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<an absurd and perverse idea: (this text is a visual file) made of words. Pure envy of the concreteness of the images of a painter or a sculptor.> Petra Cortright’s first exhibition in Barcelona proposes a review of the pictorial genre from a practice based on the use of material carefully collected from the internet, after hours of intense diving and manipulation with digital tools. Passing through the sieve of a program as common as Photoshop, Petra creates her paintings by compressing a large ‘mother file’ in which she deposits layers and layers of digital adipose tissue. Images that she manipulates until they are completely disfigured, almost violently, leaving unrecognizable traces by addition or extraction. In her canvases, each stroke corresponds to a layer of image, to a digital brushstroke, turning her work process into an exercise of precision, perseverance and physical effort, of visual acuity and manual dexterity. And yes, it is painting. But it’s not what you think at first glance. We live in a realm of over-information, information pretending to be freedom. A frenzy of communication and information that leads us to disappear. Data is placed between things and us, and makes them disappear. An enormous amount of data. More and more. Indigestible. The earthly order, however, is made up of ‘the things of the world’ (Hannah Arendt). Surrounded by them, the human being stabilizes his life. By sustaining himself on them. Physically. But no longer. Now we inhabit the world of Google Earth. We are in Cloud. We meet in Metaverse. We chat on Whastapp. We see each other on Instagram. A thick layer of virtuality, data and online connections hide these things from the world. Internet artist (if such a term has any future or serves any purpose other than as an extremely simplifying label to introduce us to the generation that was not born with the internet…) her painting refuses any affiliation to what we are accustomed to think when someone suggests any of the fashionable terms. Cortright wants to create a path of her own beyond fashions or in spite of them. And in moving forward, she defies any conception of what an artist may have been until now. Was Picasso able to recover in his old age the brushstroke of his blue paintings or Monet to store all his production with himself? There is no truth. Truth is the firmness of being. It is duration and it is constancy. It is factuality. It is the support of life. The digital order puts an end to truth. We are facing a post-factual regime. Even information itself is today deformative rather than informative. The false and the true are contaminated. The fake new is more truthful, more effective than the facts themselves. And yet we are grateful for this short-termism, the wow effect, the quick reaction, the easy tweet. Applause. Effectiveness of information. Communication today is dominated by affections and emotions, variable, tameable, irritable. Communication will destabilize your day. Faster, harder, louder. Each of Petra’s works arises from a mother file, obtained by superimposing countless images and that once manipulated, combines with infinite possibilities to create the work we see exhibited. We will not call it a final work, there is no end point, only a constant search, backtracking, comings and goings, revisions that open new paths. And so on to infinity. We live in a time of disintegration of stabilizing architectures such as rituals. Another time policy is needed, because everything that stabilizes life requires time. Loyalty, commitment, promises, responsibilities, they want your time. Attentive observation without intention can become a form of happiness. In the midst of this tangle that traps our vision, the floral motifs of her paintings are surprising… Nostalgia for a past? Desire for a better present? <there is no way to put into words my feelings about (the flowers) without falling into the most repellent kind of 19th century-style literary description. Pretty words do not equal pretty scenery. But I need it to be the framework (of the text). No, better yet: its medium. > The floral motif and its symbolism has accompanied her production in recent years. The fragility of the drawing, the transparency of her brushstrokes, the vitality of her colours contrast with the aluminum background present throughout this series (on other occasions she has printed on linen and other materials). Coldness and roughness versus softness and lightness. Glazes and terabytes of data, all at the same time. But above all a similar thematic element that allows the search for beauty through endless variation. And which miraculously remains constantly timeless, always present in our most casual to the most conceptual iconographic horizon. But we prefer to remain in our myopia, hasty. We take note of everything without getting to know. We travel without moving and without acquiring experience, we communicate without being in community, we store data without remembering, we add friends and followers without finding the other. The