Intimacy is the highest degree of exposure and risk we can reach, it is pure inhospitable exteriority. Unlike the private, which we can lock in, the intimate can only be experienced in relation to others. We just feel naked and vulnerable when someone looks at us.
I borrow from Jose Luis Pardo this semantic revision to better understand the work of Abel Azcona, because I recognize that when first time I met it generated mixed feelings, between the fascination with the courage of that way to go outdoors and the repulsion of the mediatic muckraking that always try to transform the intimate into private and saleable garbage, spectacle bait.
But in fact, following Pardo, intimacy is not susceptible of being made public because it belongs to the realm of implicit, connotative communication. Only the private can be made public, which in Azcona’s case would be his biographical data: to be the son of a heroin addict prostitute who wanted to abort and didn’t let her to decide; have suffered sexual abuse as a child, psychotic outbreaks and suicide attempts.
This background similarly to Wojnarowicz (or to Jean Genet, as Ricardo Recuero noted in an article in PAC) is indissociable from his work, but this one does not delve into private shit but shows the intimate ruin, the unsolvable. His story gave him an advantage over most of us, and it is to know being without shelter. Mortals do not belong anywhere, writes Pardo, we don’t have a definitive house, so when we are closer to our place (that is, the non-place) it is not taking refuge in our interior but going outside, showing our structure, in a state of ruin.
His art, like that of Genet (in Sartre views) originates from resentment and from the sensation of non-being; in your case, in front a society that hypocritically forces to born an unwanted child, condemning him to a life of outlaw. He has a series of actions (from Empathy and Prostitution, Las Horas… until La Guerra, in which the ontological void that the other has to fill is manifested by your psychic or emotional absence, leaving only your body in space. In this last of Intramurs festival it is taken to the extreme, since he remained unconscious by effect of the ketamina.
Reading the reactions of the visitors in each project seems to me that although there was always a balance between aggression and affection, among those who sought only sex or dissipate anger and those who huddled you or took care of you, I guess that in La Guerra the balance leaned completely toward affection. As if Azcona as a known artist had already created a certain aura, being an icon for many, or we could say that finally empathy (something that he has pursued since he heard this word in his mother’s mouth, although in a pejorative sense) has triumphed.
In another group of work, on the other hand, self-exploration has been based on confinement, deprivation of liberty. Although he was not always confining himself alone, ultimately prevailed an introspective retreat. And from isolation to rebirth: the uterus may be the earth (searching in the Pyrenees for a return to the telluric womb), but also a garbage container (XII biennial of Lyon).
To born again, to feel the abandonment again, to live the closure again, to suffer abuses again… Even we could almost say that he has taken the repetition (or regression) to a pre-biographical period, reliving your mother’s experience, or at least wanting to feel what a prostitute experiences leading it to extreme marginality: turning tricks as an immigrant (you did in Colombia) and as trans (with hormone treatment).
Freud related the repetition compulsion with the drive of death. He told that those who repeat don’t want to remember, which obstruct therapy. Azcona put his physical and psychic integrity at risk on many occasions, which reminds me of that Kafka parable about a vocational fasting hunger (A hunger artist): it was not a sacrifice,he said while wheezing, I did not find food that I liked. What will happen when Abel finds food that he likes? Will art lose its meaning if one day he finds full meaning in life?
Or perhaps, although you can never completely turn the page, will the social gain ground over the biographical in his struggle to combat fundamentalisms, taboos and silent accomplices, as he already did in Desenterrados, Amen and Eating a Coran?
. . .
Current and next events:
Restrospective exhibition Abel Azcona. La línea de tu espalda in Museari, Museu de l’Imaginari, January-February 2017
First european artists invited to D’LAB–Dhaka Live Art Biennale, Bangladesh, Biennale Biennal of Contemporary Art, performance and exhibition, 1-3 February 2017
Houston International Performance Art Biennale, Experimental Action, performance Feb.
Defibrillator Gallery, Chicago, performance programme
Restrospective exhibition in ArtSpace Mexico, Mexico City, June 2017