surfacing

Today is my last day as Occursus artist-in-residence.

Mainly, it has been a month of re-visiting. Re-visiting ideas, photos, texts, videos. And it has flown by. I haven’t revisit all I wanted to. But the end of this residency is not the end of the process. Simply a change of location, a pause for recollection and gathering before moving forward. Re-visiting is my continuous and endless way of working, sometimes is unconscious and others it is the very core of the work. But it never ends and it is never complete.

Looking back at my posts during these weeks, I realize that there is some form of surfacing going on in my images. There is a dialogue (or it could be an argument) between two images that are forced to share a sole surface, and therefore have to fight for prominence. Or two images that contradict, negate or hide each other. When I look at found postcards I can’t decide if it is the front or the back what holds the message, I am not even sure there is a message. So I try to merge both sides. Or even if I promote one side over the other, it will refuse to be separated and will find a way to implicate and reference the other.

There are perhaps multi surfaces, the surface of the screen, the surface of the found photograph, the surface of the landscape. And to me they all seem to be both remote and found at the same time, distant but inseparable from each other. The model and the reality fused and confused. At times, one surface is removed and the rest have to be rearrange, redefine or re-imagined. On other occasions, a new surface is incorporated, invited to bridge two non-communicating surfaces.

I have been tracing maps, doilies and fragmented wallpaper patterns. The doilies are broken and the blank areas designate a polar vision of the northern hemisphere. I have re-visited my work Mappa. The land is in negative, missing. The drawn areas cover what has to be identified as the ocean. It is a doily for a map, or a map for a doily. I have enlarge their scale. No they are wall maps. More image than instrument. The lines suggest a certain topography but the repetition exposes the doily, and both subjects are yielded to the off-white surface of the paper. From a distance the paper seems to be all there is, it is only on close inspection that the drawing can be discerned.

I mentioned at the beginning of my residency that one of my main objectives was to complete a new video work, for which I was writing a dialogue in collaboration with artist Markus Lantto. This work is still in progress. We wanted to write a fictional dialogue for two characters. In the process I realized I was feeling detached from these fictional characters and their dialogue, and I needed to incorporate ourselves in the work in a more direct way. So the piece will fluctuate between the fictional dialogue and our own correspondence about the work. And I realized also that this work could not be rushed and it would have to flow freely and take its time, so its development will continue beyond my stay at Site Gallery.

It has been a strange and enriching experience. I am already based in Sheffield, and I have my studio in this city, so it was not about making work of the place itself but to look back and revisit my work. Being in a temporary blank space always prompts the need to fill up the walls with work quickly with new images. But in this case, after the first days’ awkwardness of adaptation and expectation, the blankness of the walls has provided some relief from my cramped studio. Spending time just looking at one’s drawing or starting at a blank paper allows for new lines of thought to push through. It has given me the time and mind-space. And sometimes priorities get confused and experimentation and play take a secondary role, for which I am convinced the work always suffers. So this residency has provided both, time to play and think, and space to experiment.

inhospitable

A house. A house surrounded by a white fence, lush trees and a small path leading to its white door. A woman leaning over a child, probably saying goodbye before he leaves for school. A borrowed setting, a found photograph. A tiny image removed from its original context, history or time.

And I can’t decide if I am too big or the house too small for me to visit. The landscape is either too small or too far to define myself in it. But If I look at it close enough, it becomes immense, greater than my own scale. And I am there somehow. I inhabit the image better than anything else, precisely because I can’t inhabit it.

found photograph (click to view animation)

signposts

This is a drawing of a found photograph. Of the back of a photograph. I can’t remember where I got this photograph, in which flea market, in which city or for that matters, in which country even. The image on the front showed a seascape with mountains, there were not identifying landmarks. But in the back, it was hand-written “La Coruña”. So I bought the photograph. I was collecting old postcards at the time, looking for postcards that did not stated which place they showed.

I was born in La Coruña. I don’t know if I bought the photograph for myself or for my work. It was an anonymous image, but the message on the back automatically transformed the landscape into a familiar place, a personal place, a place belonging to my own personal history. But no less elusive for that. The image was still not mine, and I still didn’t recognize the landscape. But I could now inhabit the image in a different way. I could bring my own narrative to the photograph. Although this narrative would be also partly remembered, partly imagined. I know it wasn’t a melancholic impulse what drove me to make the drawing.

Choosing the back instead of the front image, rejecting the landscape itself. I think I wanted to concentrate on the negation of familiarity, the impossibility of feeling nostalgic about the image, to focus on the stranger’s writing. The two narratives (its original owner’s story and my imposed one) would have to be ignored or at less hidden from view. So I hid the landscape. And left only the “signpost”.

nook/corner

Today I went to see an exhibition of some research projects on how different cultures inhabit space, how different people make themselves at home. It was hosted at the University of Sheffield.

You can see details here: www.inhabitingspace.org

There was a work about Norwegian cabins, the holiday homes for many families to spend some quiet and peaceful time up in the mountains. In the exhibition it was a replica of what it was refer to as the ‘reading corner’, a big type of sofa for reading, do nothing, play or simply get cozy and relax.

