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les presses du réel

Mario García TorresWhat Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
(excerpt, p. 71-72)

All of Mario García Torres' work entails moving back and forth between past and present. The artist's interest lies with unfinished works or projects, little-known events or anecdotes, stories that have not gone down in history, facts that few people can attest to today, and a few unsolved mysteries. He extends them or re-orchestrates them to bring them “up to date”; he removes them from their historical and social context in order to examine the mechanisms that help to make history, to see how it can be restyled. Tributes indeed play a part (Mario García Torres works on creations by artists that he admires) but there is also the question of implementation : what remains of these works? What can we do with them today? What new opportunities can we give them?
Since the late 1980s many artists have taken hold of works produced by artists of previous generations; they make them their own, add a new slant and reinterpret them. They take shapes, handle them, deconstruct and reconstruct them. We are talking about quotation, appropriation, remakes and retakes (1). From that moment on, the notions of originality, oddness and creation ex nihilo fade away. Underlying these practices is the desire not to be subservient to history with a capital “H”, to icons and idols, to accepted and continued accounts; a dash of vigilance with respect to ideologies (all ideologies). We can be under no delusion, nor can we remain passive. We consider art as a series of experiments.
Though some of these elements appear in the work of Mario García Torres (reworking, quotation, re-enactment), this is not the nodal point of his approach. For more than history revisited, it is a matter of exploring memory and its corollaries: not only History, but also omissions, absences, gaps, disappearances, rumours, reconstructions, fiction and stories. Narrative account and fable are predominant in his work. If Mario García Torres explores memory, it is neither to “rescue” the past nor to erect monuments, but to try to understand how facts are transmitted and to what extent stories, myths and rumours influence the present; it is also to construct narratives designed to reflect on art, on the artist's status in contemporary Western society, on institutions and on the way that art history is constructed.

1. cf. Nicolas Bourriaud's argument in Postproduction, Dijon, Les presses du réel, 2003.
Elisabeth Wetterwald: other title

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