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

Faraway, So Close!

Carolina Jiménez

Börsianer / The Operators, diagram – Mario Asef © 2009

Mario Asef’s first studio visit with Node’s resident curators was, for me, one of the most motivating moments of these ultimate months. It was the last studio visit of a long rainy Berlin day. The eight of us were exhausted and immediately ‘occupied’ the green carpet of Mario’s studio. What could have been an awkward meeting (because of our tiredness), instantly turned into an extraordinarily appealing talk. Every piece of work he showed us led to a conversation about several topics, sometimes related to art, sometimes to philosophy, politics or social relations. When the visit finished most of us felt the need to somehow try to work with him. We wanted “more Asef”.

For Faraway, So Close! we selected three pieces from Mario Asef’s video series History is now: Börsianer/The Operators, Man’s on Moon, and Revolution after Revolution.

In his videos, Asef brings us back to the concept of intra-history, introduced in 1895 by the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in his book En torno al casticismo or to the most recent vision of micro-history by the Italian Carlo Ginzburg. For Asef, history should be interested in the routes whose principle leading roles are played by its peripheral actors; that is to say, the paths followed by those men who make history in an unconscious manner, by those who do not aspire to the title of heroes. The historical event is not the monumental fresco that encourages the mythification of politicians, military men and priests, the traditional heroes of history… Mario Asef decodes these concepts, recovering “micro-historical moments” (as he points out) in order to reveal the present as historically significant. Börsianer/The Operators juxtaposes the apparently sterile composure of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with the life of homeless people from the suburbs of the city. What at first sight could be regarded as two antagonistic worlds become the two sides of the same instinct of survival. Abstract values versus reality? Civilized world versus wilderness? Every downturn of the financial market becomes crucial to our lives, as nature is experienced as an all-embracing fact and dictator of reality… like the bucolic backdrop shown through the glass of an aquarium.

man’s on moon, diagram – Mario Asef © 2006

Man’s on Moon looks back to 1969, when Commander Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon. This scene, broadcasted to every television of the Western world, incarnated the faith of our civilization in technology and science during the Cold War era. In the same year, one of the most feared serial killers of America, Charles Manson, was arrested. His arrest marked the milestone of the end of the hippie-era, the end of Martin Luther King’s dream… In Man’s on Moon, Asef cuts together sequences from the Apollo 17 Mission and audio extracts from Charles Manson interviews, reflecting on the social dynamics that lead to an ontological discussion of truth and reality.

In the words of Asef, “when a staged revolution is part of a country’s historical reality it shapes the direction of everyday life”. Filmed in three Romanian towns (Sibiu, Pitesti and Bucharest), Revolution after Revolution examines how advertising strategies of the post-Communist era are digested as part of Romanians’ everyday lives. The modern architecture of the sixties and its dead ideology forms the background where citizens become actors (or heroes?) and revolution turns into allegory.

Revolution after Revolution, video still – Mario Asef © 2006

The illusion of security

“We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation… we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.”
George Orwell, 1984

Priorities seem clear: first learn, then understand, and finally accept. The whole purpose here is not repetitive or blind obedience but disciplined and controlled minds… George Orwell could not anticipate the economic globalization and the sophistication of information technology in the Western world, but he formed the basis for understanding some of the most serious problems we face today.

Living in a contemporary world means to be surrounded by a multiplicity of electronic devices that gradually shape new borders of our personality. We expand and consider our private space to be inside our iPhones, computers and mailboxes. This unreal and imaginary possession of information can lead to manipulations, performed not only at an individual level. In particular, the lack of corporate and governmental transparency has been a topic of much controversy in recent years, yet the only tool for encouraging greater openness is the slow, tedious process of policy reform.

