libiaPerez&olafurOlafsson_img1.gif libia Perez & olafur Olafsson
Libia Pérez & Olafur Olafsson 30
Libia Perez en Olafur Olafsson is een  kunstenaarsstel dat zich met regelmaat verplaatst. Ze maken kunst die altijd sterk beïnvloed door hun verblijfsplaats van dat moment. Hun kunst focust zich altijd op het creëren van speel- kunst situaties. In de jaren na de millenniumwisseling waren ze vooral geïnteresseerd in het maken van interieurs. Deze interieurs waren bedoeld op totaaldecors, als ambiances, waarin zij de gebruikelijke manier van gedragen in het opbaar proberen te frustreren.
"We are not far from the Situationist position of Debord and Lebovici, which hit the art world through the powerful influence it exerted on the champions of Cobra, Asger Jorn and Constant, who were ultimately drawn to its Utopian ideals… What neither Schwitters nor the Situationists considered to be an integral and necessary part oft heir work was the public, which enters the labyrinthic corridors of the artist couple and completes the environment with its presence."31
“By disrupting actual space with extraneous elements, discordant colours, chaotic constructions, disparity of industrial matter and materials, inconstant lighting, sound of miscellaneous sources and a running slide-show the artist couple leads us beyond any tranquil, deliberate contemplation. Bombarded by all these disturbing elements we are not able to make a clear distinction anymore between our own subjective person and the environment. As soon as we enter Libia´s and Ólafur´s carnavalesque hangouts we become an integral part of the Dionysiac atmosphere which prevails in their random environments.”32
"The artists include in their art their daily life and interaction within the society, making it hard for the viewer to figure out where their daily existence ends and their art begins. Therefore the memory and experience of outsiders is included into the “art-play”, where it interacts with the experience and perception of the artists." 33
     Waar het commentaar dat hierboven afgedrukt staat spreekt over Debord en Lebovici, lijkt mij echter de vergelijking met Pinot Gallizio’s ‘cavern of antimatter’ meer van toepassing. De werkwijze vertoont sterke vergelijkingen, al hebben Pérez en Olafsson een veel uitgebreider arsenaal. Waar Pinot zich beperkten tot licht, geluid, het bedekken van wanden en het aankleden van modellen met schilderijen gaan Pérez en Olafsson veel verder in het verstoren van de ruimte. Desoriënterende spiegels, bewegende beelden op de vloer geprojecteerd, het gedeeltelijk afsluiten van volledig ingerichte ruimtes bijvoorbeeld en, zoals het tweede commentaar ook vermeld worden ook de bezoekers van de ruimte hierin betrokken. Door zich bekend te maken met de omgeving en haar bewoners en Door de ruimte actief te verbinden met de omgeving konden de kunstenaars de mensen bewegen ruimte in hun dagelijks leven op te nemen. Het duidelijkste effect had de ruimte dan ook op zijn directe omgeving. Dansgroepen uit de buurt verlegden hun oefenruimte naar het aangrenzende plein. Een zigeuner gemeenschap uit de buurt was vaak in de buurt te vinden, en de bar werd een vaak gebruikte plaats.34
     Wat Pérez en Olafsson hier dus aantonen is dat de doelen van Debord en de zijnen misschien niet zo onhaalbaar zijn. Waar het creëren van situaties bij de SI vaak neerkwam op het verstoren van de orde, hebben zij met dit project daadwerkelijk situaties gecreëerd waarin mensen speelsere en gepassioneerdere momenten van leven hadden.

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libiaPerez&olafurOlafsson_img2.gif 1 :Breaking the space (EN) (by Halldór Björn Runólfsson)
1 :Breaking the space (EN) (by Halldór Björn Runólfsson)

Breaking the space
The interiors of Libia Pérez de Siles de Castro and Ólafur Árni Ólafsson.

