Dispersal dynamics in an invading population

The video work Crossfade focuses on two types of mass migration between South America and Europe, comparing the process of population expansion in human beings with the expansion dynamics of populations in nature.

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas was an event that would irrevocably change the course of history of mankind. By the time the first explorers had landed, an invasion of the continent had already become inevitable. For sixteenth century Europeans, America became a screen onto which they could project their fantasies of discovering a new Eden. Many of them lost their lives in pursuit of this illusion, while many Native Americans lost theirs in a struggle to defend their way of life. One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare.

In the early twentieth century, the accidental arrival of a species of ant in Europe drastically modified the coastal environment of the European Mediterranean. Shiploads of Argentinean grain, sugar and wood exported to Europe brought with them the species Linepithema Humile, also known as the Argentine ant. This ant is notorious not only for its exceptional reproductive capacity, but also as an invader that kills and enslaves other native species. From Genoa to the Atlantic coast of Portugal, a stretch of nearly 5,600 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast, there exists a super-colony of Argentine ants.

Crossfade –video still–

duration: 6’ 30’’ min and 16′ 30” min / system: HD Pal – Color / audio: Stereo Digital

history as told (text – English)

The work has been presented at Junge Kunst e.V. Wolfsburg, Germany in 2012, at Q21, MuseumsQuartier Vienna, Austria 2014, different galleries in London, Berlin and Vienna as well as the Daegu Photo Biennale 2018, South Korea.

see also Crossfade book from Kerber Verlag

Crossfade –video still–
Crossfade –installation view, Junge Kunstverein, Wolfburg–
Crossfade –video still–
Crossfade –collage–
Crossfade –Zufall, drawing, mixed pens on color paper–
Crossfade –collage–
Crossfade –installation view, MuseumsQuartier, Vienna–
Crossfade –installation view, MuseumsQuartier, Vienna–
Crossfade –installation view, MuseumsQuartier, Vienna–


Lotería Nacional

México City

Lotería Nacional presents Mexico’s socio-political situation from the perspective of the artist, who makes use of theoretical speculations regarding methodologies of archeology and the social sciences in order to develop interventions in public space, drawings, videos, and objects. The reflections presented revolve around the idea of “reality” as a socio-cultural construct and are firmly connected to central aspects of Mexican society that go beyond its basic political or religious structures.

The project is divided into three chapters or “moments” that appropriate public space and its symbolic structural meaning. Various artistic strategies are employed to achieve this including placarding graphic works along the avenue of Colonia Sta Maria La Ribera, gaining closer access to urban situations via video documentation, or the intervention with megaphones from a wagon selling scrap metal in order to communicate a new message.

In the exhibition space at La Miscelanea University UNARTE, Puebla, Mexico, the three moments outlined above are presented concurrently in order to establish a formal and thematic dialogue between the works. The chanting of demonstrators from 8. November 2014 (in Video 1) serves as background for the organ music, which accompanies the restorers working on the facade of the National Government Palace (Video 2). Through a megaphone lying on the ground, the voice from Moment III, systematically repeats the listing of methodological actions associated with digging and excavating an object.

Lotería Nacional –exhibition view–

Acción Día de Muertos

Protests over the “disappeared” students in Ayotzinapa took place under the slogan “They took them alive, we want them back alive.” Given the political circumstances and the strong presumption that the students are dead, the demand “of wanting everyone back alive” becomes an impossible request. While the all-or-nothing nature of the demand remains legitimate, it exposes a radical ideological structure that is determined wholly by chance and a reality that more closely approximates a game of Russian roulette. Under these circumstances relying on fundamental human rights is imperative.

The phrase “43 or nothing” was drawn on forty-three pages of the Mexican National Lottery’s infobooklet. These were installed in public space along the Colonia Santa Maria La Ribera during nighttime placarding actions on November 1-2, 2014. In the lottery’s symbolism the number 43 is a metaphor for balcony, connected here to the meaning of the popular Mexican term balconear.

Balconear is vernacular for “standing on the balcony” or trying to conceal something obvious.

Acción Día de Muertos -view–
Acción Día de Muertos -view–
Acción Día de Muertos -view–
Acción Día de Muertos -view–
Acción Día de Muertos -production–

8 de Noviembre

The various social and political levels of representation that can be detected in the physical constitution of a city reveal the structures of power and order to which society is subjected. Cultural expressions often reflect these structures on a superficial level. On November 8, 2014, a group of anarchists among the demonstrators protesting Ayotzinapa spray painted anarchist slogans on the facade of the National Government Palace in Mexico City, and tried to burn down the gates while chanting: “Death to the government, long live anarchy.” On November 8, 1519, Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma II met at the same location for the first time. The National Government Palace was built with stones from the palace of Moctezuma II, after it was attacked, looted, and destroyed by Hernán Cortés.

The work 8 de Noviembre consists of two video projections and a table “adorned” with diagrams, on top of which is situated a model of the National Government Palace with burned gates. The first video shows television footage of the incident on November 8, 2014. On the opposite side of the gallery a second video projection shows a group of restorers at work on the facade of the National Government Palace.

