The possibility of accidents – of errors – stimulates me. I like to learn from mistakes. The confrontation with the laws of physics and nature can place you in a very humble position. It can push you to a stress breaking point. (Jorge Peris)
Spanish artist Jorge Peris is known internationally for his site-specific installations that engage in intense conversations with the space or manipulate it through skilful choreographies of seduction. The gestation of ideas and concepts for his œuvre is often a time-consumming process given the immense amount of research and studies he needs to document it. He contextualises them after an insightful evaluation of the space like an architect assessing the site of a future project. In fact, many of his works acquire an architectural dimension, often dramatic, theatrical, overwhelming, imposing. It is also the type of work that involves your entire body – extreme physical effort, at times –, and this channels a certain personal energy into it.
A lot of effort was put in the case of Los pies de Judas (The Feet of Judas) – the salt-made, awe-striking work he installed for the exhibition Hierophant in the capacious, high-vaulted Nicodim Gallery, Bucharest. The ample group exhibition curated by Aaron Moulton had more than 40 artworks on view by as many artists, still one structure would catch your eye as soon as you entered the gallery. The white vertical structure – made of four geometrical volumes towering in a gentle spiral movement upwards – ends with a metal rod piercing the air reaching even further into the space. Fully circled, signs of disintegration become apparent in the back, where the base looks like the crumbling walls of a neglected building. Surrounded by gray rocks of salt scattered here and there, cluttered inside its base or on top of each other in a seemingly precarious balance, the work becomes a venue. Its verticality confronts the space in an esoterical, symmetrical manner.
It can be both pre-historical and contemporary. It could be from another planet, still the human intervention can be sensed. It lacks time, space, dimension. It adapts to the space. It is like an architectural machine. Hence, the metal on top, acting like an engine, or pure energy .
The sole purpose of the cross-shaped socle seems to be to diminish, as much as possible, the damages caused by salt to the gallery floor. Salt can wreak havoc to cement. Since he moved from Madrid to El Palmar, Valencia, a few years ago – the fascination exerted by the marine ecosystem turned into inspiration– salt has become the material of choice for most of his works. He had studied quite a lot of chemistry to understand it in order to tame it. Then all it took was salt – circa 4 tons of salt from the Black Sea and 1 ton of rocks from the Romanian salt mines – and water.
Salt is a crazy alchemical material. Sometimes it cooperates, but it generally is very obstinate. It takes the lead. You must adapt to it. Too much water can make it crumble. If the temperature is not right, it loses its humidity and crumbles again. There is always a fracture that appears. It is not easy.
Peris spent one month on the site to complete the project. It was a period of strenuous labour – both physical and intellectual. Surely, the considerable size of the installation called for assistance. At a certain stage, a group of workers intervened daily to help the artist build the structure and maintain its stability – like a plant, it had to be sprinkled regularly and correctly. A scaffolding was set around it. The artist sees the collaboration with workers – whom he perceives as “the intelligence with hands” – as very important. The collaboration started on an almost negative note. The unusual, absurd material they had to manipulate caused many arguments and disagreements on techniques and modes of working. In addition to the impossibility to communicate in any common language. Nevertheless, day by day, a bond was created between artist and workers – they would share meals together, communicated by gestures and even invented words to understand each other. That interaction was very important to him. He treasured that chapter of working closely with them as an important part of the process.
A wooden arc is buried inside the installation. During a casual stroll, he came across a curved piece of wood that he picked up and starting using as an anti-stress device. He modified it little by little until it ended up looking like a small sculpture. He decided to place it in the installation before he closed it. It absorbs salt since the wood contains oil. He invested it with magical powers for the 3-month duration of the exhibition.
The installation was planned around the number 8 – the geometry of the composition was sized around 8 and multiples of 8. Yet it was by pure coincidence that the artwork was assigned the position no. 8 in the chart of the exhibition. Or was it? Eight has a broad field of symbolism – it is the absolute number, the number of infinity, a magical number, it is the number of karmic balance. During the Trito Ursitori – the grand ritual that was performed in the evening of the opening of the exhibition, invoking Hierophant, the old Greek shaman, the great leader of salvation for the human race in charge of re-routing it towards knowledge, insight and wisdom – the installation acted as the cathedral of the ritual.
Los pies de Judas present in this exhibition is the third installation of a thematic series that Jorge Peris has been working on for 5 years. The first two were installed in varying forms and sizes in 2013 in the homonymous exhibition at Pinksummer, Genoa, Italy, and in the group exhibition Explorations, held at Musée du Château des Ducs de Wurtemberg, Montbéliard, France, in 2015, respectively.
Jorge Peris (b. 1969, Alzira, Spain) lives and works in El Palmar, Valencia, Spain. The artist mainly creates installations in situ – architectural constructs that often challenge and alter the dimension of space. Along his career, he has used various unconventional mediums – recently focussing on salt. He boasts an impressive amount of works and participations in solo and group exhibitions organised by prestigious galleries and institutions in Rome, London, Milan, Warsaw, New York, Paris, etc. The most recent participation to date is in the ample group show Hierophant (17.06 – 29.07.2017) at Nicodim Gallery, Bucharest, curated by Aaron Moulton. The artist is part of important art collections – such as MAXXI, Antinori or Giuliani.
Text: ADINA SHOLLENBARGER
Photo: Alexandru Paul