Felipe Talo. Je suis l’autre

[Text cat exhibition Arranz-Talo. Los Extremeños. Dic-feb 2016. Ab Foundation, L’Hospitalet (Barcelona)]

Los Extremeños is an exhibition that operates in two directions. Over a ten-month period, Arranz-Bravo gradually received a series of boxes containing different objects. These are the so-called psychic boxes of Felipe Talo (Barcelona, 1979). The boxes contain emotionally-charged objects collected in the streets of Berlin and intervened by the artist. Arranz-Bravo later transformed these same objects at his studio in Vallvidriera. As Felipe Talo describes this process, it is an operation of spiritual cannibalism entailing, an emulation of ancient animistic rituals, a mental transfer in which the self becomes other. This concept of the otherness of the self is materialised in a hybrid artistic series in which the edges of the self become blurred to create a mirage of identity. Where is the real Arranz-Bravo? Where is the real Talo? In Los Extremeños, the truth becomes a lie, and lies become truth.

Educated at the University of Barcelona, where he ​​studied Fine Art and Philosophy, since 2003 Felipe Talo has lived and shown his work in Mexico, Madrid (LaAlegria gallery), Shanghai and Berlin (Bananaprojects). Felipe Talo’s artistic vocation was forged on the bipolarised post-Olympic Barcelona art scene. On the one hand, the neo-conceptual drift of the nineties, during the time of Borja Villel’s MACBA, Ferran Baremblit’s Santa Mònica, archivism at the Tàpies Foundation and Martí Peran’s new realism. On the other, the wreck of formalism after the pictorial frenzy of the eighties, painting after painting, the final offerings of Tàpies and Guinovart and the generational take-over from the painters of the sixties. Neither extreme satisfied the artistic interests of Felipe Talo. Art should be experience, organic, pulse, but it should also be able to throw off dependency on and mystification of the self. To rehumanise painting, to recover the centrality lost in civilisation, but through anonymous, devil-may-care, spontaneous, vibrant expression.

Part of Felipe Talo’s artistic thought springs from his second year of university studies of Philosophy, when he became immersed in Wittgenstein’s ideas and the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In Talo’s opinion, with Wittgenstein Western philosophy reaches a point of no return: culture, thought and so on only serve to meditate phenomenologically on the world through language, prepositions and concepts. Beyond the boundaries of the world there is, in Wittgenstein’s thought, all that which cannot be verbalised: spirituality, ethics, art. And, also, life experience, which is relegated to a marginal place in Wittgenstein’s walled city. That which Wittgenstein discards forms, precisely, the starting point of Felipe Talo’s artistic project.

As a result of this double disenchantment – artistic and philosophical – Talo entered a dead end, and embarked on a long journey around the world. He travelled to Mexico, and lived in Berlin, Shanghai and Madrid. At this end of this odyssey, he found an artistic and existential solution that satisfied him. This is the project that he began in 2009 and bears the title Metempsicosis: art as a medium to express life, artistic and cognitive experience. This project involves the cannibalisation of the souls of other artists and personalities – anchorites, poets and painters, both amateur and renowned – in order to reproduce a state of choral, hybrid, vital psychic transit. This is by no means a case of copying, but rather of possessing and continuing, organically, the path first begun by others. The artist possesses the soul of the other, takes on their guise, reproducing biographical episodes, imitating gestures and forms. In this way, painting is championed as a medium, a vibrant recorder of experience.

This is autre painting, post-identify painting. This is total, deconstructive art, art in the line of many other artistic undertakings in our immediate context, which seek a space for creative intervention to give new iconoclastic impulse to the paradigms of form, authorship and symbol. We see this in the art of David Bestué when he calls for a return to sculpture, though through a process of cannibalising anonymous forms from contemporary engineering, industrial lighting or twentieth-century ceramic manufacture. We find it in the art of Pep Vidal, when he decides to possess the sole of Georges Perec and his “Je me souviens”, locked away in the bunker (Espai de dolor [Pain Space], 1983) of Joseph Beuys at CaixaForum. We observe it in Pere Llobera and Rasmus Nilausen, in their recent exhibition devoted to acheiropoietos images (divine images created without human intervention, such as the Vera Icon).

They all, at one and the same time, both embrace and reject form. They all repel the self but merge with it. They are all eager for knowledge, but through experience. Like Klee’s Angelus Novus, they all have one eye on the past, whilst never taking their gaze from the reality that surrounds them. And they all know that the success of any artistic direction must be built on the image and likeness of great art from throughout history, seeking what Wittgenstein called “an achieved expression”: conceptually profound, vitally spontaneous, artistically conflictive and pulsing with power and strength.