©®38191613162016135195209451435 debuted last November in London with a one-day performance that included fake bidders, clothing pieces, art installations, and even a selection of Spanish tapas. Taking the form of a staged auction, the performance once again put ©®38191613162016135195209451435’s emphasis on the social and economic framings of both the production and display of objects in contemporary culture; as well as the relationship between contemporary art and fashion and the institutional frameworks that mediate their experience.
Created by Spanish artist R.G.B, ©®38191613162016135195209451435 is a project that explores the critical potential of wearable art-objects. Specifically, how (and under what conditions) these items give the wearer the possibility of feeling as if they were a work of art, one that is scrutinised and criticised. In a nutshell, clothes here are understood as the self-realization of the wearer, who becomes a walking piece of art. The numbers in the project’s name are a substitution cipher, where each letter is replaced by its numerical position in the Spanish alphabet.
©®38191613162016135195209451435 further plays with our expectations about art through a series of site-specific installations, actions, texts and image-based works that include perverse details and twists that destabilise the function of objects and artworks altogether. By presenting a new way of understanding our relationship with objects and our daily routines, ©®38191613162016135195209451435 questions our relationship with the everydayness of the work of art, which, at the end, turns out to be ourselves. For instance, in the performative piece Bridal (2018) R.G.B. brought together a horse, a zodiac and a car along with a bridal dress wore by a performer, creating his own vision of the three unique wedding dresses that he would commercialise if he were a designer or had a bridal boutique.
©®38191613162016135195209451435, Bridal, 2018.
©®38191613162016135195209451435, Bridal (Zodiac Dress), 2018.
©®38191613162016135195209451435, Bridal (Equino Dress), 2018.
For its London debut, ©®38191613162016135195209451435 presented a performance at The Biscuit Factory. The performance consisted of a staged auction where one-off clothing pieces, along with other artworks (from images to installation pieces), were put up for a bid to be ‘purchased’ by the performance attendees. With this event, ©®38191613162016135195209451435 aimed to draw attention to the arbitrary nature of artworks’ value as constructed by wealthy collectors and institutions. Instead, art should be valued by the spectacle that surrounds any work and by the viewers, whose experiences and interactions with artworks constitute the ultimate valid criteria.
©®38191613162016135195209451435, ‘The Gift’, AuctionCR28112019, 2019. Performance, curated by Belinda Martin Porras, The Biscuit Factory, London
©®38191613162016135195209451435, ‘The Gift’, Dictionary Projects, 2019.
©®38191613162016135195209451435’s performative auction started by offering attendees a series of tapas and drinks, along with a traditional Spanish ‘bar’ napkin on which the auction’s programmed was printed. Both the tapas and the napkin were a veiled metaphor of what was about to come. For the tapas themselves were the artwork to be gazed upon, smelled, and tasted, whilst the napkin acted as the ‘critique of judgment’ that we make of the artwork after the aesthetic experience. In the words of R.G.B: “With this performance I wanted people to reflect on the meaning of artworks from different standpoints and perspectives. So my intention was to offer to the viewers as many interpretations and connotations as possible of the installations and objects presented here, so that they could understand, value, and respect the artworks in a myriad of different ways”.
©®38191613162016135195209451435, ‘Typical Spanish Napkin Ring’, crafted by Jotateam Studio. AuctionCR28112019, 2019, The Biscuit Factory, London
©®38191613162016135195209451435. Spanish tapas by London Basque Kitchen. AuctionCR28112019, 2019, The Biscuit Factory, London
After that, a series of lots embodied in performers invaded the stage. Among them, classics such as Puta Boots (2017), Car Sunshade Hat (2018), The Incubator (2017), At the Table (2018) or the brand-new installations Air Earrings and Second Life (2019) stand out. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
©®38191613162016135195209451435, ‘Puta Boots’, AuctionCR28112019, 2019. Performance, curated by Belinda Martin Porras, The Biscuit Factory, London
©®38191613162016135195209451435, ‘Second Life. AuctionCR28112019, 2019. Performance, curated by Belinda Martin Porras, The Biscuit Factory, London
The auction was set up to address the shady modus operandi of the art market, especially the secondary art market, and the cultural sector by and large. Transparency and open dialogue about the subjectivity upon which the economic value of artworks is constructed have proven to be elusive for the art world. In fact, in the visual arts industry, artworks are often given astronomical, irrational prices so that art can still be available for the few, and not the many. “The price and value of an artwork has to be determined by the artist and by the time spent by the viewers on that piece…In a sense, the more time the public dedicates to observing and reflecting upon the artwork, the more value that piece should have correlatively”, R.G.B. explains.
