Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1963. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes "Prilidiano Pueyrredón", from which he graduated as a Painting Professor. He lives and works in Buenos Aires.
INDIVIDUAL EXHIBITIONS (last)
2003: “Buenos Aires Tour”, Distrito4 art gallery, Madrid, Spain. Luisa Strina art gallery, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
2002: “Fireworks”, Ruth Benzacar art gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina. ENAD, site Aubusson, France, 2001. “Le 10Neuf”, Centre Regionale d’Art Contemporain, Monbéliard, France. “Nocturne”, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 2000 TWG100 and Glosa, two actions, Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, Argentina
COLLECTIVE EXHIBITIONS (last):
2004: Sao Paulo International Biennial of Art, Brazil. Réplica, MUCA, Rome, Mexico City, Mexico (with Cristian Roman, curated by Jennifer Teets). Treble, Scupture Center, New York, USA (Curated by Regine Basha).
2003: A nova geometría, Fortes-Vilaça art gallery, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Panorama do arte Brasileiro (desarrumado) 19. Desarranjos. MAM, Sao Paulo. IV Mercosur Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Estambul Biennial of Art, Turkey. A parasite showing, floating art gallery in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Between silence and violence, argentine contemporary art, Sotheby’s, New York. 25 Hs, International video-art exhibition, Barcelona, Spain. Global Priority, the Therther Art Gallery of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.
2002: Fortaleza Biennial of Art, Brazil. Reality Chech, Hengevoss-Dürkop art gallery, Hamburg, Germany.
2001: “The end of the eclypse”, Fundación Telefónica, Madrid, Spain. “Lost words”, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina. “12 views”, The drawing Center, New York, USA.
2000: Habana Biennial of Art, Cuba. II Sound Art Festival “Humor y Aliento”, Acceso A art gallery, Mexico City. ArteBA, Buenos Aires Contemporary Art Fair. Ruth Benzacar art gallery. The cutting edge, Arco, Ruth Benzacar art gallery, Madrid. Banco Nación Award, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires. “Argentina: underneath the line of the horizon”, National Arts Fund, Buenos Aires.
AWARDS: 2002. Konex Award, Fundación Konex, Buenos Aires. 2000: 1st Prize, Banco de la Nación Argentina Award, Centro Cultural Recoleta. 1999 Leonardo Award, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes; MNBA. 1998: Ignacio Pirovano award to the young artist of the year, Argentina Art Critic Association. 1993: 1st Prize, Braque Award, Banco Patricios Foundation. 1992: Merit award, Fundación Konex (Installations). 1990: 1st Prize, Fundación Nuevo Mundo award, MNBA, Buenos Aires.
Vision of art
1. Choose a work that represents you, describe it in relation to its format and materiality, its relation with time and space, its style and theme; detail its production process.
Jorge Macchi interviewed by Leo Estol
Jorge Macchi: I should speak about an artwork.
Leopoldo Estol: Yes, it does not say favourite artwork, it says an artwork that represents you, that helps you to talk about the things that you are interested in being seen about your work.
JM: There is a piece that, after time has passed, I still like; what is more, I am still doing different versions of that piece, which is called Pool of Blood (Charco de sangre). They are police newspaper articles from Crónica that have a phrase in common. What it says is that the victim fell into a “tremendous pool of blood” or in a “boundless pool of blood” or “great pool of blood”. What I then did was select the news that shared this phrase and, then, cut the newspaper text and stick it as if they were lines of text on a wall. In such a way so that all those lines come together in a point that is where that phrase appears, “pool of blood”.
LE: Did you read Crónica everyday at that time?
JM: Something very strange happened: I had begun to work with police chronicles the previous year when I did a piece called Incidental Music (Música incidental). It was a piece I began in England and I read newspapers because they helped me to understand the language and I then began to get hooked onto these stories. I did that piece and when I came here to Buenos Aires I did a variation of that piece and as I sought out the material I began to realise that certain phrases were repeated. They were in a way like rhymes. The first version of “Pool of Blood” was called “A Pool of Blood (A Poem)”. I could see a recurrence in the text that would suddenly end in the same phrase. Seeing all this material, I would say, “how strange, what is going on that this phrase is appearing all the time?” You then realise that it is a case of resolving the text quickly, they give you an image and with that image you already have an idea of what happened.
