Change everything so that the root changes.
I wonder how it would be to keep all those life fragments where we feel complete and to press replay any time we want. We would have at hand, over and over again, that situation that we once considered idyllic: the same place, same means, same loved people… However, it would never be the same because we wouldn’t be living the same time. The original moment is irrecoverable and unrepeatable, thus the most we could aspire for is an exquisite copy which would deteriorate by use. Just like the old VHS that loses quality with every replay. The hypothetical periodic enjoyment of this perfect experience would happen in a different way since the first repeat, because its essence is fleeting. Having invariable access to it would mean losing its freshness, degree of surprise and, in conclusion, it would suffocate little by little the emotion that it first caused.
We cannot find out the optimum formula and insist on it ad nauseam because we don’t control all the elements that made it possible in the first place. Circumstances change, the river keeps flowing, and it’s necessary to adapt in order to keep the good functioning of things going. Our competence lays in subjecting the behaviors and strategies that once worked to continuous scrutiny with the sole purpose of conserving them: changing everything so that nothing changes. And this means valuing the past, thinking of the present, working the current context and shaping it pay attention to its requirements. It’s persevering in what works, without forgetting its analysis, to contribute to its enrichment.
So now, what happens when a same pattern is systematically repeated without reflecting on its benefits? What if it is mistaken from the beginning? Repetition can then only bring negative consequences: conformism, stagnation, blindness, ineptitude, idleness, immobility. The raison d’être of the matrix idea is completely lost giving place to the mere mechanic procedure, an automated action void of conscience which is still carried out just out of convenience. Olalla Gómez proves with this impeccable exhibition that repetition is a double-edged sword whose effects come out by accumulation. For better or worse, it’s not the same to make something just once or stubbornly. That’s how Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso expressed in this famous quote: “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence”, which has been used as a reference for the name of the exhibition replacing the word “hollow” by “consume”, a more appropriate verb for the idiosyncrasy of our times. The conceptual sediment of this quote, applied to the current social political situation, becomes the conducting thread for the whole exhibition. The spectator is guided through a journey that starts with more critical pieces and ends with a hopeful perspective.
La transacción (The Transaction) piece consists in a projection that simultaneously shows politicians from different parties who took part in the Spanish democratic transition; from La Pasionaria to Rajoy, including King Juan Carlos or Santiago Carrillo. The artist makes a critical review of our most recent past in order to understand where we come from and where the hurried management has led to. Politics is at the service of economy – as the ironic title suggests-, a proof of it being the leaders’ subordination to the dominant capitalist structure. Gómez makes this systematic subjugation evident by establishing a parallelism between the political regime and the rules of a game: “Rock, paper, scissors”. The representatives of the various ideologies face each other in an endless game which doesn’t concern winners nor stances. Their appearance is random: each character has the same possibilities of showing up on the right or on the left, as well as confronting a member of their same or opposite party. Is there any difference, anyway? That’s what the citizens are wondering, worried about the dissolution of firm, clear principles on each side. Nevertheless, what seems to matter is the competition, void of content. The real motive that gave place to the fight has been forgotten, now there is only anxious, hypnotic, uncontrolled repetition of a pattern turned into a mantra. Power and power desire cloud the reflection about the need of change.
El estado de las cosas (The state of things) is a work that talks about the properties of the political system, using an installation made up of nine ballot boxes, organized in three groups, containing the main elements from the previous game: a stone, a sheet of paper, and a pair of scissors. In order to deal with the concepts of change and permanence, the artists suggests a sequence where the trio of objects changes twice according to the shape or material, the latter representing the essence and the former the appearance
That way, the first three ballot boxes all contain a real stone, sheet of paper and pair of scissors; in the second set, there’s a metal object with the shape of a stone, a stone object with the shape of a sheet of paper, and a paper one with the shape of scissors; whereas in the third set of boxes we can find a Plasticine element with the appearance of a stone, a fabric element with the appearance of a sheet of paper, and wooden element with the appearance of scissors. The first group represents things such as they are, the reality of a corseted politics where the result of the ballots is easy to forecast. The set situated in the middle shows the fake promises made by parties that guarantee big changes just to end up coming back to the same strategies, but dressed up. It’s a Lampedusian change: the one that draws a circle and put the things back to their starting point. This deceiving transformation is symbolized by the exchange of materials among the elements: there seems to be a change, but the essence is the same (mineral, paper and metal). In the same way, speeches can seem different when said by opposing politicians; however, the core of the question remains intact. There is a real change in the last group, projecting an optimistic vision of the future. The elements are made of completely different materials, which allows the spectator to catch a glimpse of a decoupling, an alteration of the root from which to grow strong and healthy. The shape is a peculiarity that persists but just as a reminder of a past from which it has finally freed.
Leaving aside the mental possibilities offered by this piece, visually-wise it opens two very direct paths: a pessimistic one, related to the mechanical repetition that we experience nowadays; and a positive one, where the people is appealed, through the ballot boxes, to stop the inherited inertia with their votes. The negative vision links to the Al límite (To the limit) piece, a series of collages representing three wellknown Spanish newspapers – El Mundo, El país and La Razón –, but devoid of any content. The blank pages are made out of the repetition of their own margins to deny or limit their misinformation. The artist appropriates the strategy used by the media: eliminating the content by censoring the information, and only leaves the names of the newspapers: concepts linked to social values that have been reduced to a mere façade.
In the final room, we find two pieces which bring up a more reassuring perspective. The Porvenir (Yet to come) installation consists of eight concrete columns, each with a letter of the word “porvenir” (future), from which iron elements spring up towards the ceiling. What do they represent? What is yet to be built or the debris of something that never came to be? The artist plays with the duality of meanings that the bearing element can be attributed, as well as the ambiguity of the title according to the distribution of its characters, in order to reflect about possible futures. If we continue to repeat the same scheme from yesterday, all that awaits us is an unfinished, failed piece of work; however, if we use the past as an advantageous base from which to work, we will be able to build the following level on solid foundations. Just as El estado de las cosas (The state of things), Por_venir suggests other ways of imagining without forgetting a not-so-long-ago past, but instead updating it.
The sea, not as an overwhelming unity but as the sum of a multiplicity of water drops, is the value represented by the work La marea (The tide). In this video, we can watch a police officer placing a perimeter fence in the limit between sea and beach and leaving right away. The officer is a white man, the maximum representation of power. The action symbolizes the exertion of authority, many times in a violent way. The fence stuck in the sand starts to fall little by little, due to the perseverance of the waves, until it is literally gulped down by the tide. The piece is an absolute metaphor of the social movements that have appeared in recent years, known as human tides. This kind of demonstrations shows their effectiveness to pressure in a pacific way thanks to the strength of collectivity. A sole drop is insignificant, but together with many others they have the power.
Following her unmistakable line of critical and committed work, Olalla Gómez presents in this exhibition a storm of ideas which reflect on current politics with subtlety and irony. Concepts such as change and permanence, communication and manipulation, repetition and difference, corruption and collective ability, overfly the whole exhibition taking on deeply in the spectator’s conscience – who will not remain indifferent.