ACTIONS

“I was never a performer. A performer is that kind of shallow modern guy, who puts a scotch tape all over the ears, paints his face like a decadent lamb and makes pantomimes with a few ugly dancers. A performer can also be a fake artist which breaks an old vase and pretending to be a transgressor (when in fact is a product of the prevailing conformism, and he only can bother -a little bit- to a few old pensioner members of a committee). A performer, with some rare exception, is a mediocre actor playing the role of an avant-garde artist. So, I think the word actionist is more precise to describe my attitude. I was always a man in motion, due I’m a living being, but I was never an actor. When I do an action, I am not acting for spectators. I am walking to the unknown, expressing for nobody things that I myself was unaware before their expression. I am made with the verbs of my nature: I am not a member of the club.”
-Gustavo Charif, extract from a reply to a question from the audience, during his talk at the Balai Seni Visual Negara (National Visual Arts Gallery of Malaysia), 2013.-

Many events in Charif’s life could be considered live art or “actions”. That was the spirit, in some way, to pilgrimage with numerous believers to Basilica of Our Lady of Luján at the age of twelve. Or when, as a teenager, attends Theosophical Society’s sessions but, at the same time, to meetings of the Trotskyist party, and talking to the firsts like a revolutionary to needed be converted and to the Trotskyists like if he were a mad Spirist.
We may also see an art action when, around 1985, he destroyed thirty books written before 1980, and writes for a time under the pseudonyms of Melissa Larta, Césare Cartago and Emmanuelle Vaere as if he were respectively a young Rumanian poet, a mature Italian pornographer and a middle-aged Dutch experimental novelist. Or when in 1999 starts a parallel life as Victorio Lenz, and collaborates in different projects as a “hidden musician” under different names.
But, beyond these remarks, we can distinguish and select, among his life events, some specific live-art actions.

Ethologist Enrique Lerena de la Serna (a.k.a. artist Ithacar Jalí) receiving the “Charif Painted in Gold” prize, at the doors of National Museum of Fine Arts (Buenos Aires, November 1998)

In November 1998, he institutes in Buenos Aires the prize Charif pintado de oro (Charif Painted in Gold). The prize-giving ceremony is held at the doors of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) to León Ferrari (career), Alfredo Benavidez Bedoya (engraver), Ricardo Longhini (sculptor), Enrique César Lerena de la Serna -a.k.a. Ithacar Jalí- (sciences), Claudio Caldini (filmmaker), Roberto Bertero (painter) and Daniel Alva (friend). Charif also awards his couple in those days (a dancer and choreographer, as woman) and his lover (a student of architecture, lover). The prize for the best Argentinian rock band was declared void.
Charif said to the Argentinian press: “This Museum gives prizes to everybody for anything, so, I can give my own prize to the people that I really think deserve it. But, in my case, I am not receiving money or favours under the table (that’s the reason why I give it at the doors and not inside of the Museum). I am not giving a price to my partner as dancer or to my lover as architect, even when they are enough good in their professions… but this is a serious prize. I mean, for example, I have some very good friend who is a very good painter, but I give the prize to other painter that I consider better than him. In this way, the big difference with the prizes that the Museum and his director (Jorge Glusberg) are currently giving, is that, to get the “Charif Painted in Gold”, you must be, according a honest and incorruptible jury, the best of the year in your activity. And I know the jury is completely honest because it’s conformed by an only one member: me. And I covered the prizes with a cheap but nice gold paint because I have not enough money to make it in real gold. By the way, if somebody in the audience is enough clever to distinguish at a certain distance the difference between the golden painting and the real gold, then is also enough clever to don’t believe in any prize (even in mine)”.

     
Press about the Charif Painted on Gold ceremony (La Nación newspaper), and the prize given to the winners

Ending 1999, Charif founds a religion that does not accept followers, and writes a series of precepts that, being an indecipherable writing, he himself is unable to follow. This writing (titled Main neuf Discours) was sent, via fax and e-mail, to 99 scientists, thinkers, writers and waitresses from different countries. Seven years later, in 2006, Charif said that he himself was expelled from this religion by him, so from then this ultra-secret sect have not even one single member.

Main neuf Discours (1999)

In 2000, Charif prints a false cover of Le Figaro magazine which distributes through all Paris announcing his “invasion to conquer the barbarian French people”. There Gustavo Charif meets Alejandro Jodorowsky who invites him to a public dialogue about his works and his future at a café called Le père tranquille.

False cover of Le Figaro magazine by Charif (2000)
The text reads: Save you by yourself: Charif invades Paris! The genial painter, writer and filmmaker will be in the city until June 22, 2000. “I’m here for a meeting with the great Fernando Arrabal, to see a little canvas that I made and which is in Bayeux, in the Museum of Art Baron Gérard, and to conquer this people of savages barbarian!”, says Charif laughing like a nutty. “After me, Laetitia will be no more Chaste!”

In July 2002, Daniel Maman Fine Art presents Profane Alchemy, the big individual exibition which was visited by 5,000 people. For the night opening Charif organizes a procession with diverse personalities (mostly poets, scientists and chess players) that follow the instruction of inventing their own personal religion and dress according with it. They group started from writer Macedonio Fernandez’s house where he lived with his son (the remembered Adolfo de Obieta, friend of Charif and recently pass away), ending at the gallery with the canonisation of Fernando Arrabal as San Fando.
A video with some images from Daniel Maman Fine Art (procession, opening exhibition, conference) is available here.

