Enrique Marty’s intervention in the Chapell of the Patio Herreriano Museum, Valladolid (Spain).

We are living in a world in continual process of commodification where everything seems to be filtered through the concept of utility, putting in jeopardy such essential factors for human beings as their experience of art and thought. Directing a critical eye on this pragmatic technical rationality, Enrique Marty emerges as an artist of rare honesty who, in addition to honing an unequaled skill and freedom, possesses an unusual sense of humor, typical of the ironist, which allows him to perform a constant balancing act on the edge of the abyss, eluding the imperatives of the art industry and avoiding the intellectual mediocrity which tries to impose itself in every sphere of culture.

An approach to his work can never conclude with a strictly formal analysis, but must necessarily focus on his experience as a thinker of the self in relation to certain fundamental aspects of contemporary philosophy: a critical observation of social and moral structures; an analysis of the modes of production of both history and culture; the need of a massive and brutally provocative artistic practice. Beneath the apparent chaos of his intervention in the Chapel of the Patio Herreriano Museum (Valladolid, Spain), lies a map of the Turin neighborhood where Nietzsche lost his mind. Likewise, Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammer, has been a conceptual presence in Marty’s work since the beginning, when in his first phase he combined 200 pieces under the title Fall of the Idols (Brussels, 2013).

So just as Nietzsche proclaimed the peril of a world which had abolished absolutes, Marty points to the advent of a new kind of nihilism, though in his response he avoids relativism: faced with believing in something, he would say, we must believe in Art and nothing but Art. The artist adopts the function of dragoman or interpreter, making visible the invisible and assuming the sacred task of translating what lies hidden beneath our daily experience. The death of God announced by Nietzsche inaugurated a new way of interacting with the human. This aphorism described the natural end to the belief in ultimate truths. It was a tragic lament, the interpretive revelation of an extremely dangerous moral and cultural reality: the fall from grace of eternal values dissolved absolute concepts such as Justice, the Good, Equality and Truth, placing us on the dark path of nihilism but at the same time opening up the possibility of moving beyond all limits.

Today, we accept the idea that we are not determined by external forces and that we are free to decide for ourselves. Faced with this laxness, Marty questions crucial principles of our contemporariness such as the ultra-aesthetic or the categorical notion of technological hyper-sophistication. His installation at the Herreriano Museum, Someone, Believing he was Doing Something Good, Freed The Serpents (2015), far from assuming the overcoming of false infinities, makes visible concepts inherited from postmodernism, dismantling and reevaluating them through a visual language of extreme harshness and fierce irony. This piece arose from remnants accumulated in the artist’s studio during many years and with through collaboration with people distant from the artistic sphere. Employing photographs made during his travels throughout the world, especially of pieces of a religious nature, these relics have been transformed into new icons; icons-idols reconfigured through a triple leap and back flip, since he not only redefines the humble nature of the material employed, but the very process of their fabrication, distanced from classic notions of specialized authorship, as well as the psycho-physical conditions of the context in which they’re exhibited, a Catholic chapel redesigned as a space for contemporary art.

Marty invalidates the modern prejudice that insists on the solitude of the work of art in museums. Although the installation seems like a fortuitous accumulation of more than 500 objects, it’s sustained by a meticulously designed armature. This hyper-accumulation has nothing to do with the spontaneous chaos of a garbage dump; rather, it connects us to the complexities typical of an ancient forest. Complexity understood not as a confusion of forms and concepts, but as a quality that demands to be considered with care and reflection, as well as with intuition and trepidation, as occurs if we penetrate into the heart of a forest at night. Marty thus tenses the classic concepts that define the Apollonian as opposed to the Dionysian, contention and clarity in contrast to excess and ecstasy, revealing the proximity of the two concepts. Order and complexity as complementary notions that simultaneously encapsulate the unfathomable totality of the artist in both his micro and macroscopic aspects.

Despite the extraordinary complexity of his facture, Marty is an artist of the essential in his frontal attack against the descriptive and decorative aims of art that renounces the effects of hyper-sophistication. These idols, in their new tragicomic nature, display the coarseness of the humble material they’re made from and the singularities of their ‘amateur’ facture. They’re accompanied by ‘ordinary’ objects such as cardboard boxes, seashells, hair and a saxophone. There are no audiovisual elements or selective lighting: none of the devices so heedlessly employed to achieve the miracle of artistic intensification. With the Herreriano Chapel transformed into a new cultural space, viewers are forced to wander around this axis of accumulation, producing constant contaminations between observation and objects, but without being able to physically penetrate the inviolable nucleus of the Sancta Sanctorum of dethroned idols.

Because of this multiple process of reconfiguration, the installation provokes an extreme experience: that of perceiving as new something already known. It’s the viewer in a pure state, without previous experience who, gazing upon this vast abyss, is obliged to sustain alone a reading of the work, and by extension, the meaning of the world.

· Someone, believing he was doing something good, freed the serpents. Paloma Hernández


















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Published in "art.es" (November 2015)