The Space and Time of Ulises

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The Space and Time of Ulises

In a socio-cultural context of global information technology, which is nonetheless full of dichotomies, young artists are making efforts to better understand the relationships between real/virtual everyday experience and the historical context of an organised global network operative since the 1960s that has irreversibly fertilised ideas and initiatives. In this they are not alone. A parallel can be seen in the growing contingent of historians and theorists engaged in the pursuit and critical organisation of available information about the conditions of contemporary art. These two intellectual and methodological structures operate as research devices and are directly responsible for the underlying framework of our current artistic and affective identity. Together with works and judgements, characters and actions can be identified through which our founding heroes are restored in the imagination. Ulises Carrión needs no help with interpretation, for his light continues to burn. The importance of his work can be emphasised, however, together with his growing supranational artistic influence. He is a phenomenon of increasing stature.

Carrión kept moving for most of his life. This was not a pilgrimage (driven by faith) or a crusade (driven by a cause), but rather a very personal intermediary condition: the wheel had to keep turning. First in the search for his own creative path, later heralding his proposals as a cultural strategist, he visited countries where he helped to form important interdisciplinary ties between the visual and the written word. Carrión established himself as a writer before leaving his native country in the early 1960s. He travelled to many places in Europe and to North and South America, eventually making his base in the Netherlands. He was an art entrepreneur, a disseminator of new languages, a manager of the symbolic market. In 1975 he and Aart van Barneveld created Other Books and So in Amsterdam, a pioneering bookshop and gallery. Their shop sold art at low prices, marketing editions by names that were then making their way into history. Their circle of friends grew, attracting new artists to their archives. But the bookshop lasted only until 1978. The collection would form the Other Books and So Archive in 1980, which lasted until Carrión’s death in 1989 at the age of 48.

Carrión was irreplaceable: the quality of such activity during his lifetime leads us to mourn the denial of a brilliant future. The flow and exchange of information was irreversibly shaken by his death. His view of the archive was based on theoretical concepts, which gave it the status of an artwork, despite the inclusion of constitutive elements that were not aesthetic. One work could thus contain others without conflict. The activity of Other Books and So was not focused on traditional literature and recognised the visual arts as contained within a broader cultural universe. Carrión’s generation had no doubt that the importance of this kind of enterprise could be summed up by the idea that temporality and discursiveness are also foundations of the visual arts. The following years would confirm those views through the continuation and establishment of more or less similar commercial enterprises. Sometimes more effective, at other times less so, these spaces for marketing accessible art are both complementary and alternative to the system. Places like Art Metropole, Printed Matter, Boekie Woekie, Florence Loewy, Bookartbookshop, etc., are united by a consumer public with common interests. In terms of their role in the system, they are unrivalled and merit special inclusion in the historiography of art.

Almost magically, Carrión appears to offer the excitement of a new discovery. But we should not be fooled into thinking that his discourse is as simple as it appears. It still demands our efforts. For those seeking the mobility and accessibility of the book as artwork, or as a two-way vehicle...
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