“Probing the LESTORY (Lessons in History)” by Nuno Faria
Archeology is nothing more than a re-writing: that is, preserved in the form of exteriority, a regulated transformation of what has already been written. It is not a return to the innermost secret of the origin; it is the systematic description of the discourse-object. Michel Foucault
A utopia yet to be created, an unfinished design, a monument-atopy, a map without places: Who could respond with certainty? Diango Hernández’s installation for the Arqueológica exhibition poses more than one question and seems to establish itself as a Sphynx-like puzzle of Greco-Roman-style inspiration, at the very heart of darkness of a glorious civilization in decline, unable to breath again, lacking imagination to formulate new utopias, paralyzed by the fear of failure. Foundation is the word that comes to mind, and it is not strange that it be thus, dealing with an exhibition whose theme is not only current but necessary for the undertaking of this urgent descent into darkness. What is archaeology, in short, and what purpose does it serve to dig in search of remains? What mechanisms drive objects given to darkness, and what sort of work might reactivate them? What sort of vision do they proffer up? What sort of knowledge arises from contact with these objects, from either the sensory experience had or the knowledge that we carry inside ourselves or the projection in space of the purpose for which they were designed? How does one reactivate the past in the present? Archaeology is a transversal science spanning all of man’s knowledge about mankind, because it doesn’t just seek depth- that negative space that defines that which cannot be seen, which no state of mind can do.
Gestures that scrutinize gestures, knowledge of what is tactile, material, where distance is dizzily banished. Conjuring up a presence, inventing the possibility of imagining that negative space in which there are no words, nor body, nor image- only the complete and joyful loneliness of being without sorrow or joy. We are mummies who have been denied a face, beings without insight, lost souls in search of redemption. We’ve lost contact with our ancestors, we do not see the future because we’ve lost all notion of the past. First stratum: Trip to Cologne, 2008. Diango and Anne enthusiastically recommend a visit to Kolumba, the Art Museum of the Cologne Archdiocese. More than a trip through time, it means the possibility of articulating two different verb tenses in the same sentence. We talk about language. About foundations. And transmission. I’m struck especially, in the midst of so much beauty and pain, amidst so much perplexity, by a piece by Paul Thek, a suspended table, a coffin, another mummy. I return home. A few months later, the news that the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne has collapsed and with it, documents (some forming part of the foundation of German culture itself), which are lost forever. Teams of archaeologists work amongst the wreckage of this surreal contemporary ruin. What good are archives, anyway? And what is memory but a fragile membrane, a porous eardrum, wrappings marking the body of a mummy. Question mark.
Second stratum: Memory / History. LESTORY (LESSONS IN HISTORY) Is, like all of Diango Hernández’s projects, a complex construct comprising different layers of meaning. There is a clear link between archaeology and contemporary art on several levels of depth and understanding, not the least of which is a shared belief in the wisdom of the body and the sensibility of the hands, touch, knowledge through contact, through transmission. Diango Hernández responded to the challenge presented to him by the curator of Arqueológica in the most complex way imaginable, because he doesn’t approach the subject from the point of view of an unearthed archaeological remain, nor does he do it from the comfort of the organization provided by an archive or a reserve, but from the paradigm of the romantic ruin, as a subjective projection. I imagine the installation as a ruin in the future, an archaeological find. A vestige. The work of Diango Hernández is always what is seen and what is not seen. The viewer is offered a trip through space and time; it is a temporal work. It offers a vision of both the future and the past, simultaneously. Like a drawing. At this point we come to understand the reference to Caspar David Friedrich. What point of view should we take? Using the body or using the head? Using memory or forgetfulness? The image is a projection and history a screen. The artist’s installation is a threshold piece that embodies a threshold, a border, and a crossing. In it there are two lines that cross through all of Diango Hernández’s thinking, which I would call the foundations or, to be more precise, a key concern and a foundational feature. The first is education, from the Latin e-ducere, “to lead out”. Education understood as a path, a road in the open, without a predetermined destination. The second is the conviction that nothing can be done without awareness of origin, without working on memory. That link, that connection between concept, action, and consequence, is therefore made functional, shall we say, by drawing. However, drawing here is not understood in any other sense than that of capacity for or competence in creation. Drawing as a field of freedom and individual constitution. Drawing also as the possibility to subvert the order of things or to create dialogue between the lines of history. But, at the same time, drawing as a privileged means of education, as a form of control and tool for the writing of history. It is no coincidence that Diango Hernández refers so often to academic drawing, especially drawing of the human figure.
Third (and last) stratum: This unique image, in black and white and on a slightly inclined plane, brings us to the installation in the painting and sculpture hall that the architect Lina Bo Bardi designed in the 60s for the Museum of Art of São Paulo: a landscape of ghosts who passed through the mesh of history- a project in transparency, in time in a spiral. A clean political gesture. Art is for everyone, because only the pursuit of freedom can produce individuality.