“... art can change society, perhaps not permanently, but towards a new and subsequent utopia. Art is a space where not only value notions are discussed, but where provisional social models may be implemented to be seen, analyzed and, in the best of cases, copied by other disciplines and bodies in society, which will be the ones to negotiate their permanence and executive status.”
(Tania Bruguera)

Thinking about Chema

by Franco Marinotti

“Thinking about Chema” by Franco Marinotti

 

I hate archives. Consulting files gives me an allergy down to my fingertips. To catalogue is to decontextualize — a dead binary — hibernation.
But in this morgue of ideas, exhibition projects, prices, sizes, invitations, texts and images, something still gives signs of life: four typewritten pages entitled “Diccionario de bolsillo alvargonzalez”. (1)
So many overlapping thoughts, too many memories: I’ll start from here.

Intensity

I met Chema for the first time in early 2000 in Berlin, in my first gallery on Linienstrasse.
Dazed and almost drugged by two events that were to mark my life — the opening of a gallery and coming to live in a city that intoxicates you and sucks you forcefully into a vortex of the strongest stimuli and emotions without referents — what struck me even before his words was the particular tone and musicality of his voice.
What a contrast!
I remember that as I listened to him for the first time I was suddenly filled with a regenerating sense of profound calm and intense serenity, and I realized that almost like a conductor he imposed his dialectical “symphony” without conceding so much as an inch to any impulse that was in the least way violent or abusive.
This almost physical and often almost abstract intensity in making known his feelings about everything around him — but not only that — fascinated me from the start.
His words were not only a means of describing linguistically a situation or a natural or mechanical object, they were also a kind of magic accelerator that gave three-dimensional form and movement to everything he encountered, giving it a history and bringing it to life.
The second thing that struck me in those first moments was his aesthetic taste for everything around him and his capacity unconsciously to adapt and change any setting in which he found himself, whether he was a permanent part of it or just passing through.
With him one lived on a stage in constant becoming and perfect equilibrium, whether it was his house, or the gallery where he was exhibiting or the street he was walking along.
A deep friendship developed that was to last over time, fed by the many joint projects we undertook together, our mutual esteem and my desire to “sail” at his side as co-pilot in his world of clouds, lights, palaces, mattresses, suitcases, neon, airports, harbours, ships, fishing boats, puddles, windows, rocks, bars, digital clocks, trinkets, street markets, dinners, booze-ups, windows, cameras, rooms...

Light

I know artists who have chosen to work with light.
Chema didn’t work with light, he didn’t intervene in its intensity, direction or shape, but in leaving it free to “express itself” he took it by the hand, bringing out the strength, the contrasts, giving it social and political content, whatever its source, the sun, the sky, a light bulb or an LED, a flashbulb, a flash of lightning, a lighthouse, and he was often fascinated and almost in ecstasies, totally absorbed in the unexpected effects.
I never saw him use sophisticated light metres or complex digital equipment or graphics software. Chema didn’t fabricate, he went along with the light, and he knew how to handle its intensity and if necessary how to adjust the impact, working in some cases on its contexts but never seeking to intervene direct to modify its characteristics.
Chema’s lights did not necessarily illuminate, often they were only discrete presences or half-hidden signs, witnesses to past stories.

Traveller

I have gone with Chema around cities by day, by night, in trams, on the roofs of public and private buildings, travelled roads and motorways and stopped in service stations, airports and roadside diners on an eternal journey to capture with his rudimentary combat cameras situations at all times, shadows, lights, reflected in an often manic ritual with the purely apparent intention of storing images to feed an insane collection.
In reality his photographs were like the visas in a passport, conferring on him the status of travel, of movement, of transfer, to form an infinite film.
An extraordinary live film in which you might be enlisted as actor, director, stage hand, reporter, producer, viewer or extra.

Window

Transparency, the ability to pass through without moving. The window was for Chema a film on which was imprinted the movie that we see as spectators or make as players, depending on the mood or whether we are outside or inside it.
Not to take refuge in it but to access a new situation, a new scene, to observe, to spy, or perhaps to be observed and spied on.
Chema’s window doesn’t open and doesn’t close, it is the shutter of a lens that opens and closes automatically, but only to shift the focus in a continual theatrical exercise of authentic Cinemascope.
It was no good just sitting down in front of the Moviola and running the footage. The moments were captured live, with no second takes: at best, only memories.

Airports

A project that we never managed to carry through but were really excited about was to publish a magazine on the subject of travel, not so much a guide book as a journey in book form.
It was to be a document that spoke of the places where people meet by chance, in transit. There are typical places of transit, designed for transit, that do not only cater to the needs of logistics, and often don’t cater to them at all, that are mostly bleak, cold and aseptic, or simply ugly: very ugly.
Containers where powerful basic feelings are exchanged: sadness, joy, homesickness, anger, despondency, delusions, desires and dreams and often destinies.
Airports, railway stations, petrol stations, customs posts.

The dictionary continues with Joker, Suitcase, Cloud, Mattress, Buildings, Rock, Night, Puddles, and Mirror.

I have several works by Chema as his art dealer: some are mine, others are in transit, but take care of only one work of art, and it is ours, indefinite and just passing through...

Franco Marinotti

 

(1) “Diccionario de bolsillo alvargonzalez” bears the signature Victoria Bermejo and is dated Berlin, October 2001.

 

 

 

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