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Meeting Points II Manuel Eirís


17 April 2009 - 21 June 2009
Espazo Anexo
Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am to 2pm and from 5pm to 9pm; Sundays from 11am to 2pm
MARCO, Museum of Contemporary Art Vigo
Agar Ledo

‘Unhiding', a procedure which consists of deconstructing a building to see how it is built, is the point of departure for this exhibition, which has been carried out in two phases and in two different sites in the city: the MARCO's own exhibition space, Espazo Anexo, and an abandoned house on Rúa Palma, 9, 2º, in the old quarter of Vigo. It is inside the house that the origin of the process is to be found, and in Espazo Anexo documentation and the results of the process are on display: wall fragments, videos, photographs, sketches in water colours, drawings and a slide show. The journey between the two places links the museum with the house and allows the visitor to view the two phases of the project, thereby offering two complementary readings.

This exhibition by Manuel Eirís has been made possible thanks to the invaluable support of Luis Sirvent, of the Faculty of Fine Art in Pontevedra, and of Ar.Co - Centro de Arte e Comunicação Visual.


The proposal from Manuel Eirís (Santiago de Compostela, 1977) forms part of MEETING POINTS, a project that will be ongoing throughout the year at the Espazo Anexo in the MARCO museum. In the context of this project, five artists present their work with the objective of establishing a dialogue between the site of the exhibition (the exhibition space) and its surroundings (the city). The central idea is to convert the Anexo into a place of conclusion or formalization of the experiences, as opposed to the traditional consideration of the museum as a place to display objects.

The guest artists develop proposals that originate outside the limits of the museum and which modify the logical coordinates of perception. In this case, Manuel Eirís attempts to reconstruct the meaning of a place, undermining the traditional choice of site for an exhibition and engaging the visitor in a journey to and from the museum to the abandoned house, at Rúa Palma, No. 9, 2º, in the old quarter of Vigo. This house is where the whole process began and its address provides the title for the project and exhibition.

The ‘unhiding' - the result of removing layers from a wall, carried out in the abandoned house - are the starting point for this exhibition. It is a laborious process - the artist works with layers that have been laid down on walls and ceilings over the years. The documentation associated with this process is to be found in Espazo Anexo: wall fragments, videos, photographs, sketches in tempera, drawings and a slide show. In the house, which is the origin of the process, we see the last layer to be revealed in each of objects that have been stripped back, as if we were standing before paintings. Guided by a map, the visitor can visit the two sites, a journey that links the museum with the house, and it opens up the Espazo Anexo to the outside and allows the public access to the two phases of the project, offering in this way two complementary readings.

So, once the exhibition in the Anexo has been seen, it is then possible to see the place where the pieces were made. In the house, the visitor will find rectangles scratched in the walls, and each one appears to be the last layer to be revealed. Every rectangle, each ‘unhiding', creates interesting relationships between the physical object (in the abandoned house) and the image (in the Anexo), which documents the different stages of a wall, as well as bearing witness to an action the process of which is of interest in its entirety. In the abandoned house the physical, tangible pieces can be seen - the walls themselves - but paradoxically, their proximity does not make them any more real than the videos, photographs and sketches in the Anexo, because what these pieces represent are only the remains that are left after a process that has been thought through and chosen as an art of work in itself. One wonders, therefore, if what appears to be a painting or picture, is in fact nothing more than the remains of another piece of work.

It is important to highlight the circular (and not unidirectional) reading of the work, in that the house and the museum space have equal relevance, and that both sites can be read as pieces that feed each other, as parts of a whole.

Curatorial text

"In Manuel Eirís's work we perceive the artist's relationship with time, which is something he questions in his first series Autorretratos desde la mirilla, where the images are taken in a house that Eirís occupied in Compostela. The camera, placed in the peephole of the door to the house, takes the place of the artist, being activated automatically every time the bell rings.

The fortuituous nature of an action left to chance appears once more in his series Dibujos ocultos, where tracing paper over white paper absorbs the mark but not the stroke of the pencil that draws it. The artist conceives the action as an attempt to abstract (abs-: absence / -tract: from), something that he returns to in the ‘unhiding', the starting point for this new exhibition which is structured in two phases and sited in two places in the city: Espazo Anexo at the Marco museum and an abandoned house in the old quarter of Vigo. The journey between the two sites links the museum with the house and allows the visitor to access the two complementary parts of the process, two readings of the same process, which allude to the experience of avoiding conventional exhibition spaces.

* * * * * * * * *

Eirís defines ‘unhiding' as painting, on photographic and video support to document the revealing of layers on a wall. It is a slow and meticulous process by which the artist reconstructs the meaning of a place, ‘bringing from the absence' layers of sediments accumulated over the years. Heidegger was an advocate of reinterpreting tradition by remembering and returning to the moment in which it was created, to its origin, putting interpretations and prejudices to one side. Derridian deconstruction would not be possible without Heidegger, and neither is Manuel Eirís's work, which attempts to avoid the destruction possible in a project like this associated with the deconstruction of layers; to strip back the layers superimposed over the years in order to discover what is hidden in each stratum. The artist proves to be someone able to question, with the self-determination implied in Heidegger's Dasein, which constitutes, in many aspects, a starting point for the ‘unhiding'.

