When a painting moves… something must be rotten!
Moving Painting or the Dialects of Techno-Referentiality

How can we construct a painting that informs itself through the analogue and digital realms?¹ Independent curator Paco Barragán suggests plausible answers to this question in his most recent project When a painting moves… something must be rotten! on view at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico (MAPR). In it, Barragán, who has written extensively on the subject of ‘expanded painting’ in several essays and in his book The Art Fair Age, brings together thirteen videos that speak of the hybridization of contemporary practice in what he calls the ‘dialectics of techno-referentiality.’ Barragán defines the term as “a context where painting measures itself against its own history and myths while at the same time deploying interdisciplinary and digital approaches.”¹ The exhibition is aptly divided into three different central themes relating to the language of movement in painting: iconographical reformulations, formal experiments and conceptual perspectives. In these videos, identifiable imagery and traditional concepts related to painting are revised, retooled and ultimately recreated.

The title of the exhibition seems to refer to the video Still Life by artist Sam Taylor Wood, where the effects of time are rendered on a bowl of fruit, giving new meaning to the phrase nature morte. Likewise, other videos such as Ori Gersht’s Falling Bird and Mariana Vassileva’s The Milkmaid, reformulate iconic paintings of old masters such as Chardin and Vermeer by adding movement to otherwise still images. Somewhere between photography, painting and video, these works discuss the limitations of traditional painting, while breaking it down and reshaping it with the techonological resources available today. Through them, the artists express that painting is far from being a static medium, but one that is ever-evolving and ever-changing, and where appropriation and the referential meet up with traditional notions.

In a selection of more experimental works, virtual paintings develop and establish narratives that evidence the creative process. An example is Enrique Marty’s El duelo. The video is comprised of the animation of 1,216 acquarelas based on photograms extracted from a video of Marty’s mother and father shooting at each other. As a result, the work transposes traditional painting into an animated narrative. Sunset Blues by Tim White Sobieski seemingly presents the process that the artist undergoes when painting on canvas; presenting a sucession of digital geometric shapes and colors that shift and move in no particular order; a Rothkoesque exercise in color and shape. Displaying virtual brushstrokes, Krisdy Shindler’s A Reciprocal Process of Becoming is comprised of the animation of an oil painting on drafting film, filmed on a lightbox.

After the reinterpretation of painting and its experimentation, comes its transmutation and deconstruction, as shown with performative actions by Jose Maças de Carvalho and Myritza Castillo. In Video Killed the Painting Star, Carvalho takes tools such as nails and a drill to transform and recreate Carvaggio’s Medusa. Myritza Castillo goes a step further by destroying her own painting in the video/documentation Under Construction. In it, a hooded Castillo cuts the canvas, breaks the painting’s stretcher frame and passes parts of it through a shredder. The final work is comprised of a glass urn with the painting’s remains. Consequently, the construction of the final work coincides with the painting’s deconstruction.

At first, the idea of a moving painting may not immediately manifest itself in all the videos, but a closer look reveals the contrary. Painting not only moves in a visual and pictorial way, it also moves between mediums. From photography to performance to the digital, painting has certainly expanded beyond the canvas. As a part of Barragan’s concept of expanded painting, the exhibition explores the ways painting relates to other mediums, engaging the technological with the referential. This in turn resonates with Nicolas Bourriaud’s analogy of the artist as a D.J., where different tracks of contemporary culture are remixed and replayed. Taking this into consideration, the exhibition can be regarded as an interdisciplinary soundtrack of current artistic practice.

¹ Paco Barragán, Exhibition Leaflet

Originally published on ARTPULSE Magazine