Underlined of Flusser after seeing Always together (appropriation exercise)
-Rodrigo Rey Rosa-
It is about saving the information acquired in the form of memories, and continuing to feed these memories with recent information and, thus enriched, retransmit them.
The central problem of memory is the central problem of art, which basically is a method of fabricating artificial memories.
And yet, the laughable error that is at the origin of human art is not only ridiculous—insofar as we are able to laugh—but also something that deserves to be duly considered.
Every object is insidious and opposes us to mold it by its inert quality ... Thus begins the feedback between object and human being, that is: the history of art.
The information to be transferred is no longer manufactured with steel instruments, but is manipulated symbolically and therefore, immaterially, with the help of artificial intelligence.
Whoever does not finds his trade lives a false life.
Just as sculptors work marble, artists of the new species chisel the brain of their receptors. Their art is not objective but inter-subjective—they do not pretend to endure in works of art but in the memory of others.
It is a violation of the other, to immortalize oneself in the other—the art as a strategy of rape, of hatred; art as deception, as a simulacrum, as a lie; art as mirage, and, therefore, as "beauty", and all in an atmosphere of orgasm.
Interview by Emiliano Valdés
The work of Alberto Rodríguez Collía is an honest and exhaustive portrait of Guatemalan society, from the usual language of its tabloid newspapers to the image projected by national television during the most violent years of the internal armed conflict. The artist mixes, without solution of continuity, references of the so-called high and low culture and of multiple disciplines (cinema, history, books, music, etc.) to speak of a country that is not only that of the eternal spring, as the national institute of tourism proclaims. Engraver, art director, DJ, artist and designer, among others, Rodríguez feeds on different practices to talk about a context and a task that is difficult to describe.
Conceptually, Rodríguez Collía works from and in situations that excite him, with a different theme and context, and is influenced by the way he accesses information on the Internet: random and almost compulsive. When as a child he read encyclopedias, he was amazed to see how the alphabetical order mixes disparate things. The mixture, the chaos, and therefore the collage -in paper and video-, are strategies and means that underlie all its production. Dj Spooky, in a conference, mixed disparate information imitating the "chaos" in which one usually receives information (went from hip-hop, to talk about some German philosopher of the twentieth century, to a film from the 70's to a Italian scientist of the 19th century). The immediate contrast, the comparison of discursive units generates a structure and a way of approaching the work that gives strength and autonomy to his works.
The collection of references of Rodríguez Collía is constituted and extended mainly with references from outside the space "art." A recent influence is Michael Faraday, his empirical experience, his creative search for trial and error in his laboratory, and his tenacity. "I have no idea how he can influence my production, but he is a figure I admire, possibly because of the passion he gave to his projects pursuing abstract ideas," he says. The American sample musician Girl Talk is another important figure. The pleasure of making music that Rodríguez Collía perceives in his mixes becomes a methodological reference of his own artistic production.
Influenced by graphics from an early age, the process (chemistry, methods, discipline, accidents, etc.) and the "magic" of two-dimensionality, ("how something flat that occupies little space can contain an image that has the ability to strongly influence people who appreciate it ") are an intrinsic part of Rodríguez Collía's way of operating. To this is added a passion and systematic study of some of the most important publishing productions in history: The Diamond Sutra, the Book of Kells, the incunabule, etc. Books fascinate him: his structure, rhythm and narrative, which they build through collage and following the Kuleshov effect of cinema, are also incorporated or extrapolated in his creative process. The punk attitude of the fanzines and low-cost publications end up putting together their panorama of graphic influences.
In the words of the artist: "I like to work with archives (images, sound or videos), [because] they contain an abundant amount of information and are valuable when investigating specific periods insofar as they are that reflection of the time in the that were created. I continually consult newspaper libraries (physical or virtual) and other types of files. In the case of sensationalist newspapers, they arise because of the interest of a considerable part of the population, and in the most extreme cases, they represent an important thermometer of the imaginary of the society, of the average population."
Rodríguez Collía responds to its immediate context but away from all cryptic language. Over time, art has been disappearing as a function of daily life as a main component of his work, a witness of absurd, playful or sordid situations that accompany him every day. The artist works as a mirror that returns an incisive image of the reality in which it is placed. In relation to Guatemala, where he lives and works, Rodríguez Collía is interested in the duality that is experienced in the country with media manipulation (intensified during the Internal Armed Conflict 1960-1996) and in how contradictory daily situations converge overwhelming the citizen in a kind of "social, cultural and political limbo."
Fundamental both in his life and in his symbolic production, the cinema is for Rodríguez Collía a process of continuous formation and has been a vehicle through which he has also worked in the cultural management, curatorship and art direction. Exemplary of this aspect are his collaborations with the Guatemalan filmmaker Julio Hernández. He has also been in charge of several festivals and independent film programs in the country. "There are always films that come back to one, almost as a continuous influence, not literally if not in the freedom to make decisions," he says.
