reSIGNation. 2007 - 2009
Traffic signs, spray. Documented through photography.
Reassigning is the action of assigning a new duty or function to something or somebody that so far had been operating in a different way. Therefore it is also recoding, the alteration of the code or meaning of a sign. Poetic creation means to unleash the polysemy of the signifiers that are hidden under a sign. Oddly enough, reassigning also involves political criticism. A urinal, a bottle rack, or a snow shovel, upon their being emancipated from their original usages and exhibited at the museum, actually unleash the innumerable signifiers that had been repressed under a main function or meaning. Only then can we begin viewing them as aesthetic signs, noticing their beauty for the first time. Butthese newly released signs also operate as powerful corroding agents against the general system of the arts, since they demand to be recognized as artworks, and thereby operate as social art critics.
There are a number of modes of combat that the contemporary arts have developed against conformism and resignation. Opposing the customary idea developed in the late eighties that the arts are absolutely incapable of challenging the miserable living conditions that we have been doomed to undergo and that they are a useless illusion, or even worse, that artworks are merely luxurious objects to be consumed by the upper classes, an ever increasing number of artists have developed their work as a strategy for poetic intervention, with definite political concomitances. These are artists who still believe that the arts are able to make a freer and more humane world, no longer thinking that their work is necessarily designed to produce trading objects that can be exhibited, promoted and sold at museums and galleries. These artists have taken as a natural space for intervention not only the streets, but also that interstitial space where power is encoded upon citizens’ lives and conduct. This is how Lisha works. Intervening in the streets by surprising an adrift peasant, showing her/him what they are really seeing re-pictured in an image or, as in the series we are dealing with now, directly intervening in the traffic signals, to generate equivocal or poetic signs where the signal loses its unidirectional ordering and commanding function (do not step, do not park, one way only, etc.) and becomes either an indefinite enigma or a set of fascinating poetical proposals. Subverting the code in order not to obey Not resigning oneself to accept that the world as such is imposed on us. Subverting the code by urging us to think, to becoming freer, more analytical, and more ironic.
Miguel Cereceda is a professor of Aesthetics at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and an art critic with the ABC daily newspaper in Madrid (Spain).