8 de Noviembre –video still–
8 de Noviembre –installation view–
8 de Noviembre –video still–
8 de Noviembre –installation view–
8 de Noviembre –installation view–

Compra-Venta / Cavar-Fosa

Every archaeological method can be reduced to the banal action of digging a hole. But the act of digging a hole is not archaeological per se. Both Mexico City as well as Tenochtitlan were built on the premise of covering existing structures with stones in order to create a new physical and symbolic structure embodying the social, political, and cultural values of the “new” rulers. Over time, it is necessary to uncover again what was once buried in order to rewrite history.

Compra-Venta / Cavar-Fosa is a sound intervention in the form of a wagon for selling scrap metal, where the typical announcing of objects offered for sale is substituted by a listing of historical or forensic reconstruction techniques. The voice speaks methodically about the digging and excavating of “objects,” which is the basis for current materialistic culture and represents the most effective way of generating myths.

Compra-Venta / Cavar-Fosa –video still–
Compra-Venta / Cavar-Fosa –video still–
Compra-Venta / Cavar-Fosa –video still–
Compra-Venta / Cavar-Fosa –video still–

See also:

Publication ARTMargins (MIT Press)

A Diagram is a Trivial Machine –ARTMargins–
A Diagram is a Trivial Machine –ARTMargins–
A Diagram is a Trivial Machine –ARTMargins–

Three Anachronisms


The video installation, “Three Anachronisms,” is a trilogy produced between 2010 and 2014 by Mario Asef, in which the artist reflects on three aspects of the constitution of reality. 1. The appropriation and structure of space. 2. The construction of time. 3. The relationship among information, nature and culture. This trilogy, however, is not a philosophical treatise showing the functioning of these categories. Rather, the reality that Asef observes is constituted by deficiencies in three different orders: paradox, coincidence and failure.The urge to wonder about reality occurs in advance, in the formal aspects of the work. Similar to a documentary, Asef dispenses with the staging. The facts are distant so that the artist can modify them directly. The fixed camera and the presence of common places (the terrace, the museum, the plaza), confirm that here the camera is negotiating with what is put in charge without preamble. The presence of a theoretical body, which is the basis for his work, the constant readings of sociological, philosophical and archaeological theories, construct the objectivist building from which Asef casts on reality.

Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–
Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–

The exhibit’s title reveals that the work is composed of three parts and in turn indicates how the parts relate to each other. Although the three videos were produced over a continuous period of time, the relationship among them is neither temporal nor spatial. Like a medieval altar with its wings unfurled, where each part of the triptych represents different events occurring in different spaces and times, building a narrative that links different events, so do Asef’s videos present singular facts. On the whole, however, the trilogy builds a representation of the events of Asef’s research (social reality as a construct). The variety of approaches, contexts and reflections come to change and destabilize reality itself, exposing its shortcomings.

Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–
Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–
Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–

However, Asef demonstrates, this building is full of cracks and at risk of collapse: reality and objectivity come to be refuted from the realm of words. With the use of language, Asef separates the image from his documentary content and purpose. In each of the videos, the text does not run as a subtitle, but as the title, positioned in the center of the image itself, breaking the hegemony, enthroned in the middle of our field of vision.

Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–
Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–
Three Anachronisms –installation view, wild palms, Kühlhaus Berlin–

While the use of textual-visuals make the ground of the building tremble, irony – an important feature in Asef’s work – completely destroys this building. Heir to the Argentine literary tradition, where the derision on reality allows hyper-real worlds to open that never stop reproducing themselves (Cortazar and Borges), Asef destabilizes images, concepts and categories with which we build the platforms to travel reality. To provoke laughter, Asef allows us to enter a new order of the visual and begin to think the unthinkable.

Jorge Sanguino


See also:

Mausoleum text (Spanish / English)

Three Anacronisms –Aus Fernen Welten I, drawing on book page–
Three Anacronisms –Aus Fernen Welten I, drawing on book page–


Maniere Noire, Berlin

I often think that there is no explanation needed to understand the very essence of the real. Its inconsistency. Its sharpness. In this way working with language presents a struggle. Language is uncomfortable terrain for expresing ideas beyond that terrain. However the deft use of language can be a strong instrument for mastering reality. Language is a tool, which allows us to navigate the real world.

”Objekte sind operationale Relationen im Prozess des Sprachhandelns” (Objects are operational relations within the process of verbal activity) is the title of my exhibition at the Maniere Noire Berlin. We enter the exhibition space and see to our left a sentence painted on the wall with a brush that reads: “Der Boden der tatsachen ist ein Spinnennetz” (The ground of facts is a spider web). We can compare the relational structure of the consistency of our truths to nets made of thin threads connecting the facts that support our reality. We walk on safe ground, when we move from fact to fact, we might think. But it is fragile ground constructed of words and symbols; a text; the narrative that built our reality. The gaps between those symbols however are what becomes relevant here. We are confronted with a kind of perforated reality which we move though ignoring the openings.

Statements –installation view, Maniere Noire, Berlin–

There is a fan plugged in on the same wall. It is on and the wind it’s producing is strong.

