Searching Tags: 2017
  • Mawat

    Una ley de colonización agraria del Imperio turco-otomano designó con el nombre de mawat a los terrenos desocupados dentro de sus fronteras. Para demarcarlos, la ley proporcionaba un criterio sonoro: una zona pasaba a ser mawat si los sonidos y las voces de la población más cercana dejaban de ser audibles. Mawat –muerte, en árabe– devino de este modo la característica administrativa de las tierras sin voz.

    En la instalación, una retícula de ventiladores pone en circulación el aire de la sala. De forma periódica, el movimiento se detiene y la superficie pasa a funcionar como una estructura resonante. Viejas melodías del cancionero agrícola castellano llenan el espacio durante esos intervalos.

    Al igual que en el caso otomano, la transformación del paisaje llevada a cabo por el Instituto Nacional de la Colonización estuvo basada también en la identificación y renovación de terrenos improductivos. Significativamente, uno de los aspectos llamativos de esta renovación es que muchos de los nuevos poblados nacieron sin cementerio. En Mawat, este detalle es recogido por una secuencia de imágenes alrededor de la pieza central. Ausencia, movimiento y retorno caracterizan un espacio marcadamente espectral. El sonido, en Mawat, abre la superficie y apunta a un suelo: el silencio material de la memoria.

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors

    Rock, paper, scissors is a process that addresses materially the screen in terms of surface. In between a media archaeological approach and a DIY type of diagram, it is an elaboration of a software entity that is present in every image editing application: the marching ants effect or the marquee selection. That is, the animated border of dashed lines where the dashes seem to move slowly sideways and up and down. Which is, as we know, the visible sign of a potentially immediate transformation within the surface of the screened image.

    The mechanism that creates the movement of the dashed lines is displayed here as a process of stacking separate layers. It is an operation on the screen, a play on the surface where materiality is not brought as a question of materials, but in terms instead of material relations. In this layering of surfaces, the movement of the marquee lines emerges. “After all”, in Giuliana Bruno’s words, “a surface condition creates sensitivity to the skin of things”. The interaction of a stone, a paper mask and a screen “emphasize the actual fabrics of the visual: the surface condition, the textural manifestation“.

    Devised as a physical diagram of a diy practice, Rock, Paper, Scissors recalls the notion of a “spectator-maker” suggested by Lygia Clark when writing about her piece Caminhando (Walking). There she cut repeatedly a moebius strip of paper, inviting others to do the same. In that performance, as in this material diagram, the role played by scissors, hand and the surface encounter of paper and stone is transformative. It is through techniques that their immanent forces perform and start to be sensed by us.

    Special thanks to Maria Andueza.

  • The Marching Ants series
    Photo courtesy of Jane Birkin

    The marching ants effect, also known as marquee selection, is the animated border of dashed lines often used in computer graphics programs where the dashes seem to move slowly sideways and up and down, as ants marching in line. It is the visible sign of a potentially immediate transformation within the surface of the screened image. The cut, removal or replacement of a fragment of a digital surface need first the outline of a distinguished area, bordered, separated from the rest of the image.

    "Edges are used to mark objects off from one another. Perceptually, an edge is not a thing but a way of distinguishing between things, a way of ordering the chaos of perception. The edge marks difference, and in that sense it is nothing, the nonexistence that interposes itself between everything that, by the principle of difference, is given an identity." (Cubitt 74)

    Considered however from the point of view of aerially-aided landscape operations such as parceling, ordering or leveling land, the Marching Ants entail additionally the "interaction between imaging technologies and mathematical, topographical, geographical, and governmental knowledge" characteristic of cultural techniques (Siegert 98). They are creatures of the screen that belong to a chain of operations which ends up digging, revolving or performing any other actions related to the practices on the soil carried on by infrastructural, building, mining or agricultural works.

    Photo courtesy of Jane Birkin

    Los Merinales

    In a first elaboration of the series during a week long studio workshop that took place in the Winchester School of Art, the building and removal of the Penal Colony "Los Merinales" in Seville are brought up as part of the operative chains that accomplished the hidden work behind the agrarian reform program known as the Inner Colonisation. The concentration camp was used to confine prisoners of the Spanish Civil War for more than twenty years in order to exploit them, in extreme living and labour conditions, to build the tunnels and channels of the vast irrigation network.

    While the comparison of the prisoners building the tunnels with the distinctive underground activity of ants is anything but an anecdotal coincidence, this first materialisation of The Marching Ants series highlights an episode of presence and disappearance within the infrastructural. The barely remembered penal colony of Franco's dictatorship was an ephemeral camp of disposable people, a one-use only temporal complex of buildings, barracks and services, prior and essential to the agricultural industrialization of landscape.

    In the project carried on at the WSA, the border of the colony complex is outlined also as a liminal, ephemeral operation, this time whithin the contemporary ecologies of the screen. Outlined as a dashed line mechanically set in movement, the silhouette of the colony becomes a physical marquee selection, a flow of lines meant only to highlight, temporarily, a soon-to-be transformed fragment of the whole.

    The resulting installation displays both the mechanical Marching Ants, together with the mechanisms that put them in movement. As a site-specific project developed for the workshop, the installation mixes found materials, such as wood remainders, with basic labor related tools used to put in movement the dashed line rods: painter rolls, electrical screw terminals, nails and motors.

    Find other notes on this Marching Ants series here:

    And two close-up gifs of the front and rear sides (original videos courtesy of Elham Soleimani):