Of course, I am interested in these sort of spaces. This type of temporary home, set idyllically in the fantastic Norwegian countryside, far from any other house or road. A shelter for enjoying a fruitful type of loneliness perhaps. It reminded me of another text from my grandfather so I will include it here. The text is about the word ‘corner’, for which in Spain we have two words: one that would translate more as nook, inside corner, recess (rincón); and another that is means corner but also has the connotations mainly of quoin (esquina). So the text may not make complete sense in english… but here it goes anyhow.

Absurd pastimes. Playing at definitions (X) Continue reading “nook/corner”

ghosts of buildings past


Today I went for a walk around the top end of Nether Edge, around Brincliffe and Psalter Lane. It has been at least 2 years since I last walked past the site where my campus used to be. Now the site is empty. All that is left is the library building, everything else is gone. The site is fenced and locked, the library boarded up. No signs indicate what was there before.

Whenever you move to a new house, you always leave places behind more or less full of memories, images from the time when you inhabited the space. The same with other buildings where you spent long periods of time: your school, university. I don’t have many images from my kindergarten in Galicia. I have never revisited it, I don’t know if it stills exists. But since I don’t know, the few vague memories I have got still have a physical place where they belong. From seven years old until I went to University, I attended the same school in Santander. And it is very much present every time I go back home to my parents. The building is very near my house and I pass by it every time. So all the memories I built in that institution are still very much, more or less, fresh and they have a concrete home, they still are very much attached to their physical building and location. The same goes for the University in the Basque Country, even though I haven’t visited it or passed by it, I know it is still there, functioning and mainly unchanged.

But Psalter Lane is gone. The building where I studied for two years. The year I graduated from the MA, 2007, was the penultimate year the campus was operative. It moved to the city centre in late 2008. The site was closed but still standing until last year, when it was demolished.

It was strange to see the empty site. The space around the library building somehow didn’t seem big enough to accommodate all of the buildings that there were. It was quiet. It sits understated in the middle of the leafy residential area.

Images from one’s memory are always changing, sometimes subtly or unconsciously, other times, the remaining memories are so incomplete that one has to actively use imagination or logic to fill in the gaps. My images of this building are quite vivid in my memory. What has changed dramatically is the physical place where they originated. It has disappeared. The only way I can describe what this feels like is that the images and memories somehow now feel half orphaned. They have lost the physical link that anchored them to this particular geographical time and place. I cannot revisit or form a dialogue between myself in the building today and what I recall from the past. Or if I do, I will have to establish this dialogue only with its absence, and in the future, with whatever gets build in its position.

I suppose that all places we left behind, with time, become more and more unconnected or irrelevant to our memories of them. But there is always a small sense of comfort, or perhaps of reassurance, when thinking that those memories had once a physical container, no matter how far ago or away, how distant or inaccessible. They took place, literally. I guess I am talking about a sense of truth, what was truth and real to us. Does this mean that now that my container has vanished, – and more importantly, now that I know it has – are my memories any less true? of course there still remains some of the place, but the foundations are not enough, it was the building itself that held the meaning to my memories…

More on this… another time.

disturbances

The last few days the city seems quieter than usual. And it is strange, because it is not only this city. The sounds seem a little muffled, but they are still there. There seems to be less people, as if there was a big event I haven’t heard of and everyone is attending but me. And I walked into town, into this small white room. And through the open window there is noise of traffic. But I have no perspective on the city. I don’t know if quieter is the right word. The city felt awkwardly dormant. There seemed to be a different silence in the street, maybe it is just in contrast with the silence of my flat. The difference between my silence and the city’s. Almost like the silence before the storm, only that this silence does not precede anything, it is sustained, on hold, constant. It announces or predicts nothing and neither it is a consequence. It is not even a proper silence.
* * *
I am looking back through lot of footage, and looking back was led to look even further back. I found texts I wrote five years ago. Notes of no much importance or value. About nostalgia and memory. About blankness. I like some ideas or sentences (expectations on the past or to create a light bulb that will produce the light of a specific detailed moment from your/my past) but mainly they are just cheesy divagations about not being able to reminiscence.
* * *
I have traced a big doily/map. It is approximately 2 by 2 meters. Now that is done I don’t know what it means. I can’t find some family photos I wanted to work with and I am not happy about it. I will be upset if I’ve lost them. On my way down here I came up with a few good ideas for the dialogue I am writing, but I can’t remember them now either… I think it is time for lunchbreak.
* * *
I need to not look back too far. Some too old material is only disruptive. The footage is more what I am interested in. The words will come, I am sure. I realise that my footage is turning into some sort of archive of fragments. But I am not sure if I am the best person to catalogue it, if all I can do is just keep accumulating because any attempt to classify or order will simply stop me from moving forward. Whatever or wherever forward is.
* * *
A quote and a video…

“The marvel of a house is not that it shelters or warms a man, nor that its walls belong to him. It is that it leaves its trace on the language. Let it remain a sign. Let it form, deep in the heart, that obscure range from which, as waters from a spring, are born our dreams.”
From Wind, Sand and Stars, Saint-Exupery