– Spring 2012

No Man’s Land Paintings

Willy Thayer

Eugenio Dittborn, airmail painting #112, La Cuisine et la Guerre, 1994, tincture, cotton fabric, stitching and photo-silkscreen on 24 sections of duck fabric, 4.2 . 16.8cm. Installation view, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile 1998. Photograph: Jorge Brantmayer. Courtesy the artist

It is never the beginning or the end that are interesting. What is interesting is the middle.
— Gilles Deleuze1

Airmail painting has been conceived for that paradoxical space that is transit… not the beginning, nor the middle, nor the end (Dittborn), beyond all fixity, finality and rigidity.
— Guy Brett2

To see an airmail painting is to see in-between, in a turbulence in which it is impossible to locate points of origin, sojourn and destination.

1. Dittborn writes that in 1983, happening to fold a large piece of wrapping paper four times upon itself, and then unfolding it again, he accidentally invented the airmail painting. Where the marks reticulated the paper, he discovered folds that would traverse his works and would be heterogeneous to them. The find, he continues, provided him with what he had long been searching for in his work.3 In late 1983 the first airmail painting reached the world. From 1983 to 2011, Dittborn ‘produced 181 airmail paintings and put them into circulation between faraway points on the globe’.4 The multikilometric lines ‘of paint suspended from the sky in an airplane that never ceases to arrive’5 trace the geo-poetics and cartographic geo-politics of the airmail painting over a wide scope of the Earth’s surface.6

2. But it is retrospectively in 1998 —when the airmail painting, its techné and gymnastics have matured over the course of fifteen of the earth’s trips around the sun, flying over the earth’s surface on routes thousands of miles and hours of

  1. Gilles Deleuze, En medio de Spinoza (trans. Equipo Editorial Cactus), Buenos Aires: Editorial Cactus, 2006, p.37.

  2. Guy Brett, ‘Dust Clouds', in Mapa: Pinturas Aeropostales/The Airmail Paintings of Eugenio Dittborn 1984—1992 (exh. cat.), London and Rotterdam: ICA and Witte de With, 1993.

  3. See Eugenio Dittborn, Mundana, Santiago de Chile: Pública Editores, 1998, p.152.

  4. Quoted from text on one of the airmail paintings sent to the 8th Bienal del Mercosul, Brazil, September—October 2011.

  5. E. Dittborn, Mundana, op. cit.

  6. See the graphic itinerary of The 6th History of the Human Face (Black and Red Camino) (1989), reproduced in this issue, pp.78—79.

  7. E. Dittborn, ‘Bye Bye love’, Revista de Crítica Cultural, no.13, 1996, p.28.

  8. The airmail paintings depart from some of the basic principles of Mail art — for example, from the principle that ‘artistic practice must remain in a certain state of extra-territoriality in respect to any institutional form … The airmail paintings also circulate within the network of museums, galleries and exhibition spaces dedicated to art … They depart from the small format used by Mail art for its circulation. Composed of parts folded inside envelopes, once unfolded and assembled onto the gallery wall the airmail paintings momentarily join the class of paintings that, throughout history, like Claude Monet's Water Lilies (1914—26), for example, attempted to stay out of the eye's reach, functioning instead on an architectural scale'. E. Dittborn, Fugitiva, Santiago de Chile: Fundación Gasco, 2005, pp.167—68.

  9. Ibid.

  10. G. Brett, ‘Dust Clouds’, op. cit., p.76.

  11. Quoted from text on one of the airmail paintings sent to the 8th Bienal del Mercosul, Brazil, September—October 2011.

  12. G. Brett, ‘Dust Clouds’, op. cit., p.71.

  13. Sean Cubitt, in Remota: The Airmail Paintings of Eugenio Dittborn (exh. cat.), Santiago de Chile: Pública Editores, 1997, p.88.

  14. E. Dittborn, Correcaminos VII, op. cit., fragment 20.

  15. G. Brett, ‘Dust Clouds’, op. cit., p.105.

  16. E. Dittborn, Correcaminos, fragment 4, in Justo Pastor Mellado, El fantasma de la sequía, Santiago de Chile: Francisco Zegers Editor, 1988.

  17. Roberto Merino, ‘Marcas de Viaje’, in Remota, op. cit., p.83.

  18. The title of Pintura Aeropostal No. 96.

  19. Walter Benjamin, ‘El origen del Trauerspiel alemán’ (1963), Obras (trans. Jorge Navarro Pérez), vol. 1, Madrid: Abada Editores, 2006, p.268. For the English translation see W. Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama (trans. John Osborne), London and New York: Verso, 1998.

  20. Nelly Richard, ‘Nosotros/los otros’, in Mapa: Pinturas Aeropostales/The Airmail Paintings of Eugenio Dittborn 1984—1992, op. cit., p.97.

  21. See E. Dittborn et al., Desierta: pinturas aeropostales, videos, Santiago de Chile: Museo de Artes Visuales, 2010, p.38.

  22. E. Dittborn, ‘Fugitiva’, op. cit., fragment 15.

  23. Ibid.

  24. Stadium was a Chilean sports magazine. It was published between 1941 and 1982, reaching a total of 2,043 issues.

  25. Ronald Kay, Del espacio de acá, Santiago de Chile: Editores Asociados, 1980, pp.44—45.

  26. E. Dittborn, Mundana, op. cit., p.46.

  27. Pablo Oyarzún, ‘Protocollage de lectura’, Pinturas Postales de Eugenio Dittborn (exh. cat.), Santiago de Chile: Francisco Zegers Editor, 1985, p.11.

  28. See E. Dittborn, La feliz del edén, Santiago de Chile: self-published, 1983.

  29. E. Ditttborn, Mundana, op. cit., pp.69—117.

  30. E. Dittborn, ‘Fugitiva’, op. cit., fragment 15.

  31. G. Brett, ‘Clouds of Dust’, op. cit., p.104.

  32. S. Cubitt and E. Dittborn, ‘Una Entrevista Aeropostal’, in Remota, op. cit., p.28.

  33. W. Benjamin, ‘El origen del Trauerspiel alemán’, op. cit., p.297. Translated by Lisa Hirschmann.