The Importance of the Origin will be Imported by the Origin of the Substance

Surrealism emerged as a life-sustaining reaction—a metabolic offspring of the crisis of conscience that loomed over the West after the First World War.
Today’s crises of conscience branch out in such a way –endlessly varied, relentlessly simulated and performed– that the ability of art to generate life-sustaining reactions seems to be an arcane lore, lost in time. Mónica Heller’s DIY ethos and humorous semiotics somehow find themselves at the opposite end of the Biennale’s highly scrutinized and professionalized setting, being more akin to that esoteric science that once was called art. So rather than a harmonizing global theme, surrealism, for her, seems to imply a critical and tender demeanor towards existence.

In The Importance of the Origin will be Imported by the Origin of the Substance she builds a distinct environment that can be both a children’s book and a pantheon. Distributed throughout the Argentine Pavilion, screens and projections are home to a wide array of CGI animated portraits: a gallery of individuals, both human and non-human, that dwell in absurd and cyclical anecdotes, strangely dignified within their satiric expanse. Her intricate digital world-building, purposefully focused on spurious details, includes flashes of fashion design, self-sustaining office organisms and the sermon of a pigeon, bordering on a very lush kind of neural network-generated blasphemy. Along with her animation works, she will present an oversized visual novella made specifically for the Biennale in collaboration with several of the most remarkable artists and writers on the Buenos Aires scene. This book was aptly baptized “Thirst for Success”.

A prominent contributor to Argentina’s inner and long-running discussions on amateurism and naïveté as cognitive antidotes against the aspirational sensibilities of art under peripheral capitalism, Heller molds software the hard way, pressing her acerbic lyricism into lo-res bits and polygons. The type of digital image that she deals with is actually ubiquitous in nature, as its malleable and blobby complexion currently belongs in industrial mass media entertainment -such as full feature animation films and video games- but also in freely available 3D library models, architectural and medium design, etc. So, as an inverted interpretation of the torsion through which the underground gets subsumed by the mainstream, Heller bargains with a dominant imaging technology only to subject it to an artisanal scrapping. She echoes the cultural aesthetics just barely enough to try to rehabilitate them.

As The Importance of the Origin will be Imported by the Origin of the Substance follows the “free exuberance of time” of surrealism, you may find traces of it on the marvelous early 20th Century writings on cartoons by Huntly Carter; you could catch a glimpse of its inner logic in Raymond Roussel or Leónidas Lamborghini; its colors, its outflow and its cryptic cuteness could also be seen in Sally Cruikshank, Terry Riley or Yuichi Yokoyama. But more than anything else, the fable’s corpse, now devoid of any moral substance, approaches in this exhibition the profuse vocabulary of dreams.

Alejo Ponce de León