The book you are holding in your hands contains a series of images that contain other images. Arrayed across the surface of a refrigerator, these images are at once strange, improbable and familiar. They feature patterns, dancers, potted plants, minimalist-looking objects, the cropped belly of a giraffe, film stills, a bicycle, etc. Associated as such, I am inclined to wonder why they are together, just what are they trying to tell me? But the harder I look at them, the more I realize that something is not quite right with the picture of which they form a part, and I am not quite sure where to begin with them. Do I begin with the content of the images themselves? The fact that they are on a refrigerator? Or how they are arranged? Interestingly, no single point of entry seems more important than another other, or, to put it in another way, each point of entry seems to aggressively claim equal significance. Pulled in three different directions at once, the images seem to disappear, oddly enough, into images, which never fully disappear.
Let us begin with the way they are presented on the refrigerator. They seem to be arranged like so many notes, as if someone were inserting these images—either developed like photos, printed up from the net, or cut out of a variety of sources like the newspaper—into their domestic space in order to temporarily live with them. Maybe test them out. Alternatively, they seem like they could be the kind of images found tacked up on the walls of an artist’s studio, like so many ideas, sources of inspiration, and adumbrations, ontologically very much of the order of the sketch. In other words, they possess a casual, offhand quality. And yet on closer inspection, the arrangement of the images is not so casual. This lack of casualness is most conspicuously betrayed by the fact that the images sometimes bridge the gap between the doors of the freezer and the refrigerator, and thus prevent the two separate compartments of the refrigerator from being individually opened. Temporarily sutured as such, the refrigerator becomes less a domestic object, than a kind of dispositif, a distinctly aestheticized and aesthetic space that comes with a specific set of aesthetic conventions. Or maybe not so much conventions as aesthetic precedents that eventually become conventions (something which alludes to a truth potentially buried at the heart of these images: the apparent impossibility of the casual image), such as the billboard. And yet, a site of apparent chance and random accumulation, the billboard has already been processed into a convention, governed by easily identifiable rules, i.e., chance, randomness, and possible, as opposed to premeditated, association. What makes these conventions all the more salient as such is the sense that this refrigerator surface could also be a webpage, a blog, or a magazine spread availing itself of the billboard convention. Curiously, the moment one recognizes this, the images all but leave the home, forfeiting their situated physicality (in the kitchen) and evanesce into the ether of the web, totally flattening out.
But what of the content of the images themselves? Largely of the order of the detail, the images, which tend to share a kind of vintage-style aesthetic, are pretty obscure. In one I see a professorial type with glasses possibly from the 50s while in another, which seems to be much older, I see a figure holding a cobblestone apparently pulled loose from a cobblestone street (a nod, presumably to May 68: Sous les pavés, la plage), his faced cropped out, with his body flanked by the legs and patent leather shoes of a nearby figure. Otherwise the images seem to be composed of patterns, details of strange, unidentifiable objects and cultural artifacts, the odd plant. Images, such as a potted plant and another of what seems to be tile pattern, repeat (indeed in one image the refrigerator seems to contain all the images dispersed throughout all the others, as if it were quite literally ‘a heap of images’—an image which, more aggressively than any other, flattens the vertical space of the refrigerator into a horizontal space seen as if from directly above). If I am familiar with the work of galería perdida, I will recognize details from certain pieces and motifs that reappear throughout their practice (the marimba they built for the exhibition that will accompany this show; a symmetrical fragment of wooden floor from another; the plastic woven craft-like designs that are known to feature in numerous of their pieces, etc), but if I don’t know their work, the content of these images will remain fundamentally obscure and anonymous to me.
However, something tells me that galería perdida wants it this way, deliberately courts the evocative anonymity of the fragment, of the detail, as if that were somehow the potential destiny of all culture and cultural artifact, a destiny that was both immediate and distant, and which, perhaps most importantly, paralleled the life of every object and image. Was somehow intrinsic to it, hidden within plain sight within it—an exoticism that was at once both hypothetical and utterly real. But that is only one half of a paradox contained in on the surface of this refrigerator, the other half of which was already sketched out: the impossibility of the casual image. While anonymity would seem to preclude the possibility of deliberateness, of specific content and meaning and thus guarantee casualness, these images and their inherently exotic appeal, seem to think otherwise. Fragmented, anonymous, exotic, inscrutable, reminiscent of sketches and adumbrations, and finally, totally protean, nothing, they seem to tell us, could be more finished, wholly and completely definite.
Chris Sharp is a writer and independent curator currently based in Mexico City, where he co-directs the project space Lulu with the artist Martin Soto Climent.