I then, obviously, asked myself: “why am I collecting this kind of news?” What was happening was that they were referring to completely anonymous people. No one well known appeared in any. So they were all stories about people who appeared in the newspaper and disappeared the following day. So, it was strange because it seemed senseless for it to say “this person was murdered” and for something else to appear the next day. What does this appear in the newspaper for? In some way they appear and function as an image, as some kind of firework in the dark sky that explodes and disappears. So, in this piece what interests me about the phrase “Pool of Blood”, which with that distribution is transformed into a protagonist, is precisely that the protagonism goes from the supposedly important name of the murderer, of the victim or the police to a completely useless phrase.
LE: Everything remains in that image which is repeated over and over again.
JM: Which on top of it has no meaning what so ever because it is a poetic, predetermined phrase, there is something metaphoric in that.
LE: Of course, the pool is not real, most of the time the pool does not really exist.
JM: Yes, many times it is the journalist’s image.
LE: And then there was a formal design on the page with the news going down and then coming back up.
JM: There is a formal approach because from a distance it is perceived as a drawing on the wall, a very mild drawing. Something like a floating jellyfish in the middle of the sea. So there is a distant and a close vision. In the close one that vision of lightness is transformed into a feeling of horror. One starts to read the news, one approaches the centre of the drawing, the heart of the animal, one reads “pool of blood” and then begins to read all that amount of horror. I am interested by that distant vision which is absolutely formal, distant and pleasant. And the close one that has to do with reading and the horror.
There is always a desire to undertake the work formally. I am never content simply with the conceptual aspect. That is why I think this piece is a synthesis of the work I like to see. On the one hand very raw, very raw due to what it says about horror and, on the other, very beautiful to see and, besides, with a contradiction between what the horror or the tragedy is and the humour. As one transports the stress towards the pool of blood there is a kind of ironic movement.
LE: I do not believe it is ironic, simply humour. I do not think there is much irony in your work but it is a very subtle shade.
JM: It is true, irony in a way tries to criticise and here there is no critical intention.
LE: No, there is no criticism; besides, I feel there is a lot of respect in your work towards the stories you deal with. I do not know if it is strictly respect in the moral sense, that would be terrible, but there is respect.
JM: There is also one other thing, besides the formal aspect, which is that humorous issue that, in my work as well as in other people’s work I see, I am interested in. When something dramatic appears the only way to contain it is through humour. And I think this piece has that. Did I answer the first question?
2. In general terms, how would you suggest to approach your work?
LE: Yes, yes, and I think in fact the second one as well. Which was what would be the way in which you would suggest reading your work.
JM: Something very strange happens to me with these pieces, I love to see how people read them.
LE: How they approach it?
JM: Yes, sure, how they approach it. One says how you read an artwork, it is a very strange verb, to talk about “approaching” a piece, but in this case it is literal: the person goes and reads it. So you see people look at it from afar and, at some point, they realise that there is something else, that those lines are not simply lines drawn on a wall and they then come closer. But they come too close, you see it from a distance and you do not know that there is text in the lines, you say, “What is happening to these people?”. Because they are all looking at the lines of a drawing as if they were drugged. Following the lines of a drawing with a great deal of concentration.
JM: You see people moving in parallel to the wall (laughter). What happens is very strange.
LE: Doppelganger also has a similar idea. You elevate that to the meeting of several “pools of blood”.
JM: What happens is that there the stress is on the reiteration of a phrase (Doppelganger), in two symmetrical forms; the phrases work as if they were a bridge. With those stories of doubles that appear a lot in David Lynch’s films, that at a certain point in the film the character enters a dark place and comes out in another way. With another head but who is still really the same person but it is not.
LE: Narratively everything points towards it being the same person but visually it does not.
JM: So for me that phrase works as an apparently unimportant element but it is the bridge between one reality and the other. That person or that character meets their double through that phrase.
LE: Now there are two items of news that meet.
JM: Thing is that if Pool of Blood was a little obsessive, Doppelganger is the result of five or six years of collecting this kind of news because it does not just require for two headlines to share a common phrase but rather that they should share the same textual structure. That is, they have more or less the same amount of words and, besides, the shared phrase is at a determined height of the text.
LE: It is a terrible work of investigation and engineering.
JM: It is madness. I had the idea in my head and did not know if it was feasible. Suddenly, I saw it was and not only that but many times what happened was that those two items of news had many things in common. For example, they both shared the phrase “a macabre discovery”. Both were about babies being found in the garbage. The same amount of words and the same shared phrase but one was in Mar del Plata and the other in Córdoba.
