In his first exhibition in Barcelona, Iván Argote presents at ADN Galeria A million friends: an approach which focuses on the experience of encountering the other and the joy of sharing. Curated by Albertine de Galbert the solo show evolves around the "fair distance" portrayed in his works. Thus, the artist becomes an activist of contact and relationship.
Taking the city as a stage for his interventions, the Colombian artist searches voids in the daily routine to stimulate encounters, suggesting how we relate to each other. Furthermore, he cracks the suspicion that underlies our ambiguous relationship with the Other, the stranger, proposing to shorten this distance through fictive and fleeting textures activated by his performances. Using humour as a vehicle rather than as an objective, Iván Argote tackles with simplicity and efficiency themes of important issues while drawing new interpretations and dynamics in the spaces he transforms.
The exhibition is conceived as a space to penetrate: starting with the superficial layer, its materiality, to deepen into more profound concepts such as the way we relate to the city, our place in history through the personal, the collective and the familiar.
From the outside of the gallery we can observe the piece Extracts (2013), which reproduces a street wall section. The urban space sheltered by the gallery becomes a container of individual voices gathered by the artist and transcribed into a sentence we can read on the wall. Next to it, we encounter Dándole peso a los besos (2012), in which the graphic intervention appears in the public space aiming to be fossilised. The artist impregnates with kisses a rock located next to the Supatá River in Colombia; the intention is to perpetuate a presence in a specific time and space and give weight to an otherwise fleeting moment. Locating again the action in the public realm, the video Caricia, filmed in 2012, shows a loving couple in the Parc des Tuileries of Paris. In their bodies, we can observe the shadow of a hand stroking their figures. The intruder and tender contact does not happen in actuality, but it is present and participates of the couple's intimacy.
Indeed Ivan Argote's actions escape their common staging to contaminate other spheres. It is the case of Un día al ańo which recuperates 35 Polaroids of birthday's celebrations (an archive of a project realised in the Centro de Arte Dos de mayo -CA2M in 2012.) The images assemble an action, which consisted in celebrating every day a birthday of a different person every day until the end of the show. The result is a compendious of scattered individual stories, photographs of diverse people who commemorate their birthdays with friends and family: a million of anonymous friends frozen in these images and paralysed in time and space. The artist transforms an intimate ritual into the real protagonist of the artwork offering it to the public gaze.
Another ironical and irreverent project is Make me happy, make me sad (2013): a note of 5.000 Spanish pesetas depicting the face of King Juan Carlos I positioned on top of a pedestal. Depending on the angle from which the figure is seen, the King has a smiley or a sad face. Turistas: Isabel handing in a contract and Cristóbal pointing the South (2012) relates to two photographs of the sculptures of Queen Isabel and Christopher Columbus presiding over the square "Monument for the Catholic Kings" in Bogotá. In the images we can observe that the two figures wear "ruanas": ponchos from the Andes; an action that the artist undertook with the same group of people with whom he organised an ephemeral community in the context of the project La Estrategia.
The urban space becomes again a battlefield where any corner can be container for statements.
The video titled Geometría (2012) shows two girls in the jungle, both holding a revolver that is activated every time one ask to the other where does she come from?, where was she born? or any other question related to their place of origin. The answers are always: "over there" or ""over here" while shooting to the direction they are pointing at. The artist wants to play with their unclear answers and reflects on the connotation that hangs from these questions, as they have a direct impact on the current socio-political system.
The participation of others in Argote's artworks, either in a passive or direct form, is a leitmotiv that travels along almost all his creative projects. It is maybe in Activism! (2011-2013) where it is more literally materialised. The project groups, through multiple slides, a workshop with kids aged 5 to 7 that Argote did in the Museum MAC-VAL, where he provided the children with tools for demonstrating. The images are accompanied by a transcription of the phone conversation in which he explains the project to his mother. Moreover, the piece settles a bond with the artist autobiographical past since his father, a Colombian syndicalist and schoolteacher, usually taught his scholars to demonstrate. The singular canvas that can be seen in ADN Gallery: Huelga estudiantil, is a site specific installation of one of the "protest classes" that his father did in the 70s.
The exhibition also includes History of the Humanity (2011) where the artist and his family reconstructed "great moments" of the history of humanity shoot on a park.
The last work presented in A million friends is the medium length film La Estrategia recently exhibited in the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and which compiles few pieces already described. It reveals a dive into the past. The artist collected an enormous number of anecdotes from some militants of the 70s in Bogotá. They used to live in clandestine communities and Iván Argote formed a group of people to whom he passed on all these stories and together built a community, where they lived during two weeks under this "system of truth" so proclaimed by the militants of the past. Through this reconstruction and with a critical lecture, they constructed new anecdotes trying to re-enact in their own flesh a part of the history, with the aim of transporting the past to the here and now. The dynamic of the group was expanded to the relation with the city, the monuments, the nature and the landscape.
Iván Argote raises questions addressed to the spectator under a tender curtain while looking forward for an eventual outcome. Art becomes here a research's mechanism: a constant inquiry willing to modify the present in a movement from the very private to the very collective. In that sense, the artist represents an art which takes place outside the borders of any conventional frame; its mobility and evanescence resist to be controlled.