Alberto Rodríguez Collía is a direct channel to the thinking of his generation and the relationship it has with the consciousness of historical development: "I think most of the artists of my generation are aware of the political context of the country but few approach it in their works and that depends on the time that we have to live in which political disenchantment has prevailed. These are issues that have been treated extensively by previous generations. In the cases in which they approach it, the form tends to occupy the same place or one greater than the content itself. Not only is there an unavoidable generational change, but also an era, which is why the rupture may be greater every time. "
Complex but with discursive clarity, the work of Rodríguez Collía is situated in an intergenerational space in which he resorts to the past but firmly anchored in the present. With a tireless curiosity and with a unique ability to handle and mix information of different nature, the work of Rodríguez Collía are combinations of images, times and disciplines that speak of a very current reality.
Enmity with the world
-Julio Hernández Cordón-
translated by Diego Sagastume
With a stroke at enmity with the baroque and allied with the mundane, with the unfixable, with the beauty of roughness and the legacy of time, for Alberto Rodríguez Collía, the wrinkles, mould, decay, the forgotten and the distorted are pencil-made stitches revealing that he grew up in a place where beauty exudes with dismay; because it didn't exist at all, or simply became old. In a way, he snitches from it, not as a protest, but by conviction.
In a city where beauty belongs to another time, now the walls smell of urine and the sidewalks collect nightmares; at this instant, ugliness and brutality is what transpires.
In between, Rodríguez Collía brings a dialogue to the intestines that very few know how to share. His drawings are moonshine obliging us to shut our vision just to come back a few seconds later with eyes open, ready to contemplate a praise for disharmony given by Guatemala City, the internet and the faces and bodies that one does not forget. Drawings of lower scale or bigger dimension. Drawings or whole stages for an exhibition or a low budget movie.
Friday night in Machida
-Ben Davis and Naoko Horiuchi-
AIT: Our taxi driver is confused, the studio (Kawara Printmaking Laboratory) where Alberto (Beto) is working hasn’t registered in his GPS, and as our taxi surges through Machida´s narrow streets, he says will take us to a convenience store nearby. From there we walk down a street that must be as dark as anywhere in the 23 wards, its past 8pm, yet everyone is still working away in the studio. As we start our interview, Beto continues preparing another engraving, telling us the story of a man who once finished a thousand prints in a week.
ARC: You come here and you realize everything is so peaceful. Maybe its just my neighborhood but when you enter the subway, people are really quiet and no one is speaking on their cellphone - that’s really strange. It can be peaceful, but sometimes it can be kind of sad because if you go to Mexico, Brazil or Spain, you see much more lively things on the train - people speaking, showing emotions - but here people really bite their tongues, in Spanish we say morderse la lengua. When you area traveling on the train, usually if a boy likes a girl then they will be looking at each other, but here all the people are using their cellphones, reading, sleeping or just trying not to look at anybody which is a big difference. I feel that in Tokyo, you can use the train and buses, and go to some stores, yet still be perfectly isolated because of the way people interact.
ARC: There are two stories in my work - one in Guatemala and one in Tokyo. I like to use things that clash, so I gather all the things I see, hear or find out and then play with them. The thing that attract me the most are the strangest, you see so many people here that are fashionable and try to dress well, and we often speak of eccentric Japanese style, but what is really special, and what I like to see are people that are the complete opposite. I like to see these people because they are kind of rare, not because they are strange, but because you have never seen them. I saw a guy spitting inside the train and thought, “That’s not Japanese!”, and its thins kind of misfit that I pay attention to. There was another guy on the train who was kind of bald and so he had painted his head. I could identify with him because he was bald, but I though, “What are you doing?” - in Guatemala, people don’t paint their head, they have combovers.
ARC: When I went to exchange money, I saw that the woman at the desk had a pencil and paper, and each time she used them, she would put them back in the same place - it was kind of like a ritual. Because there are too many people here, you have to use the space very well and be more conscious about it, whereas in Guatemala we invade the space of others all the time and so although some people don’t mind, some do.
Waiting in the Sun
On the filming of "Ojalá el sol me esconda"
Collaboration for the Colección Cisneros website
Alberto Rodríguez Collía
On the 14th of May 2011, the Zetas invaded Los Cocos Farm (Petén, northern Guatemala) and decapitated 27 of its 28 workers as they awaited the arrival of their boss on payday. Using one of the victims’ legs, they painted a message on the front of the main house for the owner, who was absent at the time. This brutal crime brought to mind the viciousness of the massacres that had taken place during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996).
Julio (Hernández Cordón) would come to use this event as a starting point for what would be his fifth film, a western based on narcos—drug traffickers—with the dry settings of the country’s east as a background. We had first collaborated on Until the Sun Has Spots, a film for which all of the backdrops were drawn in chalk, in a sort of reimagining of the origins of film. That picture, like Work in Progress, was awarded a prize that paid for the production of the next film without needing a script.
