top of page
Screen Shot 2023-03-14 at 2.41.01 pm.png

ARIEL HASSAN

b. 1977, Argentina

Lives and works between Germany and Australia



Ariel Hassan was born in Argentina in 1977. He has held solo exhibitions in Australia, Spain, Singapore and China. Group exhibitions include the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2012); Art Stage Singapore–project space (Greenaway Art Gallery), Singapore (2011); Australian Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo, China (2010); Primavera, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2008); Uneasy – Recent South Australian Art,  Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia, Adelaide (2008)

A process of self-imposed rules with aleatoric outcomes constitutes the necessity of Hassan's work in painting, video or other mediums. Selections of raw images are studied, deconstructed and with little intervention patiently uncovered anew. A juxtaposition of simple equations and minimal transformations is staged, producing images of complex behaviour which advert to the gravitas and sovereignty of  spaces unknown. Exploration without subjugation and the emancipation of the image itself, brings forward a dimension of ideological independence in conflict with identification, or even representation, consequently challenging authorship and opening the experience to multiple readings.

Hassan's ambiguous images articulate complexity and his own displacement by contrasting physical fluidity against the liquidity of conceptions that uncertainty incites. As such, the work is caught within a realm of existential paradoxes, where chaos is assimilated as an endless source from where to extract information and translate visual experiences. Communicating by confronting cognition and the acknowledgement of self within it, cultural elements precariously balance in the geology of images that consume them.

ANTROPOFAGIA

+

OF MERCY AND TIME

/ MELBOURNE ART FAIR, 2024

Ariel Hassan’s Of Mercy and Time (2023) collapses old gods and new technologies into one another. In the work, we encounter a religious figure, whose form is a hybridisation of the Buddhist deity Tārā and the ancient Roman god Saturn. In bringing together the two figures, Hassan—as the work’s title suggests—brings together an amalgam of their qualities: Tārā’s mercy and Saturn’s association with time. Yet one does not need to know these exact cultural references in order to register the figure’s divine antecedence. This is a work whose effect is borne as much out of feeling as it is out of intellect. Seemingly cast completely out of burnished gold, the imposing figure in Of Mercy and Time visually transports us to a theistic context without a single word needing to be uttered. The aural elements of the work that are present only amplify this sense of transportation, as Christian traditions are introduced into the work through the sound of Johann Sebastian Bach’s aria ‘Erbarme dich, mein Gott’ (“Have mercy, My God”). Hassan’s digitally rearranged soundscape emerges from his figure’s stomach, grounding the transcendence of Bach within the physical form.

 

Although one might expect to behold this central figure in a church, temple, or shrine, Of Mercy and Time exists in an entirely different setting: the space of virtual reality. Here, Hassan’s creativity is untrammelled. He is able to mould forms that are untethered from our terrestrial world. As he explains, there is no gravity or physical constraints in this place: “it’s the capacity of VR to do something that is completely immaterial or intangible.” But while the revolving otherworldly figure in Of Mercy and Time appears to transcend our reality, it also remains indelibly mired in it. On some level, the virtual-nature of the work seems to reflect our hyper-consumption of technology and the conditions of our logged-in, online, ever-streaming existence today. 

 

When looking at the work, I find myself asking, whether it is a portrait of the new religion of the twenty first century, which sees so much of our lives contoured around our hand-held devices. The very form of the work harbours this provocation—as it adopts many of the tropes of religious transcendence, while at the same time withholding the ultimate practice of worship. Yet the work also cleaves a clear path away from the gamification of VR and its familiar deployment as entertainment. “The user is not entitled to operate the actions that are happening. There is no interactivity,” Hassan says. “You are putting yourself in a space that is intangible and is out of your jurisdiction.” Of Mercy and Time transacts in familiar technologies and recognisable symbolism, while ultimately moving beyond both. 

 

Words by Tai Mitsuji

Of Mercy and Time
TRANLATION

TRANSLATION2019

The uselessness of art redeems us humans, it is a space opposite, a counter-production that we need to keep interpreting and building, ideally in the most neutral way possible. Art is not about us, it is about all. Beyond any speculation I believe that the reason our world needs art is because we perceive a notion of complete equality and equanimity that exists only in the fundamental absolute power of art. We need art because it affects us, the experience damages us while simultaneously helping us regain trust in a condition that seems to avoid us. Our temporality, stubbornness, personal views, the excesses of added values; art doesn’t care for these, it attacks and erodes them, becoming relevant to us. Because the encounter with art humbles us, we must care for it. 

