Continuing our one year celebration, today we are revisiting an article by our contributing writer in Mexico City Alejandro Sordo-Guzmán on the work of Hector Falcón. The book, its uses and transmutation by the hand of the artist into an art object makes us reflect further about how the act of mutilation at times turns into an act of discovery.
Every book has its own story. Some have inspired ways of living; others have rescued people from boredom and suffering. What has been written in books is a means of support by which other books are written. Books, as everything alive, give birth to other books. To Jorge Luis Borges “a book is read for the memory”. Much of our reasoning and approach to life comes from books we have read. They remain in our minds. Books are always present in our education and professional career. Many of us read a book just before we go to sleep. Sacred books are fundamental for most of the religions of the world. There are books of many and varied topics such as science, sports and cooking, but there is a special kind of book that is particularly important for an artist: the art book.
We get to know and understand a great part of art history through images of masterpieces reproduced in books. We learn about Japanese or Chinese art in specialized books. Some masterpieces like Picasso’s Guernica are known worldwide due to the wide range of books and other publications in which this image has been printed. Contemporary artists are drawn to get published in catalogues in order to be recognized by a wider public. Many artists use art books to solve their work of art without even seeing the original piece. Héctor Falcón uses art books as resources for his work in an outstanding manner: he hacks them. A precise cut turns the book into an art object: the book gets transfigured. It seems to me that the lost aura of the original masterpiece by its technical reproduction gets recovered by the artist’s intervention on the art book.
The book’s transfiguration into an art object is accomplished by a cut which makes it impossible to fulfill the original purpose of the book: reading images and texts. Methodical application of metal on paper looks for answers in the art book in a different way. Each layer that is cut uncovers spaces and realities which make the object unique. What is discovered by the artist in each layer? Until when does he stop cutting? It might be that the artist is seeking a new aesthetic form. Maybe he stops cutting when he finds a critical image of a particular book. When Héctor Falcón mutilates art books with concentric circles he accomplishes to find their most profound mysteries. He digs in a book about Vermeer and he finds a hand holding a paintbrush, reminding us that a work of art is made by the artist’s hand. By carefully cutting a book, he finds Gaudi’s basic architectural form: a piece of something. He cuts layer by layer a book about Twentieth century art and he literally cuts through modern and contemporary art. He looks for new meanings for the word existence in a book by Albert Camus and he finds its material existence. Is there a spiritual existence? What is the artist looking for by digging in an art book? Perhaps he is looking for some inspiration. The artist propounds to rummage in the physical existence of a book in order to find new answers for artistic work.
New technologies have allowed for the digitalization of texts; hence, some people wonder about the printed book’s continuance. Borges in his “Essay on the book” states that the disappearance of books is impossible. The experience of reading a book is irreplaceable. Having contact with its sheets of paper, opening and closing it, re-reading it and underlying on it, are all actions that require the subject to have a mutual relationship with the book. Having a book about our favorite artist makes us feel protected. To turn the book of an artist into an art object is to crown the artist in our thoughts and creative processes. Héctor Falcón pays homage to art history and to the great masters. He hacks about a book in order to honor the artist to which the book is dedicated. Contemporary artists face a challenge due to the scarcity of ideas for their productions. Often artists resort to art history and produce recreations of masterpieces. Also, other artists, in a similar way as the Futurist avant-garde did, try to destroy all evidence of previously done art in order to create the new. What is the way that truly makes up the spirit of our time: looking back to the past or eliminating it?