To Break a Silence into Smaller Silences

We are pleased to present the first UK solo exhibition of Ecuadorian artist Oscar Santillan (b.1980).

Despite touching on culturally potent subjects from philosophy to national pride, the exhibition ultimately draws out the obscure. Unexpected events occur: the dance of a dead philosopher is unveiled, a horse looks at his own reflection, nature and culture collide. The Wandering Kingdoms draws on the little known process of the early documentation of birdcalls. The work existed first as a performance, which made the installation possible. Since the recording technologies in the 19th and early 20th Centuries were not suitable for the task of capturing the sound of birds in the wild, training in musical composition was required for field research in order to notate birdsong. For the performance musicians were hidden in thick wilderness playing music based on an open structured composition in which the musicians behave like birds as they “call” and “answer” each other while the sounds keeps on changing. The sound is as elusive as the images on the plates – at first we detect only the natural, then closer inspection begins to reveal the presence of the hidden musicians. ‘The Intruder’ represents the highest inch of England. At a glance it is seemingly insignificant and yet the material is carefully presented. Scaling the 3028ft of the mountain Scafell Pike in the Lake District to make the work the artist suggests that an entire nations height can be modified by means of a single careful action. The work reflects on the way in which humans have imposed their cultural categories over nature: the tallest, the largest, the deepest and so on. [Due to the quantity of recent media attention and requests, a statement from the artist is included at the end of this text]

In a large new installation titled Afterword, Santillan connects elements as diverse as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a defective typewriter, and dance. As his sight began to fail, Nietzsche acquired a typewriter. The “Writing Ball” was a cutting edge device developed by the Danish inventor Rasmus Malling-Hansen. Nietzsche’s “Writing Ball” arrived defective due to damage during shipping, leading it to produce a great many mistakes. Despite his frustrations Nietzsche typed more than 70 documents using it. Some were abandoned but many were corrected and finalised with increasingly agitated pencil marks over the errors. Fascinated by the frustrations of one of the world’s greatest philosophers, Santillan has produced a composite of all the pencil marks from these obscure documents. The result is an expressive and gestural drawing, accompanied by a compilation on a single page of all of the errors that Nietzsche made using his beloved ‘Malling-Hansen’. By his own account, Nietzsche spent hours teaching his fingers “to dance with the Malling-Hansen”. He wrote of dancing himself “as if something supernatural” echoed out of him. A century after the philosopher’s death, a fragment of paper from one of Nietzsche’s typed manuscripts was used as a point of connection in a filmed séance. The psychic medium was asked to pose only one question to the philosopher: What was your dance like? We would like to thank Delfina Foundation (UK), The Ridder (NL), STUK (BE), Kolleg Friedrich Nietzsche (DE), Goethe-Schiller Archiv (DE), and Van Eyck (NL) for supporting ‘Afterword’ And, NoMINIMO Gallery (EC) for supporting ‘La Clairvoyance I’.

Exhibition runs: 26th March  – May 9th 2015 WED – SAT, 12 – 5PM and by appointment at any time.

Oscar Santillan (Ecuador, 1980) received an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University (US) and since then has attended residencies at Delfina Foundation (UK), Jan van Eyck Academy (NL), Ratti Foundation (IT), and Skowhegan (US). His work has been exhibited at the Bonnefanten Museum (NL), ‘Carrillo Gil’ Museum of Art (MX), STUK Kunstcentrum (BE), Poly/graphic Triennial (PR), ICO Foundation (ES), Centraal Museum (NL), Pierogi’s Boiler (US), Marilia Razuk Gallery (BR), among others.His work is in public and private collections internationally including the Caldic Collection (NL), Balanz Capital (AR), ‘Carrillo Gil’ Museum of Art (MX), Colección Franc Vila (ES), Centraal Museum (NL), ArtNexus – Celia Birbragher (US), Bieke and Tanguy van Quickenborne Collection (BE), among others. Due to the quantity of recent media attention received by The Intruder, a statement from the artist follows: Collecting a pebble at the beach or a strange-looking rock during hiking is a very common sensitive thing people do guided by curiosity. Earlier this month I had the pleasure of traveling to the Lake district and consequently to Scafell Pike to make my work. The view from the top was truly moving. My intention was to create a work that reflects the way in which humans have imposed their cultural categories over nature: the tallest, the largest, and all kinds of measurements. No damage, vandalism, chiseling, or inappropriate behaviour towards nature took place in the making of this work. I do empathise with those who are truly concerned with the conservation of the British mountains. Hopefully this controversy becomes an opportunity to bring attention to these important concerns, rather than debating about a one-inch stone. The gallery has received emails of support including this message from a native Cumbrian explaining this same point: «I know Scafell Pike’s peak and it is strewn with loose rock. I’m sure that Oscar was more respectful of the fell top than many of the participants of the charity events (…) who regularly mistreat the area by leaving litter and using it as a toilet. Mountain Rescue have voiced their concern over how much cleaning up needs to be done after such events.» (- S. Wharton, Cumbria) In relation to his comments he also directed us to this:

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