The Transparency Grenade by Julian Oliver for Studio Weise 7 was the central pivot on which the exhibition in the Fichte-Bunker turned around. It represented two actions: firstly, the invention and construction of an electronic device, and secondly, a situation. The Grenade itself was a replica of Soviet F1 Hand Grenade with a different mechanism of destruction, equipped with a tiny computer, microphone and powerful wireless antenna. It was also a situation, because it made the viewer directly responsible for pulling the ripcord to detonate the Grenade in order to unmask the decision-making processes of any corporate or Governmental Institution. Email fragments, HTML pages, images will be revealed, reminding the occasional user of his weaknesses and strengths. As stated by Michel Foucault, the individual is a part of the power structure’s cogs and secures it with his own attitudes and behaviors. However, and it may seem contradictory, this power (as read in George Orwell’s1984) is omnipresent and omniscient, a power that is constantly being apprehended, but which never answers. State institutions are mechanisms that seem to obey their own laws and rules, they are bureaucratic labyrinths completely unknown by us. Thus, we find depersonalized individuals facing an apparatus against which there is no way to oppose. Numerous references were forwarded about this in Faraway, So Close! by Argentinean artist Mario Asef, especially in the video piece Börsianer / The Operators, which juxtaposed the apparently sterile composure of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with the life of homeless people from the suburbs of the city. What at first sight could be regarded as two antithetical worlds became the two sides of the same reality. Every downturn of the financial markets becomes crucial in our own lives…

The viewer inside the Fichte-Bunker was confronted with a dystopic reality, a world not desirable, but conceivable. John Stuart Mill coined in the last years of the nineteenth century the term “dystopia” to refer to an unwanted society, opposed to utopia. Mill described an oppressive and closed-on-itself society, usually under an authoritarian government, but presented to its citizens as a utopia. George Orwell’s 1984 was one of the most refined examples of dystopia. It insisted, in a very persuasive way, on the power of technology as a basic tool for social control and the end of privacy. Orwell portrayed a society that to survive, created a perverse, permanent monitoring system from which originated an increasingly imperceptible but ever-present control, a subtle and not clearly coercive method that left citizens with the permanent doubt of whether they were being watched. It is through the uncertainty of not knowing how to maintain the subordination of being under surveillance, through a large and always-on screen, receiving and transmitting information, that individuals were handcuffed by their actions. All this, centralized by the everpresent Ministry of Truth, which was a pyramidal structure of white concrete over three hundred meters high. The Ministry of Truth acted as a vast Jeremy Bentham style panopticon that distinguished, watched and controlled all of what happened in that society.

According to Zygmunt Bauman, uncertainty about the future, the fragility of our social position and the anxiety of our own existence are persistent elements of our society. Therefore, one of the basic actions of human beings has been to preserve the order and to ensure its durability from incursions coming from the outside: an “outside” characterized by disorder and insecurity; an exterior that, in each historical moment has had different characteristics and traits, but always an enemy, an enemy that has always been the “other”. Against this “other”, that represents the fragility and the precariousness of daily life, all societies have been provided with multiple defensive tricks and tools that allow us to preserve, keep the acquired and make it our own. In this way, any risk must be eliminated in order to procure a comfortable place in a world that shows itself as threatening and hazardous. Uncertainty and confusion have increased with the rapid changes in recent decades of new information technologies and globalization. Cities, urban areas and transport are no longer safe places and have become a major cause of worry and insecurity. Now spatial structures conceived to isolate, exclude, reject, resist, camouflage, and absorb have been encouraged.

The need and desire to feel safe in today’s world has become a handy justification for the implementation of measures that threaten the foundations of democracy and social life. It is odd that cities had never before counted on so many security measures, but never before the feeling of insecurity has been so present. Agreements have been made, according to city planner Peter Marcuse , in order to promote the physical 1 “bunkerization” of space (controlled indoors, such as shopping malls or office buildings, containing within them all the facilities necessary to work, eat or relax) up to the social “bunkerization” of all democratic activity (the limitation of movement, freedom and action, the decline in social and political participation, the growth of exclusion…). This creates new sociopolitical realities where security is exchanged for a restriction of freedoms. Power needs a fearful, insecure and vulnerable society. To keep it, people have to be submissive and in this way consolidate the power’s efficiency. However, we cannot forget that the expression of power is becoming less and less visible, and therefore its influence is difficult to recognize, to anticipate and bear up. The exercise of power is gradually more elusive and insidious, it is everywhere and nowhere, it is ubiquitous, absent, invisible… To this wicked and endless game, that creates fear and creates, at the same time, many and various systems to control it, also referred Faraway, So Close!.

