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Mario Garcia Torres's recent exhibition worked like a puzzle. The visitor encountered various parts that at first blush did not coalesce into a coherent pattern or image: Minimalist glass circles suspended from the ceiling (The Belonging Game [all works cited, undated]), a construction of bronze-rod triangles (An Impossible Crack in Reality), an animatronic plastic turtle crawling across the floor (So You), wandering spotlights that lent the setting a theatrical aspect, and--on several occasions during the show's run--a performer: an elderly gentleman delivering a nonstop oration that could have been either a philosophical treatise or the chatter of a confused mind (The Cordiality Paradox). It took considerable patience to piece these fragments together into some semblance of a larger whole. One had to listen to the speech, watch the lights and shadows, pick up and read the leaflet, and, most important, exercise one's imagination.

The speaker of this English text was, as it happened, Helmut Berger, who rose to international fame as a movie actor in the 1970s. But what was he talking about? About sharing a piece of cake with his friend Russell at Cafe Einstein in Berlin, slicing it up into ever smaller equal parts so that, in principle, they will never finish it, but then at some point nothing is left. About a race between swift-footed Achilles and the tortoise--the Greek hero gives the slow animal a head start and never catches up with it. Or about a peculiar gallery owner who hires a painter to capture an exhibition of paintings in a painting; hanging the picture, he realizes that it does not document the show in its entirety, because this last piece is missing. Paradoxical stories all, they were accompanied, as one listened, by an unobtrusive play of the gallery's spotlights. They picked out the circles and triangles, which in turn cast shadows onto the walls to represent, for example, the structure of the cake to be divided into infinitely many parts. This spectacle brought Plato's Allegory of the Cave to mind.

The anecdotes Berger recounted in the thirty-minute monologue are adaptations of well-known paradoxes: Zeno's paradoxes of motion and Bertrand Russell's paradox of set theory, which concerns the impossibility of a set's containing itself--hence the exhibition's title, "Not to Belong to Themselves." Berger's monologue, scripted by Garcia Torres together with the comedian and producer Eduardo Donjuan, transplants these intellectual games into everyday life, where they produce absurd situations.

Playing in another room was the video Merz, Rzemmmm, Zeeeeerm, Emrzzzzzz (At Fibonacci Pace). It's based on a 1972 photograph that shows the Italian artist Mario Merz, in Germany for Documenta 5, dancing in a pub in Kassel. Garcia Torres has animated Merz, who now moves to a rhythm derived from the Fibonacci series--a numerical pattern Merz frequently used in his own work. His movements are stilted, absurd, like those of a puppet on strings. In its own way, this piece, too, investigates a logic that seeks to think of the infinite as rule-bound; life as it is lived, by contrast, is finite and tends to break all rules. That is a paradox we are only too familiar with--but how to frame it in pictures and words? These works try to do just that, and to take the time and immerse oneself in them was to espy the vagaries and pitfalls of a rigorous mode of thinking that is often incompatible with the illogical reality of life.

--Noemi Smolik Translated from German by Gen-it Jackson.

Caption: View of "Mario Garcia Torres," 2018. From left: An Impossible Crack in Reality, undated; So You, undated; Helmut Berger, The Cordiality Paradox, undated; The Belonging Game, undated. Photo: Jens Ziehe.
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Author:Smolik, Noemi
Publication:Artforum International
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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