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AITOR LAJARÍN

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To my family

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Contents ACKNOWLEDMENTS 7

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GURE BAZTERRAK

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SYSTEMS OF PLAY

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INSIDE THE POND

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EL RUMIANTE Y LA CHARCA

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Acknowledments I would not be able to make this body of work and catalogue without the support of my dear friends and family. We shot the film La Charca (The Pond) at UCSD Rimac Field in May of 2014. This was made possible to the countless hours and generosity of the whole crew and the aid of the Visual Arts Department at UCSD. Special thanks to Professor Ruben Ortiz-Torres and to all the faculty members, peers and friends that in different moments helped me with their support and feedback. My deep gratitude to all of you.

Gracias amigos.

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GURE BAZTERRAK OUR CORNERS Maite ditut, maite geure bazterrak lanbroak izkutatzen dizkidanean Zer izkutatzen duen ez didanean ikusten uzten Orduan hasten bainaiz izkutukoa… Nere barruan pizten diren bazter miresgarriak ikusten

I love, I love, our corners when the fog hides them from me, because when I can ‘t see what they hide (the corners) behind the fog, then, I start seeing the hidden miraculous places that appear in my inner self.

Joxean Artze Lyrics for Mikel Laboa’s song. Gure Bazterrak. 1974.

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systems of play

_ Melinda Guillen

Systems of play In 1900, French philosopher Henri Bergson wrote, “To understand laughter, we must put it back into its natural environment, which is society, and above all must we determine the utility of its function, which is a social one. Such, let us say at once, will be the leading idea of all our investigations. Laughter must answer to certain requirements of life in common. It must have a social signification.”1 Laughter, and the circumstances that bring it into being, is inherently communicative and social. What is interesting about laughter in an exhibition context is that it goes against the grain of the interiority of the single viewer and their supposed single channel engagement with the work of art. Moreover, to laugh in an art experience is typically thought to be a result of laughing at rather than with. Such social mediation of laughter abides by conventions that are as constructed as they are maintained (and therefore, malleable) not entirely unlike the rules of a game. And yet, a game isn’t only about play, in the sense that all players yield pleasure or enjoyment because there is also

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something almost sinister encompassing the very ritual of gameplaying. In order to engage in play, one must undertake the conditions (traditionally “the rules”) of such a game – you must know what you are signing up for or risk losing. By doing so, you are wrapped in the structure and while choice and strategy are seemingly up to the player to employ, nearly all choices and strategies are predetermined by the structure or framework of the game. Since the fall of 2012, I’ve been quite fortunate to share numerous conversations (and drinks) with my friend, artist Aitor Lajarin. We have a mutual interest in the presence and absence of humor in contemporary art and the function of critical theory in cultural production but above all, we also enjoy a good time with a degree of absurdity. More recently, we discussed the concept of the “superstructure” as we know it extending from ideas explored by French-Marxist theorist Louis Althusser. This system of relations operates as a useful topographical

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1. Henri Bergson, Le rire, Essai sur la

metaphor where the first level is the “infrastructure” or the economic base of society and built on top of the infrastructure is a two-level “superstructure.” The superstructure is where a cataloging of efficacious indices can be found or, as Althusser puts it, “the determination in the last instance.”2 Such a metaphor isn’t entirely dissimilar to ones posed by other critical thinkers but this particular one was fresh in my mind when Lajarin presented on his work in the fall of 2014; pieces that evolved into the paintings and film comprising the exhibition El Rumiante y la Charca (The Ruminant and the Pond).

signification du comique (Paris, 1900); trans. Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (London: Macmillan and Co., 1911); reprinted, ed. Per Bregne and Guy Bennett (Copenhagen/Los Angeles: Green Integer Books, 1999), 7-13. 2. This metaphor is not meant to be arbitrarily mapped onto Lajarin’s work in an instrumentalizing fashion as we did actually talk about Althusser quite a bit in Professor Mariana Wardwell’s critical theory seminar in the fall of 2014. However, I can’t say the same

Lajarin described a game as a way of exploring social power dynamics and I began to wonder: what happens when the stagnant superstructure in the Althusserian metaphorical sense becomes a game instead? I started thinking about other artists that have used the format of sporting games in their work and remembered Mexican artist Gustavo Artigas’ performative intervention two-part

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for all of the other references.

