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Kosicean utopias revisited at Borges Centre

Water, light and movement combined with art, technology and a Hydrospatial City.
Water, light and movement combined with art, technology and a Hydrospatial City.
Water, light and movement combined with art, technology and a Hydrospatial City.
By George Nelson
For the Herald
Legacy of pioneer of luminous, kinetic art already in motion at Third Biennial

Gyula Kosice is a stalwart of the luminous vanguard — a pioneer who has devoted his life to the kinesis of art for the best part of a century. Now 90-years-old, he is not as prolific as he once was but Kosice’s legacy is already in motion, demonstrated by Third Kosice Biennial: Kosicean Utopias, currently on show at Centro Cultural Borges.

Presented by Objecto a, an artistic space specializing in new media, the biennial aims to bridge art, science, and technology while inspiring experimentation, creation, and research in works of art — as expressed through Kosice’s artistic backlog, primarily The Hydrospatial City.

Each of the competition’s 100 or so projects was submitted by both established and emerging Latin American and international artists under categories such as light, robotics, and kinetic installations. The competition’s criteria touch upon elements of what is arguably Kosice’s most ambitious work. Begun in 1946 and not completed until 1972, the series of “three-dimensional space habitats” illustrates the Slovakian born artist’s preoccupation with water and space.

“It fills me with great satisfaction and pride to see so many young artists following the paths of kinetism, water, light, and technology as imperative elements of contemporary avant-garde art,” Kosice tells the Herald. “They all have my trust, since the final development of The Hydrospatial City rests in their hands.”

As announced in May, Argentine artist Federico Joselevich Puiggrós scooped this year’s first prize — and a purse of 30,000 pesos — with his installation The Sounds of Empathy. He was given four months to complete the piece after submitting his winning proposal, which comprises a large transparent, music-emitting orb rooted in the 1946 Buenos Aires-born Madí movement initiated by Kosice and Uruguayans Rhod Rothfuss and Carmelo Adren Quin.

“My project is both an interactive installation and musical instrument,” Puiggrós tells the Herald. “Much of my work revolves around technology and different aspects of culture, art, education, and social science. For The Sounds of Empathy my idea was to portray a spaceship coming from a sea-world and connecting with Kosice’s Hydrospatial City. The artwork bears references to the Golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, in honour of Kosice’s Madí Manifesto.”

Kosice presided over the panel of judges — including the biennial’s founder Tomás Oulton and Mariela Staude, production manager at Centro Cultural Borges — charged with the task of selecting the two prizewinners. A shortlist was initially drawn up before being narrowed down to Puiggrós and second-placed Argentine Diego Paonessa (Levitation of a Drop of Water),who won 10,000 pesos.

“We chose Federico as winner because his work is a unique invention, with water, light, and movement, showcasing examples of advanced science, combined with art and technology. All of this follows the principles of Kosice,” Outlon says.

After receiving his prize, Puiggrós said winning was “particularly special,” and described the biennial as “one of the best known art contests in Latin America.”

Running until September 28, the biennial spans Centro Cultural Borges’s Pabellón Berni, which currently resembles the inside of a space ship, decked out with the futuristic competition entries. Argentine artist Eduardo Bazzano’s Sinestesia Robotics bears similarities to a Dalek from Doctor Who while Colectivo Metaphorarq’s — also from Argentina — IUPI is particularly eerie, comprising a set of space-age playground swings, complete with children.

Mexico’s Gabriela Munguía and Guadalupe Chávez’s offering Eisenia is the kind of creation one might expect to find in a distant, apocalyptic future age when water and sunlight are no longer luxuries humans take for granted. The installation shows a contraption for growing plants under synthetic condition, much like a compact greenhouse with an ensemble of wires and tubes.

While the 2010 biennial followed Water, Light, and Movement as a theme, the second and third editions both played on Kosice’s Hydrospatial City. The 2012 event was hosted in Buenos Aires’ Planetarium and won by Damián Espina for his Space Hydrophone Electron. The project generated bursts of sound and light through the process of water electrolysis. This theme for this year’s biennial — Kosicean Utopias — is more a commentary on the state of humankind, as explained by Kosice:

“The creation of the Hydrospatial City is a project forming multiple habitats and is a departure from the traditional forms of inhabitable architecture, following a path more fitting with our technological progression in modern society,” he said. “In accordance with its impulses and vital responses, mankind has not advanced at an even pace concerning its own habitat. We are exceeding our own time.” It’s a topical and ominous message; the Earth’s resources are fast running out as the potential threats posed by climate change continue to lead political debate, nowhere more so than in Argentina. 2014’s Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned the country’s agricultural productivity could fall considerably due to rising temperatures and changing rain patterns. The report also highlighted 4.3 percent of global deforestation now occurs in Argentina, argued by a number of scientists to be the most important source of carbon emissions for the north of the country. And while Kosice may also be referring to technological advancements, it’s hard to see past the portentous tone of his message.

On a lighter note, it is perhaps fitting that Kosice’s third biennial is hosted in Centro Cultural Borges. When the artist was a writer for Sur magazine he interviewed Jorge Luis Borges. Even then, the experimental nature evident in Kosice’s work dictated their meeting.

“I would sit with him every now and again, he was so famous and Sur magazine would sing his praises all the time... And so I decided to turn my interview of him into an experiment: I would talk about myself,” Kosice said.

“Every time he would say something about himself, I would reply with a similar thing from my work and life. Let’s just say that, whatever he said, I would shut him up with something of my own. That approach unhinged him somewhat.”

WHERE & WHEN

Third Kosice Biennial. At Centro Cultural Borges, Viamonte 525. Tel: 5555-5359. Open until September 28. Monday to Saturday: 10am to 9pm, Sunday 12 noon to 9pm. Admission free.

@georgenelson31
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