The poetics of the ordinary
“With open eyes, ready to listen, they search for something different than what the crowd came to see…” is how the definition of flanêur begins in Passagenwerk by Walter Benjamin.
In our times, it is clear that the view of those surrounding us has become so second nature that it keeps us from seeing beyond mere objects in their use. Alejandro Leonhardt, just like a flanêur, shows us another perception in his poetic constructions of reality.
I think it is right to talk about us, the public, as modern viewers. Based on this, it’s nothing new that in our everyday lives, in our daily transit, much of that surrounding us goes unseen. We naturalize paths and routes, there’s no time to be thorough, and the whirlwind that we are immersed in makes us automatons. The non-places that Augè speaks about are more present than ever.
In this sense, the figure of a flanêur, which acts almost like a detective looking for tracks and clues, rescues us from the alienation that all of those who live in urban spaces make up. In Benjamin’s text we can see several interpretations regarding what a flanêur is. I prefer to use the term to define Alejandro Leonhardt as a wanderer who gathers pieces of reality, that to us, the alienated urban viewers, look like a juxtaposition of dissimilar utilities. Leonhardt grants us other opportunities of thinking where free spaces can be discovered based on our daily nature, even in the most insignificant things; meanwhile, it is charged with feeling and sentiment and the unstable becomes a trigger, and the contrast becomes a continuous discovery of beauty.
“My work strays between references from art and everyday life. However, for quite some time now I have chosen to favor the latter, since to me, its poetic potential is much more enriching,” comments the artist. From this point of view, it’s no wonder the artist chooses installation as the genre for his work, where objects are decontextualized and question the viewer. This questioning can deconstruct, since in its original space such objects are simply ignored. He forms a new construction of meaning and it is here where a kind of aesthetic and conceptual juxtaposition comes into play. Regarding this, the artist states “… I see the aesthetic and conceptual sense as gears whose singularity is due to the friction between them both. The energy that is created from them could be understood as the work.”
The unexpected and that which throws you off balance is the driving force of new discourses, “each object has a message as meaningful material,” according to the artist. Each one in itself, upon being linked to or interacting with the other, creates a new transformation that can be interpreted as a new beginning.
On Junta de vecinos, the artist groups together 42 fragments of paint taken off of the facades of houses, gathered at the perimeter of a city block in a neighborhood in Santiago. At first glance, the work reminds me of the color catalogues at a paint shop, however, upon looking at it in closer detail, each small fragment has a singularity that makes it unique, like a fingerprint. The ephemeral is represented in the passage of time (which is inexorable) which is shown in some cases in layers and layers of paint, textures and peeling paint, subtleties and spills, analogous, if you like, to the lodgers that dwell within them. They are remnants, records of humanity and existence, like a metaphor for how finite we are; time destroys all.
However, in his installation Situaciones reales de consecuencias imaginarias, the artist works based on the abstraction of the objects, the concept of violence, and not from a definition as he comments; rather, it is based on the colonization of a material that heavily and permanently invades the other. Here, particularly the material is what comes into play to define contrast and stories. We see Persian blinds set against a cement background. The cement has invaded the material of the blinds and in turn, a drawer of drinks is crossed by a weight and is also full of cement. Another object is coated with a type of hard resin or polymer, “drowning” the original material of the colonized object. I use the term colonized based on a substitution and violent imposition aspect and from that interpretation I can see that grade of violence. I no longer use that provided by mass media but rather the metaphor within the aggressive juxtaposition of opposing materials, where the invaded material becomes fragile and cornered.
On a separate note, his work Mancha de limpieza para ácaros vanidosos, reminds us of the Latin American informalism used by Alberto Greco, where the idea of the flanêur is evident in the daily wandering that leads to finding or discovering something beautiful, or the sign of a new aesthetic and conceptual possibility. In both instances, the material is traversed by time, which represents the inexorableness of human existence –in Leonhardt, the object in question is a rug that is in the office of his gallery director. In this case, the object in question is changed by the artist, who tears a piece of it off. The rug is shown hanging with its filth nailed to the wall, the missing piece is on the floor, but unlike its counterpart, it is clean, thus showing the color of the days that saw said object come to life, maintaining a close-knit relationship with the title of said work, where irony and sarcasm also make up part of the artists discourse.
Leonhardt exhibits free spaces, where close attention to detail is the trigger to discovering that which our contemporaneity keeps veiled like viewers hastened in the alienation of our own urbanity.