December 12, 2013
A plunge into the intimacy of art processes
Documentary El ojo en el cielo scrutinizes the contemporary artist’s workplace
“The riddle of art is that we don’t know what it is until it is no longer that which it was. Furthermore, art is defined as much by what it is as by what it is not, by what it does or can’t do, as by what it does not or cannot do. It is defined even by what it fails to achieve”, stated Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of Documenta 13, one of the major exhibitions of modern and contemporary art that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. Documenta 13 (June 9 to September 16, 2012) featured, among its priceless international fare, the work of two most distinctive, thought-provoking Argentine artists: Faivovich and Goldberg, who live in Buenos Aires and have devoted themselves for seven years to working in the area of Campo del Cielo, in the province of Chaco, Argentina, where a meteorite estimated to weigh 37 tons was discovered in a crater back in 1969. It was called Meteorito El Chaco, the second largest meteorite in the world, and was then unearthed in 1980 to remain where it is ever since.
However, artists Faivovich and Goldberg had something else in mind, which eventually led them to Documenta. Their goal was to move the Meteorito El Chaco from its current location to Kassel, Germany, to be seen by one million people in 100 days and then returned to Argentina. But the project did not come through as it faced strong opposition from local anthropologists as well as several members of the indigenous community of Moqoits, the traditional custodians who wanted the meteorite to remain exactly where nature positioned it. So, as the artists themselves have put it, what once started as an artistic effort, a poetic gesture, if you will, unexpectedly turned into a political issue of heated debate.
A brief yet rich journalistic account of this entire process makes up the second part of El ojo en el cielo, a new documentary by local filmmakers Andrés Di Tella and Darío Schvarzstein made with the support of and broadcasted by local channel I-SAT on Sundays at 10:30. El ojo en el cielo (which concerns Argentine artists), is together with Máquina de sueños (which focuses on Mexican artists Carlos Amorales, Minerva Cuevas and Pedro Reyes) part of a diptych screened at this year’s edition of the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema (BAFICI).
El ojo en el cielo, just like Máquina de sueños, seeks to raise insightful questions and provide important information as regards the status and nature of contemporary art as well as introduce viewers into the intimacy of the creative processes. The documentary makers are smart enough to leave themselves out of the picture, and that way viewers get to confront only the facts and the protagonists. Interviewees draw a picture of a large scope with enough precision as they expose the overall situation, but also the many details that make such a unique artistic event.
As for the first part, the artist in question is Tomás Saraceno (who was born in Tucumán, but lives and works in Berlin), and it includes his most recent exhibitions in the 53 Biennale de Venezia and The Metropolitan Museum of New York as well as an up-and-close look at his huge installation in the Museum K21 in Dusseldorf, Germany. A young man for whom art is a place of discovery where a piece of work should have the freedom to become something different from what was expected, Saraceno has been working with huge, three dimensional spider webs nets consisting of interlinked floating circles hanging from the ceiling. The idea for the mesh of nets comes from his desire to make people aware of how much everyday actions have an effect on the lives of others, not only human beings but also animals and plants. It’s all about realizing how interconnected we all are.
Di Tella and Schvarzstein’s camera scrutinizes the artist’s workplace without ever becoming invasive or bothersome. Once again, the documentary makers leave space for the stars, and that’s also why the alluring cinematography, its great sense of space and framing and the exact editing enhance the natural beauty and magnetism of the material without drawing attention to themselves. With no more than a selection of carefully picked sequences, you get to see more than a glimpse of the universe of an artist that is as peculiar as it is resourceful.
El ojo en el cielo starts off with many questions, among them what art is or it is not as the main one, but it soon turns into a different direction: it becomes about the many and particular ways in which art can account for what men do, feel, think or want. Most important, it’s about the manner in which art joins theories and praxis, notions and shapes, beliefs and voices. Always diverse, always in constant change. Like life itself.