This Flag is not a Flag; it is a Masterpiece

Ra’al Ki Victorieux

We want to present you a conceptual work, by a Mexican artist, who has achieved political and media visibility. She achieves her mission of favoring that the ideas expressed are the most important element in her creation, beyond their materiality.

Spicy Hmädi Iris Mexico Valparaíso. This Flag Is A Masterpiece. 2004. Two-dimensional pictorial conceptual.
Acrylic / printed fabric 60 x 70 cm. Photograph of the artist with the work by Fernando.

The work quotes Lichtenstein, who popularized self-titled action as masterpieces of his creations, and Magritte, who made the negative definition (This is not a pipe) a classic. The author deviates the artistic nature of the technical act (the craft of art) to concentrate on the pragmatic and conceptual act. What she prioritizes in this object is the positioning of a discourse, which from art defines its status as such. In this vein, the work recalls Kosuth: “Art is the definition of art.” With simplicity and humor, the work presents a tribute to political art, from non-objectualisms and pop art, movements that permeate the artist’s work with their influence.

Although the non-affirmation of the work has no place in painting – as it did with Magritte – it is from the title of the piece that memory and tension are generated. The author notes that: “In the subconscious, there is no “no “… The negative affirmation, for the psyche, is still an affirmation”. The combinatorics of a linguistic discourse (and of the paradox) in the framework of the visual arts is one of the constant discursive facts in the conceptual. The emphasis is placed on the plastic sign, in a process of affirmation. The creator chooses to use a non-flag as support (an image of the flag that during the national holidays in Mexico are obtained at low cost in fabric stores). The use of lettering calligraphy -thanks to the use of Gioser templates-, is a nod to educational processes, and also to the intention of “depersonalizing” the stroke, to place even more emphasis on the idea and not on the shape. Most audiences expect that a work “speaks a lot” to them, that is, that through the mimetic or figurative representation of reality, the images tell them a “story.” Hence the challenge of abstract artists to favor that even without stories, the public would welcome works that propose the aesthetic enjoyment of color, of form. Conceptual arts seek even greater synthesis, an almost “void” – they do not pretend to tell stories, or make use of technical complexities – that uses signs and symbols known to all, in contrasts or unusual combinations, to invite audiences to resemanticize, renew the way of seeing language (written, visual). Let the discourse fall due to its own gravity, also verify the reactions that multiply from the representation offered to the public dialogues of culture.

If we want to elaborate on the “To be or not to be” of the flag… we can reflect on other related questions: do the flags really or rather, the image of these reproduced mechanically and in a multiple-way by the contemporary industry, have a value that makes them untouchable? Should the homage to nationality focus solely on paying homage to a symbol or object that we cannot access, as if the law indirectly prevented us from accessing the renewal of our nationality? How to define the legal status of a social practice in which the law of national symbols only allows civilians to make use of black and white flags, but the law of supply and demand allows us to buy and sell color reproductions at low prices -Many of them made in China-? How to assess the validity of censorship for the use of national symbols in art, if throughout history some have been censored and allowed -even validated as heritage works of the Nation- works of art that represent the identity and national symbols? Does a flag or a national symbol acquire, in addition to its political or identity status, an artistic value in itself? Is it that art must have borders or nationalities, or should it be a territory to question these and make them more flexible? Alighiero E. Boetti, an Italian artist, reminds us: “One of the worst mistakes in our culture is the division of a single and global world into rigid classifications.”

The author affirms: “I hope that the ups and downs of art, favor at the end of the day, a world in which the borders are diluted or are more humanitarian and that the artistic commitment to conscience and utopia, consolidates a universal fraternity and inclusion.”

* Conceptual art as a movement emerged in the mid-1960s, in part as a reaction against the formalism that had been articulated by the influential critic Clement Greenberg. However, from the 1910s and 1920s the work of the French artist Marcel Duchamp would serve as forerunner, with his works called ready-mades. It would give conceptual artists the first ideas for concept-based works made with commonly used objects.

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