Magazine article Artforum International

Erick Beltran: Galeria Joan Prats

Magazine article Artforum International

Erick Beltran: Galeria Joan Prats

Article excerpt

Erick Beltran's "Serie Calculum" (Calculum Series)--"an essay about the concentration, the density and the creation of value," as he puts it in the gallery press release--is a curio collection, compiled by the artist between 2006 and 2008. Because it refers back to idiosyncratic and arbitrary findings, a Wunderkammer such as this is meant to produce amazing and surprising effects. And since its premise is one of subjective categorization, it is also a way of actively generating provisional theories about our classification of the world and our writing of history.

Apart from a few large maps and a slide show, all the works in Beltran's series are small objects, semantic machines of a sort that develop narratives about the construction of value. One of the most striking is Plusvalia (Surplus Value), 2008, a diminutive die fabricated in Barcelona that, we discover, is actually made of human bone found in Colombia--perhaps belonging to a victim of guerillas, the mafia, or paramilitaries, one might speculate. A color photo shows the bone that is the origin of the die, and a text in two parts explains how a Colombian NGO is working on having the remains of unidentified people declared cultural heritage, and gives the definition of the word player while raising questions (in Spanish) such as "Can cheating become the game in itself?" and "How do you rig a die?" In spite of its unassuming appearance, the bone die belongs to a class of transgressive works that looks at us from the other side of death. The work is tiny but so laden with fateful significance that it seems impossible to roll. Yet its shock effect is complicated by its dissection of the logic of surplus value as a fatal game.

Other works also reflect Beltran's life as an itinerant artist, each being a spin-off of a journey or a previous project. …

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