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Francesc Ruiz – The ruins that appear in your first drawings connect different eras and they gradually materialize until they take on a fragmented three-dimensional form in more recent work, closer to museum-like archaeological artifacts or assemblages of different time periods. How do you view ruins?
Ignacio García Sánchez –Intermingled in my early work you can see elements that I develop further in later projects. Ruins are one of them. At first I used them intuitively, as part of an environment in which things happened. My intention was to condense historical processes and their temporal development into a single, allegorical image. When I thought about it later, I realized that ruins were perfectly suited to that function: they represent the static materialization of something dynamic and intangible, such as the passage of time, and they are physical objects that contain in their own form the traces of violence sufficient enough to be considered historical events.
I think Georg Simmel’s definition of a ruin as a correlation of forces between nature and culture is very suggestive. Even as a static structure, a ruin always exists in a balance that can be easily broken if its weight should shift in one direction or another. If the structure is repaired, it can return to its original state and can be considered a restored human construction. If, on the other hand, it is left to its own devices, it will sooner or later become an accumulation of shapeless remains, hardly distinguishable from a geographical accident.
In recent years I have tried to more consciously explore where the tensions contained in ruins could take me. I began to toy with the idea of viewing my own work as found cultural products, vestiges of fictional cultures, set in the future or in alternate timelines. I made this explicit by integrating deterioration as part of the work itself. I have used different methods to achieve this, from trompe l’oeil, aging or superficial vandalization, to the physical breaking of a work. This distance allows me to introduce layers of meaning, to open up interpretative possibilities and to superimpose different temporalities within a single work.
In the project Mil años de arquitectura contemporánea (A Thousand Years of Contemporary Architecture), exhibited last year at Can Felipa, I focused on the implications that architectural ruins have had at different times and how these approaches can relate to the present moment. It was especially interesting for me to trace the line that goes from the artificial ruins that were built during Romanticism to the state of early semi-ruin in which many buildings erected in the first decade of this century find themselves, all under the shadow of Albert Speer and his Theory of Ruin Value. The more a certain structure is identified with the civilization that conceived it, the more symbolic its collapse will be, and it will signal in some way the end of that civilization.
FR – Counterfactual history, that speculative field that presents alternative possibilities to the narration of official history, is very present in your work. In some of your series you have created possible future scenarios in which, to represent the collapse of capitalism, you’ve imagined contexts where the ideas of social transformation arising from global protest movements have been applied, you’ve constructed situations where neoliberal totalitarianism triumphs, and you’ve speculated on a possible organization of the lumpenproletariat as the dominant social class. In your latest project you focus on the Middle Ages as an “interesting time” from which to establish parallels with a confused and amorphous present, something that James Bridle proposes in A New Dark Age. Could you tell us a little more about this project that you are currently working on?
ISG – I wanted to do something based on the concept of the New Middle Ages which, although authors such as James Bridle or Cédric Durand have recently used, had already been proposed decades ago by Umberto Eco, among others. The analogies between eras that Eco pointed out, by broadening the focus to society as a whole, have been very useful for my work. Parallels like the one connecting the Pax Americana crisis and the decline of the Roman Empire, with its economic disasters and power vacuums filled by new agents, help me to imagine scenarios located in a uchronic Middle Ages. Some of the works are inspired by the possible consequences of divergent events in order to visualize pasts that did not take place, such as the conquest and transformation of Western Europe after the relentless advance of the heirs of Genghis Khan.
In addition to exploring concerns shared between the Middle Ages and the present, this line of work allows me to speculate with systems of representation and artistic languages from this historical period and its corresponding vision of the world. I remix media such as the illustrated codex, fresco painting or wooden panel polyptychs to produce hybrid works that, like the scenes represented and despite the counterfactual distortion, continue to be recognized as medieval.
In fact, though, this technique is nothing new. Medieval monks and scholars themselves edited the heritage of the past in their own way, not through cultural cryogenization but rather through translation and personal interest. They created a huge work of bricolage balanced between despair, nostalgia and hope. Although with different motivations, I can feel a certain affinity with this reuse of materials and ideas from other times in order to create something of my own.
FR –Have you thought about how your drawings at some point might be useful as attempts to repair erased stories or the narratives displayed by the winners? I can imagine all the strategies you deploy in your work from the perspective of historical memory or decolonial theory. What do you think about that?
IGS – In my project on Alternative Monuments, I drew on largely forgotten movements and people to reflect on the use of historical figures from the past by current institutions in order to claim their legacy and thus gain legitimacy. In model form, I designed a series of fictitious monuments dedicated to these individuals and groups who never received official recognition from any government. I wanted to speculate on what kind of institution would see fit to dedicate a statue to the Brotherhood of the Wanderers or to Marinus van der Lubbe, to give just a couple of examples, and how close these institutions might be to the ideals of these anti-heroes.
In projects like Lumpenkult or the one I just mentioned, I think you can get a sense of my sympathy for some of the characters or ideas which I have included in my work, the interest in recovering and giving value to those who have been denigrated by almost everyone. At the same time, there is always a critical distance in my works towards the theme itself, that is, by using tools from (science)fiction I adopt the point of view of different narrators with whom I do not necessarily agree. This ambiguity seems important to me in order to leave the interpretation open to the viewer and prevent the work from being reduced to a message that is too closed, didactic or pamphleteering. For me, dealing with elements that are not so clear and that can be uncomfortable not only for the public but also for oneself is one of the aspects that differentiates art from other disciplines.
An alternative Ignacio who had been born in Kyrgyzstan as a woman, and in the unlikely event that she were to dedicate herself to contemporary art, would surely be challenged by problems related to a very different environment and would give more importance to issues that in my case may be beyond my focus. If the resulting work was good, it would translate those interests arising from particular experiences into something more universal and it would also connect with those who do not share the same life circumstances.
FR –Thinking about lost futures, you once told me that together with Irkus M. Zeberio you had a publishing project that didn’t work out. Could you tell us a little about that project?
IGS – Irkus and I have for years been thinking about projects that never see the light of day. It’s a kind of tradition. The latest idea was to self-publish a magazine, which seemed more feasible than proposing something in an exhibition format as there was the possibility of printing in risography at a very low cost, and of bringing together materials from various collaborators along with translations of unpublished texts in Spanish. The common thread was to be shared affinities in politics, drawing and science fiction. We ran out of time and money and the only thing that was left were some interesting initial pages.
[Featured Image: Depiction of Avruppean Customs (detail)]
Time-Travel Machine Drawings (I)
Time-Travel Machine Drawings (IV)
Time-Travel Machine Drawings (III)
Time-Travel Machine Drawings (II)
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)