An Alternative History of Abstraction by manuel arturo abreu
In this new performative lecture (presented as a screen recording with audio), Dominican artist manuel arturo abreu heeds Suhail Malik’s call for an exit from contemporary art and its historicism. Part of this exit is realizing that abstraction is not European; abreu briefly discusses the long timeline of the abstract; a few examples like Muslim aniconism, West African polyrhythm and fractal pattern, Ethiopian medieval philosophy, et al; and the value of an interdisciplinary approach that understands abstraction not as sublimation away from the concrete / market / functionality, but as fundamental to mundane daily life, expression, and function. The germ of abstraction is the tongue itself: as an arbitrary linkage of sound and meaning, and as a way of articulating possible worlds, language is abstraction per excellence. From strange biological and physical constraints emerges the calculating potential of electric meat, i.e. the brain, and the history of human survival inextricably depends upon the reproduction of abstract culture which constantly constructs reality while wrestling with calculation, the “irrealis” or subjunctive, and the idea of “something more” than just surviving.
Also screening their piece hierophants, 2019, 8:16 mins, it involves family footage, road and field footage from DR and the Bronx, footage of artifacts in an underground cave in the DR, pentecostal WhatsApp memes from family and family friends, Swype sigils, the Bulerias compas, and documentation of a private exhibition in an ex-housemate’s room, installed from detritus they left to test how much spiritual trace was left in them.