LE: What is added to Doppelganger by being an exhibition related to Pool, is it really just one piece?
JM: What does the reiteration add?
LE: I think there is something musical in all your output. Sometimes that is in the centre, sometimes it is shifted to the structure. I see it formally, like the idea of variation in music. Ten variations...
JM: Chamber music?
LE: Of course, it operates in some way between the small differences amongst the pieces. Or the resonance when you finish seeing or reading all the work. But it could be that that can be said of any piece, any artist. One could think of all the pieces in a musical way, it is part of the organicity in the visual arts. Al the same, coming back, there is something musical that runs through all your output, you stress that.
JM: One could say that every piece is musical. Like every piece is political. That is an argument I once had in an interview. They asked me if there was a defined political intention in my work. And I said that political art was senseless because if art can produce any change at all in society it is because the artist didn’t intend to do so. The artist did what he had to do or what he wanted to do and an image that arose in a completely innocent manner can provoke something; I think it is the only way but otherwise it is too wilful. She said, “do not you think that all art is political?”, yes, yes, so why do we talk about political art?
LE: It is redundant.
JM: Besides I prefer not to talk about what it is that art can change in society. None of us can know what will happen with any of our things in time. Perhaps a drawing with a completely banal intention can provoke something else and this in turn something else, that is, it is impossible to foresee, I am much more interested when the artist does not set out to do that.
LE: It is heavy going, isn’t it?, there is almost no room left to work.
JM: It is like a banner. Why does the artist have to be the one to change the world? He might change it, as a matter of fact he works on it, but he does not intend to do it.
3. In reference to your work and your position in the national and international art fields, what tradition do you recognize yourself in? Who are your contemporary referents? What artists of previous generations are of interest to you?
LE: The third question was about your oeuvre and your position in the national and international artistic field ... In what tradition do you recognise yourself? Who would be your contemporary referents? What artists interest you from previous and late generations?
JM; Are we only talking about Argentina?
LE: No, not only locally but also people from outside, people who have made their mark on you
JM: I am going to speak very generally. The artists I am most interested I – I find what I am going to say quite redundant – are the artists for (towards? in?) whom there is a formal approach. Who do not relegate that seductive issue; it is fundamental otherwise I get immediately bored with the exhibitions. I often get bored.
LE: How horrible, for someone to get bored at an art exhibition, with all the possibilities of the terrain. Anything can happen, you can do anything and someone comes and gets bored. Very sad.
JM: I think there are artists who take it as a kind of programme: to bore the spectator.
LE: I find the only absolutely charming boredom to be Siquier’s, who gets to paint for a stretch of time very similar paintings, boring to follow. But the truth is, we are sorry for you, Siquier, but it is not like that, if your goal is boredom, you do not achieve it, they are still overwhelming aesthetic objects.
JM: What happens with Pablo is that one sees a particular painting that has a really complicated and attractive formal structure. He manages that beyond the fact that all his work is perhaps obsessive and imprisoning. What he provokes in the spectator is pleasure.
LE: Yes, he goes directly there.
JM: What I was saying was that I am interested in artists who without setting that seductive and sensorial formal issue aside, are capable of transmitting content. For me, one of the most admired artists is Cildo Meireles. One sees his work and, first, feels they are super attractive and, at the same time, they always remain floating in your head: they are very strong images and a posterior reflection always remains. He is really one of the artists who attracts me most. There is that Dutch artist who I haven’t seen in quite a while ... Mark Manders. Thomas Schutte is another artist who leaves me completely lost. I sometimes see pieces of his and say “how is this possible?” “How is it that he care about nothing?” That of great value (laughter) because within him there abide still life drawings with four-metre tall aluminium characters with models of impossible buildings. And one asks what joins all of these things? But I do not ask it as if saying “what an idiot! What is he doing?” I say: “how fascinating what this guy does.” I like those artists very much. Then I am attracted to Tom Friedman, although from an initial fever I passed into a kind of distancing. What happens with him is the surprise. In very few pieces the initial effect gives way to something posterior. He is a kind of obsession magician.
LE: Formally he is very strong.
JM: Though sometimes his world is only based on the title, there is a blank page and the title tells of how many hours he spent looking at that page.
LE: That is a joke about the rest of his output, right? He is very humorous.