It is this operation, consisting of breaking down a construction in order to see how it is formed - in the sense that Heidegger gives to the terms ‘Destruktion' and ‘Abbau' - that plays a central role in the exhibition. In the Espazo Anexo documentation of the process is on display: videos, drawings, photographs, pieces of stucco and other remains. In the house we find the origins of the process, the last layer of each action of stripping back, as if it were an exhibition of paintings, only that the paintings, instead of being hung on the walls, are pinned and exposed on them. Houses and spaces that have been inhabited hold memories of time, and vanitas, which is a key concept in Eirís's work, who also talks of expanded painting, of collapse and ruin, and of fate and absence. The original wall, the frame that surrounds the result of the stripping back, is responsible for showing us the beginnings of the procedure, static now in the moment of contemplating it in situ. By the time a new layer of paint appears, the artist has already destroyed the one that preceded it. It is a destruction that accumulates on the floor, in the form of dust, at the foot of each surface that has received intervention. The memory of the process also remains.

* * * * * * * * *

The proposal carries the title, ‘Rúa Palma, No. 9, 2º', the address of the house where the procedure of ‘unhiding' the walls took place before removing the results to the exhibition space. The places which the artist chooses to work with are abandoned, something that heightens the idea of existence and the impermanence associated with ruin and decay. Presence is formalized starting with absence: in the house there is an element that incorporates itself into the journey, the trace of a ‘picture' that hung for years on the wall.

In 1953, a young Robert Rauschenberg, played the leading role in a historic action when he erased one of Willem de Kooning's works and appropriated its authorship. This ‘artistic act' - and not an act of negation - took a month to complete, as according to Rauschenberg, de Kooning had given him ‘a piece that was very difficult to erase'. ‘It is poetry', Rauschenberg commented once when he was asked about the subversive nature of the action that led to Erased de Kooning Drawing.

This reappearance of the subject that is hidden and that only emerges when the dominant subject disappears, occurs by means of a performative act which - and let's not forget - constitutes the medium by which Manuel Eirís operates, who describes the house as the subject and that he works to extract its form. The pictorial and conceptual universes that complete his discourse appear, as we have just pointed out, when we uncover them. They are the consequences of a process because the act of erasing is not equivalent to the act of making something disappear, but of making it come back, or return. Each ‘unhiding' functions as a palimpsest, but in reverse.

The archaeological aim present during the process disappears once the exhibition is formalized, as it reproduces no rigorous or academic system of classification. In contrast to the visible ‘displays' of the American artist Mark Dion, the most representative of artists who make use of methods associated with archaeology (we are talking here of simulation, given that none of the objects Dion displays in his installations has scientific value), Eirís concentrates on reflecting on painting, which in the end is hidden behind the various media and processes. Expanded painting functions on several levels. On the one hand, the house both folds in on itself and outwards towards the outside, deconstructed, thus creating new meanings. On the other hand, each wall fragment acquires a character of its own, an autonomy. If we extrapolate the concept that Rosalind Krauss applied to sculpture and its ‘expanded field', we could define Eirís's works as paintings, which find close reference in classic pieces such as the one by Lawrence Weiner titled A 36" x 36" Removal to the Lathing or Support of Plaster or Wallboard from a Wall, produced in 1967, or Cuttings by Gordon Matta-Clark, more linked to the sculptural tradition of the expanded field. A physical space survives in these works which, in Manuel Eirís's case, is complemented by the new represented space, the image, the virtual".

Agar Ledo Arias
Exhibition curator

Artist's text

"The Unhiding are paintings with additional photographic and video graphic material, the results of taking away layers of paint - painting backwards but still painting nonetheless - from a particular wall. The fact that I cannot take this wall away with me means that I have to make use of another medium to document the process.

I always choose the interior walls of houses because they have been inhabited and they are the guardians of our intimacy; I am not interested, for example, in stripping back layers from a wall on the street. ‘A house that is being renovated is a solitary place, with that air of abandonment which constructions have when they are in the process of being built. The presence of an uninhabited house fluctuates between the absurd and the hyperreal, and, gradually, it begins to acquire such dimension that it becomes an absolutely fantastic element'. [Manolo Figueras, Muros de pintura. El lugar de espera]

What happens in the ‘unhiding' is that when there are many layers of paint to be removed, in order that they become visible it becomes necessary to destroy the layers that precede the others. In the ‘unhiding', the frame or border takes on the function of bearing witness to what the wall was before the layer(s) were removed, especially in the photographs, as I do not show the action of scraping, the process of making.

