Thursday, May 4 at 6:30
University of Houston School of Art, Room 106
The University of Houston School of Art and Blaffer Art Museum present a new lecture of the annual speaker series ‘Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context,’ in which the Basque artist Sergio Prego will discuss the presence of dystopia into utopian models in the context of his practice:
‘High-Rise (2017) is an installation I presented at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M) in Madrid, consisting in a large pneumatic structure enclosed within the physical limits of the museum’s architecture. The title came, somewhat unwillingly from my side after J. G. Ballard’s 1975 novel. The book depicts the downfall of a community of 2,000 residents set in a luxurious modern residential building complex in the outskirts of London. Over the course of three months, the inhabitants of this 40-storey tower block housing descend from prosaic civilization to some form of collective psychosis, in what appears to be a response to the built environment. My initial reluctance in using that title for the installation was based on the fact that. I was reading the novel only seconds before I was involved in a train accident and, consequently, the traumatic recollections of the event and the events in the novel became intertwined in my memory. Both series of events seem to be related to a tear in the fabric of our existence, where the pact that we seem to have unilaterally set with reality is suddenly broken but, somehow, I felt the account of the accident made too much of a piece of literature.
Ballard’s novel registers the impact of modern architecture on human behavior, and how what began as utopian visions for a better life for ordinary people, quickly degenerated into instant dystopias. In this sense, the novel is a paradigmatic example of the climate of the 70s and connects with various alternative architectural practices developed at that time. The installation I presented at CA2M echoes the potential of architecture as a form of critique as embodied by the radical pneumatic architectural projects of architects and artists such as Haus-Rucker-Co. or Miguel de Prada Poole, whose work explored the performative potential of architecture through installations and happenings using structures and devices that altered perceptions of space. Notwithstanding, on a further exploration I recognized the presence of a dystopian thread woven already into the utopian models of early modern works such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). The lecture will depart from these ideas and will take them to apparently unrelated directions, trying to set ground for an exploration of the experience of art in our current state of cultural anxiety.’
About the artist
Throughout his career, Sergio Prego (born in Fuenterrabía, Spain 1969) has experimented with the notion of the sculptural by redefining how bodies relate to space. Prego forms part of a generation of artists from the sculptural tradition from the late nineties that recognizes the importance of performativity when it comes to creating meaning and context in a work of art. His artistic project grows out of his desire to create situations in which the human body frees itself from its own set of rules and restrictions, enabling it to move freely inside the space and to depend on other coordinates. Prego has exhibited extensively in Spain and abroad, most recently at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo in Madrid, Carreras Múgica in Bilbao, or MUSAC in León. His work has been also presented at Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and MoMA P.S. 1 in New York.
This lecture is part of Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context, a year-long speaker series hosted by the University of Houston School of Art and the Blaffer Art Museum that brings together leading voices in the field of contemporary art. Through public talks and intimate seminars and studio visits with UH students, internationally recognized scholars, curators, artists, and critics will investigate the idea of the contemporary as both a temporal and aesthetic framework to broaden critical understanding about how we situate current artistic practices.
Funding for Till Now is generously provided by an Innovation Grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston.