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'FAM', Group Show at Zape, Valencia

Leaving aside the stock images of family meals with their white-toothed smiles, dining has always been defined by its cultural rituality and for being one of the scenarios where ideological strategies are most clearly materialised. Space and time to tell stories, to share experiences, to strip away that perennial individuality and also to experience moments of terrible tension. I am reminded of Isabella, the painting by the Pre-Raphaelite Millais that illustrates an episode from Boccaccio's novel Decameron. The scene depicted is one of undeniable hostility, with characters enraged, others stiff and visibly uncomfortable, and others literally thinking of ways to murder another.

The FAM exhibition does not seem to invite us to a much more pleasant space than this scene. It invites us to a banquet, yes, but we don't know if it's about to begin, if it's in process, if it's the after-meal, or if it's simply over and only the remains are left. Nor do we know if we are welcome, if we are just another surprise idiot invited to a friends' dinner, or if we will be humiliatingly ignored without understanding too well what we are doing here. Be that as it may, more or less friendly, we are in a fully-fledged dining space, a ritual space with a big table, and, of course, here we must come hungry.

But we must come, eat and drink and spread quickly. After all, rituals adapt to the context, and whether we like it or not, any activity must now be specified for its productivity. We cannot waste time. We can interpret, if we want, that very brief moment as an excuse to "slow down" or rest. After all, we must make excuses for our inability to stop being Hannah Arendt's grotesque caricature of the animal laborans. Under the post-Fordist imperative of hyper-productivity, we are a kind of over-measured, self-exploited, and unbridled one-man startup.

We are demanded (and we demand from ourselves) a holistic enthusiasm for what we do, for our profession, basically based on our own identity. And if we are "lucky" enough to be part of the creative industries, in an almost sadistic way, we want to feel perennially subjected to this uncontrollable fury that drags us down and enables us to stay awake for whole days and, if necessary, in starvation, in extreme malnutrition. All for the sake of the product or the final result or for the sake of who knows what. A hunger born of anxiety, contingency and precariousness, the new languages of contemporaneity.

But, "who is hungry, dreams rolls", and it is not necessary to desire too strongly to feel completely dragged by this acclaimed maelstrom. Like when the smell of the bakery of the oven next door that makes the best croissants I have ever tasted, and that can be felt in the morning in this very space, makes my appetite reel. A smell that now seems to come from the fragile glass tubes, filled with motor oil and other liquids, connected to the wall shared with the bakery running the machinery. Suddenly, a primitive and uncontrollable response of desire erupts. An indomitable hunger to eat even the inedible, which here is transposed as a metaphor for an inescapable hunger not to slow down. To eat even the fruits of heavy metals or the poisoned orchid that has killed the little birds that were fluttering happily towards their nests. Or drink from the horn protected by a snake that warns us of its dangers. In the meantime, perhaps someone clumsily livens up the evening with the useless guitar that can be seen over there. We don't care. It doesn't matter that the heavy table on the verge of collapse is presided over by a menacing figure. We come to taste any poison. Because just as any process sold as marvellous can contain an infinite number of toxicities, the poison or venom they offer us will have something good in it.

24.9.22 — 10.12.22

Forn Pastisseria Agustí, Vitaly Bezpalov, Paco Chanivet, Lara Fluxà, Alfredo Gómez, Carmen Marcos, Joël Mestre, Vicent Orts, Anna Ribelles

Photo by Alberto Feijóo


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