Argot, A Concerto for Every Voice

Although it has twelve sound channels, Argot is not a concert. Despite that, the curators of Teatro San Martín’s Tenth Ciclo de Conciertos de Musica Contemporanea at Centro Cultural Recoleta have selected Argot for its inaugural exhibition. Spanish artists José Iges and Concha Jerez originally conceived of the piece for Austrian radio in 1991. Although then it was solely auditory, during the past twenty years the artists have added a visual component to their deconstruction of multilingual voices’ reading a single text. Projectors display portions of the text on the wall; excerpts of the text have been printed on reflective surfaces mounted on music stands.

Iges and Jerez work primarily in sound. In Argot, however, the inclusion of physical representations of the text allows for more spacial freedom than might a typical sculpture exhibition. Sala 7 houses the main event; but the show actually begins in the hallway with a series of architectural photographs scribbled on by the artists. At the end of the hallway sits a computer which controls and displays the coordination of audio loops in English, Spanish, French, and German, giving us the opportunity to see the exhibition’s working parts. Also beginning in the hallway, a broad orange grid has been taped to the floor and extends into the gallery to make neat gaps for the music stands and for the visitors to the space.

Inside the sparse gallery both the audio and visual elements overlap, making it virtually impossible to follow the text linearly, even for those fluent in all four languages. Words flash on the screens at uneven intervals while alternating voices read the text. I was not sure whether the artists intended the voices to join in chorus or to combat one another; but regardless, literal meanings get lost. The mirrors elucidate the text somewhat, offering hints such as “entra la artista y el mundo esta la obra,” (Between the artist and the world there is the object) and “el mundo define su relacion con el artista a traves de la obra” (The world defines the relationship with the artist through the work) while phrases scroll past on screen: “Between and through,” “The idea is born from its relationship to the world.” The most tangible element in the piece is the gallery space itself.

For what it lacks in linear clarity, Argot makes up for in accessibility. It is art about artwork, commenting on the relationships between artist, the work, and the public. Using the architecture of an exhibition, Iges and Jerez eliminate the distance between the work of art and the gallery space, taking as their subjects the gallery itself and the rules which normally govern it. The mirrors and gridlines become placeholders for what usually inhabits a more traditional exhibition — the artist’s physical creation and the placard explaining meaning,  materials and titles. In Argot, we enter the scaffolding for an exhibit, a beautiful mapping out of potentiality and the space where art goes.

Jose Iges and Concha Jerez
Sala 7, Centro Cultural Recoleta
Junin 1930, Buenos Aires, Argentina

October 26 thru November 14
Monday thru Friday, 2 PM until 9 PM
Saturday & Sunday, 10 AM thru 9 PM

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