He might still have a bit of jet lag, but RMIT Gallery asked visiting Spanish artist Julio Falagán some questions about his Melbourne visit and the launch of his exhibition Power to the People! at RMIT Gallery from 25 September-24 October.
You will be having a public talk with journalist Dr Antonio Castillo, and artist-academic Ciro Márquez from 4.30 pm on Thursday 24 September, and then official opening from 6 pm to 8 pm. Like you the other speakers are interested in how the citizen can subvert power and have a voice that is heard. Can you give us some idea of what you might be talking about? Perhaps revealing something of the political nature of your work?
I don’t really like to prepare presentations and giving a speech, I would rather create a debate with the other participants in a more spontaneous way, more alive. In my job I follow the same philosophy, I try not to take a unilateral stance, not to give answers, I’d rather find a good question. I enjoy the interaction with the spectator, the fact that my work requires the spectator to be an essential piece of the work.
I don’t like to call myself a political artist, my aim is far from doing politics with art, but I do live in a political society, which is why any statement can be understood as such. I simply give my opinion about things that surround me, from the point of view of those who don’t have a voice, I try to lay on the table / bring up issues that are overlooked.
Melbourne audiences will be able to have their very own Falagán original poster by photocopying your artwork. Doesn’t this go against the idea that artists need to protect their copyright?
Many of my works deal with this issue, and the difficulties the artist faces to professionalise their career, the speculation of the art market, and the dehumanisation of art. Art is a swampy territory, there’s no such thing as a unique truth, it is a contradiction in itself. This is why at the same time I sell my work I also give copies of it away.Culture can’t be something reserved for a privileged minority – we must, as artists, fight as much as possible to democratise art.
What are the circumstances for artists in Spain right now? Is it even harder for them because of the financial crisis, or does that simply make so many other people in similar circumstances to artists, who have always had to struggle?
Currently in Spain there are three different types of artists: First, the rare ‘first class’ artists who can afford to live off art, they were active before the 1990s and the few who have had the chance to jump into the minor national art market. The second are the artists who come from a wealthy family that allows them to develop their interests and vices. The third kind, which includes the vast majority, is the emerging moonlighter artist, who works in numerous small jobs that allow him to pay rent and find enough time to produce art.
In Spain the art collector is an animal in danger of extinction. Someone please, send a humanitarian plane filled with aphrodisiacs and ‘mamporreros’. Jokes aside, it is actually a problem, but not because of the exiguous act of collecting, but because of the general disinterest for art. It’s a structural problem of education, less and less importance is given to the art subject in schools by reducing the teaching hours. A big mistake, since it’s the only subject that doesn’t indoctrinate, in which we are taught to question our environment, develop creativity and critical thinking skills that could be used in any situation during the rest of our lives. Until we resolve this basic issue, there won’t be a prosperous future for art in Spain, the projects I show at RMIT have a lot to do with this.
Many artists say that having limitations of what they can do forces them to be creative. You use rubbish in your work as well, because of lack of funds. Do you find this a way to be creative? Can you talk about the evolution of the work in the Power to the People! Exhibition – did that evolve out of necessity in terms of where you sourced your material from?
For me difficulty is a challenge, creating a work is a process of overcoming obstacles, it’s like a puzzle. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the satisfaction if you manage to overcome it. If there are limits you know you need to work towards a solution, otherwise the goal is vague.
Long ago I did a work called STREET FIGHTER about how the need for survival encourages creativity.The use of materials in the case of Power to the People! it isn’t an issue of scarcity, using pity isn’t my style, it is a statement, you don’t need much to create something, That’s all. Starting from small to create something big, to relive obsolete art, revision and reflection.
Will this be your fist visit to Australia – and to Melbourne? Have you been researching the trip? As an artist, what do you hope to gain from the experience – and are there any flea markets or places that you really want to visit?
Yes, this will be my first time in Australia and I am really looking forward to get to know it. Before travelling to another country I like to immerse myself in its history, in order to understand what I see when I am there, but I don’t like to organize a route too much, I prefer to get carried along and be surprised. Something I do study is where and when the flea markets take place. I love visiting the flea markets of the cities I travel to, it’s where we really see how a society is really like, seeing what it discards, the real waste of the city, not what they want the city to be.
I’ve read information about Laverton Market, The Brunswick Market and others, but I want to follow the local advice to go to the best one, not the most tourist spots. I’m also very interested about urban art and Melbourne is a small paradise in that field. As I always travel with my skate, skate parks are another compulsory visit; perhaps Riverside Skate Park, Prahran and whatever I have time to see, skating in a new city is like a small conquest.
What: Power to the People! Public talk and Meet the Artist. Free artwork and churros.
When: Thursday 24 September 4.30-5.30 pm
Official exhibition opening: 6-8 pm:
Exhibition dates: 25 September – 24 October.