I realize that the commercialization of the art market is obscene. I understand it must be really difficult for artists who want to have a critical voice. But one must have some kind of a belief. One thing that I mentioned in a piece some time ago, I don’t know if you ever saw it, is that the museums and the artistic institutions can still play a role today. I referred to something that Boris Groys once wrote, that maybe the museums could be the places where one could, let’s say, extract art from the market.
The relations between divine and earthly economies of violence underwent a significant transformation with the emergence of the modern state and its consolidation as a totality (of spaces, people, associations, etc.), a multi-apparatus that strives to control everything it contains and to contain everything it can control. On the one hand, the state has become a potential or actual generator and facilitator of large-scale disasters, and the destructive power of some states has been brought to perfection. On the other hand, the state has also become a facilitator, sponsor, and co-ordinator of assistance, relief and survival in times of disaster.
Reality is not the point of departure for Guidi but the destination he strives to reach. He works not so much on an idea of the spirit of a place as the spirit in a place. Like Baudelaire’s flâneur, the photographer is a wanderer, who strolls around the city as if it were a postmodern forest, observing the cracks of history and the traces of contemporary life, focusing on the signs of a fragmentary, polymorphous landscape. These images allow him to read — recount, interpret, explore, experience — Milan like a human body (at times desirable, at times standoffish, at times repugnant).
Poetry and reality seem to combine with the winds that coalesce into spirit possession on the islands in the Strait of Hormuz, at the extreme southern tip of Iran. There it can get to 45 degrees centigrade, and nearby US nuclear powered submarines and oil tankers make their way into and out of the Persian Gulf. The concentration of power and history in this narrow waterway is astonishing. To adopt standard nomenclature and call it a ‘choke-point’ seems insufficient unless you take it literally.
When I pick up a written book, escapism comes from the overlap between the narrator and myself. It’s an act of observation, critique, connection and, ultimately, of submission. How much do I identify with the voice? Have I been subsumed or am I intact? When the book is one of pictures, the escapism is more like walking through a mirror and ending up in another world. I am always only myself, but I am in another place or world, another time period, or a different dream. I am seeing through the artist’s eyes, but I have been transported, not subsumed.
I spent my childhood summers at my father’s farm outside Buenos Aires. After the long highway drive and the dusty dirt road, as soon as we arrived, I would run to the front of the car and begin the delicate process of unsticking the crushed butterflies from the still hot radiator. Most of them would be terminal, but one or two would cling to my finger, slowly regain center, and eventually fly away, always leaving behind some dust from their wings.
I curated myself with Peter Hujar; a risky act, but it was an invitation (from Galerie Buchholz, Berlin) I could not resist. I began by listing categories of images I wanted to see: animals, water, young men, body parts, NYC, babies. I’ve long been familiar with Hujar’s work and chose images I knew I could be in conversation with, but I also tried as much as possible to select from amongst his lesser-known works, in particular ones that have rarely, if ever been shown.
Sitting here at my desk, in another country, another time, I feel inadequate to the task of writing about the politics of 1980s Britain. Besides the passing of nearly four decades, I am not a deeply political animal, nor an ardent activist, as some admirable people are. In 1984 I was young and naive, idealist in some respects, unworldly in many others — neither inherently bad things, and quite possibly useful in an artist — but I have not studied history or economics or politics, so all I can do is write about what I saw and learned as someone who passed through these times.