Federico Guzmán

Galeria La Maquina Espaõla

The first impression one had upon entering this exhibition of Federico Guzmán’s works was a feeling of confusion. On the walls, separated from each other, an uneven group of pieces made of asphalt and paint on canvas presented signs that alluded to the boundaries of writing and public relations; perhaps this was the remains of a more complex network of symbols now nearly reduced to minimum expression. To what did that network of symbols refer?

For some time now, as a result of a collective project in which he participated in 1992 called the Cápsula de tiempo Córdoba (Cordoba time capsule), Guzmán has observed, scrutinized, and analyzed daily archaeological space. Within this space he did not attempt to tally or compute the endless elements that produce industrial waste; instead, he dealt with picking up, metaphorically speaking, that diagram of at times imperceptible energies that make up the social strengths of human existence. And in that diagram, according to Guzmán. the detritus, the sacrificed object is joined to a perception of time and space that is subjected to insurmountable fluctuation and anguish. Could it he that, deep down, Guzmán—who has explored with great zeal the notion of geography, space, and time, in relation to Guy Debord’s idea of drift—is trying to point out the impossibility of grasping or capturing the human universe? Could this be the disheartening message from an artist who, for years, has forced himself to be a conduit of communication, cutting into the channels of language?

Guzmán’s vision is full of ill-fated omens. In a sense, the drunken boat of disordered senses, proposed by the young Rimbaud, has been traded, more than one hundred years later, for the slippage or displacement of values, for the loss of a guiding principle, of a direction. We find ourselves in a sociocultural and historical context quite different from that inhabited by the French poet. Human activity in our era is inscribed into a few bits of space, into a scattering of ruinous concepts and sensitivities. That drunkenness of the senses that long ago aspired to a total experience has changed now into a flow of diverse currents similar to those rays or lines that extend beyond the edges of some of Guzmán’s paintings (e.g. Pizarra conversa [Convex blackboard], 1993), leaving the heart of the work empty. The future has lost its raison d’être; the present is ill and hobbles like a wounded beast, and the past, that past that Guzman describes in his archaeological model of Tollund Man and Elling Woman (individuals from the Roman iron age, preserved in a perfect state in the peat bogs of northern Europe until their discovery in 1960), is covered, like a ragpicker, with strips and more strips of Letraset.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.