Carolina Jiménez

1) Peter Marcuse, After the World Trade Center. Cuadernos de arquitectura y urbanismo, Barcelona. 2002

The Author

Carolina Jiménez, (Madrid, 1983). Journalist and cultural manager. Lives and works in Berlin. As a political journalist, she has worked in Spanish media like Cadena SER, Agencia EFE and Temas magazines. In the cultural sector she collaborated with contemporary art centers such as Matadero Madrid or La Casa Encendida in Spain. In 2012 he moved to Berlin after being selected to participate in the residency for curators of Node Center for Curatorial Studies. In Berlin she has curated the exhibitions Faraway, So Close! at Fichte-Bunker, We Can Draw It in GlogauAir and Coversation With Alice in Altes Finanzamt. He has been coordinator and manager of SAVVY Contemporary, award for best independent space Projekträume 2013  by the Senate of Berlin (Berliner Senat). She is currently in charge of the communication at Node Center for Curatorial Studies-Berlin.

Confusion in the Garden

Comentarios con respecto a un relato bíblico


Confusion in the Garden, installation view – Mario Asef © Lund 2007

En el relato bíblico de la Torre de Babel se cuenta la historia de la caída del imperio Babilónico en donde los hijos de Jehová son los mismos Babilonios y a la vez representan simbólicamente a la humanidad entera. Estos son castigados por dios al pretender construir una torre que alcance los cielos e iguale al poder celestial. El método que dios utiliza para detenerlos en su industria es la palabra y crea así distintas lenguas que dividen a los mortales incomunicándolos entre sí haciendo imposible la culminación de sus propósitos.

El momento histórico del relato sucede aproximadamente en el siglo 6. A.C. cuando el imperio Babilónico se hallaba en su apogeo, su gloria militar y su mayor expansión territorial como así también, aunque no paradójicamente, en su ocaso.

Los constructores de la torre fueron muy distintos a sus ingenieros, pues eran esclavos, prisioneros de guerras y no gozaban de los derechos civiles de cualquier habitante regular de Babilonia. De ahí la variedad de idiomas que ayudaron a dios a confundir los planes de aquella construcción.

La historia se remite a la ruptura del imperio como forma de castigo divino que obligó a los Babilonios a huir y mezclarse entre otros pueblos para sobrevivir.

Según arqueólogos la torre del relato bíblico se encuentra en Ur y fue un Zigurat (templo Babilónico de forma piramidal) dedicado al dios Baal; el principal dios Babilónico encargado de otorgarle vida a la naturaleza. De ahí se deduce el nombre de Babel, que según la lengua en que se lo interprete puede significar “Puerta de Baal” o “Puerta Celestial” (del Babilonio: bab-ilu) como así también “Confusión” (del Hebreo: balal). Esta última parece ser una interpretación mas bien sarcástica que los redactores del relato bíblico hicieron del nombre original Bab-ilu.

El interés que despertó la torre como objeto arquitectónico mítico de condiciones sobrenaturales tanto como su moraleja carecen hoy, a mi parecer, de importancia. Sin embargo vista la historia como una metáfora para describir un proceso imperialista de expansión territorial que alcanza su cúspide y al mismo tiempo su decadencia – pues una vez alcanzada la cúspide no existe camino que no descienda; una vez alcanzado el polo norte todos los caminos conducen al sur – se nos presenta una interpretación del relato que va más allá de todo discurso moral y ético exponiendo un proceso de expansión poblacional que lo equipara con los mismos procesos de expansión en las ciencias naturales.

Entonces también nos habla de una unidad social mantenida por la fuerza. De hombres sometidos al trabajo arduo y a la asimilación cultural forzosa por mera subsistencia.

Visto de este modo, la intervención de dios más que un castigo vendría a representar una liberación. Dios, que es la entidad que rige las leyes naturales, hace que se desmorone la torre antes de haber alcanzado su cúspide y libera así a los esclavos devolviéndoles sus lenguas natales y condena a los imperiales al anonimato perpetuo, a su dispersión que vendría a implicar también su desaparición (en francés: dispersion < > disparition).