Working on art projects stands not as an escape nor a crusade, but perhaps as a poetic lament and an attempt at translating into tangible that unfathomable space. From our fragmented reality, surviving all accidents of being, I keep striving to bring versions of this poetry into the world, translations that remain always imperfect and incomplete, but are done with as much fidelity as possible. This exhibition is one version of this, including works produced with broken, discarded and found materials; surviving traumatic transformations these are presented again heroic, as poetic figures in their regenerated structures, symbolic of the fluid nature of attested conceptions, or what is original.

AH

BEGINNING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH | TEXT  -

The beginning of heaven and earth was separated by an invisible landscape on the horizon, strong, sharp and dangerous to cross, yet irresistible for those who dared. The border keeping the outsiders out or the insiders safe, the insiders trapped or the outsiders ignored. This was in my head as a child.

I remember a scene repeated on most common walls between neighboring houses back in Argentina in the 80s: over solid high brick walls, pieces of broken bottles and glass shards were cemented at the top. These would form a sort of mountainous horizon against the blue sky, a gruesome-poetic framing to the dwellings’ courtyards - the ‘decorative’ feature for the shared partitions. This topography of bourgeois fear would echo the high mountain ranges of the region where I grew up.

The expansion of the mountains, embracing salinas and deserts within the valleys that I would experience as an all consuming territory, was somehow condensed in these sharp and menacing shared walls. Contrary to the mountains’ expansion which confused frontiers, the walls aggressively protected and limited the private property of the families.

Whatever the social reality backing the erection of these violent separations, was not the focus of my attention and I would instead see them as metaphysical landscapes formed by translucent mountain ranges. They were attractive and seductive frontiers for explorers, more than inhibitors for the plausible animosity of intruders. The topology of these walls and of the walls in the minds of the neighbours, did not always manage to restrain trespassers.

The world today is still full of transparent or rigid borders, things to protect, reasons why to hinder free movement between peoples or ideas. Beyond the unreachable imaginal frontiers from childhood, I wonder if any real imposing borders from then or current ones (which provoke more than contain) don’t actually expose the intolerance and fear for the other, as opposed to effectively addressing the concerns for the integrity of what in the first place was intended to be kept safe.

The imaginary landscape has been re-enacted in stone and glass low enough for anyone to cross, just be careful not to get cut, but if it happens try to enjoy the accident.

AH

TRAGEDY OF EQUALITY VOID + TOKYO

TRAGEDY OF EQUALITY
TOKYO + VOID
2019

Direct contact battles between two contestants occur in triangular spaces. Physical triangulations reflect the opponent’s respective states of ‘desire’, ‘reality’ and ‘expectation’ within the binary law of domination and subjugation that maintains them, reflecting a global system of desire and fate continuously moving and consuming each-other.

As a primal tension structure, a triangulation indicates our existence as products of desire (mother-father-child), as natural bodies integrated in a social space of com-promise (political fate), to consume and satisfy production (economic fate), to deal with a contentious existence in an occupied space, subject to personal and external beliefs.

The competition strive for difference where difference is not allowed to occur. Competitors wear neutral white outfits and abstract “landscape” masks. Referencing classical Greek tragedy, the masks eliminate identity and transform the contenders into anonymous territories, each competing to conquer the opponent. The structure conforms to a territorial battleground where the actions, through infinite repetition, direct towards a sterilization of the external image, where cultural judgment is deprived of its absolute force.

What is desired is manifest: a struggle for difference or a violent acceptance of equality

 

Scenario

Armed with electric hair clippers, two contenders battled against each other. To neutralize individual status, contenders wore white overalls and a white abstract mask. Competitors battled to overpower each other, attacking and shaving the head of the other, able only to shave a small amount of hair before their roles were overturned, dominance and subjugation. Eventually, neither contender had any hair left to cut. Bald, they returned to their resting positions.

Outcome

Hair eliminated and not allowed to grow back. The body is controlled by force, restricting its capacity for difference. Denied its production, hair is hindered from protection or image production (individuality). Through cycles of domination and sub-mission, the action is inconclusive: no one wins, and individual signs are neutralized. Bodies are rendered non-productive, left in a perennial symbiotic tension.