Magic Box

Printed Matter’s Special Collection by Martín La Roche
November 17 - January 17, 2023

Boxes within boxes, and boxes outside the box. How to get rid of the square-archive while exercising memory?

An artist, Rod Summers, who in 1977 destroyed all his archive—a result of operations in the Mail Art Movement—over a year of exchange in a few-minute performance in Amsterdam; the Cairo Genizah, a repository built by disposal, resulting from hiding documents and books spanning from the 6th to the 19th centuries CE; stories of an archive of political pamphlets embedded in the wet concrete of construction buildings scattered around the city of Ramallah; or a box full of items with a tape attached to its lid that reads ‘Magic Box,’ found in 1992 in New York City beneath the bed of the artist David Wojnarowicz, following his death from AIDS complications, and never defined by him in life; all these stories and their traces are kept in different special collections recalled by Martin La Roche. According to him, they reflect on the importance of ephemera, rumors, and personal narratives in the construction of collective memory.

Martin La Roche, an artist who initiated a museum institution inside a hat six years ago by inviting different artists to contribute with a piece small enough or immaterial to fit inside while he wears it, has been actively engaged in opening and unfolding archives, transforming their materials, and presenting their contents along with their stories.

In the last year, the artist has been working with the action of shredding a personal archive to produce new material for installations. He accomplishes this by recycling paper from his 10-year personal archive, which consists of exhibition materials such as brochures, exhibition sheets, catalogs, etc.—every piece of ephemera given for free in art exhibition contexts that he visits. The process involves transforming these documents into paper pulp and leaving some shredded paper fragments still visible. This method allows him to create new material for constructing architectonic partitions and surfaces that permit the partial passage of light, simultaneously retaining traces of the printed documents that can still be seen and appreciated.

For his window installation at Printed Matter / st Marks, the artist incorporates a donation of double copies from the Printed Matter Art Book Fair catalogs and ephemera of the last decades into the paper-making process. The result is a new composition of paper installed on the bookstore windows that avoids the total passage of light. The paper, along with an LED-neon sign, publications from the artist book platform Good Neighbour, and some pieces from Martin’s hat museum, the Musée Légitime, are included in the window installation. The display transforms into a new provisional archive of names, images, and texts that reference the space that zines, artist books, and publications generate for publisher identities, artists, authors, stories, designs, and collections of objects.

As Lara Khaldi concludes in her essay “The phantom archive” -quoted by the artist’s collective To see the inability to see for the Remote Archivist: “Therefore the only way to dispose of the archive was to make an archive.”

Martín La Roche (1988), is an artist from Santiago de Chile who lives in Amsterdam. He studied Visual Arts at the University of Chile and completed a postgraduate program at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, the Netherlands. His works often find their starting points from existing collections of objects, archives as modes of storytelling which he reassembles into installations, performances or publications. He is part of the research art collective To see the inability to see and the artist book platform Good Neighbour in Amsterdam. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at MAVI (Museum of Visual Arts, Santiago de Chile); Miriam Gallery (Brooklyn, New York); Manifold Books (Amsterdam, the Netherlands); Die Ecke Arte Contemporáneo, (Barcelona, Catalunya); Beautiful Distress (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), among others; and in group exhibitions in Colombia, Germany, China, Serbia, Switzerland, and Japan, among others.

Pieces of the Musée Légitime on loan for this window installation Pattern, Negative, 2016 by Maartje Fliervoet, Hardcore, 2020 by Jan Hoeft, Fell out of Upper-left Molar Tues. May14, 2013, 2017 by Anna Banana, Chicle, 2023 and Botón, 2023 a site-specific piece for the purple hat by Juan Céspedes, Possession of an intimate place, 2003 by Jacqueline Machado de Souza, Pencil shaving, burnt match, plastic, 2017 by Ron Bernstein, Untitled, 2023 by Yuchen Chang, Infected Soul, 2020 by Rob van de Werdt, La raíz del problema, 2023 by Juan Yolín and Marcelo Estay, Business card, 2017 by Astrid Seme, Inventory, 2018 by Anne Callahan and Archivo Invisible by Elisa Balmaceda.

Additionally, to celebrate this window installation, Printed Matter / St Marks presented ‘Magic Box: Objects, Special Collections, Memory and Archiving.’ On November 17, 2023, from 6 pm to 8 pm. A conversation between Martín La Roche and Nicholas Martin (Curator for the Arts & Humanities at NYU Special Collections), moderated by Jaclyn Dooner (Founder Director of Miriam Gallery).

This event is supported by the Mondriaan Funds.

Read the article about Magic Box by Martin La Roche on Arte Capital here