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dna projects | contemporary art | Ontologías y Codices

Ontologías y Codices


Artist/curator/artist: David Corbet

Fisher library, The University of Sydney, September - October 2015

This exhibition is inspired by my adventures in the worlds of hispanic literature, poetry, song and art-making. Drawing from diverse sources, it is a personal homage to the vitality and richness of the worldwide cultures expressed and celebrated predominantly in the Spanish language – la lengua española. From the poetry of Octavio Paz to the work of the Catalan printmaker Antoni Tàpies; from fairground stalls to the shrines of rural Mexico; from the writings and drawings of Federico Garcia Lorca to the luminous novels of Isabel Allende; from the installations of Bestabeé Romero to the prints of her Jose Gualalupe Posada; from the songs of the late Celia Cruz to the Cuban Reggaeton rhythms of Eddie K; from memory to found object to archive; from personal mythologies to the museum-without-walls; from the everyday to the sublime.

Such an assemblage constitutes, in a sense, a series of indices or, in a library context, codices. Among the random we seek order and likeness, we may find seriality and continuity of meaning. My studio practice and research into language systems has pursued this notion of seriality, subtitling an earlier exhibition ‘Ontologies for a small planet’. Among these disparate references my own studio work is interspersed, largely on paper, ranging from etchings and drawings to notebooks and notations. They have an oblique, even random, relationship with the objects and texts around them, and they are phenomenological, not logical, in genesis and execution. The exhibition is made up of three parts:

level 1
"Entre irse y quedarse"
(English: "Between going and staying")This display is inspired by the text of a poem by the late Mexican Nobel Laureate Ocavio Paz, and the late Catalan printmaker Antoni Tàpies. It is includes works on paper and board, notebooks, printed books, found objects and ephemera.

level 2
"Las vidas de otros"
(English: "The lives of others")This display is a collection of works, books and objects obliquely exploring our human power relationship with animals, through ontologies of classification, patterning and adornment. Our hair, or ‘pelts’, are one of the attributes we have in common with many other terrestrial mammals, and are a signifier of our wildness. The Australian anthropologist Michael Taussig wrote: “Wildness challenges the unity of the symbol, the transcendent totalisation binding the image to that which it represents. Wildness pries open this unity and in its place creates slippage. . . . Wildness is the death space of signification.” (in Shamanism, colonialism and the wild man: a study in terror and healing 1986, University of Chicago Press.

level 3
"La lotería de la existencia"
(English: "The lottery of existence")This display celebrates ontologies of chance, of religion and mysticism, and of altar-making. It explores how objects can become imbued with ritualised power through their organisation, and transformations of meaning brought about by context. Notebooks, found objects, drawings and paper flowers are brought together in a kind of Vitrina de curiosidades, interspersed with literary and other references, including the great Mexican printmakers José Guadalupe Posada and Francisco Toledo.

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