The world has become a beehive leaky of peepholes from which to observe without being seen, virtual labyrinths traversed by stalkers. Obviating the Orwellian resonances, this world populated by spied spies can be read poetically like songs of love. In the film of Jean Genet (a chant d’amour) the peepholes practiced in the cells seem holes drilled by the uncontrollable force of desire, which slips through all the cracks, deceiving even the jailer.
Masculine universes, their secret codes, bodies sublimated at the same time dept into the banal, fantasy as guarantor of freedom… are subjects that somehow also appear in Juan Carlos Martinez‘s photographic projects. But what sustains his search is not the themes themselves but the semiotic research linked to them, the visual hermeneutics that gives them form and sense. Linguist of the image, he strips off any affection to study its effects.
Webcams are virtual peepholes from which we access to false intimacies, built to become public, to produce desire. Juan Carlos apprehend the dead time of the democratized exhibitionism that encourages the networks. In his Rooms Archive what the camera records is the moment in which the adolescent has left his room, showing the informal scenery that contributes to the fabrication of the scoptophilic effect.
The symbolism of the windows is refined in Gay Stalker (2012), peepholes framed in different colors alluding to the surreptitious exchange of gazes in the men’s changing rooms. In the vacant lands and shrubs’s series (Subfilum spermopsida) the erotic is also manifested through the absent body, its elliptical mention from the scenarios where the fantasies are liberated.
Q- But in other projects is the body, its beauty stolen by the camera, the one that directly calls us. If at University neighbors you had the complicity of the photographed students, in the snapshots of Secret photography (taken with the mobile phone), furtive shot is what makes them valuable. In either case, however, one can appreciate the fascination with the inaccessible, the voluptuousness bestowed by the vision of the unknown behind the glass or through the screen.
I could say that in my work there is a search for situations where to deal with the gaze, through fragmented narrations composing stories or elaborating conceptual files. To approach sociological aspects with different typologies of images according to the project. In general I am interested in spontaneous situations, finding the extraordinary in the everyday, working on intimacy and exhibitionist attitudes in public space and on the Internet, analyzing different prototypes of masculinity, desire …
I use photography as a device to hold back encountered scenes. I am drawn to the unforeseen, the information biased by that rash and runaway perception. Perceiving things in this way allows us to project or recreate with our imagination that which is outside the framework of vision. The mystery and the doubt in the decoding of the images is part of the game.
The image prevails by the transience and spontaneity of the encounter. This aspect gives meaning to the use of documentary photography in my work. What is not retained, what is lost …
Q- Mis-en-scène looks like the translation with digital camera of a chronophotography: the movement of a boy getting to sleep is deconstructed in vignettes. It is interesting the dialogue that you establish not only with analogical techniques but also between photographic genres and pictorial traditions: for example, in Les toilettes, converge a reference to Degas, surveillance cameras and documentary photography.
Mis-en-scène (2010) refers to the traditional staging of photography, a live tableau vivant perceived by chance on the Internet. The screenshots allows me to freeze the real-time exhibitionist action of this young man who decides to sleep in front of the camera-window. By the same medium in which it is perceived, it is captured, at the right moment that happens.
I have used this resource in other occasions as in Les toilettes (2005), which as you say, refers to the work of Degas. In my piece the bathers are boys, so I can take it to an intimate field, where these spaces reserved for personal cleanliness are separated between men and women. They clean themselves in showers near the beach and are caught without being aware that they are being seen through a webcam. The time and date in each image certifies the documentary punctuality of each moment.
Q- Often precepts of documentary photography and the casual note coincide in the same work, bringing together the testimonial (time, date, place) and the uncertain (pixelated photographs, anonymity, casual note), interrogating us about the enigma that hides any apparently neutral record.
I imagine you are referring to my last work Registro de una acción espacio-temporal en Medina Azahara held on the occasion of the First Prize in Propuestas de Creación Fotográfica Madinat al-Zahra. The proposal was to pursue and register objectively and at random, as a surveillance camera, a tour group in the sorroundings of the tourist complex.
I was inspired by Sophie Calle’s project Venetian suite. To register the persecution as an action in itself seemed to me very appropriate and linked to previous works such as Secret photography archive (2013-2017) and les Toilettes (2005). The installation is composed by 40 diptychs, arranged in chronological order documenting in short periods of time the entire tour of the visit.
The exhibition can be visited until next January 15 th at the Archaeological Museum of Medina Azahara in Cordoba.
Q- I can see correspondences with some conceptual art of the seventies, such as that of On Kawara and his archive of basic actions that witnessed his passing through the world, or Vito Acconci chasing unknowns down the street. Even if you extract the libidinal burden that impregnates those fortuitous encounters or trivial acts; as well as also is emphasized the strangeness that brings overcoming certain privacy barriers.
Some processes, as you pointed out, are linked to the conceptual art of the 1970s, but it depends on the nature of each project. The dates in my case have to do with the need to endow the images with testimonial rigor, when the facts became perceptible for the first time. I intend to point out that the images have been captured at the same time as they occurred, even if they happen at a distance. They give an extra value because I play on many occasions with the idea of decisive instant.
The latest work in this regard was Gran Olímpico (2016), directly photographing the TV screen to capture some scenes of athletes during the Rio Olympic Games. The time and date point to the exact date when those images were broadcast by first time.
Q- Gregarious impulses, unconscious processes that lead to idolize certain models in the sports field, in the university… is another aspect that you analyze without looking for answers, complicating the readings by mixing several sources of information. What place do you occupy before these images: spectator, witness, accomplice, storyteller…?
That’s right, I’m interested in the documentary image to take it to an experimental and polysemic field, playing with semiotics and fable. I usually prefer to talk about indeterminate places, anonymous people, prototypes … everything as in generic. I am collecting images and then evaluating the connections that can be established between them. How we perceive images is something that I have in mind when creating my own stories.
Fraternity (2012), is an installation composed of a series of documentary photographs as a sequence and a video in which appear a group of young athletes dressed as tennis players drinking alcohol, a kind of university ritual in which they seem to be subduing two colleagues in the center of the circle.
In both works underlies an allusion to the sport as “spectacle” in the broad sense of the word. In Ovación (2009), I refer to the audience that watches and pays tribute to the athletes, compiling different scenes of athletes and spectators. I often refer to this binomial between looking and being looked at, grandstand-playing field, spectator-performer, voyeur-exhibitionist, guard-guarded …