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Dora García

Golden Sentences, 2003. Reality is a Very Persistent Illusion, 2003

Installation | Painted letters with gold leafs on wall
Dimensions variable

The series of Golden Sentences initiated in 2001 consists tautologically in a number of single sentences written in letters of gold leaf applied directly to the wall.

The subjects of these aphorisms are always linked to common sense, in regard to which they are able to perform a slightly destabilizing function. Art is for everyone but only the elite know it  (2001), The future must be dangerous (2005-09), It is not the past, but the future, that determines the present (2007) and A good question should avoid an answer at all costs (2009) are exemples of sentences that through irony, underlined by the burlesque choice of material and color that lends them an immaterial preciosity, propose a way of looking at the world. But the reader cannot tell whether this view of the world expresses a profound wisdom or is instead just a witticism or a provocation.

The statement in the Cal Cego collection is popularly ascribed to no less a person than Albert Einstein, but detached from his didactic-scientific language it is as efficaciously ambiguous as the anonymous graffiti on the walls of the city, the kind that sometimes halt us in our tracks as we walk along a street, pausing to read them again and ask ourselves questions. These truisms are not quotations, even when they are words that have been pronounced by someone: when the linguistic and thematic context of origin is left out, they present themselves to the reader simply as potential gimmicks of thought. The Golden Sentences encapsulate the idea that Dora García has of culture: never split between highbrow and lowbrow, a source of givens and questions, a basis for doubt.

As happens in her performances, the Golden Sentences do not have a preestablished language, but have to be translated into the tongue spoken in the context of their exposition. Dora García leaves no room for linguistic incomprehension, preferring to leave as much space as possible for doubt over their interpretation. When not for doubt over their moral significance; as in the case of her 2009 book whose cover bore nothing but its title in large letters, Steal This Book (or Robe este libro). Devoted to the documentation of a series of performances, but at the same time a homage to the leftwing political activist Abbie Hoffman, who had written a polemical work with the same title, García’s book was intended both as a sculptural presence that could be stolen from exhibition spaces and as a publication on her work available to anyone interested, who was able to buy it at the bookstore.

Above and beyond the challenge issued to the viewer and the provocation toward the institution of the museum, in its role as the “guardian” of knowledge, this ambiguity between title and inducement to subversive action also reflects Dora García’s desire to work by means of Messages, Instructions, Questions, as is aptly summed up by the title of a solo exhibition she held at the FRAC Bourgogne, curated by Eva Gonzalez-Sancho in 2005.

Recently her linguistic interests have intersected with another theme of research that is fundamental to her poetics, the history of anti-institutional movements, with particular focus on the birth of anti-psychiatry. Study of specific linguistic characteristics clinically ascribed to schizophrenia (such as the lack of interest in a socially conventional use of spoken language, asyndetic coordination—i.e. terms that follow one another without a coordinating conjunction—or the distortion of words in relation to their metonymic value) has led her to point out a very strong parallel with the linguistic experiments to be found in art ever since the time of the avant-garde movements. This is yet another point of view from which Dora García chooses to raise questions about the social role of the artist, poised between cult personality and socially marginal figure, and the capacity of art to communicate.

Eva Fabbris


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