The most interesting and by far the most intriguing of all classical representations in visual art are the works of art where space is problematized in order to get us to reconsider the way in which we observe the world and make sense of the order of things surrounding us. Already in Hellenistic painting, known to us mostly from villas in Pompeii and Rome, spatial entanglement is given an ever impressive role in the overall frescos which adorned the dwellings of the wealthy. In the 1st century B.C.the anonymous masters in the various towns around the Bay of Naples had introduced a complex architectural setting in their wall paintings where decorative imaginary riddles in form of doors, windows and colonnades opened up to ever changing motifs and scenery. The multiplicity of perspective made it difficult to distinguish between realistic handling of mythological scenes, landscape and still- lifes, and surreal trompe-l´oueil settings, harshly criticized by the contemporaneous architect Vitruvius, who accused painters of deceiving the public´s perception by deviating gravely from plausible reality.

These Hellenistic and Roman spatial concerns set the standard formost subsequent experiments in Western art, whether they had to do with perspective in the Renaissance era, the Baroque age´s fascination for mirrors and trompe l´oeil effects, or modernism´s ceaseless attempts to redefine space and dimensions. Piero´s Flagellation is as revelatorial testimony of the Italian 15th century concerns for geometrical complexity as Velázquez´ Meninas is a brilliant example of its century´s relational order. Moving to the roots of modernism we can observe similar trends, in Manet´s Bar at the Folies Bergères, to disclose the essence of late 19th century social perspective through means of extraneous,incongruous spatial rendering.

While following in the footsteps of this long tradition Libia Pérezand Ólafur Árni Ólafsson also go against the determination of a clearly and statically defined space, however complex it may be. The biggest difference between their approach and forementioned painters is the fact that their spatial account surrounds and overwhelmes the spectator. It can of course be contended that Hellenistic and Roman painting was all-embracing since it comprised the four walls of a room giving a sense of a complete environment with the illusion that it opened on to an adventurous exterior beyond. But no matter how jolting the ancient wall painting may have been it did not undermine the onlooker´s sense of rationality in the way Libia Pérez´ andÓlafur Árni´s installations do. Although Vitruvius may have considered the most imaginary styles of ancient painting to be dangerous examples of pure fantasy they now seem quite orderly and Apollonian compared to the almost psychadelic environment presented by Pérez and Ólafsson.

By disrupting actual space with extraneous elements, discordant colours, chaotic constructions, disparity of industrial matter and materials, in constant lighting, sound of miscellaneous sources and a running slide-show the artist couple leads us beyond any tranquil,deliberate contemplation. Bombarded by all these disturbing elements we are not able to make a clear distinction anymore between our own subjective person and the environment. As soon as we enter Libia´s and Ólafur´s carnavalesque hangouts we become an integral part of the Dionysiac atmosphere which prevails in their random environments. Our senses aredisturbed at every instance by a mixture of fragrances, common and exotic,while complementary colour schemes hit our eyes. These are often carefully laid in a geometric, or optical manner, together with furniture whic hreverberates the pattern on the walls. But as soon as it tends to dominate the space it is confronted by an informal muddy substance of earth, pigmentand spilled paint, crumbling or leaking on the floor and blending withhoses, cords and flexes which criss- cross the space as tatty cobwebs.

The introduction of mirrors in the most imaginable way bring yet another set of perspective to Libia Pérez´ and Ólafur Árni´s disorienting interiors. There are certainly ample parallels between these mirrors and the mirrors we encounter in the works of the classical masters, especially those who, like van Eyck, Velázquez and Manet, used them in the most surprising way in order to question our spatial perception. There is however a new sense of impetus, impatience in the young couple´s arrangement which cannot be exempted from certain socio- political tendencies. Disruption of rational space is in itself a latent indicationof criticism, a certain kind of irascibility directed against the shortcoming of conventional pespective, which of course is a token of conventional opinion at large. By tampering with convention one automatically creates a new set of perspective which is bound to deviate the spectator´s opinion.

We are not far from the Situationist position of Debord and Lebovici, which hit the art world through the powerful influence it exerted on the champions of Cobra, Asger Jorn and Constant, who were ultimately drawn to its Utopian ideals. Although Debord played down the Situationists´ debt to Dada and Surrealism, Jorn´s and Constant´s revolutionary ideas of architecture and urban planning -  The New Babylon for the nomadic,ever drifting homo ludens - cannot be easily separated from Kurt Schwitters´ Merzbau, which he rebuilt three times, in Hannover, in the wake of the Third Reich, in Norway just before the Second World War,and in England´s Lake District at the end of the war. Titles of the various sections of the Hannover Merzbau - The Cathedral of Erotic Misery, The Great Cave of Love and The Cave of Sexual Murder -bear witness to the highly psychological context of the curious interior. Schwitters´ constructions at last caught the critics´ attention in 1956,the same year as Constant started working seriously on his New Babylon models. Although the date is a pure coincidence it is less of a chance that environmental art should gain momentum in the following years.

