artist / participant
The Museu Coleção Berardo presents Four variations on nothing or talking about that which has no name, an exhibition by the Colombian artist Nicolás Paris, curated by Filipa Oliveira.
William Burroughs called artists mapmakers. By this he did not mean that they dealt with a geographical territory demarcated by borders, but rather alluded to the fact that they create a poetic cartography that attempts to convey meaning and shape the world in which we live. Artists are able to speak about that which hasn't been named yet. The work of Nicolás Paris (b. 1977, Bogotá) is very much in this vein: a poetic resistance against conventions, rules and ingrained beliefs, engaged as an attempt to discover new ways of seeing and experiencing the places that we encounter.
In Paris' work, the distance between the viewer, the artwork and the artist is abolished and the art space or museum is transformed into a place of precarious and unforeseen experimentation. Art is what happens when all of these factors combine. The museum becomes a tool for fostering exchange and opening up the chance to construct new forms of knowledge and understanding.
Four variations on nothing or talking about that which has no name is conceived as a process of examination in which art is seen as a series of encounters and situations that happen in time. Four variations, four rooms, four concepts: tool, method, idea and system—these are the underpinnings of the artist's thought and work.
The "tools" are drawings, educational exercises, utensils, games, prototypes. Here, thought is seen as an exercise, while the tools are there to help with setting out ideas. They are not mere techniques of representation, but rather comprise a system of thought that allows us to exchange views.
The "method" is traditionally taught in a school-style learning environment. By rethinking and playing with the concept of the classroom, Paris has devised the architecture in such a way that it is transformed into a working process itself, as well as a set of routines that give rise to spaces of exchange in which social skills and learning habits are developed. Each classroom, where the viewer decides what he or she wants to learn or unlearn, is a structure in which the artist's interests cross with the visitors' experiences. Every model offers a space to discover relationships, an architecture that serves as a trigger for thinking about different ways of socializing, in a process of learning and failure combined.
The exhibition shifts scale in order to tackle the "idea." In a small architectural installation, an object suggests that an idea is something that is always being constructed and developed. It is something transformative that we cannot fully access; something that can grow in a number of possible ways, emerges in time, and lies in the hands of each viewer.
Under normal circumstances, education would be the system and architecture the method, but in this exhibition, this state of affairs is reversed. Education is now seen as a conceptual, logical institution that allows us to learn by association. It is a process that provides room for thought and generates ideas, sparking one or more experiences—a set of short films that are at once demonstrations of the use of the tools and brief poetic essays, and which activate ideas and processes that have already been presented in the exhibition.
This exhibition itself constitutes an investigation by Nicolás Paris focusing on the processes of dissemination rather than the processes behind the production of art. One of its aims is to look at art as a field of interchanging ideas. Alongside the opening of the exhibition, a very close collaboration between the artist and the educational department becomes public, resulting in a wide range of activities, events and workshops within and outside the museum. Visitors are invited to take part in these participatory processes, public events and knowledge-sharing initiatives.
A dictionary of terms and diagrams, a book of tools that draws upon the work of Nicolás Paris, will be edited by curator Filipa Oliveira, with contributions by several authors, and will be published during the exhibition.