Pero el otro tema que nos preocupa aquí es la sordera. En este caso la confusión de lenguas expresa la imposibilidad de gobierno. La sordera vendría a ser así la afluencia excesiva de información acústica no descifrada o descifrable. Si despreciamos  la lengua extranjera es porque no la comprendemos. Nos burlamos de ella para refugiarnos en nuestra visión del mundo. Pues cada idioma está expresando una determinada noción del mundo y lleva implícito en sí una estructura específica de pensamiento. Es decir que el querer dominar una lengua implica de por sí el querer ser partícipe de una visión del mundo.

En medio de esa maza acústica indescifrable de Babel, comenzamos a escuchar cuando nos confrontamos con nuestro propio idioma al que diferenciamos inmediatamente del resto del caos idiomático. Y que hasta lo escuchamos con más nitidez o con una claridad sonora que en idiomas ignorados nos es ajena.


Confusion in the Garden, poster A1 – Mario Asef © Lund 2007

Si se releen los párrafos anteriores se puede percibir en cada uno de ellos una especie de etnocentrismo que afecta mi relato pseudo-objetivo de los conceptos que componen este texto. Pero también hay una carga cultural que está desvirtuando de antemano la información original de la que me he servido para componerlo. A mi parecer este etnocentrismo cumple la función específica de confirmación de nuestra identidad cultural la cual  exponemos en primer plano para justificar nuestra jactada existencia. Para poner a nuestros actos en el epicentro histórico de la humanidad. Para elevar la importancia de nuestra cultura por sobre la existencia de las demás culturas.


Seguimos construyendo torres de Babél. Seguimos alimentando un pensamiento monocentrista /monocausal.

De la abstracción a la concreción


View A-A’, wall-drawing, insulating tape and nails on wall, 312 x 597 cm – Mario Asef © 2011

El dibujo mural View A-A’ realizado en el espacio de exhibición Essays and Observations en Berlín en el año 2011 resultó de la interrogación acerca del término ‘abstracción’ en las artes. En un intento de devolverle a éste un significado plausible y a la vez compatible con otras disciplinas.

En el muro divisorio de los dos espacios que conforman la galería realicé en una de sus caras un dibujo técnico en escala 1:1 del espacio arquitectónico situado detrás del muro. El material empleado para este propósito fue una cinta adhesiva de PVC gris que por su condición elástica fue fijada con clavos a la pared para impedir su contracción.

El dibujo representaba en trazos simples los muros y ventanas de la habitación trasera. El muro de esta forma cumplía la tarea de soporte del dibujo quedando superpuesto al motivo representado. Desde el punto de vista del observador, las líneas en la pared no parecían cumplir ninguna función y mas bien estar desplegadas al azar; no siendo el observador conciente de la representación a la cual estas estaban sometidas.

Semanas mas tarde se quitaron los clavos que impedían la contracción de la cinta de PVC, la cual, como es natural comenzó lentamente, a lo largo de los 7 días posteriores, a contorsionarse y a despegarse de la pared rechazando su condición de ‘medio de representación’ para concluir exponiéndose a si misma.


View A-A’, wall-drawing, insulating tape and nails on wall, 312 x 597 cm – Mario Asef © 2011

A ≠ A’ ≠ a ≠ a’


Die Repräsentation als Wirklichkeit, infographic, xerox print A4 – Mario Asef @ 2007

Abstraction is a process by which concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal (“real” or “concrete”) concepts, first principles, or other methods. “An abstraction” is the product of this process—a concept that acts as a super-categorical noun for all subordinate concepts, and connects any related concepts as a group, field, or category. [1]

Abstractions may be formed by reducing the information content of a concept or an observable phenomenon, typically to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. Abstraction (disambiguation)

La abstracción en su esencia es un verbo. Abstracción se define como el producto que resulta del ‘abstraer’ un factor específico –información, esencia, idea, etc. de un objeto o concepto determinado. El acto de extraer es la condición básica del ‘abstraer’ y el producto que llamamos ‘abstracción’ deviene en algo equivalente que posee ya un nombre propio – sustantivo, concepto, representación. Todos estos son abstracciones. Una palabra es la abstracción de un objeto, ser, acto o idea. De ahí que el acto de abstraer sea inherente a la acción de representar. Una idea es siempre abstracta al igual que su representación. Por ende la abstracción es inherente a la representación. Sin un abstraer no existe un representar aunque la abstracción no siempre devenga en representación.

