Art and Industry The multiple possibilities of a tangible thing

An object before becoming art, is "thing". The word "art" is like a verb: like running, sailing, looking, breathing, eating. The word “do” is defined by action. In that action the possibilities of art are discovered. Not in the fixed object, finished result; but in what happened infinitely before. That final object must be the calm of the contained gesture, of the previous gestures that led to its realization. (Orozco, Gabriel, Cuaderno de trabajo II, p. 106, 28 de octubre de 1992, Apuntes sobre Extensión del reflejo).

Art has an unexpected bond with life, and this is revealed by this tangible thing, a sewing machine which appears eather in industrial history, in every day life, and in artistic practice. For this essay, I have chosen this object, a Singer sewing machine which was used by artist Jannis Kounellis in his in situ installation called Relámpagos sobre México, in January 29th, 1916.





The connections made by the artist in this piece, are related with his eternal intention to dignify human labour, and in this specific venue, where industrial development began with the arrival of trains in 1910 and the implementation in Aguascalientes of important railway workshops.

The impulse of the use of sewing machines as a job tool in Aguascalientes, was initiated by the arrival of trains, which made it easy to purchase many goods including sewing machines. Sewing was the economic sustain of many families for several decades. Work was assigned to sewers, mostly female, who were able to work at home without neglecting their duties as mothers and housewives.

In Museo Espacio in Aguascalientes, Jannis Kounellis represented this activity with a sewing machine hanging on the wall, over a group of railway sleepers placed on the bottom as a base, as a foundation.

This is just an example of how objects or tangible things have as a common thread the focal themes of Jannis Kounellis's discourse: the constant search for justice, freedom and beauty with an absolutely humanistic approach. These ideas are concretized in the pieces through symbolic and poetic references evoked by the materials that characterize the artist's production: metal plates and beams, coal, sacks, clothing, trains, sewing machines, etc... In this case, making a gesture of almost archaeological appropriation, he has taken the remains of furniture and various objects found in Aguascalientes industrial workspace. By reusing them, he recovers the historical memory and the position of the railway workers in the social and political framework through a poetic evocation, giving them a new dignity in a process of resurrection. The historical, political and social content that these elements have, together with the theatricality with which they are presented by Kounellis, illustrate the poetic act through which the artist seeks to recover the mythology of the form and execution of the drama.

Relámpagos sobre México ( https://terremoto.mx/online/relampagos-sobre-mexico/), the title of the exhibition, makes a nod to the filmic work of the Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein as an allusion to the fleeting illumination that precedes the epiphany, both present in the creative gesture.


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