El mundo del espectáculo
Lolo y Lauti
22.08.19 | 29.09.19
After participating in the Programa Experimental, a nine-month artists’ residency program run by the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario (CNB), the art duo Lolo and Lauti (Lorenzo Anzoátegui and Lautaro Camino, Buenos Aires, 1980 and 1986 respectively) exhibited a set of multimedia installations based on their reading of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, the book that ushered in the situationist movement. Debord’s postulates include the notion that “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,” and “The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.” Curated by theater director Mariana Obersztern, El mundo del espectáculo—which is also the name of a television show on Channel 13 that airs movies from the sixties—set out “to return experience to consumerism,” as the artists put it.
The experience began when the doors to the elevator on CNB’s second level opened. When visitors walked in, they came upon two large mirrors shaking back and forth, projecting a deformed, flickering, and rhythmic image.
To the left were two installations that make use of the digital Chroma Key technique. The first, Mirtha eres tú (You are Mirtha), is an environment with wall, table, and chair painted green; viewer/participants are invited to sit in the chair at the head of the table. When they look up, they see a monitor showing the set of the long-running Argentine television show Almorzando con Mirtha Legrand onto which their own image is projected, in the place of the aging film star-turned-talk show host. The second installation is a compartmentalized space in which voices resonate powerfully while a video, also altered with Chroma Key, plays in loop. What is showing this time is a TV advertisement put out in 1997 by the Federal Office to Prevent Addiction and Fight Drug Trafficking. In it, Dr. Alfredo Miroli, undersecretary of that agency at the time, comes off the screen to converse with the cartoon characters, Fleco and Male. Lolo and Lauti superimpose on them the images of Male and Fleco, two young actors who ask, in unison with the cartoon characters of the same name, “Drugs, what for?”
Continuing counterclockwise, the next work was a video projected on a transparent laminated glass wall with a wire grid. It showed a life-size image of Leandra Atenea Levine Hidalgo playing Esther Goris in the 1996 film Eva Perón, saying over and over again the words with which her character announces to the ladies at the Charity Society that it will be “disbanded” and that “bitterness is just and wonderful because it moves me away from you and towards the people.” In this work, the artists replace the actress who played Evita with a transgender performer. Their perspective on this archival material, then, is clearly tied to Argentine queer culture. Their appropriation strategies are not always direct, though: they look to other re-creations, whether or not the reference is explicit.
A Noblex television set is on, but not tuned into any station, its pale blue light dimly illuminating the long passageway in which it is placed. On the set, Lolo and Lauti painted a simple portrait of Carmen Barbieri in solid colors. The portrait is painted in a style reminiscent of Cecilia Giménez’s, the woman better known as the “restorer of the Ecce homo in Borja,” a town in Zaragoza. Meanwhile, the voice of Carmen Barbieri, a former music hall star, is heard “conversing” with TV show host Viviana Canosa, though the latter hardly speaks. Thus, in the work entitled Carmen destroza a Moria (Carmen Rips Moria to Pieces) Carmen rattles on and on, with no interruption, tearing into her fellow performer, Moria Casán. Barbieri only stops to catch her breath, declaring, confessing, and proclaiming opinions like “not being on the show [in reference to Showmatch, a Dancing with the Star-type television show hosted by Marcelo Tinelli on which Moria is a judge] does not mean you are dead.”
The next area to the left was dedicated to Susana Giménez and archival images of her. Susana astronauta (Susana Astronaut) consists of a television set placed on a platform that rotates in a semicircle to the rhythm of the original soundtrack to the show Alberto y Susana. The name of the song is Un astronauta me ha conquistado, a Spanish-language version of I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper, first recorded by Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip in 1978. On the screen is a dance in which Giménez openly imitates Raffaella Carrà. But the true performer here, the “robot” who moves around the room with black walls dotted with green and red laser lights, is the television set. Similarly, in NAOMI a television set rests on a pulley system that moves it back and forth. Viewers see images of the television host Andrea Politti walking down the catwalk in Corte y confección, a sewing contest TV show, and hear the song Pose, by Naomi Smalls, one of the Ru-girls, competing in the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Viewers are the ones to activate the work by turning a crank.
Getting back to the Susana section, a white curtain enclosed a maze-like space with walls formed by monitors showing videos of TV programs and newscasts from the eighties and nineties, here re-edited with special effects. This was the entry to The Susana & Veronica Acapulco Experience, a virtual-reality work for two viewers at a time. Lolo and Lauti wanted the waiting area to be an experience in its own right—an idea taken from Disneyland Los Angeles. The screen installed in the area, then, shows Susana in an array of situations: imitating Rita Hayworth in Gilda; dressed up as Santa Claus for a Christmas special; chatting with television host Mauro Viale about “those page-turners that are so hard to write; singing, on the occasion of the 1994 presidential elections, “hoy todos pensamos en un tema muy candente / vamos nada menos que a elegir un presidente / hay que estar atentos no se puede estar en Babia / pues lo que está en juego es el sillón de Rivadavia”; and others.
The artists consider Susana the supreme appropriator. Her imitations range from Carrà to Hayworth, encompassing as well a television parody of herself as the lead in the play Sugar. Its local version premiered in 1986, and the original Broadway version, first produced in 1972, was itself a remake of the 1959 film Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe. Thanks to the freedom of the imaginary that inhabits Lolo and Lauti’s world, Obersztern states in her curatorial text that “any attempt at superfluous irony is washed away as deep veneration sets it.”
The exhibition culminated in a silent gallery where a backless bench appeared to be facing a black rectangle on which a counter showed a number in red that started out with seven digits, but grew by the minute. Minimalist in appearance, this work is, as Obersztern describes, a “stopwatch with real pulse” that updates the number of followers that Mirko Wiebe has in the Instagram account that his father, television host Marley, administers.
The multimedia installations in the show veer archival television images to unexpected situations and environments that question viewers’ corporality. But Followers de Mirko (Mirko’s Followers), the sole work that makes reference to the social networks, seems to forego the image to grasp onto measurement, itself rendered image. The circle does not close—or does it?—but stumbles on a road that takes it in an unexpected direction.
Content produced by arteBA. Annual Report on contemporary Argentine art.