PRESENTIAL ART IN THE ERA OF DISPERSION
We live in a time of paradox: nothing is what it seems. Everything has had to turn around, or to disguise itself in order to continue to exist. Quite the contrary, at antipodes café everything is what it seems.
A construction hut on the edge of a construction site for a luxury housing development in one of the most expensive new square meters of Europe. Inside, free coffee and various activities, such as an exhibition presenting a large-format photograph of an urbanization in the mountains of Malaga. Although there are more elements in the premises, someone enters and asks if the space is dedicated to the sale of that urbanization. He seems to be interested in buying one of those colorful houses. How to explain to him that the project is about the opposite, but also that in some way it could have sell those houses if they were their property? Welcome, make yourself at home, enjoy the antipodes café experience.
Alongside intertwining his curls in peculiar urban interventions under the cryptic pseudonyms of “Logo” and “Usted,” Felipe also dedicated himself to organizing professional tennis tournaments. In these events, reality surpasses fiction; everything is true from the moment everyone knows what they have come for: to see two people passing a ball between them using a racket, without leaving a given area and without touching a separating net, following a set of basic rules for scoring and serving the ball. In addition to watching them play, they had also gone to see the audience. Between these two aspects, a series of customs and traditions have been accumulated, as well as forms of relationships (media, advertising, intimate, narrative) that radically transform the experience of observing two people interacting with a sphere of almost seven centimeters in diameter. There is nothing ornamental or superfluous in that situation. The ritual makes art and life the same thing at that moment.
Across its oeuvre antipodes café propose and demand a presence from the viewer. In the era of dispersion, the invitation consists precisely in what seems most elusive and non-transferable today: to spend some time. A time of connection, of bond. And this is proposed by people who, like everyone today, love solitude and enjoy their inner world without having to share it (until Lou arrived, with whom they have to share all the time). In this way, you can participate in the works of antipodes café with your presence, although this presence does not consist of having to participate in a more or less gregarious collective dynamic. The proposal focuses on adding individuals to a given thought space.
In the past decade, antipodes café has developed a series of habitable situations where, naturally, everyone can do what they want. That is what makes them habitable. Those are not collective performances or happenings like the ones we know traditionally, but proposals for spaces and moments of life beyond life. It is not that art imitates life, or that life is like art, but rather that the proposal consists in just living, but in a different way.
Among the most controversial issues that antipodes café has throw shade on, is the trivialization of the good life that hipsters make when parodying it with aesthetic issues that come to say that drinking quality coffee and using handcrafted furniture would be the key to happiness, although –and far from it– they are increasingly sad and lonely. antipodes café questions the good life radically and straightforward: how can we live together and be happy? Inviting to eat gnocchi on the 29th of each month for several years, in a totally atomized society, can be a violent way to hug someone without touching.
How to make a habitable work of public art in the 21st century based essentially on the theory of the situationists (especially Guy Debord) and those by Hiroshi Hara, but all scrambled with Mao’s Red book? Surely these are among the most avant-garde thinkers of the 20th century. However, antipodes café moves forward in our everyday life, where the avant-garde does not seem to be; it tries to push the life that surrounds them, without stridency or demands, proposing situations that are profoundly transformative for some people and totally irrelevant for others, as if these were a kind of mirror that opens the doors to the most possibly revolutionary aspects within each one. It is not about feeling forced to live experiences outside of oneself, but rather rethinking ourselves by rethinking the reality that surrounds us, with a small twist, albeit radical. Hanging in core streets of Oslo and Bergen, on the bicentenary of the Norwegian constitution and the Norwegian flag respectively, dozens of versions of that national symbol but without including the official flag with its immaculate Christian cross, was too annoying for those who immediately wrote death threats, or yellow press articles, and surely imperceptible for those who saw another festive action in this installation.