My relationship with Julio had begun years before. Oddly and incredibly, we met on Facebook when I asked him for a copy of Gasoline, his first feature film, to include in a cycle I did at a cinema club in downtown Guatemala City in 2009. He accepted without hesitation, taking a leap of faith. As we got to know each other, he mentioned that he preferred talking with visual artists because they’re interested in everything and don’t get wrapped up in their jobs, and that’s how I think he conceives of his films: not as conventional movies, but almost as almost artisanal, handcrafted works that provoke wonder through their imperfections, which lend them authenticity in an era in which everything is industrially produced.
The new project has come about with more ambitious ideas and larger painted settings, continuing with the hyperrealist aesthetic of the previous film, props, various locations, filming in hi-8… He asked me to be in charge of the art direction and I decided to work with Andrea (Mármol) because of her outstanding technique in painting (oil and acrylic) and our ability to work together.
A short time later, while I was editing Until the Sun Has Spots, Julio decided to include a song by the punk group Warning in the film. We set up a meeting with the band’s founder, Héctor “Warning” Mazariegos, to ask him for the song. Julio didn’t know it then, but Héctor is one of the most prominent figures in the Guatemalan punk scene, and also one of the most widely traveled.
As they talked, Julio became interested in Warning’s Quiché background and the fact that he appears to be 15 years younger than he really is. Warning got into punk because of an earthquake: after the quake of 1976, the children of US volunteers brought with them vinyl albums by The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash. They left some for Warning, which left their mark on him for life.
Julio immediately proposed that Warning act in the new film, and he accepted and brought along his own personal baggage. The project would now be a narco-punk western. Then Julio asked Andrea and me to prepare the following: 1- Several decapitated corpses 2- Heads and limbs of the decapitated bodies 3- Firearms and bladed weapons 4- The narcos’ hideout 5- A small plane, crashed 6- Bundles of drugs 7- Warning’s house (based on a photo by Jeff Wall) 8- Warning’s parents’ house 9- Photoshopped newspapers and some other items that we didn’t end up using in the filming.
We did research on narco-blogs, tabloid newspapers, press releases: any information on the narcos, especially photos of their victims (or what remained of them), as a basis for painting the bodies that Julio wanted as props. Shortly thereafter we went to El Progreso—a department near Guatemala City—on the banks of the Motagua River to film, basically with no permission whatsoever, but with two tourist police officers accompanying us the entire time.
The dry climate, powerful sun, flies that gnaw at your skin, horse spiders, snakes, cactus and a narco-hotel with a pool (where we stayed) were all parts of the landscape. Abandoned homes in the middle of nowhere, steep hills, small forests of dry trees, the bank of the Motagua and an old, burnt-out farm were the locations. The old farm had cattle bones strewn about everywhere; the only thing that remained standing was a brick house full of garbage. A year prior, some loan sharks had set fire to it with all the animals inside when the owner failed to pay a debt. Passing through the surrounding area, we found more abandoned homes with similar stories, tales of vengeance and murder ripened by desolation.
We arrived back in the city and Julio began editing and digitizing the hi-8 cassettes we’d recorded in El Progreso and the city: a punk concert at Proyectos Ultravioleta in the basement of a decaying mall, fights between Warning and his bassist James, and Ceci, the stuttering protagonist, doing punk covers of Pimpinela, among other scenes.
Paradoxically, the same prize that had allowed for the making of the previous unscripted film became a hindrance, since it required a non-existent co-director in the form of a filmmaker chosen by the festival. The film is in limbo, without a forthcoming release date despite being almost finished. Julio has already premiered another project, his fifth film, I Promise You Anarchy, and is in production on two other features with more plausible release dates than the narco-punk western.
What has been seen by the public are the props that we did with Andrea, exhibited in TEOR/éTica as “May the Sun Hide Me” in March 2014, and in Proyectos Ultravioleta with the title “The Day Before Yesterday” in January 2014 and “Knock on Wood” in May 2015. Each exhibition has had a different focus, with “The Day Before Yesterday” being the most fully developed, because as you entered the locale, it simulated the feeling of having stumbled upon the macabre scene of a monumental crime. The gloomy environment of the basement of a run-down mall (which was a branch of the gallery at the time) boosted the sense of anguish while the pool hall next door was bursting with reggaetón and Los Bukis.
Julio’s film offers a critical eye that wanders amidst a grim reality, faithfully depicted, and handmade two-dimensional settings, inviting us to reflect as we watch. The concerns that Julio expresses are not only social and political, but also literary, cinematic, musical, and aesthetic, and he condenses all of them into each project to create a complex conglomeration, strung together with simplicity.