El acto de abstraer es cotidiano y constituye el proceso básico para la generación de descripciones [2] del mundo. Somos tan susceptibles al uso de abstracciones que tendemos a obviar el medio de representación para focalizarnos en el motivo representado. Confundimos verbalmente la representación de un objeto con el objeto mismo. Le otorgamos a la fotografía el don de ‘congelar’ un momento para siempre. Confundimos nuestra memoria con los datos codificados por un video. Pretendemos reemplazar nuestra personalidad con nuestra identidad en las redes sociales.  En fin; nos esforzamos por sustituir la realidad [3] por su representación. [4] Nos movemos constantemente a través del uso de representaciones. Y nuestras representaciones se mueven en el área de nuestros deseos y decepciones –es decir, en el área de comprobación, realización y confirmación del mundo. Nuestras representaciones son tan reales como lo puede ser cualquier objeto o ser vivo ya que todo lo que creamos es real. El conflicto se da al confrontarnos con la idea de la existencia de una realidad absoluta separada de nuestras representaciones. Lo absoluto es una representación extremadamente simplificada de una condición. Lo absoluto existe como idea, como descripción. Y por ende no puede estar desliado de nuestras percepciones. Pero como construcción cognitiva lo absoluto no es una condición a priori del mundo extrahumano. Lo real es para nosotros la descripción de la realidad. Realidad y su descripción se confunden entre si y las discusiones sobre términos y condiciones de lo real son discusiones basadas en las diferencias descriptivas de la realidad. Pues lo real es abstracto; las texturas, el olor, el sabor, la luz, los sonidos y todas sus cualidades son abstractos. Nuestras ideas, conceptos y construcciones mentales son abstractos. Todos son descripciones de nuestras interacciones con nuestro entorno y son tan reales como nuestro entorno mismo. Existen en la interacción y nos permiten manipular y actuar con determinación.


Die Repräsentation als Wirklichkeit, wall-painting, 11 x 67 cm – Mario Asef @ 2007

[1]  Jump up to Suzanne K. Langer (1953), Feeling and Form: a theory of art developed from Philosophy in a New Key p. 90: “Sculptural form is a powerful abstraction from actual objects and the three-dimensional space which we construe … through touch and sight.”

[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 atravez 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] Entiendace por ‘realidad’ al mundo objetivo, fáctico, exterior y por ‘real’ la descripción e idea que tenemos del mundo objetivo. Gottfried Gabriel, “Grundprobleme der Erkennntnistheorie von Descartes zu Wittgenstein”, UTB für Wissenschaft, Alemania 1993

[4] ver Jean Baudrillard, “Agonie des Realen” página 9, Merve Verlag Berlín, Berlín 1978

Die Wand – Eine Evolutionskette in der Architekturgeschichte

Über ein Manuskript von Wladimir Krasnosowitsch


Endoskopie, Künstlerhaus Bregenz / Palais Turn & Taxis, Mario Asef © Bregenz 2008

Über die Wand als plastisches Bauelement innerhalb der Architekturgeschichte ließen sich vermutlich zahlose Entwicklungsgeschichten schreiben. In einem seiner Manuskripte aus den sechziger Jahren, das bis heute unveröffentlicht blieb, entschied sich der russische Architekt Wladimir Krasnosowitsch ganz bewusst, dies in Form einer Evolutionskette nach dem darwinistischen Modell zu beschreiben. Er klassifiziert die Wand innerhalb architekturgeschichtlicher Perioden. Sie stellt er chronologisch nebeneinander. In seinem Manuskript beschreibt Krasnosowitsch die Wand der Renaissance als eine Darstellung von unverrückbarer Realität. Im Barock funktioniert die Wand als Träger von fantastischen Realitäten, die mittels zweidimensionaler visueller Spielereien [1] eine Idee der Unendlichkeit in sich trägt. Krasnosowitschs beschrieb die Wand der Moderne als rein geometrische Form, welche von jeglicher Botschaft befreit ist, die sie in ihrem abstrakt-mathematischen Wesen nicht definierten. Sie ist, im Sinne Krasnosowitschs, ein modular- standardisiertes Bauelement eines ergonomisch multifunktionellen Raums. [2]

Am Anfang der Moderne hatten Wand, Säule und Balken eine doppelte Funktion. Zum einen dienten sie als strukturierendes Element für die Tragfähigkeit des Gebäudes. Zum anderen waren sie plastisches Element der qualitativen Raumschaffung (Konstruktivismus). Die ästhetische Reduktion der architektonischen Formensprache wurde in der Moderne soweit getrieben, bis die Wand von allen Zusatzkomponenten befreit war, welche den Benutzer vom Wesentlichen des Raumes ablenken könnten.