JM: Of the Argentineans my favourite are Berni and De la Vega. But there is a piece by Grippo that knocks me over and there is no way around it, I am sure that for me it is the best Argentine work of art: those prisms with beans inside that explode.
LE: Ah, did you go to the Malba when it was about to burst?
LE: I think there was an agenda and they calculated more or less when it was going to happen. It would have been good to see that. In the Malba, at three in the morning, waiting...
JM: That piece really has it all. The formal issue we were talking about, a lot of interior energy.
JM: Yes, literally (laughter); it is one of those pieces I say “I am so envious of this”. Well, it is what happens with the pieces I like, they make me atrociously envious (laughter).
LE: Me too! It is terrible. Besides, socially it is not good.
JM: Well, that is number three.
4. Choose works or exhibitions from the last ten or fifteen years which in your opinion were very significant and explain why
LE: Do you want to talk about anything else, of Matías Duville who we like so much? The question was about previous and posterior artists. Or do you prefer to move on to the next one?
JM: I am not going to name you, that is for sure! (laughter)
LE: No, no, I will turn all red, I will have to talk about myself in the third person.
JM: Let us talk, in general, between 20 and 30 years. There are many of these things that I admire that really appear. Which is that thing about not giving a fuck about all those labels and even in coherence; that is another. And to emphasize more than anything the production of images.
LE: But, can there really be a real difference with the previous generation? Do you find that visible?
JM: What is I am noticing is an impressive energy. I have the impression that the argument is centred in what is really important. Not in that position of the artist as saviour.
LE: No, please. The last question goes something like this: Which are the groups or trends that you perceive in Argentine art in the last ten or fifteen years, as of common elements such as formats, techniques, media and work processes, themes, styles, intentions, sensibilities or other aspects you find relevant? From the 90s to here.
JM: We are talking about Argentina?
JM: What I feel about the 90s is what one could see in the Bruzzone collection, you know? All very centred in the Rojas C. C., with a create aesthetic.
JM: What I think is that in contrast to what was happening before – the eighties – with that serious and heroic thing in painting, the 1990s incorporated that more fluid and joyful thing, livelier, and there really was a person who gave it a clear political context. Gumier Maier would put together a whole text for that, it was clear, people adhered to that in one way or the other, I do not know if there has been anything as clear at another time. Now I wonder if that interested me. No, it really didn’t interest me. It was the decade I decided to get out of here, when I began doing residencies outside because I wasn’t interested in what I saw here. I go to the Bruzzone collection and I find its coherence pummelling, I see the Rojas C. C.’s plan and it has an astounding coherence.
LE: I do not think there are local projects comparable to that.
JM: There has never been as much clarity, and as there never had been one could easily gather round that or not. It was all very clear. In my case, my reaction was to travel. Of course, then something else started, political art appeared propelled by Kassel’s Documenta that really was the other extreme. Supposedly politically committed art, the artist as the bearer of humanity’s torch and the one who will the save the planet from destruction, I find that very brittle.
LE: Many responsibilities.
JM: Yes, absolutely. And what followed was very, very different, there appeared artists who said “I speak of the dramas of I do not know where”. What was ugly of all this, which can also be seen in biennials around the world, is that in the end the artists are supposedly committed but they are always doing it from their computers sending e-mails. Can you imagine a more disaffected way of protest than sending e-mails to say “but they are hitting this girl in South Africa”?
JM: Solidarity. Let us send an e-mail and you like an idiot press “forward”, well, now I feel at ease. I find that form of protest disgusting. Really revolting.
LE: Is there anything within that line that has called your attention? A good resolution? Perhaps something like formally doted political art (to abuse of the label).
JM: Yes, yes, well, the piece is bit old. What Hans Haacke did at the Venice Biennial. I do not recall when it was.
LE: What was it like?
JM: They gave him the space of German wing in Venice and he entered it and broke the whole floor with a sledge and left it like that. All the broken tiles and above it said “Germany”. It was formally very strong. Without going further, a piece that would fit nicely into that line was the Grippo piece we were talking about.
LE: Yes, absolutely, I was thinking about that. Can you think of any other criteria to build lines of work within local art? Because the Rojas C. C. and the “hard lined political art” are lines that come from outside. They were concocted by others.
JM: Mmm ... no, I cannot think of anything. I realise I am not a curator (laughter). Shall we finish with that phrase?
LE: Yes, yes, I am not entirely sure of that, anyway.