Alicia Herrero

Algo(de)ritmos, instrumentos, mutaciones

Alicia Herrero: Algo(de)ritmos, instrumentos, mutaciones [Algorithms*, Instruments, Mutations]

Ever since her exhibition Mi botín [My Loot, or Booty, Plunder] in the Centro Cultural Rojas in 1997, Alicia Herrero's works have taken up, in various media, the relationships between art and capital, colonial pillaging, economic concentration, the unequal distribution of wealth and the development of power technologies that function in the output of representations, hierarchies of values and subjectivities. Projects like Un paisaje hechizado [An Enchanted Landscape] (1998), Action-Instrument Box (2011), Museo de la Economía Política del Arte [Museum of the Political Economy of Art] (2012), Una teoría visual de la distribución [A Visual Theory of Distribution] (2017) and Abducción [Abduction] (2021), among others, explore this body of issues.   

In Algo(de)ritmos, instrumentos, mutaciones, Herrero presents paintings, sculptures and assemblages in which she returns to, and extends, these critical coordinates. In the very title, the mediation of the parenthesis that breaks the continuity of the word posits a type of operation that seeks to break up and estrange the orders of meaning about those who lay down, and settle into, the logics of algorithmic/'algo-rhythmic' productivity. In the present day, these algorithms constitute the central motors of a "semiotic capitalism" that functions on a planet-wide scale; they overcode and control all spheres of life. At once ubiquitous and opaque, they are powerful political technologies for modeling the social realm and the organization of the worlds we perceive. Through the algorithms, unimaginable amounts of data become economically valuable information.

Movimiento para deshechizar un paisaje [Movement to Disenchant a Landscape] shows a sort of constellation, map or mechanism with different-sized circles joined together by lines. Smaller circles appear to orbit, like satellites, around other larger ones, diagramming, over the painting surface, repetitive patterns and concentric rhythms. The "landscape" whose enchantment or fascination the artist is trying to undo, takes, as a point of departure, the structure of the network of economic control of the major transnational corporations she used years earlier in her diorama of Mundus Financial Corporation Inc. Evidencia (2015).[1] But Herrero is not carrying out a mere appropriation of this diagram. Painting is the technology she proposes for mediating our relation to an image that describes the nodes and flows of financial concentration on a global level. Herrero sets that mechanism rubbing against her quotation of Marcel Duchamp's Rotoreliefs, a set of cardboard discs the artist published in 1935, printed with spirals, concentric circles and ellipses. The structure of Movement to Disenchant a Landscape is de-centered and displaced into circular rhythms of the disc-paintings. This dialog with the work of Duchamp is part of a larger project Herrero has evolved. One of her pieces, Mise à Nu [Stripped (or Stripping) Bare] (2017), turns to the structure of the Le Grand Verre [The Large Glass] as the medium of a bar chart showing the distribution of wealth around the world in 2016.

References to Duchamp's discs also appear in the series Instrumental and Vanitas. The latter series, in turn, introduces the quotation of a type of allegorical composition that extended over the Baroque era. With Vanitas, Herrero inscribes her oeuvre into the genealogy of that pictorial genre while providing us with the key for interpreting it: her paintings are to be understood as allegories. In these works, the artist arranges over the plane fragments of circular graphs, geometric linear structures, polyhedric and pyramidal shapes, which she assembles along tiers and color gradients. the sketch of the golden spiral or the detail of a kitchen rag, an image Herrero repeated -in the first half of the '90s - in her series of "dishcloths" (in Spanish, “repasadores”: cloths that "go over" something or pass it in "review" -- trans.). In that series, the above-mentioned everyday object becomes the medium for what is reviewed: from the divisions established between the public and the private to the canonical narratives of the history of art. The pie chart, a statistical graphic resource used to represent percentages, is subjected to stretchings and anamorphosis or to cuts and partitions that undo its stability and formal unity. Its fragments take up the walls of the gallery in color planes that interrupt the perceptual and conceptual coordinates of the white cube. In Cotidianomía [Quotidianomy] the circular graph is sculpture, installation, furniture.

Herrero seems to compose her paintings as if she were writing out a musical score or a phrase. She tries out different distributive orders -operations she describes as a "renaming" of the signs her work places in relation-, disarms and reorganizes images and genres in the history of art, charts and statistical schemas, visual grammars, rhythmic and chromatic patterns. Her allegorical assemblages [ensamblajes alegóricos] raise the question of the political in art and its forms of critical agency, situate it and set it pulsing in the sensible and poetic orders they ignite and activate.


Fernando Davis


* Algo(de)ritmos: The initial term of the title harbors an untranslatable pun: Algorithms but also "algo de ritmos": "something of [algo de] rhythms" -- trans.


[1] Herrero took as a reference the charts published in the research of Stefania Vitali, James B. Glattfelder and Stefano Battiston, “The Network of Global Corporate Control,” PLoS ONE, volumen 6, nº 10, octubre de 2011 [vol. 6, issue 10, Oct. 2011].