Das Drei-Achsen Schema (x-y-z) des euklidischen Raumes auf zweidimensionaler Ebene wird so 1:1 auf die Realität transferiert, um einen neuen Kontext für unseren Alltag zu materialisieren. [3]

Was als ein sehr praktisches bauliches System begann, eine schnell durchführbare Alternative, um breitere, offenere und hellere Räumlichkeiten zu schaffen (die drei Ideale des modernen Lebens), wurde später die am meisten anerkannte und universalisierte Form der Architektur. Sie durchzog alle Ebenen unseres Alltagslebens:

Das Büro / das Bett / das Telefon / das Wohnzimmer / der Teppich / der Spielplatz / der Fernseher / die Straße / die Tasse / der Schreibtisch / die Zeitung / die Schreibmaschine / der Hammer / … [4]

Im Laufe der Jahrzehnte verlor die Wand der Moderne mit ihrer plastisch-bildhauerischen Oberfläche und ihrer vermeintlich neutralen Signifikanz an Materialität. Die Wand erhält die Funktion eines Projektionsträgers für parallele oder virtuelle Realitäten. Sie wird so gewissermaßen zur Membran durch die sich ästhetische und ökonomische Werte im Osmose-Verfahren austauschen. Hat sich diese Funktion einmal etabliert, lässt sich im Sinne Krasnosowitsch als nächstes Evolutionsglied die Wand begreifen als eine Art polyphysischer Raumschöpfer. Dieser schöpft je nach Funktion die passende Materialität aus sich selbst. Dadurch werden multiästhetische und multifunktionale Räume kreierbar. Diese Entwicklung sehen wir heute etwa an den Glasfassaden der Büro- und Entertainmentviertel, an deren Medienfassaden und z.B. der sog. Dynamischen Architektur neuer Stadtzentren. Ein Name für diese neue Funktion, die der Wand zugedacht wird, liegt auf der Hand: die „Virtuelle Wand“.


Fig 1: .a) Vorgeschichtlich .b) Klassik – Renaissance .c) Gothik .d) Manierismus .e) Barock .f) Industrialismus .g) Moderne .h) Post-Modern .i) Virtuell

Mit dieser logischen Überlegung isoliert Krasnosowitsch die Wand vom Rest des architektonischen Raums. Er konstruiert die gesamte Architekturgeschichte neu und stellt die These auf, dass der große Triumph in der Architektur prinzipiell der Mathematik gehört. [5] Sie diene als Instrument der Raumschaffung und sei in der Lage ihre eigene Repräsentation des dreidimensionalen Raums wiederum im realen Raum zu realisieren, um diesen zu ersetzen.

Wir sind unter diesen Umständen fähig einen Raum zu kennen, bevor wir ihn in seinem Umfang erlebt haben. Denn wir kennen die Grammatik und die Logik, mit der er kreiert wurde. Wir sind gewissermaßen in die Lage versetzt durch Wände zu schauen, denn uns ist die mathematische Artikulation des Raums bekannt. [6]

Gleichwohl soll dies nicht heißen, dass keine Offenheit für neue räumliche Formen existiert. Ganz im Gegenteil:

Wenn unser Raum von logisch mathematischen Komponenten bestimmt wird, die für jede beliebige Form und Materie anwendbar sind, dann wäre es möglich, dass hinter jeder beliebigen Wand des Büros H-254 des Sekretariatshauses in Chandigarh, z.B. der Innenhof der Amerikanischen Botschaft in Athen oder sogar der unendliche mathematische Raum selbst befindet. [7]

Was sich hinter einer Wand verbirgt, wäre dann einerseits begreifbar aber genauso auch unerwartet und überraschend. Je nachdem, in welchem räumlich-logischen Bedeutungssystem wir die Wand implantieren. Das ist der Zustand, der der „Vorvirtuellen Wand“ Qualitäten verleiht, um eigene Fantasiekaskaden zu ersinnen.



