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SONGS FEEL LIKE MUSCLE MEMORY, OR, I’M OFF SOCIAL MEDIA, HMU ON YOUTUBE: A Mythography of Domingo Castillo

Rob Goyanes

The artist and author. Styled by Joshua Veasey, wardrobe and studio provided by JCPenny Portrait Studio
PART I
// Temperaments and Types of Mind ~ Full Disclosure ~ “Get outta here, let the water come. I wanna be a fish.” //

A religion of usages and sentiments rather than of facts and beliefs, and attached to very definite things and places—the oak of immemorial age, the rock on the heath fashioned by weather as if by some dim human art, the shadowy grove of ilex, passing into which one exclaimed involuntarily (in consecrated phrase) Deity is in this Place!—Numen Inest!

— WALTER PATER, 1885

How do you write about an artist whose work is about everything but the work itself?

This isn’t a fluffy profile of Domingo Castillo. It’s a fluffy profile of conceptualizations of Domingo Castillo. It comes in two parts, and it’s all about ideas, maaan.

Deeper than that, it’s about what it means to sincerely believe in art and love, a belief so deeply enduring that it renders dreams as things worth keeping. It’s also about nightmares, and suggests you consider keeping those, too.

But like everything, this essay is mostly about money. And it ends in a Russo-Turkish bathhouse, deep in the condo canyon off Collins Avenue.

Baths hallway

True transcendence awaits those who pass through here. Courtesy of the author

—__—

Domingo Castillo was born with a full ‘fro, date unknown, in a shaded grotto of mangroves. He was bathed in slices of flaxen radiance, coins of golden phosphorescence. Did I say grotto? I meant to say ghetto: Little Havana by way of Carol City by way of New York (his blood reaches back to El Salvador). He grew up hard as fuck, but then he softened to the ways of the world, became a sensitive man.

Castillo got his first computer when he was nine years old. He burned his eyes out on the TV monitor he used for it, scouring the growing heaps of techno, ASCII art, and reading material.

My first memory of Castillo is in the stairwell of La Cueva, an artist haunt and venue he lived in that overlooked Calle Ocho right above the El Gato Tuerto liquor store. He was carrying speakers.

It was around this time that he, Patti Hernandez, and Kiwi Farah started working as the collective the end/SPRING BREAK (later joined by Kathryn Marks). I can’t remember if on this night was one of the hundreds of screenings and lectures and events they’ve done, and neither can they.

(Real quick: the closest thing to full disclosure fit to print is that Castillo and I have a patron-client relationship. We happened together organically through the industry. Proof of this: I got into his exclusive solo show Duets at Dimensions Variable during Art Basel in December 2012. Castillo sang karaoke duets with the VIPs. Three other people I arrived with were denied. Dana Bassett—who went on to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and wrote her master’s thesis on the end/SPRING BREAK—and I, we made picklebacks as Castillo joined attendees in renditions of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, and “Picture” by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.

Jealous?)

On January 15, 2015, Castillo and I attended a few things. I drove him around and we talked about our moms, how beautiful they are. We talked about how fragile life can be, about lacks of confidence and where we come from. We talked about the Terremark (a subsidiary of Verizon) building downtown, how it hosts the majority of Latin America’s Internet, and how crazy that is.

~~ One of the building’s bulleted selling points on the Verizon website is that it’s “Located Outside FEMA 500-Year Designated Flood Zone: Yes.” Its technical colloquia is “NAP of the Americas,” or Network Access Point of the Americas. This is especially funny considering the following paragraphs. ~~

We went to a talk held at Cannonball with a panel of scientists commenting on Southeast Florida’s environmental future. Frustrated by the drowsiness-inducing regurgitation of gradual doomsday discourse and the calls-to-action based on each panelists’ individual agenda, Castillo walked up to Cannonball’s artistic director Gean Moreno and whispered, “I’m sorry, but I gotta blow up your spot.”

Castillo proceeded to deliver a loud, castigating haranguing, insisting that everyone who has the physical and economic mobility and desire will eventually leave South Florida and that all the rest of us will stay behind and just live according to the changing conditions—that we’ll just get boats, and do like we’ve always done.

After that sort of awkward moment, others in the audience spoke up, too, and the panelists spoke (a bit) more freely.

