex factor within society. It is tourists who reach Cuba to spend their vacations, a most important source of income and foreign currency for the country. Simultaneously, this industry eventually creates a great contradiction within the country’s social and political structure.

We were aware of the reality of life in Cuba, and from the very beginning we were also aware of the fact that a political meaning could be ascribed to any proposal in Havana. It was important for us to generate an opportunity within Cuban reality in which we could underline the everyday reality of the people without meaning to elaborate a political manifesto….

When we finished setting up the installation, and even before that, the people strolling around “La Cabaña” approached us with great enthusiasm. Everybody wanted to take part in the project, as cheerful as we had been while thinking up our project. Some people even brought us gifts, poems and cigars.

Yanet, a beautiful young brunette, was the assistant assigned by the Biennial to collaborate with us in the exhibition hall. She helped us organize the public so that everybody could pose in the set while they were being “phototransported” to the Alps.

One of the first, and very agreeable echoes of our work came from the office next door. There, some people were joking with their colleagues about a trip to Switzerland and showing the Polaroid prints to prove it.

On the third day a young man brought along a sweater, so that the photo would look more realistic and convincing. The people that came in after he did kept borrowing his sweater for their own pictures. Some days later a beautiful girl came to the set wearing a splendid colonial dress (2). The man in charge of the garbage in “La Cabaña” approached the place with his green cart; and even Marisabel Salinas, who drives a tourist-laden coach in “La Fortaleza”, showed up with her horse and gave a Caribbean touch to the Alpine landscape.

The soldiers of the regiment in “La Cabaña” always formed part of the public. On one of the first days, a lieutenant approached us and, after having the soldiers leave the hall, he unsmilingly asked us not to take photos of the soldiers in their uniforms. We explained to him that this was an artistic project and in no way meant to create trouble. The lieutenant refused to listen to us and again asked us not to take photos of the soldiers in service. We showed him photos we had taken the day before in order to illustrate the idea of the project, and in one of them he recognized a high rank officer smiling and posing on the skis. Upon seeing this, the lieutenant asked whether we charged for the photos and we answered that all the participants were entitled to take their photos for free. Next he asked if we would take his photo, posing with his daughters.

Turismo became quite an event in itself on account of the variegated public summoned by the Biennial. Besides the general public, there were personalities of the world of art, curators and critics, all of them mingled in the adventure.

Due to the situation derived from the embargo imposed by the United States –and in order to avoid trouble for their tourists—Cuban immigration officers never stamp passports. As we had only been in Jamaica in transit, we returned to New York twenty days later after officially having spent all that time “nowhere in the world”. Which is in part true, because we had created a space where the fiction we had built up opened like a parenthesis and transported us to a land of fantasy, full of Caribbean joy, a mixture of snow and heat.

We are deeply indebted to the organizers of the Biennial for their invitation. To Kent Gallery, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, to the Polaroid Foundation, and to the Pan-American Cultural Exchange for their extraordinary support, and very especially to all those who accompanied us through these impossible vacations in the Caribbean Alps.

To the beautiful people of Cuba, our gratitude.                                   

Publicaciones

LA DEMOCRACIA DEL SÍMBOLO, MALBA, 2015

LEANDRO ERLICH-THE ORDINARY, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa, 2014

LA INEXISTENCIA, SongEun Art Space, 2012

LEANDRO ERLICH / GRACIELA SACCO. REPRESENTACIÓN ARGENTINA EN LA 49 BIENAL DE VENECIA, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Marsilio, Venecia, 2001

TURISMO. LA HABANA, CUBA. JUDI WERTHEIN Y LEANDRO ERLICH, Kent Gallery, 2001

Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte
Juan Ramírez de Velasco 1287
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Martes a sábado de 14 a 19.
Teléfono: +54 11 4857-3322