On the opposite wall we read: “Eine These ist ein japanischer Garten” (A thesis is a Japanese garden). So the land we are walking on is drawing us through a pathway especially designed to show us a specific articulation of the space that is equal to the linguistic articulation of our thoughts. Meaning: A thesis is a spatial/linguistic articulation of some truths. And of course our truth is the consistency we build between the physical and the mental world. The path is our truth: the narrative through which we see the world.

Statements –installation view, Maniere Noire, Berlin–

On this wall another identical fan is blowing wind in the opposite direction. Our hair swirls…

Is this a visual symmetry built out of asymmetrical assertions? A garden, a thesis, a spider web, the ground of facts; these terms are scattered throughout the space.

A framed drawing is hanging on a third grey wall. The drawing shows four interconnected equations as follows: “an image is a diagram – a diagram is a narrative – a narrative is a machine – a machine is an image” There lines connect inter-equational terms. We speculate on the legitimacy of those equations until we realize they function as a way of defining their own function within the drawing. Meaning; the drawing is defining itself. The drawing itself is an image that is a diagram and a narrative and a machine at once. The work becomes self-referential.

Statements –installation view, Maniere Noire, Berlin–

Lines, pathways and spider webs form the narrative of our physical and mental reality. On this aspect of the exhibition Ernesto Estrella asked: “what does a line think?” He has previously discussed the issue of “…where the line appears…” and that it “… seems to have the function of bringing back language a little closer to its materiality, even to remind those inked decisions that there is a void around them, that “…Those lines need to be handled with care, and cannot always be trusted. So the best thing we can do is to approach the ear, the eye, and ask them what they are thinking in there. For there will be no better clues for understanding and enjoying the unbalanced garden they are part of.”

Statements –detail, Maniere Noire, Berlin–

In Jorge Luis Borges tale “The Disk” an old man asks a woodcutter for asylum. He said he was the king of the Secgens, of the Odin people, and had lost his kingdom. He said he would prove it. Then he opened his hand to show something to the woodcutter who, seeing nothing, touched it and felt something cold and saw it glitter.
”It is the disk of Odin,” the old man said in a patient voice, as though he were speaking to a child. “It has but one side. There is not another thing on earth that has but one side. So long as I hold it in my hand I shall be king.“ I may add: …not even a drawing.

Statements –detail, Maniere Noire, Berlin–

It becomes evident that the show is centered on the interface and the interconnection between words-images-objects. Each work defines itself while defining this relationship. So, for example, the invitation card for the exhibition with the title tells us what is actually happening in the space: Objects are operational relations within the process of verbal activity.

As Humberto Maturana notes: “there are no objects outside the field of language”. So Henri Lefebvre’s idea that our cities are texts within which we are moving around is not a metaphor but a fact. And yet they are more than just texts. Urban landscapes respond to a narrative, which we are supposed to interact with. And so we do.

Read more >

See also:  / Maniere Noire/ Brookling Rail / Voice Republic >

Statements –installation view, Maniere Noire, Berlin–
Statements –installation view front window, Maniere Noire, Berlin–
Statements –installation view, Maniere Noire, Berlin–
Statements –book, Maniere Noire, Berlin–


The Mystery and the Wonder

Kasa Gallery – Istanbul

The Mystery and the Wonder almost follows the lead of visualising a long lost space. By presenting the Zenon paradox of the ancient hero Achilles and the turtle, Asef re-narrates the disappearance of the city of Byzantium. The paradox describes a race between the two, which end in the infinity of algebraic analysis. This textual work is confronted with the legend of the history of the palace Dolmabahçe in Istanbul –a building formed from the immaterial, whose factoring was based on the Sultans order to print more money, because the financial capacity of the city has already been exhausted.

The Mystery and the Wonder, graphic, Kasa Gallery, Istanbul

The Mystery of Achilles

The city of Byzantium, founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC was to form the nucleus of one of the greatest centre of civilization in the history of mankind.

The ancient authors refer to a number of important buildings but their form and location remain unspecified. According to them the city house the famous Baths of Achilles, located immediately adjacent to the Strategion.

In the Zenon paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise, we imagine the Greek hero Achilles in a footrace with the plodding reptile. Because he is such a fast runner, Achilles graciously allows the tortoise a head start of a 100 feet. The tortoise runs in 1sec time 1/10 of the distance Achilles do. So,  the footrace stars and Achilles runs the 100 feet. In this time the tortoise runs 10 feet. Achilles runs that 10 feet and the tortoise runs 1 feet. Achilles runs that feet and the tortoise 0.1 feet and so on never-ending. Achilles can never overtake the tortoise.

We have to remark that, to make this footrace possible, the participants have to reduce their own size becoming smaller and smaller until de-materializing themselves.

It is told that up to this days Achilles is still running his footrace against the tortoise in an endlessly small Byzantium.

The Wonder of Dolmabahçe

The famous painter Melling visited Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Mahmut II and the wooden palace is represented in many of his prints. After Mahmut II, Sultan Abdülmecit came to stay at the palace. He ordered to be rebuilt in a western fashion between 1843 and 1856. For this purpose Abdülmecit took a credit of  3.500 Kurus, enough to buy paper and ink to print 3.500.000 Kurus to pay the built of the palace.

