Diego Bianchi: Shutdown. Barro Gallery. Buenos Aires

In his new exhibition, Diego Bianchi elevates trash to the plane of what is called art.

By Elena Tavelli
Shutdown, Exhibition view. Barro Gallery

1934, Hannover, Germany. The allies bomb the city and Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau—the first work of waste art—falls amidst people and buildings. Not collage, sculpture, or architecture, the work was a column of waste that began in a corner of the artist’s home-studio and gradually took over the entire room. For Schwitters, The Cathedral of Exotic Mystery, as he called it,was a monument to what had been and no longer was. An ordered chaos that acknowledged the passage of time and redeemed aesthetically the natural wear of things. A rite that aspired to be unending.

2016, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sirens are heard. A flashing blue light takes our breath away. Two tail lights and a number of exhaust pipes. Car parts. A single way out through a tin wall. You can either crawl under it or pay a bribe to get around it. On the other side is a floodlight. Alarms. Television sets turned on—heard, not seen. Rotten fruit and cigarette butts. Tottering objects, filth, and disorder. Vanitas contemporaneus—a current image of the uselessness of mundane pleasures and of earthly objects given the certainty of decay and death.

At the city’s outer edges, just a few blocks from the third most polluted river in the world, is Barro gallery, written in thick oozing typeface. That is where Diego Bianchi (Buenos Aires, 1969) elevates trash to the plane of what is called art. The artist now adds “Shutdown” to a long list of exhibitions with apocalyptic titles that make reference to computer terminology and to criticism of today’s society: “Estado de Spam” [State of Spam], “La isla de los links” [Links Island], “La crisis es estética” [Crisis is Aesthetic]

There are those who think that, like Schwitters, Bianchi believes in the power of art to transform the state of things and to produce social change with strategies like the transgression of traditional aesthetic values—that “Shutdown,” like The Cathedral of Erotic Mystery, has the ability to purify trash and the soul.

But they all seem to have forgotten Wikipedia, Supermercado de recursos, ideas y materiales para el arte contemporáneo [Wikipedia, Supermarket of Resources, Ideas, and Materials for Contemporary Art] (Diego Bianchi, Premio Petrobrás 2007)—a parody of the methodologies used most frequently in contemporary art, methodologies Bianchi calls “disgustism,” “poetic utilitarianism,” “trash landscape art” and “basic existentialism.”

If The Cathedral of Erotic Mystery was the purgatory where the objects and souls of the past were redeemed, “Shutdown” is the hell in which the literality that contemporary art has inherited from the historical avant-garde burns. And if Schwitters said, “If the world is shit, let’s make a world out of shit,” Bianchi must be thinking, “If the contemporary art world is shit, let’s give it more shit.”