As in the Merz Collages by Schwitters, the colours that appear in the ‘unhiding' have degraded, washed out and worn out tones. With Schwitters this is due to the nature of the materials that he used. In the ‘unhiding' it is the contact, produced by overlapping, between the different layers of paint. For example, if we have a white wall that was red before, when you take off the top layer of white paint with a palette knife, the white paint becomes mixed with the red underneath, so that the red layer degrades towards a pink tone. Therefore, we cannot recover the paint layers in their original colours, and we are back to the impossibility of returning: but has memory disappeared? No, there is something that stops this from happening and that is the frame. The frame or border is the only area of the painting that remains untouched, and far from being an ornamental addition or a simple edge to the piece where the painter can wash his brushes or test out the colours, it is the fundamental axis of tension in the painting. The frame shapes the painting, and not the other way around; it seems as if the painting were somewhat afraid to reach the edge. In order to uncover the layers of paint, the strata, you have to pierce the surface and rough it down; this is what the pictorial action consists of in this case. The surface is not completely destroyed, it survives only at the edges. This idea of not reaching the edges lends a certain centrifugal character to the process of the ‘unhiding'. Centrifugal because the paint is expelled from the centre, forming a cloud around the picture, as the action takes place, and gradually it falls and settles below the picture, in small heaps, like chalk dust on the bottom edge of a blackboard.

One of the things I was most drawn to the first time I saw Anselm Kiefer's pictures, were the deposits of earth and bits of other materials that had formed on the floor below his work. Ignasi Aballí has several series dedicated to dust, one of them is formed by pictures that he left lying face up in a horizontal position, allowing dust to accumulate for years: ‘Dust is the material of synthesis, a mixture of everything that can be eroded in the world. It is also a terminal material, unpleasant, residual, something that we no longer want'. [Ignasi Aballí, in an interview with Dan Cameron]

In many paintings by A. Rainer - for example, Ubermalung Werkes - there is a great mass of colour that takes up nearly all of the painting; only a small corner is left unpainted. But, does it not struggle to survive there? And what is it that suggests that this is the case? The corner, that small chink that remains untouched, is precisely what makes us think that the picture is expanding, more and more, and that as viewers we find ourselves simply witnessing a moment of this process. In Rothko, however, exactly the opposite occurs: it seems that the painting inhabits an eternal moment and place. Here the great mass of colour does not struggle to dominate the space; it approaches the edges but without touching them and in this way appears to live in the space, enveloping the viewer in a very different phenomenology of waiting to that experienced in Rainer. The moment seems eternal, and the sensation is that Rothko's mass of colours gravitate. My intention in ‘unhiding' is to approach Rothko's idea, where the central mass of colour comes close to the edges but does not fight to go beyond them. In short, the colour pictures resulting from perforating the wall are nothing more than samples of what this was, and so they uncover a moment in the existence of the wall. The idea is to place the viewer in front of this existence, so that he or she can see that that mass of colour has not been chosen, but that it has been an intimate place, uncovered, revealed, or perhaps defiled.

The way I work with photographs and videos is simple. I do not touch the images a posteriori; I simply use both techniques as media that allow me to document an action and its result. In the videos for example, I record in a basic and simple way: single fixed shot and natural light. The fixed shot becomes necessary because the action that it captures does not move to other places; natural light redounds upon the core idea of the series: time, sequencing the image.

To suggest the presence of pictures through their absence was the starting point for ‘unhiding'. In order to accomplish this I made perforations in the form of rectangles or squares, like paintings, in different materials. This idea later led me to work with the walls of houses to look at their layers. Moving the entire wall, taking it away from its place of origin, means also to preserve it and perpetuate it in time. Photography and video, on the other hand, do not allow us to know if the wall still remains standing, and that uncertainty, thinking that the image which we are seeing, whether fixed or moving, could right now be a pile of debris on a vacant site, accentuates its fragile existence. Here I am working on the idea of ruin, but not the idea of great ruin - such as we find, for example, in the etchings of Piranesi who refers to a grandiose past - but the ruin of the anonymous and everyday, of that which Boltanski calls ‘little history'".

Manuel Eirís
Vigo, April 2009



Agar Ledo

Agar Ledo is Chief Curator of the MARCO Vigo, where she has directed and curated the museum exhibition program for the last decade. She has curated exhibitions by artists Ánxel Huete, Grace Schwindt, Gintaras Didžiapetris, Patricia Esquivias, Pedro Barateiro, Carlos Bunga and Diego Santomé, among other proposals focused on the analysis of the cultural production in Galicia and the social and political implications around artistic practices. Ledo has a Master’s Degree in Museology and training residencies at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (Norman, OK), Le Consortium (Dijon), Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon and ICI-Independent Curators International (New York). Her professional career has lead her to work at CGAC (Santiago de Compostela, 1998-2004), Fundación Luis Seoane (A Coruña, 2005) and at  the first edition of BIACS (Seville, 2004-2005), in which she worked as exhibitions coordinator under the guidance of one of the most far-sighted curators and art historians on the 20th Century: Harald Szeemann. She regularly writes texts for specialised publications and is member of the Grial magazine editorial board. She collaborates as a teacher in some of the post-graduate courses at the University of Vigo (MD in Contemporary Art, Creation and Research, 2016-2017) and at the University of Santiago de Compostela (University Expert in Cultural Management, 2015-2017; MD in Art, Museology and Contemporary Critic, 2008-2012).