Dolmabahçe actually means ‘the filled garden’. The Palace is built on land reclaimed from the Bosphorus, hence its name and its materialization appears from the abstract world of infinit numbers became money and transferred into stones and handcraft to finally built a building in our presence.

The Mystery and the Wonder, installation view, Kasa Gallery, Istanbul
The Mystery and the Wonder, detail installation view, Kasa Gallery, Istanbul
The Mystery and the Wonder, installation view, Kasa Gallery, Istanbul
The Mystery and the Wonder, drawing, oil crayon on rubber, Kasa Gallery, Istanbul


EMPIRIEN is a series of interventions in public space (1998-2006) that work with the transposition of signs as an idea of reorganizing elements of our urban surroundings. These interventions are reduced to almost imperceptible events that through a redefinition, or reconstruction, of everyday space try to make visible different social mechanisms.

Without previous notice objects will be shifted and replaced in public and semi-public spaces. The users of those places take the initiative and reestablish the ‘normal’ everyday order of things and thereby go about dismantling the interventions.

Dialogue – Sabeth Buchmann & Mario Asef (text)

Ferry Bus Station, Hong Kong Central / Materials: twenty-five meters of thread /

In the Lorentz transformation, if the X´-axis opposite the X-axis is rotated around the zero point “0,” all points of the X´-axis (except 0‘) vanish from the observer’s experiential realm in reference system S into the fourth dimension. This seems to contradict all normative experience.

One must imagine, however, that one X‘ -axis passes through each point of the X-axis. This means: we must imagine a plane in Minkowski space that is densely filled with X‘ -axes. Each of these comes from another time and is present simultaneously—even when an observer in S discerns just one point of each axis, namely the one point located on his own X-axis.

Brownie Ranch
Balzac Coffee, Berlin / Materials: 10800 cm3 of brownies /

After arriving in Berlin in 2000, I began working at a bakery where I specialized in making brownies. At that time, I developed a system of cutting brownie sections in the baking pan that represented the proportions of a primitive hut in 1:50 scale.

I assembled the prototype only once in the bakery, later offering the pieces for sale.

Europe Towers
Bausch & Lomb storage, Walldorf / Materials: six pallets of ninety-one boxes each; Lot N* 800523/547 /

Over the course of two workdays, I restacked 546 boxes of optical medical products from DIN pallets onto Euro pallets. The boxes were stacked according to a system similar to the distribution of housing units in high-rise apartment buildings, which allowed the same quantity of boxes to be stacked on the smaller Euro pallets, while making them more stable at the same time.

Two days later the Europe Towers were dispatched to Holland together with the rest of the stock.

Arbeitsamt Südwest, Berlin / Materials: one piece of furniture /

In a job-center in Berlin, a temporary ramp had been installed to transport files between the first floor and the basement. While waiting for a work permit, I moved part of the ramp to a corridor in the basement.

Sleeping Policeman and a Hole
US-military base, Heidelberg-Pfaffengrund / Materials: approx. 0.98 m3 earth /

Much has been written on the history of metaphors. Little is known about their materialization. There are objects in this world for which one prefers to use metaphors, since their true meaning extends beyond the functions or physical outline that they describe.

I dug a hole on the property of the US military airport in Heidelberg (Germany). The earth was placed on a bike path on German territory and served as a bump for reducing bicycle speed.

Fragile – handle with care / appropriation /
Covent Garden, London / Materials: nine cardboard boxes /

On the evening of February 21, 2004, nine cardboard boxes intended as improvised accommodations were set up in front of the Covent Garden Theater Museum in London. The morning after, the camera recorded how the homeless had appropriated the intervention.

A street artist performed a comedy in front of it.

Eixo Monumental Via N1 Oeste, Brasilia, Brazil / Materials: forty-eight meters of rope + one sign

* to move, relocation; change
(Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva in his first official speech as president of Brazil on January 1, 2003.)

Farmers belonging to the Movimento sem Terra (Movement of Landless People) of Brazil took over state land on April 22 in the satellite city of São Sebastião, near the capital city of Brasilia. By the time I arrived, people were already demarcating property lines and clearing the lots.

Take your Time
Long Tsai Tsuen, Hung Shing Yeng, Lamma Island, Hong Kong / Materials: six dustbins

Lü Dong Bin, one of eight immortal Taoists, is believed to have lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). One time while traveling, as he waited for his porridge in an inn, he fell asleep and saw his future life before him. When Lü Dong Bin awoke, eighteen years had past and he decided to live as a hermit.

Fox fur / donation /
Museum of Natural History, Berlin / Materials: one fox fur

On March 11, 2000, I bought a fox fur. I kept it and took care of it in my apartment.
On July 1, 2001, I donated the fur to the Museum of Natural History, Berlin.
The museum administration was not interested in keeping the specimen.

Tieckstrasse 5, Berlin / Materials: three plastic chests + three wooden chests /

According to Jorge Luis Borges (in his story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius), certain objects exist in the utopian land of Tlön that are merely projections of human will. For example, if somebody has lost a jewel box and several people go searching for it, it is possible that each person will find the box, but in different places. This implies a multiplication of the object. Such multiplied objects are called hrönirs and are characterized by a peculiar, barely noticeable deformation that distinguishes them from the original. If a hrönir is lost, and its duplicate then found, one will notice an even stronger transformation due to the function of human memory. Such objects are called hröns.

