Interesting Guardian article this week on the Spanish artist Francisco de Pájaro. Having moved from Barcelona to London to escape the depressed economy and restrictive laws on street expression, de Pájaro’s work pokes fun at political and media figures and the values associated with the mainstream art world.
De Pájaro uses discarded bin-bags, cardboard boxes, wood panels in skips and other items awaiting refuse collection in the street as found source for his instant artworks. He works quickly, knowing that his pieces may be removed and disposed of that day, along with other items of domestic and business waste.
So what are we to make of this? Should we (the public) just smile, stare for a few seconds and walk on? Or are we being encouraged to challenge our own criteria of what constitutes art? De Pájaro makes his own, unequivocal statement on this, by painting the words ‘Art is trash’ onto some of the works, forcing us to consider our personal value judgements on art. For me, the transient nature of this kind of environmental art does just that. With works of so-called art in galleries and museums, judgements on their monetary, artistic and societal worth are made for us by panels, directors and curators. We have no choice but to look at what they choose to show us. However, that doesn’t mean that we must agree with their sense of taste and revere all of these works in a similar way.
After all, these institutional judgements can never hope to mirror public taste, which changes at a far faster rate over time. We must, I think, be more prepared to say (out loud if necessary) when we think that a work of ‘art’ is literally rubbish, whether it sits in a treasured national institution or out in the street.
Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced any of the works on the streets, where they were intended to be seen. My own curiosity for De Pájaro’s work is a reminder to me of how much of modern, urban life now is – quick-paced, transitory and largely shallow. Witness the fact that many people have photographed his pieces, rather than letting them ‘die’, by being hauled off to the nearest refuse site or incinerator.
This is how many of us deal with these kind of public encounters, by ‘owning’ them for a time, passing them on via social media, but then, ultimately, forgetting them and moving on.
Albert Einstein once said: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” Perhaps this scientific observation can be applied to de Pajaro’s work – that art can be beauty one week and rubbish the next.
Photographs by Francisco de Pájaro