Champ de Vision : Damián Ortega Part 2
Champ de Vision
Damián Ortega Part 2
Anna Hiddleston + Sinziana Ravini, October 18, 2010
Interview with Damián Ortega…

This interview was made over an exchange of emails during May and June between Anna Hiddleston and Sinziana Ravini in Paris and the artist resident in Berlin. The questions were originally written in English and the answers in Spanish and translated into English by Carmen Cebreros in Mexico City.

AH & SR.:  Can you start by describing your working methods, your use of drawings or small-scale models for example? What is the origin of your ideas?

DO.: My faculty for abstraction is not very good. I need to draw, see and make things in order to understand them. The prototypes help me to be sharper. Ideas are like electric connections. In some ways they are accidents, like sparks. There are situations or experiences that become important for totally subjective reasons.

AH & SR.: Humour, double meanings and wordplay seem to be quintessential to your work. You began your career as a political cartoonist. What were you laughing at back then and what are you laughing at right now?

DO.: Double meaning has a very strong role in politics in Mexico. Word games generate complicity and conclusive social disqualifications. They occur in climates and tones so veiled and funny that they can pass completely unnoticed. There is an implicit but secret conspiracy in some answers that can be recognised only by the accomplice. These double meanings are very vulgar of course, very sexual and highly macho. I enjoy the most painful jokes; the ones that only happen among friends and that no one else can understand. The most painful jokes tell you something that is true and restrained which suddenly comes out.

AH & SR.: Indeed your photos often come in series of three or four. Do you feel at ease with this interpretation? And if not, what is your specific formal relationship to the world?

DO.: I suppose the world could contain as many forms of growth as there are species on earth. I am attracted by slow, articulated progression, where one thing generates another; and changes happen that are not always perceived. This spiral ascending growth – which ramifies like a plant - is linked to my conception of narrative, based on the anecdote. Narrative can be accelerated but it is always a succession of events. Acción/reacción is a large system of communication, just like each grain of sugar in the photo-sequence Conducción de energía. The succession of images as a narrative technique is a very natural consequence for me after my work producing comic strips for a newspaper. It was interesting to talk about politics not only from an analytical position. The medium has such a political impact that it can provoke reactions and public discussion with political repercussions. In a newspaper politics are not mere references, politics are produced there.

Damian Ortega/ Damian Ortega _cosmic thing
Damian Ortega/ Damian Ortega _cosmic thing
AH & SR.: In your piece Champ de vision, for the Espace 315, the visitor is invited to walk around shifting layers of transparent coloured spheres before turning to view the installation through a lens, at which point the spheres come together to form an eye. The eye is a heavily charged image in art history, literature and, of course, photography ?

DO.: One of my intentions is to stress the transitional zones between internal and external space. I look for the intermediate area or the threshold, where an object becomes an image as it crosses the eye, and then integrates the subjective mind’s space. It is both inside and outside, in the window and in the reflection of light towards the interior. These thresholds I am talking about are spaces where reality transforms gradually, until it turns into a memory, an idea or mental image.

AH & SR.: You show that the beholder is also a creator, for it is he/she who holds the key to the final image. Which is more interesting for you: what the beholder sees or the process he undergoes?

DO.: Well, it depends on the moment. While I am making the piece, I enjoy vagueness and parallel references from my own experience, and that is pretty selfish. However, when the time comes to install the piece, I mostly enjoy the other part – which is selfish too – in which the work fills a physical space and volume and people interact with it. It is very exciting. To have ideas is easy in a way; to make them happen, and let them find their own life is harder.

AH & SR.: With Spirit and Matter, 2004, you evoke the idea of distancing oneself from an experience and creating a memory of it. You explain how the work offers two viewpoints. One viewpoint is physical, as the visitor is invited to walk through the structure, and one viewpoint is conceptual, seen from the outside, where the structure comes together to form the words “spirit” and “matter”. Can this be applied to the role of the lens in your current installation?

DO.: Champ de vision is a constellation, hanging from the ceiling of the Espace 315, which people can walk around. It is a kind of semi-transparent, penetrable shape, formed by primary-coloured spheres dispersed in the space. My intention is that when the visitor enters the exhibition room, he/she can feel the complete space and be immediately immersed in it. I want him/her to become an integral part of the piece from the inside. At the same time, there is a darkened area at one end of the room for the spectator to establish a different kind of relationship with the piece, to see it from another point of view. From here, the perspective is more synthetic, condensed, immaterial and illusory.

AH & SR.: For the Espace 315, the way you let the beholder reconstruct the dispersed image of the eye gives him or her the privileged position of creating order from disorder. Do you have any interest in chaos theory or are you more interested in the humanist tradition of central?

DO.: When I did the expanded vision of the Volkswagen in Cosmic Thing, 2002, I was surprised by the emptiness generated at its centre. The absence of the driver, for example, is palpable in the front seat. Controller of the Universe is also part of an “explosion”. The centre of this piece is the beholder’s viewpoint towards which all the suspended tools converge. The same thing happens in the piece for Espace 315 at the Centre Pompidou. It is also a work that recalls the humanist point of view. It is about a glance that can never grasp the absolute perspective of things. It is partial and eclipsed: a visual trap.

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