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La Despedida

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Date Minted:  July 27, 2020

Artist Description: Curtains close and what seemed eternal realizes its temporality

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

It was Julian Brangold (we did a series of Artist Spotlight essays on TheInternetOffice’s work) who wrote about how the TheInternetOffice frames their work as if we, the observers, are looking at a stage and as if the sculptures we’re seeing there are performers. TheInternetOffice create unforgettable and highly-idiosyncratic 3D objects, this artist duo does, with some of their creations borderline revolting, others quite bizarre and influenced by animal biology, others however quite angelic and radiant and altogether unassuming. Generally speaking, their earlier pieces exemplify the latter subject matter. These pieces are studies of shape and color which features objects floating in the center of a space, each the sole object of our attention. Not only do they exist in the center of their own worlds, the objects seem to know it. There is almost a haughtiness with which these singular and masterfully-textured sculptures command the entire frame, blazing with stage light. La Despedida suggests the aforementioned performative intention with perhaps more emphasis than any other piece in the artists’ oeuvre. Despite its lack of action or movement, La Despedida is clearly intended to be taken as a performance. There are the curtains! There is the stage light! The question is, what is the curtain pulling back to reveal: the art object itself, or us? Who’s the performer and who’s the audience? I suspect, if there’s clarity to this question inherent in the piece, we’ll need to extract it by force. Nothing herein is otherwise so forthcoming. TheInternetOffice’s pieces are not desperate to be understood. 

Which is there in their design, mind you. As I mentioned, the early era of TheInternetOffice’s artistry was almost entirely characterized by the kinds of sterilized, abstract shapes used in La Despedida. The artists have used this compositional archetype to explore color and lighting, shape and optical illusion, leveraging their incredible aptitude for unique and realistic texture-creation to turn otherwise rote objects into dynamic studies. The artists would eventually go on to include far more disparate colors in their art, also bits of anatomy from biological sources the world over: bacteria, parasites, snakes, bugs, coral. Such organic studies —possessed of their own inherent action and movement— are the focus of the artists’ work today. But in La Despedida, we find the artists still exploiting the realm of the heavens. Does not the object within La Despedida seem, in more than one respect, angelic?

In subject matter, I’m reminded of the Black Stone, that venerated object housed in the Kaaba in Mecca which many millions of Muslim worshippers visit each year when embarking upon the Hajj. I sense connection there in terms of the object’s mystery, and its unknowable air of supernaturalism too. Indeed, the metallic sphere at the center of La Despedida does seem to command a great majesty. It is lit by an off-stage spotlight (so to speak) so that its countless crinkled edges shine and glimmer with ambient light. The object sits in the very ideological center of the frame, and looks at first to be a ball of tightly-squished tin foil. Perhaps it is! Perhaps it’s nothing more than that! Perhaps TheInternetOffice is commenting on the quiet brilliance and majesty of everyday materials we rarely pay mind to. The silver rock, smooth in some spaces, gnarled in others, casts a faint shadow onto a calm blueish background underneath it. On either side of the sphere, thick green stage curtains appear to be drawing back, revealing the object to us, the audience, though absent of external fanfare. But there’s subjectivity in that reading too. Any movement that we imply is stemming from the curtains is movement we ourselves have imposed upon them. They are static objects too, after all. Therefore any of the following readings seems equally accurate, even all simultaneously: The curtains are opening, or they are closing, we are on the inside (i.e. the stage), we are on the outside (i.e. in the audience). 

La Despedida” translates into “The Farewell,” so perhaps indeed it is being suggested that we are seeing the end of a performance as opposed to the beginning of it. Regardless, the presence of the curtains, and the stage-like atmosphere, seem to encourage us to imagine the preceding or succeeding actions that will take place on the stage. Perhaps that performance details the process of material squishing together. Or the process of it all coming apart. But theatrical circumstances do create inherent implications of narrative, and in lieu of any identifiable narrative elements within the composition of the piece itself, we start to automatically create them ourselves. 

I want to come back to this question of who is the audience and who is the object. It’s not that there’s a great sense within this piece that somehow we are being watched, but that the presence of the stage accoutrement call our attention to the similarities between a given artwork’s frame and a given theatrical production’s stage. The way space is utilized. The way the artifice of the thing is implied by the nature of its surroundings. The curtains herein feel like exaggerated artifice, or like the invasive artifices of a different art form altogether. The outside world is closing in on the perfect object, and we see the two worlds —the unobtrusive and the intrusive— colliding with each other, creating an odd tension, creating the odd sense of narrative and all these other misplaced, seemingly misfit allusions. 

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