The contemporary art world has its share of wire-rimmed sourpuss critics; in this article Vivana Palacio shares a peek into the world of Colombian artist Esteban Garcia who invites the critics to let their hair down and have some fun.
In Languages of Art, a text that would later become iconic in 20th century aesthetic theory, American philosopher Nelson Goodman asked whether it is art’s practicality, its playfulness or its communicability that makes it important and attractive. He pointed out, “…what all three miss is that the drive is curiosity and the aim enlightenment… what compels is the urge to know, what delights is discovery…”
The art, design, and research of Esteban Garcia are reminders that art is about fun, and also about the everyday mysteries and games that challenge the imagination and question the way we construct thought and knowledge.
Garcia is a Colombian-born artist currently working in Indiana while completing Doctorate studies in Electronic and Time-Based Media. Also known as Snebtor, he has undertaken a hybrid enterprise through digital art works, video-projection pieces, sound projects and experimental efforts. In his words, he is interested in working “with new media tools using performance, interactive devices and drawings.” Ultimately he is a mixer — blending images, sounds, games and viewer participation/interaction.
Art as fun and “sense of play” are neglected subjects within contemporary art discourse; this is especially true in countries like Colombia, where art is regularly tasked with addressing socio-political matters. Esteban Garcia bucks this dour trend with drawings and illustrations that are playful, spontaneous, wicked and joyful. To wit: lettuce with a face that spells out “philosophers disagree on the concept of beauty”, a house made of waffles entitled “road trip”, and fluorescent green and pink underwater creatures. They are quick works that reveal childlike pleasure and enjoyment: cut-paper, doodles, and a coloring book made in collaboration with Jordan Cleland.
Carrying play still further, Garcia also explores the possibility of a parallel experience in creating collaborative fantasy fictions. His role-play live acts combine music and video projections with his own character portrayals: The Dead Druglords, The Meatballz, and most recently, Revenge Eternal. The Meatballz, a project in collaboration with Aaron Nemec, is a cartoon band that combines music and comics about meatballs and sauce parties.
Italian theorist Francesco Careri believes that sense of play and free creative activity allow us, “to design aesthetic and revolutionary actions that undermine or elude social control.” Even the simplest of games can be vehicles of knowledge; Garcia’s works can thus be seen in this context as playspaces of the collective mind and culture.
P.H.I.L. is an animatronic groundhog made, Garcia says, “in response to PETA’s petition to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robot”. Each year, Groundhog Day is celebrated in the U.S. town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and features a groundhog named Phil that is used to prognosticate the weather. According to tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an early spring. Garcia’s P.H.I.L. is programmed to constantly run away from his shadow — a permanent winter prognostication that is quite accurate of late in these latitudes.
Beto the bt corn is a 3-D game that comes with the following instructions: “Many consumers don’t know that genetically modified foods have been deemed ‘substantially equivalent’ to other foods by executive order, and therefore passed with little regulation to the public without their knowledge or consent. Help Beto Collect all the high-fructose corn syrup products and solve this mystery.” Innocent-looking on the surface, both P.H.I.L. and Beto are calls to rethinking our interaction with the natural world.
Esteban Garcia’s works are equal parts programming technology, computers, pencil and paper – they invoke sense of play while revealing much more in their underlying examination of the construction of knowledge.
Check out more of Esteban Garcia’s work at http://www.snebtor.chiguiro.org/
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