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piece, Rules of the Game from inSITE 2000, the crossUS and Mexico border biennial. In the second part of the piece, a Mexican football team shared the same court as an American basketball team in a durational and chaotic negotiation of space. The work immediately pointed to tensions across the borders but also revealed a surprising synchronicity in the adaptable qualities fostered within the strained spatial system of the two games on top of one another. Of the work, art writer Sue Bell Yank has written, “The tensions and jostling, sometimes approaching violence, were ultimately resolved as the players learned to move fluidly around and between one another, living symbiotically but within two very separate frameworks.”3 While certain aesthetic methodologies in Artigas’ work can be connected to El Rumiante y la Charca, a rich distinction lies in the locational identity of both projects. Where Artigas is layering and pushing the cultural practices of games across the US and Mexico border as a socio-political metaphor, Lajarin’s game is much more psychological.

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Throughout Lajarin’s film, we see the players of both teams—red and blue—engaging in activities that initially appear free in form, such as the open and jovial exuberance of running around with arms flailing and smiles across their painted faces, to a collective moment of respite. These activities are schematized in their ritualistic schedule—the rules of this game mirror the practice of everyday life. So, if we replace “game” with “system” does the player become a user? Does that open up or foreclose on one’s ability to choose their next move? Is the user not also a team player? Does any of that really matter? This led me to consider, still with a loose lens in the Althusserian sense, what is known as the “Ideological State Apparatus” or ISA. According to Althusser, an “Ideological State Apparatus” functions by ideology and in private social domains such as churches, schools and some cultural events, so on and so forth. ISAs “function massively and predominantly by ideology, but they also function secondarily by repression, even if ultimately, but only ultimately, this is very attenuated

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3. Sue Bell Yank, “Vote for Demolition:

and concealed, even symbolic.”4 In multiple scenes in the film, we see the players of both teams carefully handling the oversized, soccer ball-checkered cube or rather, the symbol of the ideological apparatus, a buoy in the vast sea of the superstructure. The comically large cube, with its primary function as a ball stripped away by the artist, instead signifies power. In artist economies or the so-called “art world,” we refer (too often) to the “cube” as our enclosure. The “white cube” is as much a symbol of historical, economic, and social hierarchies as it is an inhabitable space for exhibiting work. We produce for it or against it but always in some tethered relation to it and this is whether we like it or not. In this sense, the checkered cube of El Rumiante y la Charca is symbolic of governing power dynamics and is also presented as a form of power that can literally and therefore should be played with.

Gustavo Artigas at LAXart,” Social Practice RSS September 14, 2009, section goes here, accessed March 28, 2015, http://suebellyank. com/2009/09/14/vote-for-demolitiongustavo-artigas-at-laxart/.

4. Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation),” in Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays (London: NLB, 1971), 145.

Of the paintings in the exhibition, Lajarin, some time ago, described them as “sketches” for the film. However,

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they are quite significant on their own and are certainly not subordinate to the seductive qualities of film as a medium. Rather, the acrylic paintings possess their own allure, so flat in their composition that a viewer need not conform to standards of viewership or distance in order to engage with them and yet the tension of the inextricable relationship between the film and paintings is, I feel, more apparent in the film. That is because the paintings have a deceptive agency of their own and each contains recognizable, banal elements of everyday life— cubicle furniture replete with standard office décor such as globes and other trinkets and then there’s displaced trees or mountains and Sims-like figures that produce a truly surreal quality. I began thinking of how paintings are often discussed as “windows,” and in Ostrich (2014, acrylic on board), it’s both pleasant and unsettling— or uncanny even—when the window of the pictoral plane possesses its own window beyond its dimension or cognitive layer, especially windows (or are they paintings?) that depict aspects of a natural environment

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such as a mountain range, beyond that which is perceived spatially. Similarly, in I Forest (2014, acrylic on canvas), there’s a small attic style door in the middle of the composition that again, playfully suggests to the viewer that one does not need to exit the way one’s enters. Or maybe these little windows and doors to the pictoral plane’s unknown is where Lajarin demonstrates the limitations of our cognitive processes. What you see is subjective, real, synthetic and performative with potential to disrupt or affirm the viewer’s sense of reality. Or as the Dude has said, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, your opinion, man.” And isn’t that particular feeling of “its all in our heads anyway” oddly freeing? I’ve always thought of Aitor Lajarin’s practice as operating in a liminal space between labor and leisure until I realized that instead, it reveals the interpolating qualities of what can become laborious leisure and the leisurely aspects of labor itself. To put it in other terms, if in the epoch of global capitalism and the perceived

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nonstop nature of work and production in which “products”—including those of the cultural producer—are what art historian Jonathan Crary has described as, “… hardly just devices or physical apparatuses, but various services and interconnections that quickly become the dominant or exclusive ontological templates of one’s social reality” then the system of play in El Rumiante y la Charca, asks us, “if we are always working, aren’t we then always playing?”5

5. Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (Verso, 2014), 43.

