21 Mar

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism every week, except when I don’t do them every week. This week we erase the lasting and iniquitous effects of colonialism by vandalising high school textbooks. Who knew it was so easy? Somebody should have told Gandhi. Montezuma? The fool should have just done some cut ups with the Conquistadors’ books and everything would have been OK.

Bonus: play Artbollocks Bingo with me!

The ongoing exhibition and production project titled Margin of Error, now opening as a show at Tasneem Gallery in Barcelona, constitutes Magnetic Declination’s first public intervention, and premieres the first instalment of the group’s planned cinematic work, which will include further releases in the future.

Magnetic Declination is a research and production group formed by theorists, curators, and visual artists. DM’s work is based on post- and de-colonial approaches that seek to dismantle the imagery and the discourses underpinning Spain’s mainstream historical narratives. In parallel, DM (note: their own abbreviation of Declination Magnetic, which is lucky because I’d have been really bored and annoyed having to say it repeatedly) also explores hybrid methodologies arising from the intersection of different artistic and research strategies in the field of practice and knowledge production.

Intervention– DING! Postcolonial– DING! Decolonial– DING! Discourses– DING! Narrative– DING! Hybrid– DING! Methodologies– DING! Intersection– DING! Research– DING! Strategies– DING! Knowledge production– DING!

No plan can involve further releases in the past because this is a logical, semantic and chronological impossibility unless you’re a time traveller. Which they aren’t. The third singular present tense of the modal verb “will” already indicates something to come. Therefore the whole sentence is redundant from the final comma onwards (“…which will…”), because we’ve already been told it’s the first instalment of planned work. 50% of the entire first sentence-paragraph is filler.

DM’s main line of work at the moment comprises a series of short audio-visual productions where different fictional, non-fictional, and essay-like styles and formats are mobilised in a re-examination of Spain’s (and Europe’s) colonial background as it unfolds historically into the present, especially in the light of the current global crisis.

Margin of Error is a critical re-assessment of past and present-day coloniality focusing on the dominant narrative construction of historical events such as the ‘Discovery’ and the Conquest of America, as they are reflected in text-books used in schools in Spain. Besides deconstructing the assemblage of graphic discourses, visual materials and textual constructs found in official school books, the project also surveys alternative uses of the same educational resources, as new possibilities arise through an exploration of group dynamics involving secondary school teachers and students.

“Group dynamics involving secondary school teachers and students”? First time I’ve ever heard it called that.

In the layout of the exhibition, these audiovisual fragments are arranged anagrammatically, in conjunction with other collectively authored assemblages, including some where the same books seen in the footage are subjected to various disruptive operations, with texts being superimposed, re-assembled, highlighted or crossed out. The aim is to re-energize them both as interpretative devices and as potential engines of a new critical imagination.

Anagram is a word (noun: a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another), but “anagrammatically” isn’t a valid word because nothing can be like or in the manner of an anagram. Either something is a word, phrase or name formed by rearranging the letters of another, or it isn’t. They may well be creating new words or phrases by chopping up existing footage, but there’s already a perfectly good, unpretentious, plain English word for this practice. It’s not “anagrammatical”. It’s not a “disruptive operation”. It’s called editing. Presenting a jumble of material randomly or semi-randomly is also not “anagrammatical”, especially if presenting it in that manner has caused the material to stop making sense.

As an ensemble, the exhibition builds an experimental, non linear narrative that challenges teleological notions of historical ‘truth’ and destabilises the visual and textual discourses underpinning them, introducing criticality and a new poetics in a field which, in Spain, has traditionally been dominated by the official version of the country’s colonial past.

The press release further notes that the exhibition was “supported by Absolut”. Maybe the excuses these artists give us for their adolescent quasi-political witterings make some kind of sense if you’ve drunk a bottle of vodka? Thanks for fixing the former colonies, guys. Good job. I’m sure they appreciate it.


  1. anitachowdry 21/03/2014 at 4:54 PM #

    o o
    Hilarious :-)

  2. anitachowdry 21/03/2014 at 4:55 PM #

    Sorry my previous formatting did not work. Just to say, I really enjoyed this recitation!

  3. Alistair 26/03/2014 at 10:26 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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