A work of art that is entertaining does not mean it was effortless: quite the contrary
Undoubtedly, the interpretation of a work of art is often pretentious and risky. However, we cannot deny that we here have a masterful tour de force; Marco Montiel-Soto seems to raise more concerns and questions than ever and we have no other alternative except to let ourselves go. We approach the piece as if going around the world. Or approach it considering it a synopsis of the world?
This not the first time that Marco Montiel-Soto has worked with The Inflatable World, deflated. In 2009, it was exhibited as the sound sculpture “Eine Verschnaufpause” (A Pausa for Breath) at the Haus Der Kulturen der Welt, (House of the Cultures of the World) in Berlín, Germany, flattened and placed on a stand like an ironic modern allegory of the god Atlas who was condemned to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. However, this was not a portrayal of the god that symbolizes strength or stoic defiance but instead exhibited a different kind of visual strength. The sculpture was accompanied by the sound of the artist’s breath. Thus, the entire process of inflating the globe, then deflating it until flattened, exhausted from the lack of air alludes to the metaphor of a world becoming asphyxiated. This series of photographs takes it out of context and the white background further accentuates the idea.
At first sight we realize that this inflatable globe is not just any ball. It is the planet Earth! Creating a work of art with a plaything is quite daring. The artist toys with the globe obliging us to think about the planet. This is how he distorts our first awareness of its geography. The wrinkled globe has gone through a violent transformation: destruction that will lead to rebuilding in the imagination and a fresh interpretation. The world is a basketball, a baseball, a balloon. The terminology referring to the sphere, the circle, the bubble is always linked to the concepts of protection, tenderness, serenity: ultimately the womb. In art history or in architecture, roundness is subject matter for fantasies that go from simple to extravagant.
Around 1503, Hieronymus Bosch painted The Garden of Earthly Delights and through the layout sparks voyeurism. Within these sensual shapes we observe couples caressing. Intimacy comes into play by way of the roundness. European leaders (from the Dukes of Borgoña to Louis XIV) commissioned their portraits to be oval shaped, not only out of aesthetics but also as a political strategy to inspire trust. It is the constant return to the beginning of life as can be observed in the sculptures of Venus created throughout history. It is the essence of life; it is Mother Nature. With regard to architecture and depending on the geographic location, the circle as a primary shape is the traditional design of a community. Consequently, towns are built around the place of worship. The recurrence of circular layouts in the design of utopian cities as well as in the structure of key buildings within them is a key example of the constant search for harmony (T.More, T.Campanella, E.Boulle, C.Nicolas-Ledoux, S.Aurobindo).
Not only the handling of the piece – tortured at the hands of the artist – but also the final product forcibly links us with how we face the world. This work is revealed to us with a disturbing obscenity. Its semblance hinders us from looking at it, contemplating it and comparing it with the subconscious image of the world globe that we are familiar with. We discover a facet totally different from the idealistic. We penetrate the visual illusion or better yet, the artist’s vision.
Marco Montiel-Soto lets the air out of globe. He smothers it in order to give us a breath of air. Crushed and flattened, it is like a world of changing shapes with no control over its borders. No outlines can be made out. We barely recognize the cardinal points. These are some of the difficulties and the real intention. We can only associate the outlines with our previous knowledge in order to recognize them. It is true orderly chaos! There is order in that each photograph focuses on one specific continent. But here, the evidence of historic and natural borders is disputed. The issue of borders is clearly raised. We understand that the work is based on the denial to illustrate the boundaries of sovereign and territorial jurisdiction that all governments establish. At the same time, we realize there is another intention. Borders constitute the balance between the pressures and powers that separate two countries. The artist turns the idea around and suggests a different solution, an omen. By making the inflatable globe change shape, he is creating a model contradictory to a new apocalyptic symmetry.
Was it once not said that the world is flat? Here, we have the impending proof of its exemplification. From a backward concept, resolved back in the fifteenth century, we arrive to a new concept called globalization, a term that came to being midway in the twentieth century that today defines the world as a place of the rapid exchange of information. Therefore, we know that economic and political exchanges between people have always taken place and the work is able to place emphasis on widespread tension from a conceptual, historical, political and geographic standpoint.
In addition, the sharp colors perfectly reflect reality. Any map based on a cartographer’s calculations has traces of subjectivity. The particular phenomenology of the creation of a scientifically calculated geographic map cannot reflect on reality because it is presumably a reflection in the mirror of the history and the experience of the mapmaker.
The principal strength of this work is a paradox in itself. Its refinement lies in its harsh appearance. Perhaps this allows us to better understand the real meaning of the world and its relative subjectivity and how we perceive the geopolitical and private borders that surround us. The artist’s interpretation transgresses boundaries: in other words, the movement that exists between limits and the limitless. By virtue of its own inexistence, the limitless transcends and rejects compromise and amplitude. We are put at ease with Montiel-Soto’s hazy boundaries with the question posed by Michel Foucault: Does a boundary really exist without the expression that gloriously crosses it and negates it? *
*Michel Foucault, «Préface à la transgression», Critique, no 195-196: Hommage à G. Bataille, août-septembre, 1963.
Elisa Ganivet, 2009