Melinda Guillen March 2015

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inside the pond

_ Paloma Checa-Gismero

Inside the pond Humans take part of something bigger. In Aitor Lajarín’s work, individuals are meant to concede to broader narratives which often make little sense. It is their circularity that allows us to enter and exit, disguised as ostriches, our heads in a pot, peeping through tiny holes from inside a lamp. This time I was recruited too, and I entered his world through a cubic football, at a field in La Jolla, under the burning rays of a hundred spotlights.

Angie’s make up, she was white, pink, yellow. Heidi was vertical pink and yellow. Angela was diagonal yellow, purple, yellow. J was mostly yellow, I think. All in our late twenties early thirties, most of us knew each other already. In the meantime, the camera people, Aitor, and the sound guys set up the equipment. None of us knew yet was was about to happen. or the previous weeks, Aitor had been asking us all F to help him in his piece. He’d been running around the Visual Arts department and beyond, looking for candid souls who would agree to spend one of their precious Friday evenings performing for a friend. When he got us all in, Wathana, head of production, sent us an email with details about clothing, time, and place. The commitment was set; no way to get out of it, we were already in the picture. Aitor had us all in his joke. In the meantime, the mystery built up around his piece. In our brief encounters he’d tell us all about the permits drama, and those production details always pending until last minute.

I t was close to 7pm when the rest and I got there. A couple of make up artists brought from LA called us in turns. They sat us in pairs on big concrete steps. Exploring our faces, they decided on the colors and shapes that would mark us for the night. My face was divided into three wide longitudinal stripes: I was red on top, yellow and green in the middle, purple over my chin and jaw. Aitor had asked me to wear blue, which is hard since I don’t have many blue clothes, as other twelve people had been too. The other half were requested to wear red. Half women, half men, blue and red. I recall

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o we all got there. And they painted our faces. And then S this huge thing in the middle of the field was just there, standing alone, closed in itself, purposelessly there. Soon we learned it was nothing but the biggest performance prompt most of us would have had to deal with. Heavy, hard, porous, sharp edges. A three meter by three meter by three meter plywood football cube. Black and white checkered. Empty inside, but nonetheless heavy. It soon became evident that we would all have to move it and play with it, eventually. The thing seemed too heavy to be moved, but Aitor directed us into a series of group lifting and releasing exercises with the cube that not only got us mentally ready for the efforts to come, but got us heated into the shared enterprise of moving something without really knowing why. arm up routine followed. Aitor directed from outside W the field, outside the scope of cameras. One, two, one, two. First some jumping jacks, then some power skips,

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and stretching. Then back to jumping, skiping, and stretching. By the time we were in this, no one knew what came next. We all seemed to be coming to terms with the idea that in fact, the whole thing was bigger than us. That taking part in Aitor’s game was leaving us broken, wanting to see what came next but feeling the cold mist inside our flesh, deep inside our bones and our joints. These are the concessions that come with adaptation to new contexts. Rules are set, and if you want in you want in, and we all just wanted to find out what the story was. The whole thing with humor is that it doesn’t never really ends up making sense, and your sense of it is nothing but the joke itself. You just gotta laugh, as otherwise the construction falls over and around and back. It’s a kind of language game that’s per definition nonsensical, which just stays together by bodily responses consisting of mouth stretches, acute gutural sounds of different lengths, tones, and pitches, and maybe some backward curlings and some head shakes. And then if the joke is extremely good some of us might even cry a little.