earthly order is being replaced by the digital order. It denaturalizes the things of the world by computerizing them. The world becomes intangible, cloudy and spectral. The fetishism for things is over. <The logic of photography is neither verbal nor syntactic, a condition that makes literary culture completely incapable of dealing with photography… > Contrary to its natural state, the artificial flower, reproduction, does not expire nor do its petals wither. Against the constant rhythm of the flow of information that dominates our lives, Petra selects images to encapsulate them, embalm them in filters and effects, and preserve them forever, returning to them when necessary. Her painting goes beyond the two dimensions and presents us with an enveloping environment, a monument to our fatuous time. Memento mori that reminds us that what we possess, value and appreciate today may be worthless tomorrow. We separate ourselves from the things we hold dear and memories cease to have any value. Even personal ties are inopportune: we no longer want to be tied to anyone or anything. The new human being disinterested in things wants to enjoy and experience more than to possess. Possession is the deepest relationship one can have with things. That is why consumer products destined to be used and disappear quickly, conceptually we no longer possess them. Her first video works, in which she exposed herself in the first person, are the result of another moment in which digital tools offered her an environment of fun but also of company, in which she also enjoyed loneliness and boredom. She is still interested in taking technology to an extreme, taking advantage of basic software tools to achieve unsuspected effects, to provoke errors, random short circuits, glitches with unexpected effects. Storing it all up again for next time. Hunting is the verb she uses when defining her work. She also collects effect libraries to be able to give variety but also veracity to her work. She avoids patinas that may seem too strident, unnatural. In order to possess, it is necessary to deposit history in things. The collector is, for Benjamin, a utopian figure, the last redoubt of things because he strips them of their commodity character. He is more interested in their history and their physiognomy, not in their use value. The subject also becomes a consumable object. And it is not in vain that Petra’s creative process restores the possession value of the image captured on the Internet. She spends hours to find them, attracted by the most diverse details. And she immerses herself in the environments she creates as the basis for her paintings for countless hours. Somehow she turns back the speed and volatility of the digital medium and of the image found on the case, giving it time, attention, loading it with weight, anchoring it again in reality, filling it with history and action; transforming it to make it visible to us again. When we prefer to text rather than phone, we are hiding. The other as sound fades away. And yet my smartphone puts everything at my fingertips. What a contradiction. Jet fuel gelato. We are too dependent on the drug, the digital drug. We live in a daze. Revolutionary romanticism can perhaps save us. Under all that layer of hyper-control in the process, of extreme care in printing, her work always incorporates the gesture, the twist, that allows her to know she is equally out of control, to let the act of painting itself lead to unsuspected places. Otherwise any process becomes machinic, repetitive and dehumanized and her work is eternally condemned to boredom. That which takes any photograph from a mere accumulation of data to something more. Call it mystery, magic, surprise, value or energy… Punctum over Sunctum. That which leads us to fix our attention beyond the quick like. That which escapes all representation, definition, like a blind field of the image that eludes that place of visibility that is fantasy, which only opens by closing our eyes. <Bearing in mind that to represent an object means to show some of its properties, it follows that sometimes this purpose is best achieved by deviating a lot from its appearance>. Petra’s work disappears at the same time as it appears, it reveals, always keeping the focus on leaving something in shadow, in mystery. It contradicts a present time in which we are encouraged to speak, to act, to exhibit ourselves with an art that closes in on itself, silent, in its workshop, in its mega mother archive, to let flowers grow. He confesses that the more critical his attitude towards reality becomes, the more flowers he needs to fill it all. Only the time of the other creates strong bonds. The time you’ve wasted with your rose is what makes your rose so important. Cherry Sour. The text/ the flower/ the painting as an excess of signifiers. As a thing that resists the reading that fills its meaning.
This text is inspired by the works of Petra Cortright, ‘Non-things. Bankruptcies of today’s world’ by philosopher Byung Chul-Han and <cite ‘I see/You mean’, a novel by Lucy R. Lippard>.