manuel arturo abreu


Feb. 28th, 6pm - 10:30pm, 2015


“What Self did I then possess? Nothingness. Non-Self seeking its Opposite called Self. How Wounded, how infirm was such a divide between Self and Non-Self, how subject to cold-blooded atmospheres was Nothingness in a vague spark of impossible/possible Self breathing Cold and Warm that blew through me with the instinctive birth of a divided understanding? Cold Animus (the Magic of Conquest), Warm Anima (subject to Conquest). Time was and time was not in a wounded timelessness.

It happened so unexpectedly, so unpredictably, the rain of flowers, that it changed the planet and made the Wound of Self in Nothingness, transfigured Nothingness, into the mystery of obliviousness in the Sleep of being, the mystery of pain and the Void or depth of pain to which we have no answer.

Does the serpent feel pain, does the fish feel pain as it slides and bounces again at a stone with a hook in its mouth like a pre-Columbian baby-astronaut on the Moon?

The Moon speaks, in a light of sadness that has intrigued lovers across the ages, of timeless streams and floods, cold and warm with music.

Does the butterfly feel pain?

‘Nothingness feels pain,’ said the Jester with a sudden, barking laugh, ‘and yet is oblivious of factual suffering in others it claims are alien to itself, alien to self-centered Nothingness. Such is the harsh reality of Conquest.’*”

* Harris, Wilson. 2001. The Dark Jester. Faber & Faber (p. 7).


Fred Moten quotes Édouard Glissant as saying that the Middle Passage made it possible to consent not to be a single person. In this liminal space of monstrous imposition and impossible consent exists a contingency, a genius which Wilson Harris calls “community-in-creator.” This debt, which is both the meaning-is-use basis of communities of practice, and a constitutive element of identity’s relationality, is the new/old site of primitive accumulation in financial capitalism. Debt is capitalism’s means of acquiring a moral dimension, a predatory manichaeism latent in its originary racial nucleus.

Dredging the bog of etymology (Caliban Cannibal Carib). Dogheaded anthropophage, Saint Christopher, Anubis god of the dead. Anxiety of influence about my other selves in parallel universes. What is it like to remain in the hold of those transatlantic ships, inhabiting the space of being both more than and not even a single being? What did you mean by telling me I was born in “the first city of the New World” (Santo Domingo)? At the horizon of the eugenic impulse my blood quantum asks unintelligible questions about Bartolome de las Casas. I sweep dust into a pile in the kitchen, this is my newest sculpture.

Lose what you never had. Forget what you never remembered. Exolinguistics is in again. You cannot colonize the unconscious. You (I, rather) can only act as the dreamer cajoling the jester of lost civilizations, breaking the seal of conquest and letting gush forth the unfinishedness of the temporal, of the past which is in fact only (or as well) a memory of the future. Before water there was ice, and before this they threw small rocks at skinny trees and sometimes, just sometimes, the trees would throw them back. Think how hostile moments are when they engorge with meaning, randomly like a pufferfish. Think how explanations drain phenomena of their potency, but boglike become a space for new smearing.

When the pains have entrained the tongue to speak in certain ways, locked into ontic tautologies, the shape the tongue takes tells us the ancients are also locked into these tautologies. Does the snake feel pain as it eats itself (lol)? There is a link between being and what one calls non-being, and it may be possible that one’s prayers for god could be answered through inhumans who appear to be mute and whose gestures bring an answer to that prayer. In fact their mute bodies must be read in concert with all sorts of engravings upon rocks, other surfaces.[1] You ask the jester for succor and in your anguish all windows become mirrors (the mirrors, changeless).

The jester laughs soundlessly, like a gathering storm on a butterfly’s wing.[2]

Defend the dead.[3]


1 Kutzinski, Vera M. 1995. The Composition of Reality: A Talk with Wilson Harris. Callaloo 18.1 (p. 17).

2 Harris, Wilson. 2001. The Dark Jester. Faber & Faber.

3 Philip, NourbeSe M. 2008. Zong! The Mercury Press (p. 200)


Something of a symbiotic relationship exists between aesthetically impoverished works and impoverished documentation. In his critique of post-internet, Brian Droitcour characterizes such works as “not really sculpture” which “doesn’t activate space,” instead often “designed to preen for the camera’s lens.” Thus, these works rely on their documentation, Steyerlian “poor images” which sacrifice bitrate for portability, circulating as an overcompressed stand-in for the work as such.

This symbiosis informs the work and concept constituting the proposed exhibition, as well as the garage residency from which the considerations of the exhibition emerge (garageresidency.tumblr.com). The residency takes place in a garage in southeast Portland, where I have been living for about two years. The residency concerns itself with the unstable overlap between inhabiting a space and making a work, and probes the role that documentation plays with respect to this putative distinction.

If documentation itself is simply one instance of the hegemon’s gaze, then the instability of the overlap between habitation and production, as well as between work and its documentation, aligns with my work’s ongoing concerns regarding racialization, precarity, and post-studio digital practice (as well as signifiers thereof). Documentation serves a mediational role, in many cases allowing the work to be legible as work as such. But it can also serve a transformational role: When my documentation ‘stands in’ for a work (and thus for the immaterial labor that work signifies), it attempts to transmute the documented work into documentation of something else, along with gesturing toward the possibility of a more general transmutative property of objects, which documentation makes explicit.* These slippages, in which living and working, and documentation and work as such, exist on alchemical continua, allow the conditions of the proposed exhibition to emerge: an attempt to transmute the work into the documentation of a theoretical encounter with the form of the sacral object.

*Something like the ‘withdrawn’ quality of objects in object-oriented philosophy.


**All Text manuel arturo abreu