Javier Arce

INTERVIEW

How would you describe your contribution to the Truck Art Project?

I’ve done two murals entitled: Untitled (Art Workers Coalition Protesting at the MoMA, 1970), where I intervene on a canvas tarpaulin with a marker; and Untitled (Zvono), using the same technique and materials.

How do the two sides of the truck engage in dialogue?

The images belong to a series of prints I started to make in 2011 for the project entitled The Saving Game, where I recalled, among other things, the political significance of the return of Guernica to Spain, and which I first showed that same year at the Galería T20 in Murcia. Although the images form part of that set, I haven’t taken a dialogue between the two murals into account beyond what is involved in The Saving Game.

What do you see as the challenges of the project?

First, there’s the problem of the scale. These were two interventions on a kind of giant ‘painter’s canvas’, since each piece of cloth is nearly 14 metres long. In addition, the surface of this type of tarpaulin is a material that is not meant to be painted on but to protect and preserve a product, which made painting on such a surface very special.

How does this project fit into your artistic development and discourse?

As a process, I don’t think it will have any particular influence on my work, but it has been interesting to plan a project for people who will have only a few seconds to grasp a moving image. Normally, it’s the viewer who passes in front of an artwork. Here, the possibilities are multiplied for the work to pass in front of us without our knowing exactly what we are perceiving.

Some artists admit they arrived with a preconceived idea which they then had to modify, or which grew in other directions when they were confronted with a support like this. Was that your case?

I’ve had a clear picture from the start. The most complex part was deciding which images were most appropriate. Then I had problems when it came to transferring them to the canvas, because as I pointed out earlier, it’s a complicated surface. That led me to reconsider several times how to resolve the murals.

How have you envisaged the reception of a work like this one, which is found rather than sought out by the spectator, and which doesn’t circulate through the usual artistic channels?

Well, you can be standing quietly in your street and see a truck go past, or you can drive your car along the highway and overtake that same truck with a trailer, and think, ‘What’s that? How nice! What can it be?’ Or think, ‘How odd!’ I don’t know if it’s important to identify the work as art, or rather, I don’t think it will be identified as an original artwork, since our established patterns are not going to identify it as such.

And the fleetingness of its reception?

That’s what seems to me most interesting about the whole project: how that fleetingness has a lot in common with the speed at which we consume images on the internet, for example, or the speed with which we ‘see’ and assume information in the media. If the information on a website takes longer to load than normal, we get nervous and may well close the window and move on to something else. There’s a very interesting parallel between that moment when the truck drives past and the way we consume images today. That’s very important for my current work, because the pencil drawings I’m doing take me months to finish, and I do them on newsprint, which is a very precarious material for everyday use, so the time of production and consumption of an image is essential to me in thinking about how we live.

How did you tackle the scale? Were you used to it?

Yes. For the understanding of the piece, the scale is fundamental. I recently read a text by Sol LeWitt that spoke about the importance of scale for a work of art. If your question is referring to the large dimensions of this project, and whether that’s been a problem, then my answer is no. I’ve done large-format works and they’re interesting to do, but they haven’t been an added difficulty.

What do you get out of participating in a project like this, and what do you think you contribute to it?

I’ve been surprised. And not so much by any specific characteristic of the project, but rather by the fact that the person who thought it up, Jaime Colsa, should have the energy, warmth and enthusiasm with which he approached my work. In that way, I’ve been able to meet someone who looks after the people he collaborates with. My contribution, then, has been to try to put in a good performance in the project, no more.

What’s the interesting thing about a project like the Truck Art Project?

As I remarked earlier, I don’t know if people will understand this project as something artistic, as long as there’s no coercion of the image. But I don’t really think that’s important. The murals on the trucks will go by in a flash and will make us wonder what we’ve seen. It’s good that we should ask ourselves certain questions.

Javier Arce (Santander, 1973) studied Print Techniques at the Oviedo School of Art and earned his honours degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country. He received a master’s degree in Sculpture from the Wimbledon College of Arts (London). In 2008, he was awarded grants by the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York and by the Fundación Arte y Derecho. These experiences led to profound aesthetic reflection of a conceptual nature, opening the path for various series where the artist explores the fields of sculpture, video, photography and drawing. Among his interests is the analysis of the evolution of art in systems of production. One result of this inclination was the creation in 2007 of his best-known series, Estrujados (Crumpled), where Arce uses graffiti markers to draw emblematic works from the history of painting (from the Sistine Chapel to Guernica) on untearable paper. When finished, he crumples them up, turning them into ‘disposable’ artworks. In 2007, he received an honorable mention at Generación 2007 in Madrid, and he was awarded a prize the previous year by the Fundación Marcelino Botín de Artes Plásticas. His work can be found in numerous collections, including those of the Fundación Marcelino Botín; Museo Artium, Vitoria; the Fundación Coca-Cola; Museo de Bellas Artes de Santander; CAB - Centro de Arte Caja Burgos; and MUSAC – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León.