Francisco Ruiz de Infante

La Gallera

Although the protests against the unjust war waged by the Bush administration on Iraq with the support of the Spanish and English governments have been massive, especially in Europe, it is difficult to speak of a clear response from artistic circles. In the case of Francisco Ruiz de Infante’s exhibition “Black Sky,” for instance, the artist did not put forth a rousing, propagandist formulation of a political position. The drawings, sketches, and texts that represent Ruiz de Infante’s initial reflections on this installation demonstrate, rather, the urge to subvert a space that is at once blood-soaked and beautiful.

La Gallera is one of the most peculiar art venues in Spain today. A dodecagon in three stories, it was originally designed for the presentation of cockfights. Perhaps it is logical, then, that questioning violence is a capital concern for an artist using this site. “Black Sky” has been installed on three levels. On the ground floor, a palisade of metal bars closes off a space; the only way in is through an opening at the back of the building. Inside, one hears a sound that is difficult to identify but that recalls that of a helicopter, while yellow and black lines on the floor bring to mind a landing pad. On the ceiling, five metal objects project through a wooden platform. Only after climbing up to the next level can one see that these are five rifles breaking through the floor. There, five chairs allow viewers to sit and absorb this violence. Above the rifles, a plastic sheet held up by crossbars forms a kind of dark sky in various shades of black. A narrow staircase leads to the top floor, from which one can see that the other side of the black sheet is scored by boards and bars. In the middle of it, there is an open, funnel-like hole: The abyss lurks.

Ruiz de Infante has constructed a muddled, disturbing space where fear and insecurity reign. The piece evokes the consuming fear of a terrorist attack now felt by many, including perhaps a majority of the US population. But is that fear born from logic, or is it the result of paranoia fomented by a state seeking to control the minds of its citizens? The artist does not speak of a specific government or political situation; instead, his work revolves around the creation of unbalanced and fragile structures in which the feeling of danger is palpable and where the weapon is ready and waiting, though we don’t know whether the person pulling the trigger is friend or enemy. That Manichaean dichotomy is reductive, bearing little relation to the complex reality that nourishes artistic reflection. Awaking emotions and putting them into evidence through temporary architectures and cold and oppressive habitats, Ruiz de Infante asks us to think deeply in the face of war and discord.

Juan Vicente Aliaga

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.