" Evidentiary Realism
Interview with Paolo Cirio for Juliet magazine, Febrary 2018.
Conceived by Paolo Cirio, Evidentiary Realism is an exhibition platform that features a selection of artists involved in forensic, investigative, and documentary practices. Paolo Cirio, curator of the project, recounts how this particular form of realism in art is capable of revealing hidden and complex contemporary social systems.
How did the project Evidentiary Realism born and, as an artist, how did you work in the role of the curator?
The idea was born about three years ago, when I began to notice a common tendency among artists and also a public interest concerning researches in social themes presented with documents normally concealed by complexity, secrecy, and manipulation of linguistic, technological, and political apparatuses. The Wikileaks’ case has certainly changed history, the subsequent releases of documents with the Snowden files and Panama Papers have confirmed a provision in the sensitivity of the public. As an artist, I was interested in these issues, active in researches with such strategies, and already in dialogue with many artists with similar practices. However I did not find curators engaged in examining this trend, for this reason I decided to dedicate two years of work, with the support of NOME gallery in Berlin that produced the exhibition and Fridman gallery in New York that collaborated in the first show.
How would you define the realism inherent in the concept of Evidentiary Realism and how do the works of invited artists fit into this dimension?
Today's realism is shown with documents of techniques, evidence, and apparatuses that produce forms of power dynamics often hidden by intricacy and secrecy. The artists present these documents with innovative visual forms, often using new technologies to capture and analyse such documents, thus producing an advanced form of realism. Historically, I have identified Hans Haacke as the first to have adopted this form of realism. In the late 1960s, society began to be influenced by information technologies interconnected with global finance and political systems. Haacke noted the interdependency and intricacy of these systems and their social impact. I then identified Mark Lombardi and Harun Farocki, who in the following decades pursued a similar interest. After September 11, 2001, the number of artists grew exponentially, from Holzer until today, when there are now many contemporary artists interested in this practice - some have become well known in just a few years, such as the collective Forensic Architecture. With Evidentiary Realism, I managed to reconstruct this historical trajectory, on which I still work, hoping to include other artists in future editions.
The media influence the perceived reality and form a vision of the world that does not necessarily adhere to the truth. Can you give us a concrete example?
The power of the media has been discussed for decades, but today this power has branches that are often imperceptible. At the same time, certain manipulations now can be analysed with technology and an advanced study of linguistics to expose their cognitive and psychological influence. With Evidentiary Realism, I also introduce the idea of Forensic Linguistic, which is observable in the works of Stolle and Khan-Dossos, and also in the work of Hans Haacke The Chase Advantage.
How can art help to decode power devices?
Art has a capacity for synthesis, which is fundamental for understanding complex systems. And yet these systems are often secret or hidden and in this case art has the function of unveiling them. Visually exposing the documents on which the artists have invested their research offers the public the manifestation of this reality, and not less, the technique used by the artist to display the document has aesthetic expressive qualities related to the sensitivity and intent of the artist. In Evidentiary Realism there are different approaches to visual, artistic, and methodological techniques of research and presentation of the document: for instance in some cases abstraction visualizes underpinning structures, in others the abstract represents the intelligibility of power devices; in some works the document is almost a ready-made, or composed with figuration, or the work is the actual documentation of the analysis process, which produces aesthetic images. An important approach for some works is the emotional response that documents can trigger with the artist's intervention, this is for example the case of Barnette and Hafez, who have personally experienced the consequences of certain technocratic phenomena of political apparatus.