Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo: LOOP Barcelona 2018
by Anna Penalva
You know how sometimes a word, after repeating it several times in a row, gets blurry in the mind and sort of disintegrates? It becomes strange, incomprehensible, a meaningless string of letters. The “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” psychological phenomenon is technically called semantic satiation, and besides being bizarre, can also have an epiphanic effect on how we understand a certain word. In a very different way, art can likewise challenge us to fight the accepted meanings of words and concepts. It pushes us to think through a collective resignification and conceptual craftsmanship. To an extent, this year’s edition of LOOP Barcelona does just that from a curatorial point of view.
LOOP Barcelona, the oldest and most established initiative to showcase film and video, will take place this fall in and around Barcelona, with the greatest number of openings, screenings, and performances happening November 12–22. For this year’s edition, its sixteenth, LOOP challenges the meaning of the word “production.” If in recent years we’ve seen a tendency in video art practice to look to how production was understood in the film and cinema industry and circuits, this year at LOOP we find an attempt to resignify “production” by thinking and working with artists dealing primarily with film and video.
In the wake of technological and economic transformations over the last fifty years, artistic production has undergone major changes. The constraints of a reality framed according to post-Fordist capitalism have us thinking about exactly how artists participate in and confront contemporary conditions of global production and capital, and alternatives for how contemporary artistic production can function. Because of the nature of their work, artists working with film and video have had to leave their studios and become their own producers, or find alternative ways to finance and circulate their works. In the era of digital media, video and film circulate just like any other information on the internet: uncontrollable, vulnerable to manipulation, repackaged in many contexts and without apparent regulation.
Taking into account the production and distribution conditions on which video and film rely—social, economic, technical, political—broadens our way of watching, understanding, and relating to a film. Seeing a film made collectively in Super-8 by artists in the 1970s in Barcelona, like the recovered film showing at LOOP, En la ciudad (In the City, 1976), made by various artists led by Eugeni Bonet, is an act of relating to the production and exhibition conditions of that moment. These conditions were drastically different from those in which many younger artists develop their videos today. Some of these works, which are partially based on internet material, could easily have been rendered on the computer just hours before they were exhibited; examples are featured in another LOOP exhibition: PRODUIR, PRODUIR, PRODUÏ(T). The different gestures of artistic production are a conversation starter on the nature of the relationship between producer and product. One of the broader questions triggered through these practices is: What model of subjectivity do these specific production and distribution conditions create? And how do we all relate to this model when we are all constant producers and constant exhibitors of content through the internet on social media?
If rethinking the word “production” is one of LOOP’s concerns, another is certainly the challenge to think outside hegemonic aesthetics that centers around the exhibition. LOOP is not an “expocentric” event where everything has to do with the technology of the show, in which everything is “behind the scenes” until the show opens, and the audience never touches anything. Nor is it a “museum-centric” event (even if almost all the city’s museums are participating). It is rather an event that includes a very wide range of possibilities of cultural production and spaces of exhibition. They don’t revolve around a central figure, but rather work as a leaderless organization that suggests a different way of relating. Films are screened in cinemas, but also installed in commercial art galleries, studios, hotel rooms, opera houses, and independent artist-run spaces. Performances are directed by filmmakers in theaters (David G. Torres, Marc Caelles and Isaki Lacuesta’s Cielo TV , screening at Escenari Brossa), or performed by artists at secret locations (Joan Morey’s Collapse.Desiring Machine, Working Machine ). Films are produced collaboratively by individuals, or with institutions, and are fragmentally distributed through the seemingly infinite internet.
Challenging the expocentric regime is not easy; it requires a transformation of our relation to the material world, and thus attention to conditions of production. In the film El Estado del Malestar [“State of Distress (distress_exuberance_anomaly)”] (2018) by artist María Ruido, which will be premiering at LOOP, members of the collective InsPiradas—a feminist mutual support and care non-mixed group of affinity in mental health—ask themselves about alternatives to psychic suffering beyond the pharmaceutical, in order to rethink and survive the imperative, in the age of capitalist realism, to be productive.
LOOP Barcelona 2018
12-22 November 2018