Interview: Jorge Méndez Blake, El Castillo / The Castle, 2007
The emblematic work The Castle by the Mexican artist Jorge Méndez Blake is currently on view in Athens, in Athens Concert Hall, at the exhibition After Babel curated by Anna Kafetsi. The exhibition is organized by Annex M focusing on Books/Readers/Writers to take place during Athens 2018 World Book Capital. It will last until May 18th 2019.
Having as a starting point The Castle Jorge Méndez Blake shared some thoughts on this specific work and contemporary art in general in a short interview for Ex_posure.
Your work ‘The Castle’, (2007) is part of the group exhibition ‘After Babel’ currently presented in Athens and curated by Anna Kafetsi. ‘After Babel’ focuses on books, texts and libraries.
‘The Castle’ is based on a book. What does this specific book mean to you?
I chose this book because of two things: First the title, which refers to an architectural construction and is the only thing visible of the book, and second, the story, which is a typical Kafka´story in which an individual is fighting against a large system which he doesn’t understand and fails to recognize. In Kafka´stories the system always wins, always oppresses, always is intangible. Nevertheless, in the sculpture the meaning is more opened and the small book does make a change in the apparently solid structure, which becomes fragile with the book below.
If you were to talk to a children’s audience about you work, The Castle, what would you say?
Children are normally less complicated. They get contemporary art very fast and easy. I think if this work has a quality is that it is very direct, it doesn’t need much talking. Even if you don’t know Kafka, there’s a lecture of the overall effect. I don’t know what I would say, I would prefer to hear what children have to say about it.
Do you believe that contemporary art and words/texts are inseparably related?
Not at all. Only some works of contemporary art are text-based. There’s a misconception that contemporary art is complicated and conceptual, when it is not. But this idea is sometimes provoked by the same artists and curators which complicate things, trying to fill artificially a work with outside meanings, trying to fill a void. There’s a lot of classic painting and sculpture in contemporary art for example and it doesn’t need much explanation. But, as in classic art, the more you know about the artist and the stories that surrounds the work, the more interesting it should get. I believe that pieces of art have several layers that the viewer faces, and if the viewer has more information normally he is able to unveil more layers.
If you were to write a book what would the title and the content be?
It would be a book of haikus.
Do you as an artist feel also a story teller?
Yes, many times. Even though not all the works have a story, the ones that have one normally are the ones that are more appeling to me. In my work I like to be able to talk about specific works, but I try not to “explain” the works, only talk about the process and intentions, never about meanings.
What more is art capable to accomplish than words and books?
A lot of things. Both things should be understood as different disciplines, even though they can be mixed or influenced each other. The energy of some moments in the history of literature cannot be duplicated in art, as the way art shows the world cannot be described with words.
Jorge Méndez Blake, El Castillo / The Castle, 2007