Every life is a fire
I...In fact, Brey’s boxes don’t simply open, instead they unfurl like a flag. Their interior conditions are the product of multiple interventions as the artist combines the roles of tanner, joiner, carpenter and welder. The box also houses its own fields of reference activated by the very process of opening, unfolding, unraveling and extending—as if the box were the site of so many bodily organs and the acts of viewing or entering it a kind of surgical procedure. It follows that the nestedness of the contents is a key indicator of the boxes’ self-definition: like parquetry with an accent on the third dimension, what eventuates is not surface articulation but contiguity in volumetric compaction. Indeed, Brey makes a compact with the very properties of the boxes, in the process erasing the distinction between the personal and the social, private and public, even inside and exterior. This is not to suggest that they somehow cancel each other out; to the contrary, they are elements of a dialectic that refuses to surrender to synthesis, so that things that could or should be opposite embrace their antitheses in gestures of uncritical co-presence. (...)
(...) Brey’s boxes were also motivated by the desire to contend against the monumental transparency of “Universe,” in which the drawings were serially declared and their means, materials and content spectacularly unhidden. The first term of the boxes is vested in opacity and enclosure and thus returns to the covert operations of the artist’s childhood. Brey thus makes demands of viewers of these boxes, which insist on close personal attention and hands-on contact “for the work to reveal its chemistry.” The first term of this new commerce is predicated on the pleasures of unwrapping and opening, which couple with the voyeuristic compulsion of peering inside to encounter what is hitherto unseen and as yet unknown. Brey links this to popular wizardry, the conjuring of a rabbit from the magician’s hat—a situation in which the space of the revelation is always the same, but what is conjured generally different—and surprising: rabbit, handkerchief, bouquet.
As ever with Brey’s thinking, the literalness of his first terms is swiftly engulfed by a more implicit semantics that, while also launched physically, turns on the overlay of various metaphors. “The box is our head,” he notes, “the box is the cave… is the attic… is the memory and the world.” The boxes are an attempt to represent the intensifications of internal modes and their relationships in spatial terms; and what results is a “hermeneutics of the soul” that creates “a topography of the mind.” Articulated like a labyrinth or mandala, Brey considers the box-mind compound the “most metaphysical project” he has attempted, nothing less than “a workshop to produce the invisible” or “the countless” that is also “the way out and the jail.” Cavernous, secret, spatialized, architectural and imagistic, the boxes are a locus for the transaction of “a spectacular alchemical game between qualities, elements and senses.” They are figures of containment—lockers, shells, receptacles, vessels, bodies—that may shelter only nothingness or evacuated will. Though cubic in form their sphere of influence is circular. Produced in a series without number and end, they contain openings within openings and hidden compartments that may never be found. These activation potentials betoken an elemental fraction of the total project that is held in reserve in order to conjugate its “fortune and power.” For Brey all this is achieved through the collision of zahir (the apparent or exoteric) with batin (the hidden or esoteric) at the threshold of batin-al-batin (the inner of the interior, or the esoteric of the esoteric).
fragment from “An Original Arpocryphum” for Ricardo Brey . Text from John C. Welchman
Qué le importa al tigre una raya más (the futility of intentions) MER Paper Kunsthalle, 2014