The Archive in the Worm

The Archive in the Worm

English Version

Andrés Duprat

The artist, who lives and works in Argentina and Germany, undertakes a creative journey across two continents, eight cities, and thousands of kilometers. The intention: a radical experience that utilizes objects from each place.

“Amid the pile of junk on the platform, Mele placed a slight folding chair that would serve as his sculpture’s initial support. Using an arsenal of colored tapes, he began strapping items to the chair: first smaller stuffed plastic bags, then objects including old mops, buckets, furniture, fabrics, broken frames, boxes, and cans. Initially his actions were deliberate, and he paused occasionally to observe himself working on screen. As the shape began to grow, his movements became faster, frantic, and even violent. Mele picked up a chair and began to saw it. After struggling with it for a while, he smashed the chair on the ground and added the broken pieces to the work. At times running, he circled the sculpture with rounds of tape, kicking smaller objects out of the way. He finally dragged it off the platform, flipped it upside down onto a small wooden box, tightened and stabilized it with more objects and tape. The legs of the stool that were the work’s initial foundation could now be seen jutting out of one side. After about 15 minutes of focused and physical work, the strange form became coherent. Mele gave it a final round of tape, jammed a walking stick into its soft center, and draped a stretcher bar over the top like a frame. He briefly considered the finished work, gathered his suit coat, and joined the public.”

[Fragment of a text by Emi Winter and Steffen Böddeker written on the occasion of Martín Mele´s performance in 2007 at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Oaxaca, Mexico]

The intention behind this project by Argentinean artist Martín Mele (born in Buenos Aires, 1960) is based on a central concept: travel as an experience. The project exceeds the format of the exhibition or performance, and even goes beyond what we would usually call a travelling show. At issue is a radical experience, not without risk, capable of exerting an influence in a determinant form during the genesis of the work, an action that operates directly within the work of art’s system of creation and production.

With The Archive in the Worm, Mele embarks on a journey – both in a physical and spiritual sense involving two continents, eight cities, and an itinerary of thousands of kilometers. In this way, the works transform into actions, influenced by this continuous movement. And art is generated at the intersections among experience, the dialog with each realm of his adventures and the quality of the objects.

Conceived in two stages, this project, which has the support of Argentina’s Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación and the Kulturstiftung NRW, in Germany, proposes a method of working that is defined by way of two determinant decisions: a point of departure and an established geographical itinerary. In the first stage, Mele undertakes a veritable tour de force a month in duration, traveling, collecting, creating and presenting his works in four cities in Argentina: Salta, Rosario, Neuquén and Ushuaia. He plans this exercise like a field of aesthetic experimentation where empiricism is the method, and consequently the result is unpredictable.

The artist gathers, assembles, places, corrects, breaks, dismantles: his instruments are thus his gaze, his reflections, his skills, his instinct, his convictions, his trials, and of course, his errors, his blunder, doubts, and coincidences. Everything is visible, all is shown, the intention is to evoke experience in the objects. And, once expressed the work, a certain loss of what has been experienced becomes evident which remains as a vestige, like mute testimony.

In this way Mele exposes the genesis of his ideas, his discoveries and his wan derings to public view. He transforms the exhibition hall into an open workshop, in this way undermining established social practices, such as the idea of exhibiting a finished work, the official opening, the roles of the audience and the creators, the concepts of the spectator and the spectacle, the meaningfulness of the artist working alone. He makes surprising connections, in so doing conferring to his work an unusual social dimension. His objects come alive because they create links: they highlight social and material links on the stage of life. They are the condensed experience of social and material facts.
By expanding his action in the encounter of the exhibition space with this artistic experience and his perceptions and personal imagination, the work is generated in and through this unique and particular contact. Within the course of a single month, February 2010, Mele developed and presented his works at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Salta, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Rosario, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Neuquén and in March 2010 he showed them at the Museo Marítimo de Ushuaia. Once the artist’s action was concluded at each museum, the four shows remained open to the audience simultaneously, and could be visited during April.

The second stage, similar in its characteristics, winded up in Europe during the second half of 2010, involving institutions in Frankfurt, Biel, Berlin, and Neuss. The cycle is ended with the publishing of this book, bringing together and documenting the entire project.

Martin Mele’s adventures between the two continents will offer different possibilities and generate diverse results that should then be seen in a specific relation to the city, the context, the characteristics of the exhibition space, and the circumstances that the artist confronted in each moment of his peregrinations. An inveterate traveler, an Argentinean raised in the Netherlands, and in the last 20 years residing alternately in Germany and Argentina, Mele embodies a perspective characterized by multiple journeys back and forth between Europe and America, a theme in Argentinean culture. It is his, however, a peculiar kind of travel with a restorative element, tinged with a personal dimension that inverts or at least questions the Borgian dictum, “We Argentineans are Europeans in exile”.

The journey becomes pivotal to the exhibition: both for the artist and his numerous changes of location and for the objects that he collects, selects, moves, decontextualizes, manipulates, and distorts to create his works, constantly modifying in some way his origin, his path and his goal. The materials of Mele’s works are the found objects lying by the wayside. And The Archive in the Worm attests to what remains when time has eroded the mountain of experience: the worm has devoured the archive. Mele proposes that we take a good look at the result. The archive is his personal memory.