Mellow Accidents

Rodrigo Moura

“The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine.”

Andy Warhol

Unlike the author's work, that of the critic depends on the former to interpret - where there is no criticism, there is also art and only the art system as we know it today does not exist. One of the impasses for the critical text is to engage in a dialogue with the author that can preserve nuances and emphases of their thought, but with a result in an independent text. Another essential task in the craft of interpretation is to trace the work and its contiguities, to discover it, to live with it to the fullest; to inhabit it, if possible. An old master once told me that criticism is not done "with fire and sword." Between the two margins, there is the risk of betraying the author, an inherent risk in the profession. I begin these digressions regarding presenting Roberto Cabot's project for this exhibition, driven by the sensitive questions concerning the critic-work/critic-artist relationship that brought me here.

How to write about a work that does not yet exist, except as a study, and whose body will only exist when it finishes being installed, largely painted directly on the walls of the gallery? What is the text-specificity that fits into the site-specific? In the conceptual genesis of Cabot's installation paintings, there are questions of the same type, involving the distance between the cosa mentale, the machination of the individual, the desire for precision, and the result, full of contingencies, contradictions, accidents. Or, as critic Ligia Canongia defined, points of intersection between the universe of the machine and the emotional world.

Cabot's images can be described as violent distortions of the orthogonal grid. The grid symbolizes the modernist impulse for organization. In a slightly more metaphorical key, it represents not only the rigidity of Cartesian models but also the very threat of imprisonment contained in rationalism. From images apparently generated by models of machinic states (1), Cabot's works consist of canvases hung on the wall, whose images cast wall extensions in the form of shadows painted by the architectural space, involving the viewer in a kind of organic progression halfway between calculation and lack of control. The grid (or network, as Cabot seems to prefer) tends to calm down as it moves away from the canvases, which, with their fabric weave (another grid) and their orthogonal corners, are the "epicenters" of these accidents that "soften" the space. Latency, resonance, illusion: sensations mediated by vision. "Sensacionema" is the title given to the work from a concept by Deleuze and Guattari, blocks of sensation. The phenomenology of the work can be sought in the conjunction of its tactile, visual, and sensory attributes.

The (manu)facture of the paintings has "sufficient precision to fulfill its function without becoming really 'dirty' or too 'hygienic'" (2). An écriture. But flat enough so that we do not see any drama of the paint (an anti-example would be Kieffer's perspectives, which collapse on themselves). The color palette, operating by complementarity, reflects a certain tribute to the palette of geometric abstraction, but, more than that, alludes to codes and conventions that exist in the electronic industry, for example. The mechanomorphic impulse and the explorations of the machine as a double of man have been, at various times, on the agenda of 20th-century art, from Roussel to pop art, through futurism and Duchamp. Paradigm shifts in science have positioned the machine as the quintessential negative of the human, rather than the animal. In Cabot's work, there is a desire to affirm this difference between the human and the machinic, to define through art this exception, by strategies that often more approach than distance this antagonism.

If, even within its calculation part, there is always a dimension as performative as experimental in Roberto Cabot's project, for me, there could not fail to be the same inclination when writing about it. As a reflection of the exercise of reading these images, there is an involuntary impulse of interpretation. Just as the images of accidents with images, it continues to resonate for some time.

1. Although born from the artist's study notebooks, these matrix images, due to their serial aspect and their combinatorial permutations on the grid, suggest to me an almost random generation or, ambiguously, made by a machine.

2. Correspondence with the author, April 2005.