Text by Javier Peñafiel
Idoia Montòn’s Public
Every day I’m more and more confident of being a better public, by which I mean belonging more to the common, participating more in the events that happen on the earth’s crust and in what happens between us, between animals, autistic things and other subjects. And quantity, our quantity, will do this, do anything with me as its public asset. But now I’m going to talk in particular about the experience of being Idoia Montón’s public.
Idoia and I have shared antagonisms, politics, intersexuality, drawings, anti-programs, characteristics and caricatures, generation and distraction, the adversarial role, the incorruptible constituent and above all the collage uprising.
I’ll explain myself quickly: we’ve shared time though maybe not coincided because of age and its contexts. And I’ll narrow that time down now, from a visit to Arteleku in San Sebastian to another visit to the Kasa de la Muntanya in Barcelona, early in the second decade of the two thousands. And in four sub points I’ll talk about my visits to Juana de Aizpuru and Buades in the nineties of the 20th century and to Halfhouse and EART in the second decade of the 21stcentury.Time enough.
All this transience may make you dizzy, but that’s what this is about; the painstaking enjoyment of vertigo. No one’s saying that vertigo is synonymous with velocity. It lags a lot, it’s unresolvable, and it’s repetitive. It’s a bit of everything, like the experience of being Idoia Montón’s public.
In late twentieth century Donostia, some young artists met up in Arteleku, in workshops given by Angel Bados for example, who I’d visit for pleasure and never as an artist. I’d enjoy his sculpture exercises; those generous speculations of literally deconstructed things as though they were pretexts. But it was only a moment, a moment of wonders that then crystallized into the formalism of product, or style almost. It was a very peculiar thing to see these works in the context of the Basque conflict, in the seemingly aseptically surfaced Donostia. It made an interesting case study, but that’s another topic to come, yet to come.
If by this time the financial casino had disfigured nearly everything in the art institution, still to come were hypermediacy, new historiography normatives, author-cynicism, political nominalism and its abuse of the image of the subaltern, or the cultural neocolonialism of the “aznarzapateado” delirious governing of Aznar and Zapatero and their unsustainable architectures.
In that era in Donostia I saw some collages by Idoia, which I would later see again in Madrid in the exhibition -100 at Juana de Aizpuru Gallery, a group show by four artists whose collective ages would add up to less than 100. The show was a loyal reflection of the time. Two Basque sculptors and two Madrid based painters whose ages seemed irreconcilable with the times. The perverse irony, weak chromatic and bitter plasticity of the painters was a place for egolactancias, for the narcissism of strong though somewhat suffering subjects, for killer hedonism, like a night in a fairytale where the terror of the adult thrives on bourgeois insomnia. One painting by Luis Salaberría portrays a delirious, bittersweet character of about 20 inches high. A friend of mine has it in their house and each time I see it I feel that it’s different, that it continues to mirror me well. With the sculptors nevertheless, there was an assertive distancing in a world beyond narcissism or perhaps the bio-opposite, in such a way that, subconsciously or not, the exhibition worked as a reflective antropomania. Out of all of their work, it was Ana Laura’s that best subscribed to the subsequent hegemony and its market, having to deal with the horrors of Arco’s immediate responses, the pettiness of acquisition policies, banks spending their small change, a frantic world that ended up seizing 90 % of the production of this generation in a heavy handed splurge. Diego died in the same way he thought: radically. Luis draws outside many things, painlessly at that. Idoia went about deeply radicalising her separation politically.
Later I saw a very coherent evolution; some of Idoia’s paintings in Buades, in a very different group show to -100. It was interesting to see how Miquel Cereceda curated a sort of discomfort in this exhibition, anticipating what would later become the evils of the archive and the increasingly cynical mediation by the institution when we thought we’d reached the limits of disappointment. Idoia showed some paintings whose context was as politicized as it was magical. For me they were a nice surprise but for many they were too distant from her deconstructions. I understood the opposite: these paintings were strict in their materiality but there was a lot of narrative assembled in them. Like everything I’ve seen since then by Idoia, they were unlike any formal or nominal illustrative political exercise, they were precise, in context. But it was not easy for everyone to assimilate this, and even less to contemplate it coming from painting after years of retina bashing by the material dandyism of the expressionisms and informalisms of all those laddish artists. Years later, I had the opportunity to talk to Pablo Llorca about this and about why Idoia Montón interested us both. I was slow to understand how and why urban plots, the wasteland, exclusion zones and the subjects Idoia worked with subscribe to the demolition of selfism that Idoia proposed as a polyphonic tale. As for the intense work in the paintings, there is a very precise play with subheadings that I’ve only seen in a few works of literature. Idoia abandoned her speculative work in sculpture, even though it was fruitful in every respect and which years later we have seen successfully developed by artists like Thea Djorjadze. In a conversation with Idoia in the squat in the mountains, as she was collecting together piles of drawings, we discussed the problem of non- represented voices in the squat’s assemblies. It was then I understood that Idoia Montón’s reason for choosing painting and drawing was to focus on this question, not to back away from her preferred realities, i.e. to deny speculative mediations not out of a weird essentialism but out of an open empathy with her immediate context, with all its difficulties and controversies, giving it her all and not shying away from intelligent illustration, denying the pacified abstraction of reality (the essence of artistic activity, submerged or not), saying to it: Don’t count on me. At dinners at the squat, in an abuse of ingenuity she has obviously enjoyed almost passionately, Idoia has taken out work to show in drips and drabs. It was magical (in the best sense of the word), to see how people who shared their lives with Idoia appeared in the work. Perhaps (and in times of crisis definitely), the conservative revolution of those years; the brutal expropriation of the public in our communities and the loss of civil rights, have been the most decisive results of the long process of false economy and social delusion that we’ve experienced since the transition. In this the art institution has been hyper-realistic: A modern casino.
To see myself as the public in front of Idoia’s work in its criticality was almost a cure considering the dominant speculative narrative; the nightmare of the pink world and the cement world and of artist’s-mediators and their product-moralism no longer weighed on me. Thank you Idoia.
Idoia has also been involved by making posters for collectives, participating in processes of assembly or attending my workshop The Oral Museum of the Revolution in which she kept an eccentric distance, reminding me of other moments in art when the worker of images was recognizable (or unrecognizable) through their common practices, as they were intrinsic to one another.
The work of Idoia Montón helps me interact with the proliferation of presents which our cognition has become, It effectively isolates me from the full screen communicability of capitalism in its phase of financial genocide, it leads me to an unstable area where I can refrain from immediacy: that great behavioural standard.
And so, a painting by Idoia inhabits my current abode, a painting of a frog at the end of a tunnel. The frog is almost a panther to me, he’d be the frog Panther; number one enemy of the Pink Panther´s dandyism, in my own little joke, but that panther frog works by my side.
Through Idoia’s work I have understood several other things: to ignore dandyism as insufficient though not from a moral frame. There’s also the act of making the narcissistic Cassandra figure impossible or adding difficulties to the type of character that makes predictions based on the inevitable.
The most recent collages by Idoia Montón are a good Atlas: honest and generous. Of late, she has chosen a format and a way of marking the surface, the product of a strong anger but seeped in the moment of the experience, i.e. they are slow to the root. Sometimes there are delays Idoia’s narrative that are of such intensity that I ought to photograph them to take them away to some other time and, starting with the details, look at them again. The play with zoom in recent collages is exciting, they are anti-screen, free from projections about this or that reality, inclusive in the extreme; they have almost everything, and from that comes emotion.