“Trial Balloons”

As its three curators (Yuko Hasegawa, Agustín Pérez Rubio, and Octavio Zaya) repeat tirelessly in the texts that introduce the show, the intention of “Globos Sonda” (Trial Balloons) was to offer a global perspective on international art. On young international art, that is, given the age of most of the creators presented and despite all the doubts that the term “international art” entails. The curators themselves add that, as a result of this, the exhibition had to be heterogeneous and slippery, imbued with an eclecticism inseparable from the ambition to reflect such a broad terrain. Or perhaps it was simply the result of combining three different visions and their respective artistic interests.

Nonetheless, it was possible to find some common elements in a whole that was partly intent on frivolity yet also conveyed more serious concerns. Indeed, this tension ran through the exhibition, which tried to balance out these conflicting impulses. And it was not the show’s only tension. It juxtaposed works with baroque inclinations with others employing a very synthetic and conceptualist language. Likewise, some pieces were highly self-referential, focusing on their own formal character and the language of art, while many more showed an interest in social problems. But this was hardly surprising in an exhibition gathering together forty-eight artists and serving unofficially as a biennial and an introduction to artists largely unknown in Spain.

Thus, the major works here did not reflect specific criteria, and there were artists working in quite dissimilar modes. Lifeguards, 2005, a video by Smadar Dreyfus, has little in common with the videos by Eelco Brand. Whereas Brand showed two computer animations, H. movi, and D. movi, both 2004, which, in addition to metalinguistic concerns, operate as peaceful landscapes, the Israeli artist showed a two-channel HD video installation with eight channels of audio that centers on a group of bathers at a beach in Tel Aviv; we hear the voice of a lifeguard, ceaselessly issuing announcements and warnings to the bathers. The video’s overlapping of image and word made it one of the most powerful works in the exhibition. It demonstrates a sense of social space that, whether overtly or timidly, is present throughout the exhibition. This is true of Riding Lesson, 2004, an installation by another Israeli artist, Nadav Weissman, which uses a coherently unpleasant iconography to refer to childhood and the family setting; it can also be said of the ad-like icons by Josephine Meckseper (%, 2005), which relate rhetoric, consumerism, and political slogans. Less directly, Alexandra Navratil’s Accumulations Part I: Desire Is Based on Loss, 2003, also alludes to the social. On the walls, Navratil built an enormous construction based on photocopies of fragments of buildings; the final outcome, was a chaotic metropolitan cluster, somewhere between Fritz Lang’s city and Piranesi’s prisons. Intentionally or coincidentally, this interest in architecture showed up frequently, for instance in Everything’s OK, 2003, by Tintin Wulia, a short animated film that dynamically, comically, and incisively shows the birth of an imaginary city. Similarly, Francesc Ruiz’s immense drawing Ataque al Musac, 2006, leveled an ambiguous joke at the museum itself (which is known by its acronym, MUSAC). But this metalinguistic piece is, like Angel Masip’s reflections on art and nature in Perder (To Lose), 2003, an exception when it comes to assessing the overall tone of these “Trial Balloons.”

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.