15 February – 13 April

Opening of the exhibition: 14 February 2014, 6.00 pm

Mario Z’s concert: 14 February 2014, 7.00 pm

Curator: Javier Rodriguez Pino


The exhibition „La forma del diablo” presents works of four Chilean artists, all of which constitute a reflection on contemporary forms of portraying evil. What are our associations with the figure of the devil? Photographs of wartime destruction, hooded figures or tattooed criminals? Works presented in the exhibition do not offer easy answers. In all of them, the devil takes on an abstract form of a beast driven by lust for chaos and destruction. All works presented at the exhibition were created during artists’ residency in Gdańsk and are their reaction to the city’s urban space. The artists tap into the memory of trauma that the site is marked with – that of wartime destruction and disintegration. They ask what has emerged from this postwar “non-place” and how its fragments manifest themselves in the contemporary consciousness. Their works are literal reactions to the most recent history of their home country and the spectacle of violence of which Chile was a stage. Javier Rodriguez’ comics feature a spine-chilling character of a young man with a masked face. In his punk installations, Victor Hugo Bravo employs easily identified military elements to create a kind of an abstract map of violence, in which political totalitarianisms overlap with images of torture, prisons and massacres. In Mauricio Bravo’s black and white photographs, the face of the artist transforms into an archerty target. The artists’ works do not merely accuse political systems of the committed violence, but provoke deeper reflections on the universal nature of evil and the lust for destruction present in humankind since the dawn of history.

Exhibition “La forma del diablo” is the last in the series within the framework of “Cities on the Edge” project, which had already featured works by artists from Cuba, Colombia and Iran, among others. The series was meant to present art from regions “on the edge”, i.e. areas outside the scope of our interests, which are associated with conflict rather than art. The exhibition series was an attempt at an alternative viewpoint, one that would abandon stereotypical Europocentric perspectives, where the region is perceived through the prism of tourist postcards or television news. The artists’ works would often create temporary spaces and discuss social issues. Lack of sociology allowed for problems addressed by artists to seem very close to our experience despite the geographical distance. Lack of images portraying conflicts and binary divisions allowed for analysis of universal issues. The common denominator for all the works presented at the exhibition series was the condition of contemporary homo politicus, a man involved in politics.

Agnieszka Kulazińska
“Cities on the Edge” series curator

Curator’s notes:
A little over a decade ago, as a freshman in college, I attended an exhibition featuring works by Mauricio Bravo, Mario Z and Víctor Hugo Bravo. The exhibition was held in the arched room in the art gallery of Pontifical Catholic University in Chile. What struck me then as an 18- or 19-year-old was the suggested expansion of the definition of art, not only through the installations and works exhibited, but also through the aggressive, eye-obtrusive and subversive look of each particular piece. If there is such a thing as punk art, this must be it – I thought, walking along a row of knives that Victor lined along his well-known, camouflage-coated objects. My accidental discovery was supplemented by black-and-white faces positioned as targets on Mauricio’s shooting range, while Mario’s painting – conversely – portrayed a cartoon Powerpuff Girl above a neoclassical portrait of a girl.

For a long time I would return to those delirious artworks. Now, after a decade, I noticed that the poetics these artists have worked out for themselves have radicalized; yet the radicalism does not come from literalness they could have fallen prey to, but from the ever-increasing complexity of their art practice, or in other words, the knowledge gained through the hitherto work and its subsequent exhibition.