One could hypothesize that the entire variety of objects that make up our cosmos come from ONE original object that has been modified and multiplied by the projection of human will throughout the centuries.

Hagar Qim Temple, Malta / Materials: one rope + two racks /

On the island of Malta, a rope and two racks were placed in front of the archeological site of Hagar Qim. These framed two stones coincidentally situated in front of the temple entrance.

St. Clement Danes, Central Church of the Royal Air Force, London / Materials: one carpet /

In Whitechapel, London, I bought an oriental carpet in an Arabian bazaar.
Lost in the labyrinth of the city, I embarked on a pilgrimage for hours in the opposite direction of Mecca, finally placing the carpet at the St. Clement Danes, Central Church of the Royal Air Force.

Bastón / donation /
Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin / Materials: one walking stick /

On January 21, 1999, I bought a walking stick and carried it around with me for some time.
Years later, I donated the walking stick to the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin.
The museum administration was not interested in keeping the exhibit.

Volkshochschule Mitte, Berlin / Materials: ten tables /

Since Pyrrho claimed there is no truth to the reality of sensorial things, the legend circulated that he would not avoid things standing in his way or horses or wagons approaching him, or he would even walk into walls in the conviction there is nothing consistent about sensorial perceptions. Only his friends, it is said, prevented and saved him from all sorts of foolhardy collisions.

See also books >


„Wir werden zur Beobachtern, indem wir rekursiv Repräsentationen unserer Interaktionen erzeugen. Dadurch, daß wir mit mehreren Repräsentationen gleichzeitig interargieren, erzeugen wir Relationen, mit deren Repräsentationen wir sodann integrieren können. Diesen Prozess können wir rekursiv wiederholen, verbleiben damit aber immer in einem Interaktionsbereich, der größer ist als der Bereich der Repräsentationen.“2

Para el biólogo chileno Humberto R. Maturana la función esencial que poseen la descripciones es nada menos que la de crear un ‚medio’ por el cual interactuamos con nuestro entorno – ya sea natural o social.

Los seres humanos somos seres racionales que utilizamos el lenguaje para interactuar con el mundo. Es decir que antes de poder establecer una relación con el mundo o con ‚el otro’ necesitamos describirlo, representarlo. De esta forma objetivisamos lo ajeno y lo hacemos a la vez propio para poder manipularlo, para establecer un dialogo, para incorporarnos al mundo. Pero según Maturana no estamos solos en este proceso, todo ser vivo requiere de descripciones para interactuar con su entorno. „Lebende Systeme sind kognitive Systeme, und Leben als Prozess ist ein Prozess der Kognition“3 y mas adelante „ Die Sprache ist die kognitive Bereich des Menschen“4

Vivimos en un medioambiente rodeados de seres vivos que apreciamos y describimos cognitivamente y a su vez somos una descripción de estos seres vivos a través de la cual ellos se comunican con nosotros. Esta interacción es esencial para nuestra supervivencia y es el soporte en el cual nos movemos para realizar nuestro encuentro con el mundo. Esta es la condición ineludible del estar-en-el-mundo.

Pero qué es exactamente esa descripción? Yo la entiendo como una suma de lenguajes que no solo se reduce al lenguaje verbal sino que también es parte esencial del lenguaje gestual, estético, legal / jurídico, político, económico, socia y cultural. Todos estos son niveles descriptivos y son por lo tanto niveles de representación con los cuales interactuamos pero también ‚a través’ de los cuales interactuamos con el entorno. Esta compleja construcción de interrelaciones entre descripciones de las distintas áreas de nuestro entorno y las interrelaciones entre éstas y el entorno físico en las que se implantan es lo que llamamos mundo. Nuestro mundo por consiguiente es una descripción del mundo. Es la ‘idea‘ que nos hemos hecho del mundo. Aunque no debemos entender a esta ‘idea‘ como algo ajeno a nosotros, sino que es el producto de la interrelación entre nuestro entorno y nosotros mismos y está afectada tanto por los estímulos sensoriales como conceptos socio-culturales preconcebidos y las experiencias individuales de cada uno de nosotros. La ‘idea‘ no es algo rígido o perpetuo sino que evoluciona. A medida que a través de nuestras interacciones se transforma también nuestro entorno, nuestra descripción del entorno se transforma con él. De esta manera cada área de descripción posee una historia que es la misma historia que estudiamos en nuestras instituciones académicas para ‚entender’ el estado actual de nuestro entender.

