The (Un?)real international expirience

Textos / Texts
06/2018 / Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Newcastle, UK.

On Matthew Crawley´s work for Liverpool Biennial Associate Artists

In 1971, the Argentinian artist Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos wrote a letter to the Secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York, Mr. James F. Mathias, explaining how he had invested the money of the grant he had won in 1968 in the field of Painting, awarded to citizens and permanent residents of Latin America and the Caribbean. These grants –ongoing since 1929- seek to promote “better international understanding” by expanding eligibility for Fellowships to citizens of other countries in the Western Hemisphere.” In the letter Peralta Ramos listed the activities and the related monetary values of each, in order to make a statement that answered how “getting ahead of what is today an international movement, understood as an artistic event as real life, I invited to a group of friends (25 persons) for a lunch at the Alvear Palace Hotel…”. The list included also the afterparty of that meal, the production of a previous exhibition, some tailored suits and the acquisition of several works by fellow Argentine artists. Peralta Ramos declared: “My philosophy lies in the sentence: “Being in the world”. I believe that the artist´s adventure is the development of his own personality, in order to get the “constitution” of the own self. In one word: living.”

This approach of artistic practice as daily experience is like the one Matthew Crawley conveyed to me in our first meeting as part of the Liverpool Biennial/ICI associate artists programme. One of the main questions for both of us was “What does “internationalization” mean?” His thoughts were related specifically to his work as an artist focused on the observation of the most undervalued objects and memories of his everyday life as a reflection of middle class behaviour and the role of the artist in it. His strategy of re-contextualizing objects allows a shift of perspective and, as Peralta Ramos, enables one to think about what “being in the world” is.

Crawley’s first proposal for the programme was to spend several months aboard an international cruise. Then, the movement would be the artist’s instead of the object. The big boat would provide a platform for internationalization –as a residency, a workshop, an exhibition- that would allow the artist to continue coherently his labour in a new context outside the established contemporary art structures. Thirty days of the same kind of activity each day but in a new non-changing landscape: the uncertainty of the ocean.

Unfortunately, that trip was not possible because of Crawley´s labour conditions. His Plan B was to pick a city randomly to visit. Finally, he travelled to Los Angeles in February 2017. His intention was to confront himself with other kinds of uncertainty: the desert and places where otherness as oddness could be present.

Isle, 2018, Crawley´s proposal to the Baltic39, summarizes all these ideas of translation, internationalization and otherness. After the transoceanic experience, everyday life still remains his main issue. The video shows the removal of a lump of tarmac the artist had seen in his commute to work, from a traffic island in a neighbourhood in Leeds to his garden, two years after he saw it. The transfer of the “flotsam jetsam” –named by the artist as “the isle”- to the domestic environment, works in its action, as the odd image of a precarious moving border. Objects, geographical limits and being, are rescued from their fate and out of the binding structures.