Oxymoron. It's a strange, ugly word, but it defines the technique that Marcelo Viquez uses to stimulate the intellect, seeking our reconsideration of unresolved issues. It is a 'contradictio in terminis' (the concept’s literal definition in Latin, a 'contradiction in terms'), consisting of 'using two concepts with opposite meanings in a single expression, thus generating a third concept'. This third concept, generated in an almost Hegelian manner, is embodied in the artwork we see on display in this exhibition.
If a weapon does no harm, nor does it appear to be able to do harm, is it truly a weapon? This is the first question posed. This crucial issue was commented on in a previous exhibition, Los Comunes, where it was concluded that 'the explosion of a bomb that cannot explode is terrible, because it never ends'. A weapon that does no harm is a lie that no one can believe; everything, absolutely everything, is capable of causing harm, and there is no weapon, or anything else for that matter, in this world which can escape this fact. Marcelo Viquez's trick consists of proclaiming innocent intentions that turn a blind eye to what happens afterward, or to what can happen. Everything can be harmful, even water (as the Chinese, inventors of the famous water torture technique, can attest); it just depends on who is in charge.
In this exhibition, weapons come in the shape of agricultural and workshop tools. Crosses are re-envisioned as swords (This is an invocation of the artist's mother. Once widowed, when viewing two things intersected at a right angle, she no longer saw crosses, but swords). The lorry wheels that the artist repaired as a young man inspired a sarcophagus of sorts, made of marble, and a wooden door, which rather than simply a passage between two spaces, itself becomes pure theatre: a staging of an 'impossible' door.
Many of the three-dimensional pieces by Marcelo Viquez use wood as a base material. While the work simulating a door is a scene in and of itself as previously mentioned, it does not lose the character of a passageway between two worlds: one of wealth, refinement, and ornament on the one hand, represented by the wooden embellishment above, and on the other hand that of labour, a life dominated by cost, including slavery and dependency, represented by the pallets used to make up the leaf of the supposed door. The same wood, the same material, for two separate worlds. All of it forms a door of sorts, which to me seems to announce the presence of another reality, hidden behind so much injustice. In just the opposite sense (yet still addressing the same question), in the piece featuring a wheel it is the wooden container that assumes the role of elitist icon, alongside the polished marble. It presents itself as a covering, intended to allow us to travel across a certain type of pavement. Instead of using one of those exoskeletons for tires, meant to tackle snow and ice, the proposal here is a cover that can be used to move about the refined rooms of rich bone collectors (or art collectors; it is all the same).
As regards exoskeletons, we already know that in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregory Samsa awakens and finds himself transformed into a beetle, an insect with an exoskeleton. The meaning behind this is that his fear of the world has devoured his nightmares to such an extent that it has constructed armour to protect him. Marcelo Viquez’s wheel is a direct and crystal clear metaphor of this feeling.
Wood, incidentally, is usually associated with good luck, hence the saying, 'touch wood', used to invoke it. But lady luck wishes to hear about statistics only in dealing with people to whom she herself has dealt a favourable hand. With her chosen few, lady luck is not so meticulous, and she gives herself to them promiscuously. This has implications in both life and in death.
The exhibition, Our Weapons Do No Harm by Marcelo Viquez, is a conceptual journey that connects objects found in the exterior world–out there, already eroded by life and death–with images created in that other, interior realm, where we are still searching. In this sense, appropriation reaches the point where it might even be claimed that Marcelo Viquez in creating his art simply appropriates what he has found within himself–deposits from life and from death–and gives them a new form, a new meaning. In doing so, he unveils other ways to interpret a reality that is not what it appears at first glance. That is where the idea comes from, this idea of the weapons that truly do harm not being within our reach, but rather belonging to another reality: one in which those who hold the power laugh at the expense of children, to describe it in a few words.
There is another facet of these weapons, these strangely manufactured instruments (although I would argue that they were merely mentally created, so rather 'mind-factured', not manufactured), which alludes to mankind’s intrusion into nature. It reaches a point–due to the scale of man’s expansion in these times of sophisticated technology–that nothing can escape this encroachment. To the point where tree trunks grow into a perfect shape for the sawmill! The piece incorporating a mirror through which the future can be glimpsed (pure industrial geometry) and its related design speak to all of this while connecting with a previous series of Marcelo Viquez’s work, shown at the 2014 exhibition Riesgo Necesario in Es Baluard museum.
A particularly meaningful piece in this exhibition is the diptych formed by a 'fossilised' book and a video showing how it was created. In a previous life, the book had been a roll of industrial aluminium foil, used in the hospitality industry, whose sheets became completely fused together. Though, like any book, it contains bits of memories and testimony to the past in each of its 'pages', it is impossible to read. It is a book to be contemplated from the outside, a book that can be read without knowing how to read, a book for the grammatically illiterate (although not for the artistically illiterate). The video accompanying it ultimately provides a new conceptual oxymoron: whereas books are usually created through the mind (and I mean usually) this one has been, literally, 'manufactured'. It is a working-class book, a representative specimen of so-called 'low culture', the distilled product of indigestion between the classes.
All of Marcelo Viquez’s work possesses an autobiographical flair (evinced in his work incorporating a wall fragment from a shack in the slum of Son Banya, which was demolished by the Palma de Mallorca City Council). This gives it, despite the cryptic nature of some of his art, the weight of truth and of authenticity, in addition to the value of symbolism, with which these pieces are so clearly infused. At times cryptic, always critical, Marcelo Viquez illuminates a path that leads us to a space within ourselves. What we find, and whether what we encounter disappoints us, is something beyond his control.
Text by Carlos Jover. Courtesy KEWENIG.