Standing firmly on the relatively fresh ground paved by the pioneers of experimental interiors, Libia Pérez and Ólafur Árni continue adding new elements and features to the category. What neither Schwitters nor the Situationists considered to be an integral and necessary part of their work was the public which enters the labyrinthic corridors of the artist couple and completes the environment with its presence. These people are as important as consecutive components of Libia and Ólafur´s interiors as the meninas, the infanta, the royal couple, the dog and the painter inVelázquez´ classical masterpiece. The public is also the haphazard elementwhich the artists are unable to controle; the mark of contingency whichmakes these exciting artworks as venturous for them as for us. This is whythe openings - the merry party which mingles with the various elements - become so important for the sake of the installation. They are the sourceof everchanging reflections in the mirrors caught by our eyes as fleetingimpressions of faces which cut the space as flashing images, obstructing ordividing the persons or elements behind them.

Asger Jorn had the dream of a city where homo ludens, theplaying man would be free from any sedentary constraints and would be ableto drift from one sector of the town to the other. Constant even foresawour artificial control of lighting and climate. Libia Pérez and Ólafur Árniseem to be proceeding from that small scale model to an actual interior,thus furthering the futuristic vision of the Situationist Internatinaltowards a tangible realization.
libiaPerez&olafurOlafsson_img3.gif 2: The surroundings and the exhibition space of Alternativa. (by Libia Pérez de Siles de Castro)
2:
The surroundings and the exhibition space of Alternativa. (by Libia Pérez de Siles de Castro)

The surroundings and the exhibition space of Alternativa.

The Alternativa space became porous and with a variety of proposals. After having worked for two months in its surroundings and in the old town centre, making anonymous interventions, getting information on the area, making friends and living there, we worked for three weeks on the intervention and transformation of the Alternativa space. With the idea of creating a permeable place, connected with its surroundings, sensitive, experimental, reflexive and (”performative”) active that remained open to the public for three more weeks.

A very fluid, playful and even hysterical atmosphere was created the day of the inauguration, the whole space was simultaneously activated. Apart from that, we invited people from different areas to come and behave the way they wanted to. This was necessary to create the experiment about this precise situation and atmosphere. No exclusions, heterogeneity and disparity.

From that day the space gained tranquillity, and its different “places” began to develop their own atmosphere according to the way people used and got used to them, from drinking in the bar to walking through the exhibition space in very different ways (due to the order and disorder of the signs), to lie down on the bed, to watch the projections, to read, to use the microphone, etc…

As they were getting used to the reading of the space and its elements, they discovered the relation that existed with the outside (surrounding) and with them selves…

People sang and danced , because part of the gipsy community were our neighbours and the breakdancers practised right opposite the exhibition space.

Some singers came from the theatre and the microphone was also used for multiple spatial jokes (the sound was always produced by the loudspeaker at the other side of the exhibition space) and for some political voices.

The people we met in the streets came to the space to visit and spend time with us. We sometimes invited walkers and travellers to come in during the night, or we picked them up from the square, or from the little wall we had built in the passage (where people began to meet). Those were magical encounters, because the space did not have a clear contextual definition and the people did not know where they were, a space that openly invited to (communicate) reflection and experimentation with their sensations.

This also happened in the morning because the space exists at one side of the theatre building- nobody’s land- in one of the meaeros(1) of the city (although it does not look like this) with a minuscule sign and practically anonymous.

(1) Colloquial word used to define the places in the streets used by people every weekend to have a piss. (Translator’s note)

This way, like the friends we made in the street during the process of the project, whose character was heterogeneous , the exhibition hall and the little wall were still a place to create encounters -of different people with diverse expectations- where the origin of the encounter became undefine and hazy. Through its unfixed nature the space offered the possibility of making its visitors and participants invent and establish new and different connections.

