gema ruperez - be a heroe - le bastart

Gema Rupérez, longing for survival

In a state of nature, man is a wolf to man according to Hobbes, so it was necessary a behavior agreement. The social contract was born of the fear that we inspired each other. But living in society, the survival instinct is added to competitive anxieties and an aggressiveness inoculated by the system that makes the man a wolf with a tie, to men and to women.

gema ruperez - adonde vamos - le bastart
Adonde vamos 2017

So, where are we going?, Gema Rupérez asks us in one of her installations. Although the question raised in the face of international apathy to welcome refugees, we sense that she was also inviting us to existential readings about individual responsibility as part of a collective.

The frog and the scorpion fable, written in Arabic on mooring straps that formed a large tent, illustrates the eternal struggle between genetic determinism and freedom of choice. “I’m sorry, it’s in my nature,” the scorpion told the frog after fixing its sting on her as they crossed the river, sending them to their deaths.

gema ruperez - stop trying - le bastart
Stop trying 2015

Neither the scorpion’s fatalism nor Rousseau’s naivete seems to convince Gema, who confronts us with paradoxical aspects of reality by composing ingenious visual metaphors, endowing the materials with alchemical breath.

. Your projects tend to point out the ideological polarities fabricated to perpetuate the concept of the enemy: Marx and Adam Smith colliding with each other as bumper cars (Lucha de relatos), two balloons being pumped until they burst one against the other (Espacio personal)… Even when the dialogue seems opened, the voices are gagged (Lapsus lingue). Is it true that we can not avoid being wolves to each other?

gema ruperez - lapsus lingue - le bastart
Lapsus lingue. 2015 (video)

Throughout the Conversations series, there is a longing for survival. The main protagonist of this project, in which I continue to work, there is no doubt that it is the confrontation, but where I like to focus is on the ability or inability we have to communicate. That is why in all these works that you quote a different dialectic is established in each case.

I do not start from that idea of the enemy, although it exists. I am interested in the tension that is laid out within these works, whose elements dispute the hegemonic power. In personal space the two balloons are exactly alike: when inflating inside a small cubicle they are taking away the common space, they are adapting to the continent but the two do not fit in.

gema ruperez - recogida de firmas - le bastart
Recogida de firmas 2015

. Recogida de firmas is more optimistic, although marred by the moment of frustration on seeing each signature diluted in the collective stain. Cutting-edge technology to recognize the personal pulse and a wiper that removes it. Is it about finding a balance between being oneself and steering individuality towards common ends?

Yes, here we can talk about the individual versus the collective and about where we place ourselves. In this work, you are faced with failure. Your almost tangible identity, with this cultured gesture as it is to sign, is masked and disappears. The cloth, white and with the same size as a page, not only neutralizes the ink, it also generates a very uncomfortable silence. The mechanism of this piece causes the ink to fall from a distance where you expect the drop to be heard when falling, but you can not hear anything since the wipe dampens sound. Collection of signatures works with an Arduino board that is programmed with a pressure sensor and depending on it, the peristaltic pumps release more or less ink.

gema ruperez - maculas - le bastart
Máculas 2016

. In fact, the crowds take on relevance, be it in relation to collective strength or to give sense to cold statistics, evoking absent bodies (femicide) or people in unemployment (seas of lentils). From numerical abstraction to ephemeral monuments?

Lens culinaris and Maculas are two installations that show so large quantities that it is difficult for us to imagine. Each of them materializes it very differently through the repetition of an element that emphasizes the message. Both are works of ephemeral nature and each time that they are presented I update the data (according to latest news or statistics). The large numbers are something very abstract and very concrete at the same time, I’m obsessed with seeing the magnitude of things.

gema ruperez - indice de flotacion - le bastart
Indice de flotación 2013

. Finding a balance between the human mass and the self-annihilation… As Elias Canetti said, the human being is metamorphic by nature, but the power has always feared that potential and has been constrained. You often invoke that metamorphic features: updating the myth of Apollo and Daphne, the “transformer” as a metaphor, the hero archetype…

I share Canetti’s vision. Be a hero is an intervention that I made in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Zaragoza, in which the snacks of a dispensing machine were replaced by silver cardboard masks. The students could acquire one from their condition of “antiheroes” (anonymous people in their everyday life). The transformation was produced when discovering the back of the mask where the following message was written: “Solidarity mask. The benefits of your mask will go to the UNHCR organization for refugees”. It was very interesting to share with them the frustration of not finding what they expected (a sandwich…) and how trivial was their hunger compared to others. And on the other hand, they’re positively surprised when seeing that they helped without having intended it.

gema ruperez - sticky wall - le bastart
Sticky wall 2014

. This way to invoke the collective unconscious also emerge in the mental associations: candy walls, steel wire as braided hair, bread floats … We feel shipwrecked, without foundations… The feeling of frustration emerges one and again, but it helps us to know our limits, is that correct?

Yes, I think I cannot help moving in these unstable margins that allow us to understand the limits. I think that sometimes we need to think outside the box and see beyond the conventions since we are used to seeing as the only one reality, the hegemonic model. For example, Sticky Wall is a wall made of candy bricks assembled with means of heat, its appearance is very attractive but it does not stop being a border, by the way, quite sticky.

gema ruperez - missed call - le bastart
Missed call 2017

. Missed call was awarded in the last Mislata Biennale, curated by Alba Braza. In this work, reality erupted into the exhibition room through a phone that could ring at any time, responding to ads that you published in the contact section of a newspaper. Instead of offering sexual services they collected love verses, how was this idea born?

It stems from the need to talk about something people do not talk about, an unresolved problem. Missed call is the project in which I have most personally involved myself, the one I have lived the most from within, so to speak. The whole process is recorded and in the video may be detected the condescending approach of the gentleman behind the counter when seeing that my ads will be allocated in the contact section. The result is more than 300 calls received by phone (which no one answers) when I put the ads the first time. Some of the messages in the voicemail can also be heard in an audio piece that accompanies the installation. It could be said that the decontextualization of language was a “success”.


Interviewed by Anna Adell


gema ruperez - espacio personal - le bastart
Espacio personal 2017



Next exhibitions and fairs:

_ Singular, group exhibition, Galería A del Arte, Zaragoza, until 16th February

_ JustMad Art Fair 2018, Emerging Art Fair with Galería A del Arte, 20-25 February



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