Spirits and demons, 2010/2011

El mundo natural sirve de refugio a seres ancestrales que habitan en bosques, océanos y cielos que ocultaron su presencia al hombre progresivamente a través de los tiempos de manera que éste ya sólo parece recordarlos diluidos en mitos y leyendas.

Son seres sobrenaturales que cambian de nombre según la cultura pero que conservan sus ambiguas intenciones. Ellos prefieren observarnos y no ser observados.

El proyecto “Spirits and demons” (espíritus y demonios) descubre, a través de fotografías de espacios reales -salvo por su repetición inducida- la existencia de estas criaturas, mostrando su presencia, hasta ahora inédita, en el medio natural, ya sea cuidando del bosque, dominando el mar o vigilando desde el cielo.

El eco del pensamiento mágico parece transformarse en lógico y rescata una concepción animista del mundo. Allá donde miremos, encontraremos almas, espíritus,entes sobrenaturales, a medio camino entre los dioses y el hombre, a veces destructores y, otras, preservadores. Tan antiguos que habitan el universo mucho antes de la llegada del ser humano pero que, inevitablemente, tienen su destino unido a él.

Los espíritus son seres energéticos y sensibles, protectores de la vida, que habitan en los cuatro elementos (fuego, aire, tierra y agua) que componen el universo. Aunque son benignos, pueden dejar de serlo si se sienten amenazados u ofendidos. Tienen la capacidad de preservar la naturaleza e incluso al hombre frente a diversos peligros.

Los demonios son criaturas despiadadas y amorales, ajenas al universo de las emociones humanas y del resto de seres vivos. Son, por ello, temidos y su presencia resulta especialmente intimidatoria.

Sir James George Frazer escribió en 1890 un interesante tratado, “La Rama Dorada”,que comparte título con la pintura de Turner, situado entre lo científico y lo poético. A través de este estudio, que intenta explicar las codificaciones de la religión a través de mitos y ritos antiguos, Frazer se adentra en los vestigios del culto ancestral, señalando los bosques como los primeros recintos sagrados y situando allí, en el paisaje selvático,historias que encierran una profunda filosofía sobre la relación del hombre con las deidades y con la vida de la naturaleza.

En estos días, espíritus y demonios muy diferentes, cada uno con personalidad propia y una historia tan vieja como el mundo detrás, ven mermar sus hogares y se ven atrapados en espacios de menor tamaño. Algunos demuestran una clara actitud hostil hacia el hombre, al que identifican como el culpable; otros, sin embargo, viven la situación con indiferencia. Son semidioses destronados, vestigios del pasado, seres tan antiguos que hasta algunos han olvidado su propio nombre o existencia. Pero ahora han sido descubiertos y van a ser expuestos ante todos los ojos que quieran encontrarlos.

Hallamos nuestros propios espíritus y demonios dentro de las imágenes, a medio camino entre el mundo físico y el incorpóreo. Es el momento de mirar para ver, penetrando en el universo místico de estos seres primigenios.


Spirits and demons, 2010/2011

Agamben (Giorgio Agamben. Italian philosopher. 1942) lucidly observed in his work, Idea of Glory: “With the human face, the eyes impress us not because of their expressive transparency, but wholly to the contrary, because of their stubborn resistance to expression, because of their turbidity. And if we really look into the eyes of the other, we see so little of that person that, moreover, they reflect our image in miniature; it is from this that the pupil takes its name…”

But looking at another will always be an attenuated form of also looking at the Other, the radical difference that separates us, men on earth, from humanity itself: the face (that Latin voltus, unknown to the Greek brutes who, out of necessity, invoked the idea of divine “glory” because of man’s obligation to appear to his fellow man as appearance, as countenance. In the end, all faces are, infinitesimally perhaps, also a formulation of the landscape, of nature, of the framework of the superhuman.

I believe that it is for this reason that the images that Eva Ruiz presents at her gallery in Madrid, on the occasion of this year’s PHotoEspaña festival, from the Spanish artistic couple Rojo Sache, formed by Rosa Isabel Vázquez and Jose Antonio Fernández, together with those of the Singaporean photographer Ang Song Nian, create such an enigmatic and bewitching dialogue.

At first, one would think that the simple system employed by the former, of duplicating a scene based on an axis that divides the original picture into two symmetrical parts, left and right, could not offer enough variation to become the leitmotif of a plausible and profound project, that it would be rapidly worn out. Presumably, in such a process, one is in danger of falling entirely into a purely formal game. But, in fact, when looking at each of the photographs in the series, the resulting process of recognition and revelation of a nearly defined face, with its psychology and idiosyncrasies that emerge from an abstract background of rarefied natural scenarios, intensifies and refines itself, continually revealing new variations and unexpected subtleties that make the series an inexhaustible source of formal and conceptual allusions.

It reminds us of the psychology of perception, of how the face provides the most basic and immediate scheme for the recognition of the human figure, which, with only a few more or less level points and a subtly implied vertical axis, is spontaneously projected within the image of a fellow being. The overwhelming inertia of our perceptive system for shaping this model is so strong, even with this ramshackle or partially defined scheme, that lapsus appear everywhere and take us to a place where we are constantly surrounded by incomplete presences. These are the same phantasmagorical figures that reveal themselves as the ultimate truth of our incursion into the natural environment, reminding us that nature cannot be anything but a continuum in which we submerge ourselves until inside and the outside become inseparable from the I of other inanimate objects, animals states,mineral orders, layers of fallen leaves that cake together and slowly transform into earth, death…

Looking at what is purely exterior – inaccessible and almost inconceivable – which implies the natural state for our linguistic nature, it is easy to fall into the temptation of thinking or seeing it as adapted to an end, encouraged and even protected by a teleological foundation that is bound by our capacity for knowledge; in fact, these same environmental parameters play an increasingly important role each day within our collective cultural narrative. And their conception as a Pangea, as an intelligent and integrated “being” that is “organized” and that “responds to” our actions in the environment, is becoming more and more common. But Nature, to express it in Kantian terms, is indifferent and unconscious, indolent, mute for us.

And, resorting once again to philosophical metaphors, the mooing of a cow or the warbling of a bird are simple and pure actions, individualized only by the imaginative action-projection of the human being within the uninterrupted magma of natural phenomena.

Our artistic couple call the somewhat disturbing presences that appear in the studied folds of their landscapes “spirits” and “demons”, but looking at them one by one it does not really matter, don’t you think? I believe it would be important to know if their unexpected appearance, so tied to the simplest geometry, responds first and foremost to their fortuitous projection, by which we place within nature, ideas and figures -abstractions- that are preconceived, that are only, at least initially, imagined. Or if on the on the contrary, they represent a revelation, a real discovery (a lethos: without latency, “aletheia” or true wisdom, as opposed to common or everyday knowledge, which is plagued by the prejudices of the doxa).

Oscar Alonso Molina. Madrid, January, 2012.