Moving on, typical for works by Mario, Victor and Mauricio are combinations of signs related to violence, death and performance that manage to achieve – through various premises – development of visually enticing imagery that compels us to experience the all-but-compulsory urge to destroy. One can say that one of the most acute achievements of these artists’ work is the symbolic embodiment of chaos and creation of special meaning within the existing order. Wasn’t it this very feature that led to success of Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”? The clothes, make-up, gestures and voice of one of the biggest fictional villains were perfected as never before to reveal that which is oddly fascinating and at the same time re-defines our understanding of the concept of evil.
On the other hand, shortly after the exhibition that  revolved around fear, pop and history of painting had ended, I realized the extent to which my own work brings me close to the three aforementioned artists. A few years ago, I read about one of the signs on the wall of the former Pedagogy Institute (of the university in Chile), which stated more or less the following: “a hood is not meant to cover your face, but to show your hate”. The statement intentionally does not address the destruction that is usually associated with hooded young men, as the hood and its performativity become symbols of revolt and resistance and at the same time trigger enticing aesthetic associations. By deciding to join this particular group of artists, I am declaring my affinity with a certain ideological framework, which first and foremost relates to the visual conditions it created; as chaos and violence, apart from being expressions of discontent and general resentment, allow for these conditions to reveal themselves:
In such context, hooded violence becomes also a symbolic and cultural revolt. It is a revolt against outdated forms that allowed themselves to be subjugated (…). The hood breaks with subjugation in all its forms, a disengagement which poses a dissonance not only for the state and employers, but also for those who have accepted the official discourse. However, wearing a hood becomes a political act only when it expresses a will to rebel against structural conditions of violence (be it economic, social or political), challenging the heartlessness of Chilean politics .
In Abnorma,l  Michel Foucault traces how, starting from the 18th century, when it would be an encounter of medical and moral (judicial) knowledge, the fertile process of social, political and technical normalization has been taking place, constituting nothing less than a means to reaffirm power and its asymmetry. Concurrently, the concept of the monster has been developed, a term of legal and natural character, as it links the forbidden with the impossible, and thereby becomes concomitantly the very opposite of this reaffirmation.
One could say that this is radicalization of felony. The monster violates the law, leaving it with nothing to say . From its definition, as rendered by the Spanish Royal Academy (a fantastical, fear-inspiring figure or someone cruel and perverse) we understand that the monster is the figure that most of the society identifies with evil; it is a representation of evil or, to put it differently, it is the evil that manifests itself as something monstrous: the Joker, hooded men, skulls, etc.
Thus, the image of evil that our works attempt to create allows (like a street blockade) for the creation of its negative form , which offers the opportunity to – as Deleuze would put it - think the unthinkable and oppose the existing order. In consequence, La forma del diablo will deliver a blow to the normality of the good – as a construct of Western morals – and become its anomaly that stands separate from its order and norm. It is no coincidence that we have the severe Polish winter as the perfect scenery for our art.
One of the first sites I visited in Gdańsk was the Torture Museum, a strange crossover between a haunted house and a historical building. The ambience inside the building’s red-brick walls is meant to heighten the fear expected from visitors to the place. When I stepped out of the building, leaving behind me most vile cruelties of medieval prints and artefacts bathed in multicolor lights, I encountered an open space of quite somber character. I was in the Old Town, so I assumed this may be a kind of a monolith zero kilometer marker. I do not remember the exact number nor arrangement of the exhibition, but the area comprised an open-air gallery of black-and-white photos of the city taken right after the war had ended. In a similar manner to Triumph of Will, the installation offered documentation of the Apocalypse on the very site it happened; I was standing in an area that hell had swept through. I remember that it was autumn and the gabled roofs of buildings seemed to be touching the black clouds which the wind was slowly pushing across the sky.

Poland, squeezed between Germany and Russia, a country among those most severely affected in the course World War II and a site for the biggest amount of concentration camps, including Auschwitz, seems to embody what Adorno and Horkeimer elaborated on in “Dialectics of Enlightenment”, namely – the light of modernity that also inevitably becomes its own darkness. In other words, all hitherto technical achievements accomplished in the name of progress had been reflected in this eerie Polish scenery. Although industry and the railways, both elements of the Holocaust machinery in the frosty snowy landscape, were no cinematic fantasy but consequence of a uniform, dominant idea that idolized calculation and usefulness, they constitute a shocking image of evil and in our case – the image of this evil’s space, its particular landscape.

Taking into consideration what has been said in the two earlier parts about the image of evil as a negative form of reclamation will allows us to understand Polish landscape through the very same prism of negativism that stimulates the critical sense, the Polish darkness as a negative space becomes thereby a non-place.
I understand the term differently than Marc Augé, for whom it denoted abstract and anonymous areas of transience, such as airports or shopping malls. My understanding is closer to Michel de Certau’s interpretation, in which a non-place is first and foremost an area of negative qualities that transforms into that which is unsaid and unwritten. Two contemporary thinkers, Esteban Dipaola i Nuria Yabkowski, take this thought further, interpreting the non-place as an area for symbolic reclamation, where its particular characteristics allow us to re-think that which has been unthinkable.
A non-place, according to Adorno and Deleuze, aims to reflect upon the space, the open “chasm” that leaves room for critical thinking. It poses questions about singular beings, particular individuals that perceive themselves on the plane of immanence and defend themselves from self-invalidation in the complexity of Everything .
In this sense, not only does La forma del diablo find the perfect background in the pernicious aura of the Holocaust, but it also finds archaeological strategy to stand up to and challenge the very system that created this landscape. To quote Argentinian philosophers, this non-place will allow us to re-identify the system’s logic and thus re-establish its position within historical frameworks .
Javier Rodriguez Pino


Municipal Institution of Culture