The found object, here, became space and a triggering element, related to identities and known places (for the people from the neighbourhood above all).

The function of the space (which also determines somebody’s situation), did not correspond with the expectations of the majority of the visitors.

The intervined space transforming our contextual perception, can open up to an undefine state that is creative and inventive.

People told us about their reflections and questions. They told us about their experiences in the city related to space, the atmosphere and vice versa. Sometimes the discussion ended up in political and economic matters, because the impression of the different territories exhibited, especially the projections, were of tension and conflicts, very obvious in the old centre of Málaga, due to politics strengthening the speculation of the land, and more injustices provoked by it.

The way from the space to the street was very fluid, with a very different sound at the main door (a “bosbolocophony” directed by a loudspeaker towards the street) and already outside, the next intervention. We had made a small wall with stones taken from the demolitions and building sites of the neighbourhood, placed right in front of the exhibition space.

An archaeological appearance, which provoked numerous spatial and temporal digressions about its origin and was a serious obstacle for some and a place for meeting and resting for others.

Libia Pérez de Siles de Castro
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libiaPerez&olafurOlafsson_img4.gif 3: A Crack in the expected
3: A Crack in the expected

Chapter 3 : The Noise of Money
ASÍ Museum May 14th – June 5th 2005

A Crack in the expected
– The Art of Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson

The rule of law has no life of its own. It is perpetually dead. The same goes for all rules, spoken or unspoken, that men strive to create. It is only in our shared space that that our formulas for behaviour and thought exist; in our interaction in the space we are given. By breaking (or bending) the given norm we resuscitate the rules and regulations. If we all took the same path no rules would be needed. The unexpected makes life bearable.
One of the aims of artists Ólafur Árni Ólafsson (b. 1973 in Reykjavík) and Libia Pérez de Siles de Castro (b. 1970 in Málaga) is to make the tensions and conflicts that lurk beneath the surface in human society to some extent visible. At the same time they do not necessarily want to make these strains understandable, that is left for the onlooker to try and figure out for himself. To expose the dynamics of human society is of course a noble and gigantic task that can in all likelihood never be completed, but by the continuous labour of thought and research the untouchable goal can at least be neared. Thus the final destination exists, but it can never be reached.
The foundation of the art of Ólafur and Libia is always the current location of their work and where they reside for the moment. Their work resembles that of a troubadour that continually weaves his site related stories from a specific cultural context into his continuing artistic journey. They drink in their sourroundings; analyze the environment and the rhythm, rules and life patterns of the inhabitants. Similar to anthropologists they practice fieldwork for their studies that are meant to reflect the status and changes within the society. The artists include in their art their daily life and interaction within the society, making it hard for the viewer to figure out where their daily existence ends and their art begins. Therefore the memory and experience of outsiders is included into the “art- play”, where it interacts with the experience and perception of the artists. They identify with immigrants that have to start their lives anew in a foreign environment, but at the same time they are well aware of the customs and idiosyncrasies that exist there beforehand.
After the initial fieldwork the “playing area” is prepared, the art- space that is available to artists. The outer limits of the space are no limits at all and the art often spills out of the art- space onto the street and into the realm of everyday live. Outside the defined art- space the artists are confronted with other sets of rules and customs. Thus Ólafur and Libia identify with someone who comes into a new and unknown slice of reality, not unlike the immigrant. The performance is also never far away and more often than not the artists lend their own persona to their art.
In their work Ólafur and Libia constantly try to interact with the world outside the world of contemporary art. They strive to bring together different open and receptive personalities within the art- enriched space that they prepare for each exhibition. The “know- how” of someone familiar with contemporary art is not necessarily to his advantage because the art-space works best when different personalities perceive and experience within it. The action and interaction of the visitor is hoped for and a shift in his perception and senses is sought for. For this to happen the mediums and the exposition have to have an edge, that is often infused with political aromas, but the unsaid is often more important than that which is readily visible. The space lives a life on its own (it breaths, grows, transforms and decays) after the artists have prepared it.
A new reality is set forth in the works of Ólafur and Libia. This reality is both open and closed at the same time, foreign and familiar. It is a reality full of possibilities to explore although it is based on its inner rules. In the end rules are questionable and can always be bent or broken.

Guðni Tómasson