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Jose Mari Zabala, 2020/201

Magic, matter and need

We are an indecipherable sign. (…)
In a strange land,
we almost lost the power of speech. Friedrich Hölderlin.

Magic, matter and need
Magic, matter and need
Magic, matter and need

The project explained by Zabala:

"Magic and art (it’s all much of a muchness) allude to the specific capacity to behave with the aim of obtaining a benefit, in an obligatory concatenation of cause and effect. That is the original meaning of the terms, which is the only one we’re concerned with here, and the main purpose of this project is to acknowledge the wonder of transforming matter according to need.

First of all, it’s worth clarifying that, on the contrary of what might seem to be the case from a superficial gaze, matter and spiritual order are not a mutually exclusive dichotomy, but rather the opposite, since everything human beings have imagined and produced throughout thousands of years, and to which they must permanently recur throughout their entire existence is precisely the most remarkable product of their spirit, which is, alongside the power of speech, the main thing that sets them apart from other living beings.

Everything human beings have imagined and produced throughout thousands of years is precisely the most remarkable product of their spirit, which is, alongside the power of speech, the main thing that sets them apart from other living beings.

The oldest hominid-made tool found up until the present day is more than three million years old. A basic stone axe was gradually joined by other tools —scrapers, spear and arrowheads, hooks and harpoons—, made of stone to begin with, and then of animal horns and bones, innovations which did not arise effortlessly and spontaneously, but rather were incorporated over thousands of years of accumulated activity.

These tools helped human beings obtain their food and make clothing. Originally, they were strictly utilitarian tools. However, starting from a certain time, supplementary details begin to appear which could be classified as merely ornamental, were it not for the difficulty of their creation, given that in addition to requiring highly-developed observational skills, they took many hours of thorough dedication, conditions that suggest they were not a side concern.

Going further in this regard, artefacts also started to appear which were unrecognisable from the point of view of utility, but which could have a purely aesthetic value, should we need to define them according to known categories. Used as decorative elements, they could be the shell of a marine species regularly eaten by the human group. However, the mystery thickens when the species in question is neither edible nor belongs to the immediate environment, but rather has been brought from a far distant sea (considering the concept of distance in the remote past) with their only apparent value being their shape and colour, together with their particular material consistency.

To have created him or herself is the greatest achievement of the human being.

It is impossible for present-day human beings to feel that particular type of necessity which would equate the strictly utilitarian, essential for survival, with what could be considered purely ornamental. It is not enough to explain that these fine things, along with body decoration and singing and dancing, were simply momentary caprices or the result of occasional expansiveness, given that, in those critical early times, each milestone in any field whatsoever required thousands of years of uninterrupted effort.

To complete the picture, the notion that the journey is more important than the destination is also applicable, if we are talking about living, because while this being with obscure origins was working with flints, their most important achievement was something about which they had no idea: their own transformation into a higher-order being.

To have created him or herself is the greatest achievement of the human being.

In accordance with the premise of the Museo Bikoitza [Double Museum] project to base itself on the STM collection, and being aware of the concept of art in its own sense, “Magic, matter and need” is an opportunity to take a look at the world of material production in the immediate territorial and temporal surroundings of Gipuzkoa, with a particular emphasis on certain peculiar characteristics of its entrepreneurial initiative that have influenced its appearance and development.

"Magic, matter and need is an opportunity to take a look at the world of material production in the immediate territorial and temporal surroundings of Gipuzkoa.

What makes an idea arise and establish itself? What makes the family-based community itself become deeply involved in maintaining generational continuity in the undertaking, often at the cost of reinvesting profits —meaning more work and more worry in the first instance—, instead of taking the easy route of accumulating money, as Pepe Múgica would say, via the get-rich-quick culture? These are rewarding questions to ask ourselves in touristifying times of poorly paid jobs without much future in the service sector.

Could it be that there are other beneficial options apart from those of Scrooge McDuck and Manolito from the Mafalda comic strip, to name just the jolliest exponents of this triumphantly celebrated pathology?

For someone brought up with the idea that an ironmonger’s is a very big toyshop, Patricio Echeverría, David Olañeta, the Calparsoros and Amunárrizes or that unique forward-thinker, José Ignacio López de Arriortúa, represent a concise sample of the engine of wonder which has been made by us and which we comprise (and we must also add that, luckily, and straining flat out against the elements, the saga goes on)."

Jose Mari Zabala

The result of more than 50 years’ activity, the work of Jose Mari Zabala (1949) focusses on the critical interpellation of the immediate day-to-day in the Basque Country, using ordinary technological media of mass consumption and dissemination —video, sound, photography, cinema, drawing, graphic art—, with a preference for the generic and popular on non-prestigious media. His interest revolves around the human essential, paying attention to what is known as day-to-day, ordinary, unimportant, banal, often from the edges of marginalisation, developing operational praxes closely linked to the paradoxical and disruptive.

His works are thematically and contextually very diverse. Although it appears contradictory, those of his works which are most widely disseminated are often anonymous. His work is conceived in direct relation to the specific historical moment, as a means of counterpoint, and it is characterised by proposing very diverse alternative tailor-made models of thematic, methodological and operative approximation.

 

 

 


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