David Maroto's artistic practice unfolds around two intersections: between literature and visual arts on one hand and the use of the game as an artistic method on the other, while distilling components from the purview of psychoanalysis as a tool for reflecting on the nature of subjectivity.
His work has been structured around a corpus of four autonomous circles with a clearly defined narrative component and a very marked beginning and end. These circles, once finished, will put an end to his work as an artist.
In this particular case, Maroto's project includes vanishing points from his first two circles, Illusion and Disillusion.
The first circle comprises visual and sonorous narratives relating to the central project and takes the shape of a novel likewise entitled Illusion which is present in the exhibition. It speaks to us of this permanent disconnection within the subject itself and of the possibility of discovering what remains invisible as an intrinsic part of ourselves, too close to be perceived.
The novel falls within the vein of work of artists who write novels as part of their artistic projects, a tradition which began some time ago with artists like William Morris, and this vein of a more personal nature has been carried forward by others such as Goldin+Senneby, Alexandre Singh, Richard Prince, Lindsay Seers and the PSJM collective.
In this case, Maroto uses the novel to develop the main ideas that are elaborated within the context of First Circle. It can be read on its own or by passages, relating them with the works forming part of this so-named first circle.
A second circle displays a whole media apparatus—from sculptures and videos to installations and drawings—with the aim of exploring the characteristics that may be adopted by the notion of "game" when applied to the creative method.
The central project is developed around a board game created by the artist called Disillusion. In it, the participant becomes a further element of the game itself and the game in turn becomes at once an element of pleasure and a tool for knowledge.
On this occasion, Maroto has turned the Praxis space into a sort of game hall. In some cases the artistic projects themselves take the form of games, while in others they are set up to be highly participatory and multidisciplinary. The objective is for the spectator to take an active role in the process of receiving the work, both by participating in it actively and in reconstructing the network of relationships linking the individual works and leading from one to another.
The games the artist has created are always for either one player or a maximum of two, and in both cases it is essential to understand the psychology of oneself and the other as well as to understand the relationship the player has with his opponent. This can be experienced with the two board games that are presented, Disillusion and Empathy.
In Disillusion, the effort to beat one's adversary will be inversely proportional to one's own defeat, and the struggle to win will be what brings one closest to losing, leading to a perverse loop between player and opponent which will often end either with the player leaving the game in view of the absurdity of the situation or "playing to play," eliminating all traces of competition from the undertaking. In Empathy, this maxim is taken to the extreme, and the winner will be he who is best able to step into the other's shoes. Maroto makes us aware of the rules of the game as a metaphor for our own rules.
Confusion and chance are one of the elements the spectator must grapple with, as in the special bingo game which appears normal except for the fact that all of the balls will be marked with the number 6 save for two: one bearing a 12 and the other a 0. This creates a connection with Patrick McGoohan's series The Prisoner, in which the protagonist loses his identity to become a number, precisely the number 6, and seeks to escape the stifling island where he has been taken prisoner and also to discover the identity of the mysterious number one.
Chance is likewise a defining element in the video installation Message in a Bottle, a four-hour loop in which the spectator might be lucky enough to catch the fleeting image (1/24 of a second in duration, the minimum for a video) inserted into a 240-minute tape, with the moment it appears not specified. Here the artist is playing with the subversiveness of chance, and these blank spaces spent waiting for the image to appear again refer us to the world of psychoanalysis.
Maroto uses the game to speak about the part of our reality we take for granted, the question of what's real in relation to psychoanalysis, an area that also relates to the two puzzle formats we find. First is a giant tangram in which the artist allows the spectator to form silhouettes using seven pieces, resulting in countless configurations, each with a problem to solve. In the other, what appears when worked to be a Western puzzle, in which there is always one and only one possible solution, is unique in that the solution is truncated and the frustration of failure brought on.
As for the novel, Illusion introduces us to literature as expansive narrative within the visual arts and serves as the centerpiece of a constellation of interrelated works whose meaning is ultimately related to this novel.
They take the viewer through a process of progressive fragmentation leading to an unpredictable ending, which also happens to the protagonist of the novel, who is only able to realize this in retrospect. In Illusion, the characters are unaware that they are constantly changing and redefining themselves in relation to their environment and others. This alienating character is taken to extremes with the protagonist, who is always in need of a model to imitate. The problem is that the closer he gets to this model, the more he has to compete with it to obtain the object of his desires.
Maroto is interested in psychoanalysis as a tool for making visible this shared place, what lies between us, and in this interstice the game works as a process in which the subject undergoes two transformations: on the one hand there is the fact that the agent participating in the game becomes one more element of it and sees a need to temporarily abandon his personal desires; and on the other is the imposition of being subjected to rules dictated from an external field, eliminating the possibility for decisions to be made in the way one is accustomed. Identification with the other is the key to the relationship between psychoanalysis and game. For it, the game is like a contrived device, a device that creates situations where intersubjective exchange is possible. It is a way of understanding the game as an open concept in line with Wittgenstein. In his Philosophical Investigations, the German philosopher distinguishes between open and closed concepts in relation to identification criteria based on the perception of "family resemblances" or likenesses. A concept would be open when we cannot give a precise definition of its intention (this is where the concept of "game" would come in) and closed when the contrary is the case. Identifying examples that fall under an open concept is carried out through the perception of "family resemblances" or likenesses among new cases and those already recognized.
Maroto in turn uses the game with the protagonists of his novel and with his participating public. While his narrative works subject the characters to a series of vicissitudes that call into question their existence as autonomous subjects and reveal their intimate dependence on others (above all in terms of imitation, resulting in desires, jealousy, envy, etc.), in the games he introduces a second dimension to the flat leaf of paper. For the protagonists of his games, he likes to create paradoxes, unexpected twists, to frustrate expectations and lead the agent activating his works down dead ends.