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During the same year, in Paris, share with Fernando Arrabal a conference-action presenting the Mishima’s film Yûkoku (a.k.a. The Rite of Love and Death). Soon later make AstroBoy, a series of photographic interventions with Aoi, a young Japanese friend, at the FIAC (International Fair of Contemporary Art, París).

Aoi and Charif in the FIAC (Paris, October, 2002)

On December 15, 2002, Charif canonizes Luce Moreau-Arrabal at the front door on Notre-Dame, giving her the title of Saint Lis in front of 2,000 people like the President of the Republic of Frioul, the Collège de ‘Pataphysique, the Dream Team Cinématographique, Adjani, Aoi, Nehle Balkausen, Christine Burrus, Marc Brenner, Jean-Marc Debenedetti, Albert Delpy, Julie Delpy, Thieri Foulc (Provéditeur-Éditeur Général du Collège de ’Pataphysique), Ante Glibota, Maxime Godard, Harold, Laurence Imbert, Grégoire Lacroix, Bernard Léonard (a.k.a. Léo Léonard), Gabriel Matzneff, Olivier O. Olivier, Anitra Seawright, Christophe Styczynski, Michael Thalheimer, and a group of “incarnated artists, Italian alchemists, people of arts, insects, Japanese students, French editors, Brazilian attorneys, young collectors, chess players, scientists and mystic policemen”.
Luce Moreau-Arrabal (Sainte Lis) pronounced a memorable grateful speach, that you can read partially in Spanish in the article by Fernando Arrabal (San Fando) published in El Mundo newspaper. (You can read the full article here, in arrabal.org website, or here).
Among the messages sending by who could not attend the ceremony were the words from Spanish journalist and writer David Barbero (“…I start immediately a fasting period and spiritual exercises as mind preparation for the canonization”) and writer Michel Houellebecq (“…in holiness, the merit is the most important”).

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In 2005 Charif is invited by the Argentinian magazine Ramona to make an intervention on a cover, in a collective exhibition. Because the magazine represented pretty well that what Charif sees as “the big swindle of the contemporary art”, he sends Pequeño ataúd (Little Coffin), a parody of the magazine inside a funeral box, where he changes, for example, the motto “visual arts magazine” (“revista de artes visuales”, in Spanish) by “magazine of wordiness without vision” (“revista de palabrería sin visión”).

In 2006, Charif creates various fictional characters, most of them musicians with different MySpace accounts, each one with a personal biography, pictures, connections and tunes. Two of them are Chico Trompo (an eccentric jazz pianist who “died on 1945”) and Tita Puch (a parody of Marilyn Manson but in Argentinian style, creating the name with a combination of actress Tita Merello and the serial killer Robledo Puch… of course Tita Puch ends being the shabby version of a real band).

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Note: you can listen to Charif playing piano on the Trompo’s style, in his short experimental film Intolerance (or Best places in the world are places where human left no traces) (click in the title in case you want to see the film).

After 2006, Charif was walked away from public life more and more. When in 2013, during his last conference, somebody in the audience asked him about his next live action, he answered: “I don’t know… enter the silence, maybe”. However, ending 2016 and during the opening of the Guandu Nature Art Festival in Taiwan, he made an act improvising a one hour “class”, explaining to a group of Taiwenese families and children how to make art by theirselves, giving them a series of simple recipes.

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From more than fifteen years, ever since Kirchnerists (the “new” Peronists) defines their movement as “national and popular”, Charif is defined, regarding Argentine politic, as “international and unpopular”.
This year, dissenting more than ever with the options in the recent Argentine elections, the PIEI (Partido Internacional E Impopular, or international and unpopular party) is born and it’s launched through social networks. Charif offered flyers and ballots via Internet, and whoever wishes is free to print their own ballot to vote.
Caution: of course, it’s not really a political party but an art action.

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Ending 2017, the Museo de la Palabra (Museum of the Words, Toledo, Spain) grants him the title of Ambassador of the Word, title with which the museum honours “writers whose works promote peace and concord between different cultures”. His first action as ambassador consisted in ask to 22 artists, very different each other, a quotation from their own culture to share with the world. The action-document is completed on next year and sent to the museum with the title XXIII. The artists collaborating with a quotation are (in alphabetical order): Afa Annfa (Hong Kong), Catrine Val (Germany), Chris Connelly (Scotland), Claudio Caldini (Argentina), Elena Redaelli (Italy), Lars Teichmann (Germany), Lili Wilde (Portugal/UK), Liu Bolin (China), Lui Itzel (Mexico), Marianna Ignataki (Greece), Mei Melançon (Philipines), Molly Harvey (Unites States), Nolan Cook (Unites States), Paul Barnes (Scotland), Raúl Herrero (Spain), Ray Caesar (England), Saffie Ng (Australia/China), Yasuaki Shimizu (Japan), Yeom Ji-hee (South Korea), Yohanna Idha (Sweden) and Zhangxu Zhan (Taiwan). To read the document, please, click here.

 

 

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