Endoskopie, Skizze. Künstlerhaus Bregenz / Palais Turn & Taxis, Mario Asef © Bregenz 2008

Wladimir Krasnosowitsch wurde 1890 in einer Arbeiterfamilie geboren und schloss 1902 eine kirchlich orientierte Schule ab. Seine Karriere begann er als Laufbursche in einer Handelsfirma. 1905 trat er mit Hilfe eines reichen Förderers in die Moskauer Fachschule für Malerei, Baukunst und Bildhauerei ein, wo er 1914 seinen Abschluss in Malerei und 1917 in Architektur machte.

Seine ersten Arbeiten waren noch von der klassizistischen Architektur der Jahrhundertwende geprägt. Einen Richtungswechsel bedeutete seine Lehrtätigkeit an der Moskauer Staatlichen Künstlerisch-Technischen Meisterschule (Wchutemas/Вхутемас).

Trotz eines hohen technischen Niveaus seiner Architektur hinterfragte Krasnosowitsch stets die Grundprämisse der Funktionalität. Seine Arbeiten erinnern häufig eher an abstrakte Skulpturen als an Zweckgebäude.

1934 bis 1937 unterrichtete Krasnosowitsch am Moskauer Architekturinstitut. In dieser Zeit erfuhr er bereits Kritik an seinen “Fantastereien” und konnte viele seiner Entwürfe nicht mehr realisieren. Zuletzt lebte er zurückgezogen. Krasnosowitsch starb 1974 einsam in seinem Moskauer Haus.


Endoskopie, Künstlerhaus Bregenz / Palais Turn & Taxis, Mario Asef © Bregenz 2008

[1] Die Wand – Eine Evolutionskette in der Architekturgeschichte “ – Wladimir Krasnosowitsch, Moskau ca. 1969

[2] A. a. O.

[3] A. a. O.

[4] A. a. O.

[5] A. a. O.

[6] A. a. O.

[7] A. a. O.

 Endoskopie, Künstlerhaus Bregenz / Palais Turn & Taxis, Mario Asef © Bregenz 2008
Endoskopie, Künstlerhaus Bregenz / Palais Turn & Taxis, Mario Asef © Bregenz 2008

El Hilo de Ariadna


Ariadnefaden, Frankfurt am Main – Mario Asef © 2009

En la mitología griega Ariadna fue la hija de Minos, el rey de Creta que invadió Atenas para vengar la muerte de su hijo Androgeo. A cambio de la paz, los atenienses debían enviar siete hombres jóvenes y siete doncellas cada año para alimentar al Minotauro; un ser fantástico mezcla de hombre y toro que habitaba el centro de un laberinto que Minos había encargado a Daidalos con este propósito.

Un año, Teseo, hijo de Egeo, rey de Atenas, marchó voluntariamente con los jóvenes para liberar a su pueblo del tributo. Ariadna se revela contra su padre y en busca de justicia ayuda a Teseo obsequiándole una espada mágica y un hilo de oro para que, atándolo en la entrada del laberinto pudiera encontrarla nuevamente después de haber matado al Minotauro.

En la simbología de la bolsa de comercio el Toro representa el acenso de los valores de las acciones  (es decir el Minotauro, quien recauda los impuestos de paz). El Oso representa por el contrario, la caída de las acciones (en nuestro caso Teseo, el vengador del pueblo y vencedor del Minotauro). Ariadna a su vez simboliza la justicia social. Al ver esta que Teseo tarda demasiado en salir, desata el hilo y entra al laberinto siguiéndolo. Al llegar al centro del mismo sorprende al Minotauro y a Teseo murmurando y riendo cómplices. Estos no tardan de comprender lo delicado de la situación y deciden matar y devorar a Ariadna y divulgan la creencia de que Artemisa fue quien la asesino. Teseo y Minotauro (Oso y Toro) comparten ahora el hilo de Ariadna y juran seguir el combate por el resto de la eternidad.