Una descripción es un substituto, un guante con el que tocamos las cosas, un instrumento. „Wir bringen die Welt hervor, die wir leben.“5 Lo paradójico es que solo seamos capaces de interactuar con el mundo interactuando con la descripción del mundo.
Hemos descubierto a través de los siglos que una descripción, una idea, un concepto, una representación, no está meramente atada a su ‚objeto’ referencial sino que puede independizarse y evolucionar en niveles que llamamos ‚abstractos’ y que están aparentemente desliados de lo que llamamos ‚realidad’. Es de este modo que nos vemos forzados a crear descripciones para interactuar con nuestras descripciones generando una nueva dinámica evolutiva que afecta a la vez la producción y evolución de descripciones en otras áreas de nuestra existencia. Así es como una descripción puede alterar el modo de interactuar con ciertas áreas o niveles de nuestro entorno, alterando a veces de manera drástica las jerarquías de interacción perdiendo de esta forma la noción objetiva de si mismo y provocando una situación donde el ser humano es siempre sujeto y su entorno es siempre objeto. Es decir, donde la manipulación se da siempre en un sentido.
Entonces; „Durch Vermengung der Bezugssysteme und dadurch, daß in einem Bereich mit Relationen argumentiert wird, die für ein anderen (Bereich) gelten, läßt sich alles rechtfertigen.“6

Terminamos desenvolviéndonos en una construcción de descripciones de diferentes grados evolucionando ya casi paralelamente al mundo natural que hemos re-construido a imagen y semejanza de nuestras descripciones.

No hay tarea mas ambiciosa y necesaria que la de definir /describir al otro y al mundo. Pero todo acto de descripción implica de por sí un acto de poder. Un intento de supeditar al otro bajo las leyes propias que definen ‘nuestro’ mundo y que nos sitúan en su epicentro. Las descripciones que privilegian nuestros intereses por sobre los intereses del otro – sea un grupo social o un grupo de seres vivientes – y que pueden ser negociadas o bien impuestas. El que define al mundo, el que describe la realidad, decide las normas, clasifica lo bueno y lo malo, juzga los actos y situaciones y ordena las cosas y seres que pueblan la ‘realidad‘. Allí radica la esencia del poder artístico, filosófico y político.

  1. En Alemán: * Descripciones
  2. Humberto R. Maturana, „Biologie der Realität“, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 1502, Frankfurt am Main 1998, Alemania. Página 33: „ Devenimos en observadores en el mismo instante en el cual generamos recursivamente representaciones de nuestras interacciones. Y por tanto que interactuamos al mismo tiempo con varias representaciones, establecemos relaciones entre ellas con las cuales podemos interactuar a través de otras representaciones. Podemos repetir este proceso recursivamente pero nos quedamos siempre en el mismo nivel de interacción que es a su vez mayor que el nivel de sus representaciones.“
  3. Idem; página 32: „Los sistemas vivientes son sistemas cognitivos y la vida como proceso es un proceso cognitivo.“
  4. Idem; página 201: „ El lenguaje es el área cognitiva del ser humano.“
  5. Idem; página 20: „ Nosotros creamos el mundo en que vivimos.“
  6. Idem; página 92: „ Por medio de la multiplicación de los sistemas de referencia y debido a que en un area se argumenta con relaciones que son válidas en otras areas es posible justificar todo.“

See also: Three Anachronisms, Statements

What does a line think?

Statements – exhibition view Manière Noire, Mario Asef © 2015

Language is not a welcoming land, as much as we tend to forget about it in daily communication. Reality is also not a welcoming machinery, though it seems that we have grown used to its rusty hinges. Mario Asef’s work detains both language and reality (the cultural engine that produces it) with a minimal intervention that modifies their landscape. He respects the structural elements of language or cultural situations, he studies them. And then he introduces a slight modification that provokes a twist, a bristle that detains some elements of our cultural structure in an unexpected angle. Finally, he puts them back to roll into the structure, now affected and changed, and, most of all, exposed to our perception. The ground of facts is a spiderweb (Der Boden der Tatsachen ist ein Spinnennetz), we read in one of his statements, which could easily be understood under the logic of the aphorism. Common sense is a fragile territory, and our security cannot be anymore established in the ground of facts. Language also abandons part of its power here, and there is rarely a statement in Mario Asef’s work that is not slightly touched, brought back from its bombastic character into a natural move. This is also a general trait of his work. Again, something is modified, and our perception and thought are affected, but this is done elegantly. A scarce or apparently casual line drawn there where you would not need it or expect it, can be enough sometimes. In Asef’s pieces danger is not in tragic and dramatic exposures. It lies right before us, in a very small margin that has been taken out or changed.

A thesis is a Japanese Garden (Eine These ist ein japanischer Garden) says the writing on the opposite wall. It would actually be a relief to think that we can bring our walk through the garden to a memorable ending, the hill that offers us the harmonious view of our thoughts and actions. And we might need indeed a breath into this fragile (or solid sometimes) phantasy before going down back to the garden. This closeness and return to the material is a recurrent question in Asef’s work. Be it a brick, a cake, debris, a lottery poster or the ink of words on the page, the materiality of thought is always perceived. Thus, there is never a two-dimensional experience, space, even in a small caress of volume is present. And this is especially striking in his statements, where language thinks (as it happens with the aphorism) within a very small margin of space and through very few elements. But the weight of the word on the white page (which could turn this kind of writing into visual poetry or slogans) is too much, it unbalances sensitivity. And there is where the line appears. It is never a decoration, and its relation to the words is not clearly stated. But it seems to have the function of bringing back language a little closer to its materiality, even to remind this inked decisions that there is a void around them. Casual, programatic, or even ironic or playful sometimes, the lines that appear in Asef’s work create a relational tension that incorporates language but also goes beyond it. Those lines need to be handled with care, and cannot always be trusted. So the best thing we can do is to approach the ear, the eye, and ask them what are they thinking in there. For there will be no better clue to understand and enjoy the unbalanced garden they are part of.

