Ineligible

Ineligible is a collective exhibition created from archaeological material coming from excavations carried out by the PaleoWest company, prior to the construction of the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.
Identified and disposed of as ineligible, i.e., unworthy of any scientific study or public exhibition, that material was acquired by Doug Bailey, who later used it as raw material for artwork production. From different nationalities and backgrounds, the authors invited to participate in the project had to work within the theoretical reference of the transdisciplinary domain of art/archaeology - disarticulation, repurposing and disruption –, producing pieces which were then scrutinised by the curators (Doug Bailey and Sara Navarro). Out of the fifty-three pieces received by the curators, they selected twenty-seven, produced by thirty artists, for the collective exhibition.

Valter Ventura examine the history of counter-power, rebellion, and struggle that lay under the surface (as well as in the open-air of social violence and its repression by institutions of authority) of North American cultural formation. Here the motive is the foot, the shoe, the boot and the footprint. The link is the terrain and the landscape, although in Ventura's work, the territory is the urban context established by European immigrants in early 20th century California. In these images, however, Ventura harnesses the power of photography, both his own (of the disarticulated materials he received for Ineligible) and those from the Oakland Museum of California’s online archive of photographs of policeman’s boots taken during the Bloody Thursday riots in the summer of 1934. Cropping the latter images, printing them on millimeter scale paper, and juxtaposing them with images of the Ineligible materials to be repurposed, Ventura creates a tension between order and obedience, between protection and force, and between equality and solidarity.

Doug Bailey (professor and archeologist at San Francisco State University, California)
for the catalog Creative (un)makings: disruptions in art/archaeology. 2020

 

Doug Bailey: How does the work you made and that will be exhibited in Santo Tirso connect to the theme of the Ineligible?

Valter Ventura: The term "ineligible" refers to something that is excluded or separated because it is outside the norm. I believe it is possible to understand a culture at a given moment by analyzing what is considered the "natural order of things" and what - consequently - becomes marginal. For europeans, the american continent was the place where the ineligible ones were discarded. And these outcast, who might have imagined a new world, permited the creation of a comparative and evaluative system that, in everything copied the prepossessions of the old continent: races, gender, religion, possessions, education, ancestry, sexuality or ideals. I have tried to glimpse, in the history of San Francisco (place of provenance of the objects that underlie this project), the role this place played in the building of north-american culture and found a long history of counterpower, rebellion, and struggle; but simultaneously a drastic asymmetry between the poverty and the wealth of its inhabitants. My work focuses (using the photographic power of indexing, listing, and comparison) on defining what is ineligible from the idea of a footprint: the footprint as an archaeological, political, and social document. I put the "evidence" sent to me, on the millimeter scale paper and cross-referenced it with details of the policeman's boots during Bloody Thurday, taken from the images of the Oakland Museum of California online archive. My purpose is to create a tension between the notions of law and justice, between equality and solidarity, between order and obedience, between protection and force, between the elected power and what it considers ineligible.

Doug Bailey: From your perspective and your practice, what do you see as the connections between art and archaeology?

Valter Ventura: I worked as a helper in various archaeological fields when I was young. When told, this detail of my life seems to make evident a comparison with my artistic practice. There might be: I find relations with the act of unveiling, the effort to dig (remove layer by layer) or to construct and sustain a narrative from objects.
Four true episodes of contemplation, foresight, chance, and provocation:
I. An archaeologist who did not excavate. He contemplated the landscape and tried to understand the stories of where, how, and when it was occupied: he prospected the soil, understood toponyms, interpreted ancient legends, and — above all — looked.
II. An archaeologist who silently watched a rough piece of pottery, insistently trying to unravel the function of that intact but unknown form. She was looking at that object trying to ricochet to another time and another space.
III. An old archaeologist, little respected by his colleagues, turned away from the cave he was digging. In an emergency he had to pee, hidden behind the trees, onto the dirt that had been removed and sifted. He found a votive shale plate: one of the most important pieces of that campaign, which had gone unnoticed.
IV. Two young archaeologists gave a presentation of their work: a banal excavation during the construction of an urban building. They began by presenting, inventorying and studying the artifacts of the first layer of soil: beer bottle caps, cigarette butts, condoms ... They used all the scientific methods that are required for the lower layers. Unsure if it was a joke, the audience reacted with laughter. The two young archaeologists replied that they were only advancing work for future researchers.