Some of the pieces presented at the auction, like much of the project’s work, unpick the material symbols and capitalist tropes common to contemporary life to assert a critique of the constructed-ness of stereotypes and social expectations of material culture at large. For example, Transferhang (2017), which is a pun on a failed transfer or hang-up (a permanent and unreasonable feeling of anxiety about a particular feature of yourself), reflects on current economic structures which do not allow us to see how the material aspects of things around us change over time. Indeed, the numerous handles integrated in the suit, as if the garment was a life-size briefcase of the kind that office workers or bankers use, imply that the person wearing it had become a corporate object, perhaps even one full of money.
The auctioneer introduced Transferhang as follows: “What memory will remain when the money can no longer be taken by hand and the briefcases lose the value they represented? If money already exists only electronically for me, they already dress me electronically or lock me up with all my money in briefcases … thief thief thief thief would call me, and hacker hacker hacker will call me my children”.
This sort of accelerationist aesthetics is also shown in Jewellery Scratch (2019), which consists of a gigantic jewellery box and trays used as necklaces by the performers, putting the emphasis precisely not on precious and valuable stones and diamonds, but on the velvet boxes that contain them. For the attraction or crush that you feel for a jewel when you see it in a shop window is not only produced by the jewel itself: “the more atmosphere in the shop window you can take with you when putting on the jewel, the greater the crush you will transmit to others”. By highlighting the experience of desiring a piece of jewellery, rather than the content itself, ©®38191613162016135195209451435 invites the viewer to become the container or the showcase itself: “to feel like the showcase everyone would want to buy”.
“With all this auction we wanted to draw attention to the ways we can understand the subjective meanings of art and to give people an opportunity to reflect upon the artworks themselves, not the frameworks that surround them. In the end, the understanding and appreciation of art always depends on every one of us, and, by extension, its value belongs to the many”, concluded R.G.B. Stay tuned for more work from ©®38191613162016135195209451435, which seems to be continuing to shake the arts sector’s bedrock with thought-provoking and entertaining projects.
Written by R.G.B. and Belinda Martín Porras
©®38191613162016135195209451435 is a project based in the EU created and led by artist R.G.B. that explores the critical and aesthetic potential of wearable art-objects, understood as the self-realization of the wearer, who becomes a walking piece of art. It offers the viewer the possibility of feeling as if they were the work of art, which is scrutinised and criticised. ©®38191613162016135195209451435 practice taps into the social and economic framings of both the production and the display of objects in contemporary culture; as well as the relationship between contemporary art and fashion and the institutional frameworks that mediate their experience. By presenting a new way of understanding our relationship with objects and our daily routines, ©®38191613162016135195209451435 questions our relationship with the everydayness of the work of art, which, in the end, turns out to be ourselves. Typically, this takes the form of site-specific installations and performances, but it also includes the production of prints, objects and short texts.
Belinda Martín Porras is a London-based art historian, curator, researcher, and visual arts producer. She currently combines her curatorial projects with the completion of her doctoral thesis in Classics at King’s College London. Belinda is also the co-founder of Lava Art Project, a visual arts company offering production, curatorial and advisory support for emerging and mid-career artists. She has previously worked in MTArt Agency as managing editor and as an assistant curator in several spaces and centres dedicated to contemporary and classical art, such as Max Estrella Gallery, Madrid, Spain; the Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins, France and King’s College London, UK. The recent shows curated by Belinda include: Filip Custic en conversación con César Manrique, Fundación César Manrique, Lanzarote, Spain (2019); Homo-? (2019), La Térmica, Málaga, Spain; OR, co-curated with GAPS Curatorial, Feria de Arte en Casa, Madrid, Spain (2018) and Bon Art Book Fair, Tehran, Iran (2017).