David Ferrando Giraut’s recent works weave a neon path through progressive economic theories and 17,000 years of image-making, arriving at the present day clad in Louboutin and dripping in gold.
‘The Accursed Stare’ exhibition is a display in two acts: 2013’s ‘CATOPTROPHILIA’ and a new 35-minute digital animation piece, the eponymous ‘The Accursed Stare’ (2017). The division of the two projects – a clean, well-lighted place above with an atmospheric cave beneath – is an intelligent and welcome act of curatorial mapping. Despite the latest work’s sophistication and production value, it is the earlier project that perhaps best crystalises the kernel of ‘The Accursed Stare’.
In ‘CATOPTROPHILIA’ we see an ancient silver Egyptian hand mirror and an iPhone 4 Elite circle around each other. This is a dance between minerals and their meanings, rather than objects. They are both pregnant with a timeless connotation of self-presentation and sickening worth, while paradoxically being obsolete in 2017. The mirror and the phone are systematic of the accursed share, a theory by Georges Bataille, from which the exhibition takes its name. Both objects are formed from designated excesses; basic survival doesn’t require mining for minerals, forging metals or polishing silver. The accursed share is the left over, that which must be expended.
A distant, ethereal voice in the head phones tells us that “minerals tend to turn into images when handled by humans”. The project seems to animate everything, from the basest of ores and rudimentary ochre face masks, into the process of image-making.
Catoptrophobia is the irrational fear of mirrors; it is quite distinct from the fear of one’s own reflection. You could say it is the fear of the prospect of one’s own reflection. By translating this phobia into a perverse desire (butting phobia out of the way with the suffix philia) Ferrando Giraut sketches a very interesting interpretation of society, not just in the contemporary but since at least the time of Nefertiti. We have always been a bunch of lost individuals, among the images of others, each one waiting to see if they too can stare at everything, yet avoid themselves in the melee.
After an acute re-reading of Bataillean concepts and their relation to socio-political constructs, ‘The Accursed Stare’ (2017) can come across as a little heavy handed. Palaeolithic cave drawings are projected, life-size. The animals of Lascaux gallop among fag butts and empty bottles as volcanic fresh water mixes with the dregs of discount vodka. This social commentary on the commodification of imagery runs through the essayistic 35-minute animation. Over the top, an art historian from the not too distant future tells her version of Western imagery from these caves to the latest line of couture shoes, via the Enlightenment and conceptualism.
‘The Accursed Stare’ is an exhibition with conviction that, despite its minor shortcomings, forces us to face the mirror and question our very human need to keep mining for images.