Andy Warhol wanted to be a machine, decoupling the artistic work from the human pulse, to eliminate the brushstroke. Alejandro Bombín wants to humanize the machine, recover the gesture, a margin for error. Between one and the other the digital revolution took place, making all of us massive producers of images, fulfilling the dream of the pop art master.
We live in a democratizing media utopia (or dystopia, depending on the point of view), in which we are assaulted by an infinite whirlwind of images without sender or receiver, so it is evident that our contemplative capacity has vanished. Bombín forces us to recover the power of observation, which tends to diminish with the unthinking use of communication technologies. Because every prosthesis is also an amputation, as McLuhan said.
Alejandro uses the scanner to “translate” linguistic codes: from the analogical photo to the synthetic image, sometimes printing the digital one and then returning it modified to the electronic flow, following a purely artisan or pictorial process. He cuts the scanned image into horizontal strips emulating the way in which visual information is divided and recomposed when passing from one channel to another, and reproduces it meticulously making visible those stripes as well as the distortions of shape and color produced during scanning.
- The channel is never neutral, either being it technological or human. When you say “I am a channel” I seem to hear the echo of Marshall McLuhan’s famous aphorism: “the medium is the message”, with which this philosopher urged us to become aware of the way in which information is transmitted in order to understand the social changes that each technological revolution brings.
Mediation joins the message, modifying its effect. In fact, we are all channels, automatically transmitting our educational, socio-cultural heritage, perpetuating the past in the present with precision. Through my processes I try to make the characteristics of the painting the message. Its dignity, its sanitary and face-to-face nature, its reflexive and sensitizing value.
- You “dissect” the technological means so that we ask ourselves how we perceive, how we learn… And at the same time, you offer a kind of sociological study as a legacy of how we want to be remembered in the era of “social saturation”. What is your diagnosis of this time when we end up being pastiches or substitutes from each other?
It seems that nowadays the ignorance of referents is what makes the novelty in art. But the truth is that all products are referential. Art is supported by Art. We can almost look at a piece of contemporary art in a gallery and say: 20% Koons 45% Duchamp and 35% Boguereau, denying the artist a real contribution. I apply to my work an anti-creative dimension, through selection and appropriation, that seeks to embody this paradigm of confusion and artistic overpopulation.
My diagnosis is that we live in a dual age determined by overinformation, which produces an effect of cognitive helplessness. This favours the repetition that perpetuates the established reality: the mistake in thinking that human being is an end in itself. In contrast, social technologies allow the remote connection between more sensitive and divergent people, which encourages to embrace progressively better ethical ideals. We will be remembered as stunned consumers or as those who took advantage of new tools to deal with global problems.
- In the modern age, while confidence in progress lasted, there was a desire to suppress the past. In contrast, I feel that you show some king of nostalgia shaking our time, even if it is to make ironic comments about failed ideals concerning technological optimism.
If I emphasize those old ideals it is because I’m afraid we’re still stuck in them. But my nostalgia is feigned, I do not miss a past that I have not lived. For this reason, I use images that seem comforting but that contain certain disturbance. When showing it carefully the idealization is broken and we begin to observe the nostalgia as a deceitful, sad and useless enjoyment.
In fact, what really attracts me about the past images is their transformation, their current aspect, in which we appreciate a physical and semantic alteration.
- Oscar Wilde predicted for art what in the future would happen to visual culture: Impressionists, he said, changed the way we contemplate nature, to the point that it has ceased to exist by itself. Can we continue to celebrate the artifice as Wilde did, now that it has completely usurped reality?
Warhol’s dream is not mine, of course. We can still celebrate the honest and calm artifice, in order to disengage a little from the continuous and mediocre exhibitionism. Perhaps in this way we can sensitize ourselves, using the technological boom to minimize its negative impact, not as food for the anthropocentric euphoria. Because nature, although we try to deform it in our image and likeness, exists by itself. And Art is only its simulacrum.
- Photography and audiovisual media not only shape our gaze but also build our memories. But our memories also are destroyed in this process: this is what your paintings seems to tell us when you rescue what once made the news but now transmit nothing. Does inmediate information make us forgetful?
Memory tends to hodgepodge, it is a creative mechanism. The precision of the mental image with respect to what is perceived is fragile. If we resort to it, we build and destroy it, we intervene it and we leave our mark in it. I believe that celerity (transfering information) prevents us from using memory in a constructive way. We must recreate the news, prioritize the information and make it ours.
- What are your ongoing projects?
I am involved in a couple of projects about copying, in relation to classical sculpture and painting. For the former, I use what is left of a Roman busts’ book, which has been the raw material for Pablo Milicua’s collages. For the other, I use the painting reproduced in gigapixel.
Interviewed by Anna Adell