Magazine article Artforum International

Planning Stages: Josefina Ayerza on Guillermo Kuitca

Magazine article Artforum International

Planning Stages: Josefina Ayerza on Guillermo Kuitca

Article excerpt

GUILLERMO KUITCA typically settles on a given structure as a form of emptiness. One may consider his work a kind of seating plan, as the Argentinean artist himself will tell you: Vacant chairs attest to an absence; what's more, the plan is only a representation, not the thing it represents. And so the represented thing becomes merely a gap, a void--space as an object. Such empty space accrues the element of time, and the hidden cause of the desire. Am I saying that Kuitca draws, paints, fixes his collages into the dynamics of desire? Yes.

Not that there is one and only one structure in Kuitca's work. Rather, there are series of ones, with each individual series depicting the form of a different plan: map, cemetery, stadium, prison, theater, or conveyor belt. The function of the structure is not to unify a series but rather to convey meaning to components of the series, to begin a count of what exists--namely, Kuitca's different plans, swarming.

For example, the artist's most recent show, "Guillermo Kuitca: Acoustic Mass," at Sperone Westwater in New York, took up the archetype of a theater with nine collages, each depicting an opera house. They included Covent Garden VI; New Opera House, Oslo; Opera de Paris, Palais Gamier; Acoustic Mass VI (The Old Vic) (all works 2005). These collages are made with remarkably thin pieces of paper, some cut straight, others in curves with bends, turns, and twists. With these shards, Kuitca "shows" the sound of the roaring theater. (In a conversation at the gallery, he told me simply, "This is the theater structure, and this is the music") But Kuitca's music is soundless, of course, a kind of name for something that is not. The set of all such sounds, some twenty years of Kuitca's theaters, is empty.

To explain: For Jacques Lacan, the sound of one hand clapping, as in a Zen koan, equals an empty set; Kuitca offers an exemplary instance of this empty set, or what analysis calls "a discourse without words." Suffice to begin the count, then. In mathematics, the notation for the sound of one hand clapping is o, which means that the set of the empty set is one. Kuitca's counting of any structural archetype begins with this. Now, in order to count to two, you take, for example, the set comprising of "the theater's empty set and the set of the empty set"--in other words, comprising "zero and one." To continue the count in these terms, "three" is "the set of the empty set, the set of the empty set, and the set of the empty set." In the seemingly endless repetitions of his various plans, Kuitca provides viewers with this kind of movement and stasis; each image is an addition in numbers, yet also merely placed against the set rendered after the archetype.


But there remains the issue of how to separate mathematical activity from the product of mathematical activity. What distinguishes the two? There always is a part of mathematical activity that cannot be captured in symbols, a lack encountered after all the layers of description are peeled away--the unshareable. The whole is, in other words, more than the sum of the parts.

Put another way, the empty set is, in a sense--for Kuitca, for Lacan--the empty tomb. Consider the example of Hamlet: The appearance of the ghost, Hamlet's father, allows the prince to think the grave has been opened and emptied. In Kuitca's discourse without words, such an "empty tomb" becomes visible in repetition--the paintings organized in sequence, like signifiers, chained together. Thus, the unshared-able, that which is a ghost, can be the signifier only as something singular. We could also say the ghost is the singular subject.

Another figure from literature is perhaps more helpful in locating this singularity in Kuitca: King Oedipus, who disappeared without a trace. His successors knew where his grave was located, yet it was unmarked. Hence, a second way of signifying the empty set is to keep a secret, something passed down only from father to son. …

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