viernes, 10 de agosto de 2007

Fixed Images (Move in Memory)

This essay is reprinted from the book "Artistas en México:Carla Rippey", an editorial project of Taller Gráfica Bordes. The collection currently includes volumes on Leonora Carrington,, Gilberto Aceves Navarro, Boris Viskin, Paul Nevin, Germán Venegas, Magali Lara, and Francisco Castro Leñero, and plans to expand to include around 60 contemporary artists, Mexican or working in Mexico. For more information, contact Pilar Bordes at

Girl from Huetamo (Niña de Huetamo), 1986
I. Dirty Images

Whatever our senses pick up is carried to the brain by two pathways, one conscious and rational, and another unconscious and innate. While these perceptions travel toward the cortex, where they will be integrated with other data captured from the environment and with previous associations, they are also traveling toward the amygdala, a much more primitive part of the brain. Sending something to the amygdala is like sending a digital image in low resolution: it arrives right away, but it’s blurry. In no way is it a precise and well-processed image like the one that is formulated in the cortex. It is, we might say, a dirty image. It’s these dirty images that make us confuse, just for an instant, a garden hose with a snake.*
I have the idea that whenever an image attracts me, whenever I happen upon a photograph with which I feel some sort of connection, for example, it’s because the image resonates in me at a subconscious level: it generates the same “dirty image” as something I have already stored in my brain.

As a result, the archives of possible material for my work are made up by images that have already triggered a reaction in me. Examining them dispassionately, now ensconced in the “high road” of clear perceptions and conscious associations, my job is to pinpoint the disturbing element and highlight it by means of cropping, the juxtaposition of images, or the construction of a collage. The interpretation is then refined through its translation to drawing, printmaking or painting. In a sort of morphing, I must retransmit it with my own energy.
I like the term “dirty images”. They are dirty because their reading is ambivalent, but dirtiness is also associated with the erotic, the perverse, the disturbing, and that which is repressed and feared-- all elements which pertain to the interpretation of my work. After all, one could postulate that I traffic in stolen images: it’s a dirty business.

Siamese (Las Siamesas), 1998

II. Pattern

Fortunately English has provided me with the word pattern. In Spanish I struggle with terms like motif, print, design, system, repeated element, all because the language lacks that vital word which sums them all up. If we could discern the pattern of our lives it might permit us to have sufficient vision of our routines, customs, and habits, particularly in contrast with those of other people and the larger rhythms of nations, seasons, and a myriad of other matters, so as to glide through life with a certain grace and ease. All of this fits within the Oriental (and Jungian) concept of synchronicity: the supposition of underlying relationships among all people and events, as if we formed part of a vast dance. (The reading of the I Ching could be seen as an attempt to adjust personal timing to cosmic timing, within this system.)**

In the analysis of any phenomenon, including that of the body of work contained in these pages, we look for similiarities, repetitions, and shared motifs: patterns. And there are patterns that unfold throughout my work. Take the presence of plants, for instance. A rhizome underlies the gardens, at times explicit, at times implicit, gardens which in their insidiousness can become almost sinister. The plants invade faces, they spread through clothing, and they make the garden into an unknown territory or even an abyss. In a similar vein we find repeated deserts, pyramids and volcanoes, a series of pictures centered on the gesture of a hand, an endless number of unmade beds, a variety of erotized little girls (and women), bones that seem like wings, wings that are rather boney, and tanks that end up buried in a bedspread. It’s a narrative in fragments; the public domain is entangled with the private, and intimacy is confused with history.

In the obsessive work of Adolf Woffli, who spent his time as an inmate in a mental asylum elaborating his own private world, we find notebook after notebook of illegible calligraphy punctuated by images cut out of contemporary magazines. The clippings allowed him to give substance to his invented world; torn out of exterior reality, they helped him complete the construction of an alternative reality.

Unlike Woffli, I have no intention of abandoning the exterior world. When I relocate images from the “outside” inside my territory, I’m trying to bridge a gap. I try to locate myself “out there” by means of the orchestration of elements within my work. I imagine that the deciphering of the design, system—pattern—that flows through my work, could allow me to resolve the mystery of the relationship between myself and the world. And even if it isn’t all decipherable, meanwhile, what I can figure out provides me with a map of certain regions of my subconscious, a map which gives me an clue of how to travel about in it. And at times I suspect, when observing this “map” that perhaps it’s not a bridge I’m laying out, but a trap, an attempt at seduction...

From the finite to the infinite (Del finito al infinito), 1998

III. Fixed Images (Move in Memory)

For years, twenty years perhaps, photographs of vanishing points have been accumulating in my files. Finally I invented an order for them, I made them into prints by means of transfer (a trick involving solvents and photocopies), and I constructed a polyptych of 49 vanishing points called “From the finite to the infinite”. I considered it a sort of “mid-life piece”—the product of having arrived at a certain point in my life from which I could make out a faraway future, or even an end, but curiously enough, every time I peered into it, the future changed (vanished?). Or I might also say, that from wherever each of us happens to be situated, a different horizon appears. I could have made a thousand different vanishing points.
The piece doesn’t fit into this book. First of all, it doesn’t fit because when 49 images are greatly reduced they become illegible. But it also doesn’t fit because I realized that it doesn’t form part of the system, the pattern, of the work in this book. And so I came to the conclusion that in order to put together a coherent body of work, I had to choose work that belonged to a cycle already completed.

I have an old newspaper clipping with a few words by Pasolini where he defines life, as we are living it, as “a chaos of possibilities, an investigation of relationships and of meanings without a cohesive solution…” For him, death supplied the “fulminating montage of our lives”. Nevertheless, I feel like I am always looking for “cohesive solutions”: the pattern. I am always trying out “montages”. But the elements that attract me now are not the same as those from a few years back, the years covered in this book. Now empty landscapes appear, and the scenes that are peopled, have a different sort of population, with a different dynamic. I suspect that one fundamental difference could be that I no longer focus on the deciphering of my own relationship to the world. I no longer dedicate myself to the mapping of my own interior. My perception is (and we shall see if this is so) that I now focus more on the intricacies of relationships between third parties, among other people, and even the relationships of historical forces. And at the same time I find myself contemplating empty panoramas, landscapes bereft of people, the phenomenon of absence. So I am immersed in a new “chaos of possibilities”. “Sea of possibilities”, Patti Smith used to sing, and I like that phrase even better. Anyway, whatever comes out of this sea, or chaos, will make up another book.


* Steven Johnson’s book “Mind Wide Open” chronicles the research of Joseph LeDoux which I cite in this text.

**The controversial on-line encyclopedia “Widipedia” defines “synchronicity” as a word coined by Carl Jung to describe the “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events”. The text goes on comment that the concept of “correlation” is similar to this first phenomenon, and explains: “Though correlation does not necessarily imply causation, correlation may in fact be a physical property shared by events without there being a classical cause-effect relationship, as shown in quantum physics, where widely separated events can be correlated without being linked by a direct physical cause-effect.” (For me, this has all the intriguing qualities of science
--Carla Rippey