"Every game is a system of rules. What gives meaning to the rules is the desire to play."
Roger Caillois, Les jeux et les hommes, 1958
Art and play are both a necessity. We understand the world through play and throughout our lives we need time for games during which the unfamiliar rules make us forget those other rules that are imposed by everyday family and working life. It is a need that is present in every civilisation.
In human nature the contemplative life is as real as our active life. Art, like play, is not a practical, primary necessity linked to survival, like eating, but an exclusively spiritual, intellectual one. Much thought has been devoted to play during the twentieth century and it has been the focus of historians, philosophers and writers such as Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois and, more recently, Giorgio Agamben. When reading their reasonings, we are tempted more than once to apply to them a discourse on art.
Play is fiction, illusion, chance. But it is also deformation of substances and objects — imitation, representation, alteration. In particular it is a space of freedom, and it is this freedom that makes play essential in our lives. The work of art is also a privileged space in which everything is possible. Well-established conventions, such as time and distance, lend themselves to a free interpretation and can be revised and renewed both by players and by artists.
But what comes into play in art is no mean thing: it is in fact a question, for the artists and for the viewers, of conquering freedom of vision.
Art is therefore not a game, since a game can produce intense pleasure or dizziness without leaving any mark on our everyday life. A work of art, on the other hand, is always a complex intellectual operation, and its impact on our lives can last a long time, much longer than the visit to an exhibition.
This season’s programme for the Espai 13 takes account of all these considerations and presents the work of a number of contemporary artists who, despite their youth, already have several important projects and productions on their CVs and for whom the recreational element and the pleasure of creation are essential and very evident.
These ingredients are made apparent each time in a very different, highly personal way. Sometimes the artist creates a piece that is already a game in itself (Daniel Chust); at other times a childhood memory or object generates a new image (Grazia Toderi); sometimes fictitious characters appear at various moments of their output (Aernout Mik and Xavier Veilhan). But all these artists show us how the most frequent artistic concerns can be given a playful treatment without diminishing their depth.
Play is often defined as recreation. The idea of recreation, or re-creation, is at the root of the work of Thomas Huber and Aernout Mik, for whom it is a matter of trying to create a new universe, following "other" rules that are different from those governing the real world. This idea can also be applied to the materials, as in the case of Vik Muniz, who distorts and reconstructs images using substances more likely to be found in a kitchen than in an artist’s studio.
The artists selected for the cycle are all well established in their countries of origin and have already exhibited abroad, though they are still unknown, or little known, in Spain. All their work is at present orientated entirely towards the future, and now is the time for them to receive the international recognition they deserve. Although they are far from being beginners, their careers will be advanced by showing in the Espai 13, an integral part of the Joan Miró Foundation that is open to new young talent. Exhibiting the work of these artists is therefore certainly no contradiction, but rather a continuation of the rest of the Foundation’s programme.
Video, painting, sculpture, photography and new technologies are all present in this cycle in the same way, as they are in today’s art. Most of the artists will be creating a new piece specifically for the occasion, in response to one of the fundamental requirements of present-day artists. In fact, the contemporary attitude is that every work is a reaction to a given space or situation. The piece exists in the world today and is, from the moment of its creation, preconceived in the world.
The purpose of the game is to give the public an idea of the present-day discourse and artistic practices through forceful examples in which the theme, rather than being a constraint, is more of a pretext or a means of facilitating interpretation.
Born in Lyon in 1963, Xavier Veilhan lives and works in Paris. His art is a constant study of historical and contemporary systems of representation, and his pieces are the result of his analysis of verism, hyperrealism, illusionism and — on a more contemporary level — advertising techniques, reflecting a sharp, brilliant reality.