Carolina Redondo looks to her origins in the Chilean Pucón for inspiration in her performative practice. Today, living and working in Cologne, the artist uses the mediums of photography, video and installation to explore the notions of self and an “in-betweenness of Being.” Employing the body, notably her own physical form, as an essential material, Redondo investigates our existence in transitional states, which can be read as a metaphor for migration and interculturality. Longlisted in the Aesthetica Art Prize 2015, Redondo’s Saltos de Marimán raises questions concerning affiliation, belonging and displacement. We speak to the artist about the key themes behind her Anti-Gravity studies series and her recent involvement in group show In Search of the Miraculous at Newlyn Art Gallery.
A: Saltos de Marimán is part of a photographic series formed in the Chilean Pucón. What is inspirational and unique about this location?
CR: Saltos de Marimán are rapids in the mighty Trancura river located in Pucón, a little town placed in the Araucanía Region, in the south of Chile. Pucón is full of nature, with a big lake, a volcano, surrounded by many rivers and wonderful landscapes. The power of earth here is very strong. My family had a house there for many years, on a plot called Los Pinares, where I went consistently when I was a kid. The house has since been dismantled, because my family had to sell the land due to an increase in urban land taxes. Los Pinares was my ‘Heimat’, a German concept that doesn’t have an equivalent word in English. Heimat is defined by spatial, social and emotional components and is connected to the sense of place and a regional identity. Sense of place is a notion of physical, social and cultural belonging, so this location is linked to identity, memory, knowledge, history, and experience. Each of us have a personal topography related to place and identity, as a self-reflexive mapping of a physical and psychological home. The set of cultural preconceptions shapes the way we respond to a place, and how we understand the interdisciplinary nature of the sense of the place together with our own live experiences. In that way I think landscapes are always an expression of relationships.
A: Performance, photography and the body are key tools in your practice. How do you go about creating your work? Are your pieces instinctual or planned out?
CR: My artistic practice encompasses various media: photography, video and mixed media video installations. I research the self in a performative manner, in terms of human presence as well as its relationships to time and space. By focusing on motion and emotion, and employing a dynamic of female empowerment, I concentrate on the sensual acquisition of transitional states (liminal space) and the notion of an in-betweenness of being. This can be read as a metaphor of migration and interculturality, raising questions about identity, belonging, and displacement. Liminality suggest a spatial and temporal condition whereby stability is constantly in flux. As such I approach the motif of transition by creating spatial-bodily situations, through the use of sets made in the studio or found in urban or rural environments. In the series Anti-Gravity studies my body plays an almost sculptural role, each time in different coloured overalls. Like a coloured brush stroke I blend into the surroundings and become a component of the image, landscape and human artefact of our civilisation. The body is treated like a sculpture and image that assimilates with the visible structures or landscape. I focus on the corporeality of the human body taking it to the limits, into extreme and dangerous borderline situations. Therefore, the pieces are planned. Meanwhile, the locations I use are discovered by instinct or casualty, and then I come back to realise the work.
A: The human body has been portrayed countless times throughout the history of art. How do your images build on previous interpretations?
CR: The human body has been central to how we understand and define individual identity for many years. In the early 1960s, artists started using their bodies in performances and that became a way to both claim control over their own bodies and to question issues of gender. Valie Export, an Austrian artist argues that “the human being is a medium of communication and bearer of symbols and information.” In my work, the body is a medium and a tool which by connection with space or an architectural intervention, develop a position of stabilisation. Through continuous motion I generate a discourse where energy and power are involved and where action and motivation are the driving forces to communication.
A: Saltos de Marimán reflects on the complex themes of migration and interculturality. Why are these issues important to your practice?
CR: I am a Chilean artist living and working in Germany for nine years. The idea of boundaries, transitional states and the notion of in-betweenness are interesting subjects because I found myself being between here and there; being in-between two continents, in-between different cultures, in-between affiliation and alienation. This is connected to the many shapes of the experience of migration and to a personal experience of moving from South America to Europe. Interculturality became a wider contemporary study and implies an interaction between cultures. In my research I attempt to look into this theme from a number of different perspectives with the intended goal of finding a new grammar of dialogue around this problematic. I consider how the relation of these experiences develops in my own art practice. I am interested in making the experience of interculturality more tangible by perceiving and exploring the tension between dualities and opposites forces like body-mind and physical-metaphysical, attempting to expand my understanding about borders.
A: You have been longlisted in the Aesthetica Art Prize 2015. What has the exposure from the award offered you?
CR: The Aesthetica Art Prize was a good opportunity to show my work to a wider audience. Curator Blair Todd, who saw the piece at the exhibition in York, invited me to be part of group show In Search of the Miraculous at Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall. Saltos de Marimán is presented as a lightbox piece alongside works by artists that I really admire including Bas Jan Ader, Francis Alÿs, Chris Burden, and Guido van der Werve, amongst others.
A: How does Saltos de Marimán link to your wider research, and what’s next for 2015?
CR: Tension between opposites forces like inner and outer landscapes, gravity and weightlessness, science and art, nature and culture, reality and fiction are matters that fascinate me. By dealing with dualities and boundaries related to the experience of being in-betweenness, I construct visual and aesthetic forms representing this idea. Saltos de Marimán is part of Anti-Gravity studies, which explores the idea of the body defying gravity and our own physical relation to the world. The series reflects on a body that is becoming more and more fragile in a media-saturated world.
In September I will be showing two video works at Cinque Garzoni Art Film Festival at Lido in Venedig, and in October I have been invited to present a piece at the 12th Biennale of Video & Media Art of Santiago, Chile. Since 2014 I have been working on a project called Changing the Landscape that combines a very personal autobiographical / artistic experience, reflections and memories about the sense of home / Heimat, together with a specific socio-politic-economic context occurring in Chile: the role of construction. This is a result of an explosive economy and repercussions of the neoliberal model established during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Today the Chilean society is absorbed in a consumerist era in which landscape is being destroyed and replaced under the value of business and trading.
In Search of the Miraculous, until 19 September, Newlyn Art Gallery, New Road, Newlyn, TR18 5PZ.
Visit the gallery website www.newlynartgallery.co.uk.
For more information on Carolina Redondo, visit www.carolinaredondo.com.
The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries until 31 August. Register your artwork www.aestheticamagazine.com/art-prize.
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1. Carolina Redondo, Saltos de Marimán. Courtesy of the artist.