Humor is undoubtedly one of the most joyful spaces of the human being. It is a way of sharing and showing mutual love that has grown in society until it has become part of our daily lives, and it has become even stronger thanks to social media. However, it has sometimes been encapsulated as a form of distinction instead of continuing to be a joyful form of encounter and equality. In all those habitable spaces created by antipodes café, humor is always the escape route to overcome the tension generated by a demanding moment, as well as the guarantor of the lack of elitism of these proposals, which are made accessible because literally everyone wants to participate of that joyous situation. In tournaments of ping pong with obstacles, there were those who were going to participate seriously. But there is nothing more serious than humor, much more serious than table tennis, a friendly sport that can also become a space for competitiveness. antipodes café did not invent PINGPONGO, but turned it into a habitable space in cultural centers, festivals, public squares, bars, schools, a seaside promenade and a self-managed public space in the center of Madrid. The first version of pingpongo made in Argentina, was an ironic sport, and despite that we laughed our heads off while playing it, we laughed in a different way, trying to avoid obstacles instead of enjoying them, instead of understanding ourselves as one of them. If you’re going to make a joke, let’s all laugh. As the song claims, do not commit the crime, man, if you’re not going to serve the sentence. Overcoming avant-garde and elitism would actually be the success of all proposals by antipodes café, which could be the stronghold of a few in the know if they were avant-garde spaces, or one more distinguished space like all those proposed by the art world. In GARBIBAI, the paddlers devoted themselves to cleaning up the river with unusual fury, removing heavy and bulky objects, helping each other, generating a moment of authentic cooperation; perhaps precisely because the event took place within the framework of a perfectly organized competition, with a very dense cultural apparatus. However, antipodes café does not avoid conflict, although it encourages it without forcing it. Naturally, one of the forms of relationship that remains in our dispersed world is conflict, perhaps the most frequent and also one of the most sterile. Over these years, Tuva and Felipe have relate with hundreds of bureaucrats, managers, administrators, salespeople, and cultural workers, whom they have shared their need for permits, licenses, paint, coffee, bicycles, garbage, even exceptions and, above all, to go beyond what they had never gone. And all these presentations have been spaces for debate, thought and the elaboration of possible worlds, which once they have come true, have mobilized controversial situations in the best of senses. More than a procedure to achieve a result, or the more or less repetitive steps of the production processes of art festivals, whose objective is purely the execution of one work after another, I understand those thousands of encounters with strangers to obtain any sort of support, as a good part of their work, like a very long game, with many players who are touched by having participated in it; even when rejecting the proposal. Everyone recognizes today that to play is one of the most important spaces in Western societies. Video games are more significant than other forms of cultural production, games of chance flood our mobiles and our cities, and we have dedicated our free-time entirely to leisure. For antipodes café, the game is a way of investigating reality, just as kids investigate it. Unlike the icing on the cake of life, the game would be the best way to try to break the toy, as children do, to find out how it is built. Living several years in a house that has its rooms scattered in a city that spends several months a year under the snow, is a way of getting to know that city and that house, as well as the lives of citizens and visitors, but it requires an extraordinary effort. Just as the one that children dedicate to play.
antipodes café’s oeuvre never has the vocation of disturbing for the sake of bothering, although they always want to ask (us) about what hurts (us), even doing so on occasions with situations that could be –a priori– reassuring. A system for reusing disposed materials from all exhibitions in the museums and galleries of a city, could be a greenwashing program if the storage was not attached to the prison walls. At a time when provocation has become a form of isolation, and symbols and identities a form of aggression, the works of antipodes café unfold polyhedral, playful, impossible to classify: the symbols end up convoluted (and intertwined), more because of the (re)action of the spectator than because of the vocation of the creators, who do not intend to “sell” anything, who do not want to represent anything, but rather to present, in the most figurative way possible, the reality that surrounds us, putting it to dance over the precipice that forms the edge of things, in such a way that we can see ourselves face to face, crystal clear, when we have to look at it tangentially, and understand how we are part of that reality, and how we could be part of it in other ways, among other things inhabiting and pushing those edges, those limits, expanding those cognitive and political borders that we have given ourselves, and that have been imposed on us.
Tuva and Felipe are a kind of monks of art, dressed in Lacoste, who instead of spending their time copying enormous books in an ascetic monastery, spend their time exploring everyday life: arriving to any city, looking for chocolate coins to buy; or a good printing press to produce the thickest and most comprehensive book on the Norwegian flag; or a meeting with some unknown experts who one day received an email from some crazy people who wanted to tell them that their life could improve a little bit. Like those medieval monks, their work has something mystical, but in the light of the centuries we will discover that it was actually a very useful task of translation, between a world that wanted to destroy itself, and a world that was waiting for it because it needed it.
Alberto Nanclares da Veiga
Translation: æ + AI