Ernesto Estrella

Manière Noire

 The Author

Ernesto Estrella Cózar is an educator, poet, and musician born in Granada who  has lived in New York between 2000-2012. He completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University, and between 2007 and 2011 he was assistant professor of Contemporary Poetry at Yale University’s Spanish and Portuguese department. Since the spring of 2012 he has turned to Berlin as a second base for his artistic and academic work. As a musician, he concentrates on the voice’s potential to explore the poetic process through sound. In this vein, he has created a wide array of performances that have been presented at international festivals in Argentina, Uruguay, Austria, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Russia, Finland, Latvia and the U.S.  Since his arrival to Berlin, he has been teaching seminars at Potsdam University. Moreover, in 2014 he launched The Voice Observatory, along with sound and conceptual artists Mario Asef and Brandon LaBelle. Funded by Berlin’s Senate, this laboratory of investigation offers regular seminars, workshops and performances related to the voice in its acoustic, communicative, performative, and socio-political dimensions. Most recently, his work in cultural management and civic education has led to the creation of the Nomadic School of the Senses.

Mausoleum – a film –

Mausoleum, video still – Mario Asef © 2013

The gravity of every science lies in the rigorous implementation of its logic. Its principles of verification are inevitably self-referential. This can attest to at least one thing: our existence is the verification of the existence of the cosmos. The scientist’s work could then be equated to that of the translator as he attempts, through his own codes, to unveil the message of the foreign language. For the scientist, however, the foreign language is unknown.

We have learned that deception, dreams and illusions are as fundamental as algebra, machines or the Euclidean space. Since there is no mathematic description of death, someone proposed its nonexistence. Only the fear of death exists, which is even more terrible. The dread of the abyss is the same as that of the unknown.

We have fragmented time into equal numeric portions, dividing the Earth’s movements. We have numbered the beat that determines the rhythm of our bustle. But the most accurate representation of time occurs in death and in the process of organic decomposition –in the constant reproduction and decay of our cells. Time is matter’s internal motor.

There is no fiercer fight than the one against time, even though our defeat is inevitable. Only the sturdiest things persist the passage of time. All the objects filling our museums have been forged through violence, by means of strikes. Like the statue cast in massive granite of King Amenemhet III, they sculpted into his face the features of his successor,thus erasing him from the future. There in lies his real death –we look at the features of one, trying to discern the presence of the other.

True brilliance lies in the unknown, invisible to our eyes but perceptible through our body. If King Amenemhet III could see through his stone eyes, his perception of us, the viewer, would be unrecognizable, even unto ourselves.

Mausoleum, video still – Mario Asef © 2013

Translated into English by Paz Ponce Perez-Bustamante and Heba Amin

– versión original en español –


La gravedad de toda ciencia radica en la implementación rigurosa de su lógica. Su principio de comprobación de la verdad es inevitablemente autorreferencial. Toda autorreferencialidad puede atestiguar al menos una cosa: nuestra existencia es la comprobación de la existencia del cosmos. La labor del científico se podría entonces equiparar a la de un traductor que intenta expresar en los códigos del lenguaje propio el mensaje del lenguaje ajeno; solo que para el científico el lenguaje ajeno es desconocido…

Hemos aprendido que el engaño, el sueño y la ilusión son tan cotidianos como el álgebra, la máquina y el espacio euclidiano. Y ya que no existe una descripción matemática de la muerte alguien propuso que la muerte no existe, solo existe el temor a la muerte que es mucho mas terrible. El terror al abismo es el mismo que al de las cosas ocultas.

Hemos fragmentado al tiempo en porciones numéricas iguales que dividen los movimientos de la tierra. Hemos numerado el compás que marca el ritmo de nuestro trajinar. Pero la representación mas fiel del tiempo se da en la muerte y en los proceso de descomposición orgánica – en la constante reproducción y muerte de nuestras células. El tiempo es el motor interno de la materia. No hay lucha mas feroz que la que establecemos para pretender vencer al tiempo. Aunque solo nos quede la derrota. Solo las cosas robustas subsisten el paso del tiempo. Todos estos objetos que llenan nuestros museos han sido forjados con violencia; a fuerza de golpes. Como la estatua de granito macizo del rey Amenemhet III. Le esculpieron sobre su rostro los rasgos de su sucesor y lo borraron así del futuro. Allí radicó su muerte verdadera. Ahora buscamos en los rasgos de uno la presencia del otro.

El brillo verdadero está en lo desconocido. Lo invisible a nuestros ojos pero audible através de nuestros huesos. En el pensar por ejemplo, que el espíritu del rey Amenemhet III nos mira a través de sus ojos de piedra y lo que él ve es irreconocible aún para nosotros mismos.

CROSSFADE – History as told


The arrival of Europeans in the Americas was an event that would irrevocably change the course of history of mankind. By the time the first explorers had landed, an invasion of the continent had already become inevitable. For sixteenth century Europeans, South America became a screen onto which they could project their fantasies of discovering a new Eden. Many of them lost their lives in pursuit of this illusion, while many Native Americans lost theirs in a struggle to defend their way of life. One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare.

