One of the characteristics that
define art is its ephemeral state. The impermanent condition of art
complies with a law that is common to all material objects. In this
sense, any physical element is subject to disappear in a transformation
process, and regardless of the extraordinary effort that we invest to
preserve what we consider art, it is futile and unattainable to acquire
immortality on physical objects.
What happened at
the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas Sofía Imber (MACCSI): the
loss of 14 pieces as well as Henri Matisse’s notorious paint ‘Odalisque
avec trousers’, also known as ‘La odalisca con pantalón rojo’, is an
event that goes beyond sensationalism and encourage us to reflect and to
ask some basic questions, like, for example, when is the MACCSI going to
stop having physical and electronic security lacks? How these actions
affect the public image of the institution? And, how the Venezuelan State
is responsible in the loss of such goods?
Despite of the
eagerness invested by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas to
achieve its Biennial, known as the Pirelli Salon of Young Artists, the
curatorial discourse tends to destroy any sober intellectual exercise,
making of the Pirelli Salon a trap for young artists, and transforming
the significance of the museum into a fair of common places. Perhaps
this attitude allowed the disappearance of one of the most valuable
pieces in the Museum collection, which, incidentally, was replaced with
a very bad replica. Nevertheless, it is more important to discuss the
nature of this sad event.
caves to Chelseas’s galleries, art maintains its provisional status in a
constantly changing world. Ephemeral art has been present in the work
of recognized Venezuelan artists, including Armando Reverón, Claudio
Perna, and Diego Barboza. Also, there has been a clear interest in this
kind of expression by Venezuelan groups like ‘El Techo de la Ballena’
(The Ceiling of the Whale) and nomadic exhibitions like Happening
Extremo (Extreme Happening), just to mention some demonstrations
produced in the last decades.
are other references that lead us to art’s ephemeral condition. One
example is a great amount of works made during the colonial period,
which disappeared as a result of several incidents like the last
earthquake that happened in Caracas. At that time, numerous places were
broken in by burglars, including Simon Bolivar’s house, where objects
and paintings of inestimable historical and cultural value were stolen.
natural disasters, added to the barbarism of some fanatic and malicious
groups, devastate and exterminate our surroundings. In addition to the
invaluable loss of the thousands of people who died as a consequence of
the World Trade Center attack, a small piece of our culture also
disappeared, including artworks of great importance in the art history.
Likewise, the war between Iraq and the United States, not only caused a
high number of victims and deaths, but also entailed the destruction and
disappearance of many relics and historical objects, mostly at the
National Museum of Iraq.
Going back to the
incident that happened at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas
Sofía Imber, it seems extraordinary that because of the Internet and a
series of emails sent to this institution, the (former) director, Rita
Salvestrini, questioned the authenticity of Matisse’s painting and
opened an investigation to ensure the truth.
Founded on the
endless possibilities of the Internet, Net Art is one of the clearest
exponents of ephemeral art, since it takes place in a dynamic and always
changing environment. In Venezuela, Net Art becomes of public interest
in 1999, when the website of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas
Sofia Imber (http://www.maccsi.org) is hacked and appropriated by a
Venezuelan young artist, who criticized the institutional posture of the
Museum against new media and technology, and created a parallel biennial
called the ‘Pirelli Salon of Young “Digital” Artists’, an action that
got noticed by Venezuelan media and museums, which opened a new
direction in the Venezuelan contemporary art practice.
The relevance that
Net Art has had all over the world, has been reflected in art venues
like Transmedialle (Germany), Prix Ars Electronica (Austria), SIGGRAPH
(USA), New York Digital York Salon (USA), Whitney Biennial (USA), and
more recently at exhibitions such as FILE (Brazil) and InteractivA
(Mexico); showing the global interest of artists, curators, critics,
collectors, and academics, in using, applying, and investigating, the
Net as a source of human and robotic creativity.
However, in spite of the historical repercussion that ephemeral art has
had, there are few theoretical and curatorial proposals related to
ephemeral art and the Internet. In April of 2001 it was presented at the
former New York gallery, Moving Image Gallery, a show named Net.Ephemera.
Constituted by 25 pioneering Net Artists based in New York, and
organized by curator Michele Thurz, founder of Postmedia Network, and
Mark Tribe, founder of Rhizome, Net.Epehemera became the first
exhibition devoted to explore the ephemeral condition of Net Art.
Curiously, all the works shown in the gallery were presented and
displayed in a common format: paper. In fact, all the works were
studies and proposals about the art-making process of Net Art projects.
By emphasizing the
Internet as an instrument and medium, the 6th Pirelli
Salon of Young Digital Artists invites artists to submit projects made
with contemporary languages, such Flash, Director, JAVA, and DHTML,
among others, to explore the ephemeral nature of art, an immanent and a
priori condition of every object, either physical or digital.
Due to the great
interest that the Pirelli Salon of Young Digital Artists has generated
in the international artistic community, this year, the participation
will be open not only to all the artists born in Venezuelan, but also to
digital producers from any country. The purpose of this action is to
move toward the universal standards that prevail in today’s art.