Paco Vacas

Instituto de la Juventud

The art of Paco Vacas is the product of a meditation on interior experience. His remarks echo those of Georges Bataille, in which he proposes that given interior experience cannot originate in dogma (the moral attitude), nor in science (knowledge), nor in the search for esthetic and/or experimental procedures, but that it must originate in itself. Thus, the experience is formed by its own authority.

“I call experience a journey to the limit of the possible for man,” says Bataille—a journey by which the inescapable fusion of the unknown and the individual is reached. For Bataille, the object is an unknown entity, and the individual reveals himself through the unknown. For Vacas, that journey is the experience born of necessity. Thus, the layout of this show has nothing to do with what is usually understood by exhibition: the display of a series of objects or elements, arranged in a manner that will permit the contemplation of the artworks by a spectator.

In this case, all the previous preparatory procedures (not in the sense of process, but in terms of Vacas’ intimate journey), do not culminate in the exhibition, but surpass it, flooding it. This “exhibition”—the ephemeral character of what is being shown—is one more movement in that which comes to constitute the artist. The communicative vessel in which this intimate journey transpires is Vacas’ own body.

For several months, the necessity to explore the inner and/or unconscious structures that constitute the artist paradoxically guided him to thoroughly investigate the exterior, in order to evacuate or detach from the body that which is superfluous. An ensemble of molds of different parts of his body (torso, legs, head, back) is presented in the hall as an eloquent manifestation of that other self—empty, external, superficial, fragmented—which is an inextricable part of the author and at the same time, the interior’s verso.

In a parallel direction, Vacas has carried out a series of tests that explore the human capacity for resistance: the body, subjected to hours of immobility, to the pressure of bindings or lip ligatures so as to achieve an accumulation of blood, provides a metaphor for the journey of experience, for the pain, anguish, and suffering that are means or pathways to sincere action. Through pain, one does not seek pleasure, but the liberation from sensation. The limit of the possible is defined in accordance with the necessity of achieving this.

In this stream of private experiences demonstrated by black and white photographs (glamour or spectacle are absent from the “exhibition”), the face is negated, hidden behind fabric, or disfigured by the pressure of rubber ligaments.

During the time that Vacas’ confinement lasted, the artist was immersed in a half-light that penetrated, through an aperture, from the outside. The entrance was formed by two wooden panels covered with a viscous substance that simultaneously repelled and attracted the viewer. Like scattered hides, the molds of the artist’s body were clustered before the den, or barricade, behind which he protected himself. After his departure, only eschatological remnants of his presence remained.

The interior experience passes through the evacuation, through the separation from the unnecessary, like a snake shedding its skin. The final objective is unknown, but the applied materials are destined to disappear. The individual enters the unknown, and in spite of his ignorance, the obsessive, almost ritual, search continues. The art reveals the unconscious, and the physical and mental come to seem but representations of existence.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from the Spanish by Yvonne Menard.