“Not so ephemeral: The impact of that which is perishable.”

By Eduardo Laporte
El Correo, Bilbao. Territorios de la Cultura.
Saturday, December 19, 2009

“Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” reads a famous painting by surrealist artist Magritte. This is not a pipe, but what we see is indeed a pipe, or a canvas with the representation of a pipe. Is it a pipe? Can we smoke with it? Not really. Is ephemeral the so-called ephemeral art? Is ephemeral the first kiss, the very first one, just because it lasts a few seconds? What if it remains in our mind for many years? Something similar is happening to art in general and, in particular, to its ephemeral manifestation. As usually happens with regard to artistic issues, it is not easy to define the ‘ephemeral concept.’ (…)

The world as canvas

Who is who in this ephemeral world? Castro Florez prefers to talk of “process art,” which goes beyond the temporal concept of the work, as in Francis Alys’ pieces where, without losing its “spectacle” or “deconstruction,” he moved a sand dune, literally, with the help of many people and many shovels, in Mexico City. He titled this action, “When Faith Moves Mountains.” Castro Florez also mentions the work of Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Hirschorn and Isidoro Valcarcel Medina. (…)

The whole world seems to be not only reason for inspiration but also the biggest exhibition space. That’s how we understand the latest creative challenge by Gema Alava, artist from Madrid, resident in New York, who has presented a singular project entitled ‘Find Me.’ Alava convinced some of the most highly recognized artists in the USA and in the art market, such as Robert Ryman, Ester Partegas and Lawrence Weiner, to give her, generously, a small artwork, in order for her to hide the pieces -- a twist to ephemerality’s concept, which also plays with the idea of secrets. Ester Partegas’ garbage bags -with different smiley faces- were ephemeral; as were the paper planes made out of one dollar bills by Lars Chellberg placed on trees; and Maria Yoon’s round cookies, with her portrait painted with colorants and sugar. Not so ephemeral (because they remain) were other artworks strategically placed in different locations of the North American geography.

On October 8th, the artist gathered the press and general public and invited them to participate in this original game -- food-for-thought for a Paul Auster or Vila-Matas novel. Several clues were given in order to discover the valuable objects; insufficient clues though since, as of today, many of the pieces remain exactly where Gema Alava placed them. The artist herself traveled to San Francisco, to the conflicted Tenderloin District, and camouflaged five of the ten pieces of ‘Find Me.’ One of them is a book made by Alava entitled ‘Find Me 2.0.,’ which contains the exact coordinates where all of the artworks were released. This book remains hidden in the public library of the neighborhood. (…) It might not be a bad idea to focus on trying to get ahold of this book, not just because of the poetic view of this adventure, but also because of the monetary point of view. Meanwhile, the little painting by Ryman remains hidden in an Art School of New York. “It’s the place that Ryman chose. Where it is located is safe and it will remain there for a very long time, I believe,” maintains Alava.




c) Gema Alava 2008