Macchi, Jorge (1963 - )

Vidas Paralelas (1996)
Parallel Lives

height: 84cm
width: 61cm

Donated by Jorge Macchi 1998


Broken Glass and Chance (1)

This is one of a series of works by Jorge Macchi that juxtapose identical twins of everyday objects. This particular work presents two broken panes of glass whose cracking patterns and missing shards are exactly alike. The secret is simple yet apparently daunting: one’s breakage is given by chance, while the other’s by the artist’s precise replication of the original breakage. Macchi has repeated this process of production several times since 1996, each time producing a different pair of identical broken panes. In another example of Vidas paralelas (1998), an open box of matches shows the identical distribution of the contents in two compartments, which can highlight a perfect matching in a literal sense.

The fabricated sameness of the broken panes in the example in ESCALA may indicate the possible existence of perfect doubles in this miraculous universe, “and so finding two identically broken panes of glass is ultimately only a question either of time, luck, or patience”.(2) The work may also refer to Plutarch’s series of biographies often with the same title — a model typology pairing exemplary lives of famous Greeks with those of famous Romans to illuminate their common moral virtues and vices. Each reference is, however, pitted against the futility of reproducing banal objects unworthy of being valued and imitated. Macchi’s Vidas paralelas series rather destabilises the concept of privileged singularity through imitation and multiplication. The reiterated interrogation of uniqueness and authenticity embodies complex interactions between identity and difference, whereby the relationship between one’s own and surrounding things would have an infinite number of variations.

Macchi’s broken panes duplicating each other more importantly appear as a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923), often known as the Large Glass, whose two large glass panes were symmetrically shattered in transit since they were put on top of one another in a crate. Duchamp described what created this symmetry as “a curious intention that I am not responsible for, a ready-made intention, in other words, that I respect and love”.(3) Duchamp’s Large Glass is the earliest aesthetic examination of broken glass as chance. Macchi expanded the potential of this curious material in his project entitled Buenos Aires Tour (2003), in which a broken pane of glass became a device to defamiliarise the city he was born and raised in. The cracking patterns of the pane that had been superimposed on a map of Buenos Aires provided Macchi and his Argentine collaborators, Maria Negroni and Edgardo Rudnitzky, with chance itineraries through which they could renew a conventional understanding of the city with a sense of displacement. Here, broken glass no longer emerges as an ominous symbol of violence and destruction, and instead becomes a source of spontaneous creativity and infinite change.

1. This text is based on Taisuke Edamura, The Visibility of Glass in Contemporary Art. PhD thesis, Colchester: University of Essex, 2014: 31, 70-72.
2. Pérez-Barreiro Gabriel, “Jorge Macchi: The Anatomy of Melancholy,” in Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, Jorge Macchi. Porto Alegre: Fundaçao Bienal do Mercosul, 2007: 33.
3. “Regions which are not ruled by time and space. . . .,” edited version of “A Conversation with Marcel Duchamp,” television interview conducted by James Johnson Sweeney, NBC, January 1956, in Marcel Duchamp, The Essential Writings of Marcel Duchamp: Salt Seller = Marchand du Sel, ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson. London: Thames & Hudson, 1975:127.

(Text commissioned by ESCALA for the exhibition Connecting through Collecting: 20 Years of Art from Latin America at the University of Essex, 2014)

Taisuke Edamura, 2014

Vidas Paralelas (Parallel Lives) belongs to a series of works made by Jorge Macchi in the 1990s when he held a number of residencies in France, Holland, and England.

Two sheets of glass displayed side by side reveal an identical pattern of cracks, as if designed with mathematical precision. The uncanny phobia produced by broken glass is here intensified when one learns about the strategy employed in the making of the cracks. The first sheet was smashed by throwing a hammer onto the glass, and the second created by painstakingly imitating the accidental design, with a cutter. This method complicates any ideas of chance and accident. The minimalist presentation enhances the contrasts between the fragility and transparency of the glass and the very different human impacts upon it: unrestrained violence and the most carefully calculated precision cutting. In its clever manipulation of illusion, the artist seems to be insinuating that reality and fiction are made of the same substance.

The work explores the theme of the double, a motif that threads through most of Macchi's oeuvre. As if inspired by a novel by Paul Auster, Vidas Paralelas invokes ideas of coincidence, of twin occurrences coupled by means of association, revealing a surreal approach to reality and its many appearances. This piece is associated with other works made with glass, such as Untitled, also in ESCALA, and with Macchi's sculptural twin modules, like Recuerdo de una noche que pasé tratando de olvidarte / Souvenir of a night spent trying to forget you, also from 1996.

Gabriela Salgado, 2008

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