Desde el centro del laberinto nos siguen llegando noticias del combate. Para los que estamos afuera los resultados parciales de la lucha son vitales para conservar el orden de nuestra vida social.


Susanne Köhler

Raumprothesen – Diagram, Mario Asef © 2012

Urban space and its appropriation by the people who use it is the source of Mario Asef’s artistic work. In his videos, photographs, sound installations, and interventions the artist deals with architectonic as well as socio-political discourse and investigates how they are represented spatially. Like a researcher he examines the constructions of public life by working against the dominant order in subtle ways. This occurs by reordering things without notice or by removing elements specific to the location and adapting them to the art context. Accordingly, these urban objects are first apprehended as artworks when they are documented in photographs or written about in texts.

Asef’s group of works Empirien (1998-2006) presents an entire series of interventions documented in this way. For instance, in the work Fragile—handle with care/appropriation (2004), the artist placed cardboard boxes in front of the Covent Garden Theater Museum in London, which were then taken over by individuals and used as sleeping spots. By converting packaging into housing, Asef indirectly draws attention to the negative spaces of the city, which make life (survival) possible, but also to the present absence of the homeless. Like illegal immigrants or street musicians, the homeless also count among the—for the most part—undesirable users of public space.1 The artist stages this situation like an experiment. That vagrants then make use of it in practical ways undermines the efforts of local authorities.

In and of themselves the unforeseen and the ephemeral are inherent to Mario Asef’s interventions. He never knows how long his rearrangements will last or whether or how passersby will take them over and put them to use. This participation is the trigger for a non-verbal communication outside of cultural institutions. For the most part the users of the locations involved quickly grasp the initiative, deconstruct the intervention, and reestablish the usual “normal order” of things.

Raumprothesen (spatial prosthetics) can be viewed in many respects as a further development of this creative process. In this case, urban phenomena are actually translocated into the art establishment. Here Asef manifests his socio-critical stance by inviting street musicians to play at his opening. The performative evening was consciously designed to provoke interaction between the art-going public and individuals who operate primarily within the urban locations outside of cultural institutions.

In contrast to Empirien, the participation of everyone involved takes place within the exhibition space. As a result of this appropriation beer bottles, cigarette butts, and trash pile up on the floor and imprints from fingers and people sitting are pressed into the sculptural elements—the “Raumprothesen”—that the artist has integrated into the exhibition. “Prothese” (prosthetics) means here, so to speak, the artificial extension of the room that fulfills a specific function. As such the objects don’t even stand out at first. Rather, their white color and inconspicuous positioning on the margins allows them to be seen as a fixed component of the exhibition space.

A central aspect of this work involves returning the purported sculptures to the public locations where the elements that inspired them formally are found. For his work Asef initially pilfers material from the city. In this case polystyrene insulation board for acoustically isolating homes is used. In the context of his exhibition this building material is transformed into sculptures. Through their use (disintegration), mostly by the musicians to whom the sculptural elements were assigned as stages, they are, in turn, viewed as everyday objects. Throughout the entire duration of the show the viewer can observe the process of using the space along with its Prothesen. In addition the brief musical performances have been captured in a documentary video as staged memory, and are continuously on view. Here the quality of the recording plays a secondary role. Asef films more like an anthropologist who attempts to understand the circumstances from a distance. After the presentation in the art context is over, the objects and musicians alike make their way back onto the streets. Once there, people will again use the “Raumprothesen” as seating and eventually dispose of them. With this, a cycle of varying translocations and ascribing of meanings apparently comes to its end.

Whether in urban public space or within the space of an exhibition, the experience of those involved in Mario Asef’s interventions go far beyond the actual participation. Rather, through his subtle interventions, the viewer is sensitized to the processes at work in urban, social surroundings.

1 Asef’s socio-critical stance goes back to the artist’s own personal experiences. He himself migrated from Argentina to Germany twelve years ago.

The Author

Susanne Trasberger (formerly Köhler) studied cultural sciences and aesthetics at the University of Hildesheim. She curated several exhibitions in Berlin (e.g. NGBK), Worpswede and at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. She was director of Kunstverein Junge Kunst, Wolfsburg, production manager for the exhibition XIII. Rohkunstbau in Berlin and published various art catalogues. She currently lives in Berlin and works for Texte zur Kunst.

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