In the early twentieth century, the accidental arrival of a species of ant in Europe drastically modified the coastal environment of the European Mediterranean. Shiploads of Argentinean grain, sugar and wood exported to Europe brought with them the species Linepithema Humile, also known as the Argentine ant. This ant is notorious not only for its exceptional reproductive capacity, but also as an invader that kills and enslaves other native species. From Genoa to the Atlantic coast of Portugal, a stretch of nearly 5,600 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast, there exists a so-called “super-colony” of the Argentine ant.


Crossfade, c-print A4 – Mario Asef © 2012


The Individuals

Since the middle ages Europeans apparently developed a certain “shock and awe” war strategy: an astonishing brutal attack in order to break down the fight spirit of the opponent. The “Hun Speech” of Wilhelm II for example, addressed to the German troops led to the violent suppression of the Boxer rebellion in China in 1900 with the purpose of clearing the way for the German culture once and for all: “No quarter will be given! No prisoners will be taken!“

The Argentine ants are very aggressive and due to their quantity take other ant species without difficulty, even ants that are much larger. Argentine ants are unremorseful and brutally attack their adversaries until the enemy colony is destroyed. Even a nest of killer bees would probably not be able to counter against an invasion of Argentine ants. They also attack bird nests, driving off the mother bird and killing the young.


Crossfade, c-print-collage A4 – Mario Asef © 2012


Changing the Social Organisation

In the early phase of the invasion of South America the Europeans were friendly and cooperative to each other. But as soon as the continent was under control, the different European nationalities started to fight each other. Since the nineteenth century national associations of immigrants in Argentina strained to soften the process of adjustment. Different European communities such as the Basques, Catalans, Italians and French united in mutual aid societies and groups. The new ideas that came with the migrants from Europe led to the rise of the labour movement and allowed for the emergence of anarchism, socialism and syndicalism.

While Argentine ants from rival nests normally fight each other to death in their original habitat, Argentine ants from the super colony in Europe have the ability to recognize each other and to cooperate even if they come from nests at opposite ends of the colony’s range.

The Linepithema Humile is a polygynous and polydomous species which means that one colony can have more than one queen and several habitats. And so, when workers from different colonies meet they do not treat each other as rivals which provides the Argentine ants an evolutionary advantage over other ant species.


Crossfade, drawing A4 – Mario Asef © 2012


The Social Stomach


This drink is made from infused dried leaves of yerba mate (holly Ilex paraguariensis). The term “mate” originally referred to the drinking bowl (from the Quechuan term mati, bottle gourd), but is today used for the drink itself. Drinking mate is traditionally a social event around La Plata River. It is served with a metal straw (bombilla). When mate is drunk in a group, the same bombilla is travelling from mouth to mouth. Mate is offered to every visitor, traveller or friend as a welcoming gesture. Drinking mate is a communicative practice which offers an exchange of information among the participants.


An Argentine ant has more than one stomach. One stomach is for itself, while the other is the crop that is used to feed others. With their mouths pressed together the ants feed each other. The food comes out of one ant‘s crop and into the other ant‘s mouth. Pheromones come with the food and are exchanged as well. They keep information on needs, excitement or danger. Pheromones can also create a bond or friendship between colony members, helping them to work together.


Crossfade, drawing A4 – Mario Asef © 2012


Impact on the Environment

The death of millions of indigenous people during the years of the colonization of South America and further periods of European invasion was not caused alone by physical violence. The massive death rate, which decreased the indigenous population by 90 percent, was also due to diseases like influenza and chicken pox, which came with the invaders. In addition to this, slavery was another important aspect of the high native death rate, where indigenous people died because of bad nutrition and hard labour.

The Argentine ants have made a severe impact on Europe’s ecosystems. They have conquered and monopolized the land of South European ant species because of their social rules: The Argentine ants drive out or kill the native ants of a newly invaded territory and steal seeds from their beds. As noted by Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland: “Cooperation allows the colonies to develop a much higher density than that which would normally occur, eliminating some 90 percent of other types of ants that live near them”.


Crossfade, c-print-collage A4 – Mario Asef © 2012



Human migration is often caused by extreme conditions. Migration is used as a strategy to survive or to obtain a better quality of life. This is the reason why people from areas with lower resources and higher competition emigrate to areas with higher level of resources. The majority of immigrants in Argentina came from Europe, mostly from Spain and Italy but with a substantial influx of British and Germans. Also notable are Jewish immigrants escaping persecution. The total population of Argentina rose from 4 million in 1895 to 7.9 million in 1914, and to 15.8 million in 1947.

The extreme domination of certain species within an ecosystem shows clear evidence of a system out of balance. The Argentine ant marked the ecosystem of the European Mediterranean coast to such a degree that the notion of that Area without Argentine ants influence will be inconceivable in the future. It is men who probably created the ant mega-colony by transporting the insects around the world and by continually introducing ants from three continents to each other, ensuring that the mega-colony continues to grow.


Crossfade, drawing A4 – Mario Asef © 2012