Text by Carlomar Daoana
In his third solo exhibition, Danger to Myself…I’m Safe, Kiko Urquiola presents a suite of works that delves into the invisible wounds that people carry, instigated by years of trauma, (self-)abuse, neglect, now visually rendered as bruises on the body, rivulets of tears, blood as thick as tar. Conceptualized and titled before the pandemic of COVID-19 hit the humanity on a global scale with such devastating force, these works have now become emblematic of the struggles of people during quarantine, when they have to reckon with the absence of perpetual distractions and confront the difficult and dark recesses of their beings.
While the different portraits undergoing their respective moments of upheaval—set against a darkened background and partly illuminated with a single light source in the manner of chiaroscuro—are based on live models, the artist has imagined them as stand-ins for the rest of us in general and the viewers in particular. For who could not see, in one way or another, that the bruises speak of hidden suffering, that the toy snake held by the child conveys the demons we should be fiercer against, that the loss of faculties (in the work that is an interpretation of the blind-deaf-mute aphorism) further intensifies the voices in our heads?
For Urquiola, what we consider “negatives” constitute the very fiber of our beings, that it is impossible to live in the world in their absence. They are, to a certain extent, make us human: the terror and grief and sadness that attend to us just like our shadows. A specific work, that of Urquiola’s self-portrait, is an amplification of this theme. Seated and revealing the tattoos on his arms, the figure shows his face erased as he tries to wipe it with the common circular rug sold by the roadside. In the figure’s attempt to present a better version of himself (the rug, in this case, used as a tool for art), he accidentally rubs out what makes him human and recognizable.
Danger to Myself…I’m Safe is Urquiola’s meditation on the nature of man—that he is not simply a performative agent in the world expected to abide by society’s rules and norms but an independent soul with its share of existential burden. This is what makes us emphatic to each other, the understanding that each of us carries our own moral load, that, perhaps, part of life’s meaning is how we can make the load lighter for others. In being aware of this, what makes man a danger to himself is transformed to what secures his—and other’s—safety.