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hat’s the fun of it. The risk of entering unknown T worlds with the intuition that it doesn’t make sense, still conceeding to it, and letting yourself go along with its absurdity. A big part of humor is that is common, the negative mirror to common sense. Humor is never alone, and even when you’re laughing by yourself, in the middle of the night, over some youtube videos eating popcorn, there’s a part of you that finds it funny because everybody else does. This community bonding element also played a role in making us all stay until the end of Aitor’s shooting that night. Making sense of the situation’s absurdity all together, through the painstaking task of lifting that cube and then carrying it far to the other side of the field. We just had to laugh. ll of us landed that night in the field inside the football A cube. One by one, we exited through an invisible door disguised in its surface. The two teams moved the cube back and forth, goal to goal. Both engaged in the shared

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enterprise of scoring, whereever, the side didn’t really matter. The night was cold and our face paints started to get messy, sweat helped mixing colors. In the making of The Pond and The Ruminant we all felt like little tiny ants transporting a monstruous bread crumb together. Like in the rest of Aitor Lajarín’s work, the big joke was bigger than us, and we were just part of what held it together. What came of this nonsensical shooting night is a nine minute long video registering the game. It shows the sequence of the football cube landing, us like larves exiting from it, moving it, scoring and celebrating. The video doesn’t show the after pizzas, booze, nor any other backstage element. ike in comedy, Lajarín’s paintings and videos present L us with unexpected situations, where humor acts as binder for logics alien to us. There’s an attempt towards realism in the creating of sceneries of familiar geometries and symbols. His whole work belongs to a long painting tradition, claiming the validity of its codes and debts

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to representing our world today. His production inherits this language and its traditions, but it dislocates its conventional pragmatics in the most unexpected of ways. He breaks what historically has been taken as a given for realism: the faithful mimetic representation of life’s unwinding tensions, wheter this is in mimetic relation to the artwork’s own nature or to the social. Rather than the portrayal of these dramas, Aitor Lajarín breaks narrative chains, writing a joke, in a generous stoicism complicit with the public, the people inside his paintings, and those in the backstage. Paloma Checa-Gismero March 2015

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I forest acrylic on canvas 60x72 inchs 2014

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Ostrich Acrylic on wood 16x20 inchs 2014

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Ostrich Acrylic on wood 16x20 inchs 2014

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Ruminant Acrylic on paper 46x30 inchs 2014

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Ostrich Acrylic on canvas 12x16 inchs 2013

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Iluminados Acrylic on paper 46x30 inchs 2014

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I cactus Acrylic on wood 9x12 inchs 2013

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Ostrich Acrylic on wood 24x20 inchs 2014

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Hamlet Acrylic on board 20x24 inchs 2014

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Kindling Acrylic on canvas 72x60 inchs 2014

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Plants Acrylic on canvas 72x60 inchs 2014

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Telescope Acrylic on canvas 36x46 inchs 2015

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Emperor (detail) Mural, gouache on drywall, 236x196 inchs 2015 IMACP, Puebla, Mexico

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Hamlet video, color 1:47 min in loop 2014

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B&W Flag video , color 2:02 min in loop 2015

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The Pond video, color 9:52 min 2015

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Emperor installation view El Rumiante y la Charca installation view

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El Rumiante y la Charca installation views

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PROJECT

CREDITS FILM

CREDITS FILM

CREDITS CALALOGUE

“El Rumiante y la Charca” (The Ruminant and the Pond) Thesis show at UCSD April 2015 Aitor Lajarín

“La Charca” (The Pond) Color, 9’15”, 2015

Director: Aitor Lajarin Executive producer: Wathana Lim Cinematographer: Ava Porter Visual Effects and post-production: Nelly Sarkissian Sound Design: Arielle Marom Sound Recording: Ben Chan Camera operators: Stefani Byrd, Danny Cannizzaro, Oriol Olimon Camera and cinematographer assistants: Alex Usher, David Shere, Yuka Murakami Music: “Txalaparta bihotzean” by Jesus Maria Quintana. Drums by Tony Econom Prop production: Tim Murdoch Arte Department & Sound assistant: Ulysses Nieto Make up: Lyndrel Palm Make up assistant: Alexandra Nguyen BTS photographer: Emily Grenader Production assistant: Marisa Kriska

Texts: Melinda Guillen Paloma Checa-Guismero Graphic design: Pedro Eurrutia Photography: Aitor Lajarin

CAST: Kate Clark, Heidi Kaiser, Angie Jennings, Paloma Checa Gismero, Angela Washko, Tae Hwaing, J Noland, Kyle Thmpson, Tristan Ross, Tomas Moreno, Tim Murdoch, Bryan Barry

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Profile for aitor lajarin

El rumiante y la charca, 2013-15  

Exhibition catalogue

El rumiante y la charca, 2013-15  

Exhibition catalogue

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