Today, more than ever before, the meaning of our movements depends on our active role in turning them into sites of memory and critical evaluation of history, as well as places of public discourse and action. this agenda is not only social or political, or activist; it is also an aesthetic mission. 

Krzysztof Wodiczko, Speaking through monuments, 1988

 

 

I. Long life for a monument 

   In Chile it is often said that monuments are relocated. Never static, stable nor solid, they are target for confiscation, mutilation, and transfer. Oriented towards one side, they are placed in an adjacent and contiguous manner, but as time goes by, they travel from place to place, from avenue to street. At the mercy of mass protests or erasures, oversights and agreements, monuments suffer from a curious syndrome. Their existence is forgotten. As a form of remembrance (from latin monumentum, that derives from monere: notify, remember” says Carolina Vanegas), monuments have become the tragicomic incarnation of an oxymoron. Nothing is left of the civil, democratic and modern destiny that the xix century and the beginning of the xx had intended for these monuments. 

   Nonetheless, they still remain. Their existence is deaf to neglect or oversight. Today our experience with commemorative sculptures is exceptional. It could be said that they are in a “welfare state” (opposed to “well being”), where nothing about them is similar to our everyday life, nothing is repeatable or comparable to common or banal things. This immediately leaves us in an uncomfortable situation. 

   Set in this perspective, monuments have an incalculable potential. More than abandoned buildings in the eyes of property developers, monuments  are completely abstracted from our gaze. This implies a significant opening of possibilities towards uncertain uses. They begin with a central issue: urban experience.

   Andrés Durán presents Edited Monument in Gabriela Mistral Gallery. The choice of space is unbeatable. Its shop window quality brings the street and side walk closer, integrating the pedestrian’s rapid glance as a valid option for the knowledge of art. In this way, "la Mistral", as it is commonly known, enables Andrés Duran to have a sort of perceptive continuity between fiction’s interior and reality’s exterior space. 

   Andrés Durán’s election towards commemorative monuments is not minor. In the past ten years, his creative spectrum has passed from the residential outskirts’ hidden locations (Cartel House in 2001) to advertising’s reverse sides (Viewpoint in 2011). In both cases, a mirror’s simple operation is crucial. There is something provocative in Duran’s work about inverting the order of things. This can’t be mistaken with an academic and formal return towards the monument as a sacred place. Without fear, Andrés Durán’s work talks directly about the subversive potential towards monuments. 

II. The triumph of the pedestal

 

   One of the most widely spread analyses referring to contemporary public sculpture understands that all transformations following the second half of the xx century come from the concept of “the loss of the pedestal” (Maderuelo). While sculpture was abandoning the sacred place of veneration in which it found itself, a direct and horizontal encounter between the inhabitant’s reality and the city became feasible. As sculpture loses its place of preservation it is capable of moving towards nature (land art or earthwork), an art gallery or museum (minimal or installation) or the city (post minimal or artistic intervention).

   However, the pedestal has come back or better even, has not left for good. Andrés Durán’s work confirms this. Its original place will never be recovered, but as in most part of post- conceptual work, it is transmuted into one element for the purpose of debating about the city and principally, the relationship between art and the city. The use of the pedestal is not the only way that a commemorative monument colonizes a place in public space. Public space’s constructor, the pedestal, is by definition a particular form of linking art and the city. 

   In this sense Andrés Durán’s work suggests something similar. Pedestals have become the protagonists; however, in contrast to artists like Sánchez Castillo, Haacke or Gormley, his focus of attention is centered on shape: textures, materials, surfaces, edges, weight or density. Its density often lies on delivering what the contemporary world´s chief materials lack: reflecting glasses, soft plastic and flexible acrylics. 

III. Lightness and humor

 

   Andrés Durán’s photographs and videos reveal the phenomenon of weight in a visual way. They sink and fall. They rest on a piece of wood, so the spectator feels attracted to the laws of gravity. The earth pushes them towards their interior, losing the mystical, transcendental and epic aura that its characters tried to evoke. While the plinth brings us downward, the heroes’ sorrowful gazes look up, their arms are raised, and their stallions upset. As they come out into the open and advance into the future, they carry us into an ideal and celestial world. In reality, there is nothing of that in Andrés Durán’s work. Only a fragile memory remains. The pedestal puts pressure over that epic genre, crushes and condenses it. 

Not everything can be so decisive. With the deafening sound of marble being placed on something- or the thickness of plaster hardening-, Durán leaves space for humor. Feet and arms arise fearfully from some monuments; some plinths are contorted, others are bewildered. Definitely lightness begins to appear. This is what it is all about: the dynamic game that divides the spectator between severity and lightness, between civic, political and educational sense and playful, artistic and ephemeral appropriation. Andrés Durán therefore creates fiction, a scene of false promises. Those where the epic characters are cloistered by their own idealizations. This way the spectator doubts. He is subtly and momentarily deceived by the imitative gadget. It is the confidence on that imitation and its acid authenticity that provokes impact. The spectator returns to the street with his eyes soaked with Durán’s appropriation. He looks for those possible contortions, those false monuments, and yearns to randomly run into those mutant commemorative sculptures. 

There is an inscribed wish in the pedestrian’s DNA, especially in the contemporary pedestrian: he is not looking for heroes, (only tourists, historical societies and great grandchildren are interested in them) but unconsciously imagines parody, mockery, and gesture. Perhaps where more elevated ideas give power a central place in the organization and control of the world, (Foucault) new ones should be incorporated. One of them would say: where power is deposited most solemnly, the seed of laughter blossoms. 

ABSORPTION, CONTORTION AND WEIGHT

Ignacio Szmulewicz R.