In the work that might be considered his art, there is love for the document and adoration for the archive, but it swerves from meticulous to carefree. The importance of history and knowledge is mixed with the recognition of fleetingness. For Castillo, to be out-there-in-the-world is not as important as a moment with another human being, the chance to strike interpersonal gold, or just the simple art of lite engagement. There is and isn’t a need to make more stuff in a world already brimming with stuff.

It’s all about hanging out, getting to know one another. Relearning the endless forms of social interaction, getting to un-know your “self” and remaking it.

But wait a second, is it possible that he’s just bullshitting you?

The answer can be found somewhere in the over 1,000-page book he made for a local institution, a book he refuses to discuss here in the Miami Rail or anywhere else in print, but which he’ll gladly discuss with you if you wish to call him at 786-483-0787.

PART II
//The Meaning of Hustling and the Hustling of Meaning ~ Banff, Alberta, Canada: The Most Religious City in the World ~ Pagan Death//

And now, I have the great pleasure to introduce to you our next speaker, Domingo Castee-lee-o, who is member of the collective end/SPRING BREAK here in Miami. He decided to make the presentation by bringing two birds—two parakeets. . . For the first time ever, we have in Art Basel Conversations, parakeets. So, a very warm welcome.

—HANS ULRICH OBRIST, moderator, “Art Basel Conversations 2010: The Future of Artistic Practice”

In visual art you hear a lot about dialogue, but not a lot of dialogue. What’s with all this talk about dialogue? It’s like saying, “Hey, let’s talk about having a conversation.” Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves, at every moment possible, why so much of life and art sucks, and why so much about the way we talk about life and art sucks, too?

What are the things that don’t make life and art suck?

SOMA studio

Domingo Castillo’s shared work space at SOMA, Mexico City. Photo courtesy Domingo Castillo

I could write about Domingo’s collaborations at SOMA in Mexico City, or how he listened to Wagner on top of a mountain during his time at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, or about the seminar he taught for Jessica Gispert’s class at the Kunsthochschule Mainz. But why?

Book left at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

A book made and installed in the library of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf during Domingo’s time at the Kunsthoschule Mainz

You want to know what Domingo is working on? He’s making films. They’re films that he himself would like to see: “I wanna see a film about a kid losing a cat, and then someone helps him find his cat.”

He’s got a series of high-level meetings with important people who can make some serious stuff happen.

Domingo+Castillo_200+dpi

The image above is the title of the book made and installed in the library of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf during Domingo’s time at the Kunsthoschule Mainz

As the musician and artist Nick Klein remarked years ago, and is something that’s stuck with me: “Domingo’s artistic practice consists of convincing curators to take him out to lunch.”

In other words, a poetry of dialectics, a prose of finitudes.

So, what to make of the red herrings, the spectral loop-de-loops of personal thought and feeling, whether the bite-size chunks, or the dreaded Triple Dissertation? Why don’t we, instead, pass through the winding blue-tiled hallway together, and look at the beautiful paintings of people?

Domingo and I (and you) enter the Russian radiant room—the shvitz—and we sit. Sydney Graham, a watercolorist and juggler who joined us, is in another room. Thickets of steam roll by. We are sitting, not talking. We are breathing, hyperaware; we are but lungs on benches—totally immersed in a ritual both ancient and commodified by some New York immigrants in 1882, the place where gangsters checked their guns and where John Belushi went the day before he died. This location, though, is in the basement of the Castle Beach Club. We are surrounded by condominiums, a fifteen-block stretch of them, but cannot see through the corridors holding the salt water Jacuzzi, the red-lit amethyst room.

It was at that very moment that I most understood Domingo’s art.

Afterward, I invited him and Sydney to my apartment for dinner. Domingo was okay with us eating hamburgers even though he doesn’t eat hamburgers.

At the table, we listened to the choral chamber music of fourteenth-century composer Guillaume de Machaut. Domingo talked about someone he knows who wrote her PhD about the dinner parties that Immanuel Kant threw in the later years of his life. Kant, after realizing that he’d wasted the first half of adulthood eating more or less the same thing over and over again while immersed in his work, opened up a bit. Learned to cook.

We ate crinkle cut fries, Domingo with a sampling of all the mustards he could retrieve from the fridge, like the Europeans do.

ROB GOYANES is a writer from Miami. He’s currently building a book about an airplane.

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  • The best part of this piece was the end.

    • D B

      “ROB GOYANES is a writer from Miami. He’s currently building a book about an airplane.”

  • mikecalwayfagen

    Great piece!