Alfredo Rodríguez (ft. Juliana Cerqueira Leite):
'The Swamp of Forever. Chapter 1: Love'
Thu 10 October – Fri 13 December, 2019. Barcelona
Derrida said he could not talk about love without utmost precision, without being asked something specific. Then he ended up responding in very general terms that all philosophy is inseparable from love. That love, in general, is always narcissistic.
For deconstruction, to love would consist in accepting the existence of this internal contradiction. To think, for example, that generosity or affection is not the immaculate fruit of a harmonious understanding with the beloved but the result of a selfish desire: to love ourselves in the reflection of the other. That only from that narcissistic place can a true “affirmative desire of the other” occur; a desire “to respect it, to pay attention to it, not to destroy the otherness that makes the other be another.” Thus we do not take care of the other for their own sake, but because our subjectivity depends on it.
Fifteen years have passed since the death of Derrida and it is sustained by many that theories such as deconstruction are loaded with the original sins of white Europeans, or that they are simpy outdated. But of course, philosophy, like love, always has been. Always is. Loaded with sins and outdated.
Alfredo Rodríguez (Madrid, 1976) has also been in love with the photographic image for almost fifteen years, while living in sin with it. During this time Alfredo has subjected photography to different processes of varying complexity, some of which are also outdated. From cyanotype to holography, to interference patterns of silver gelatin or using sophisticated devices such as coherent radiation emitters, Rodríguez has lived in science fiction for years, long before official art became interested in it.
The latest direction taken by the artist’s investigations shows a vision of a dark, indecipherable, ambiguous body. A boiling figure that inhabits a muscular hole rather than a promise of a better horizon. Rodríguez’s point of departure is not part of an idealized body, loaded with critical intentions, called to dismantle class privilege or to deactivate the split between masculine or feminine. On the contrary, his purpose is rather vulgar, mundane. When he projects María’s body on to María herself, he is moved by the healthy curiosity of seeing them both transformed in the darkness of their home in Vallecas; in a Madrid afternoon. Talking about himself, about herself, about eachother. They don’t solve the world, they complicate it. And they turn that love into a question as useless as it is inexhaustible.
For this last iteration, produced especially for the first chapter, Rodríguez has decided to turn this binomial into a bizarre love triangle, by introducing the Hasbro Transformers into the equation; the object of his most puerile and polymorphic love.
Having reached this point, it is worth mentioning that transformers are a biological species, despite their mechanical appearance. This is not only interesting in relation to the debate surrounding the dissymmetry between sex and gender (turning them, de facto, into a molecularly queer species) but it also brings into question the separation between the artificial and the natural, as maintained by the so-called dark ecology. In line with this, we could even argue that their most iconic ability, which allows them to take the form of a vehicle or a weapon, is, from the deconstructivist standpoint, a declaration of unconditional and catastrophic love. They reaffirm us where we most question ourselves: emulating the shape of our vehicles, our speed, our weapons of war. The transformers would be saying yes to our most fatal otherness, that of our creators and destroyers, for it is there, in the form of our contradictions, where they might be able to love their own existential ambiguity, as beings that become machines.
In the midst of this plot Rodríguez would still make use of one last feature, that is so absurd and so obvious, most of us would miss altogether. And that is that every transformer, as its name indicates, has a time of body suspension in which it is neither vehicle nor humanoid but a porous amalgam without a path, capable of connecting with everything it finds in its same formal limbo. Thus, a transformer in transformation can create hypertrophies that are neither a vehicle, nor a robot, they are beyond definition. Perhaps it is because of this, because of its nameless character, because of the mystery of its definition, that the result of these sculptural assemblies made with toys in his studio, only become accessible in the exhibition through the hologram ghost; a three-dimensional fantasy trapped in the infinitesimal space of the flat medium.
This contradictory vision is echoed in Juliana Cerqueira Leite’s guest piece, Contraction 1, which suggests the facial expression of a classic Phantasmagoria through a montage of sculptural emptyings of different parts of the artist’s body. Thus, just as the transformer is neither one thing nor the other, neither object nor image, or when the crevices in a living body play at being the volume of a figure from the past, is when we realize that time does not pass or run as we have been told, but it is assembled.
Rodríguez is somehow inviting us to think about the transformer as the eternal return of a continuity in the fragment; the transformer as an analogy of the collage technique itself, by means of which the erotic fantasy of objects becomes imaginable. An operation that is further unleashed in the two monumental Bodybuilding collages, where the artist employs the premise of accidental grafting to produce a decentralized corporality, the result of immoral and impure copulation between his love for María and his love for transformers. A fight of giants that, like in the swamp, turns the air into natural gas.
A masculine that is feminine thus appears, a flesh that is machine, a photograph that is painting, a hollowness that is body, or a laser clarity that contains all the darkness of time. Any hint of political transformation, of critical questioning, is due to the radical nature of something constant, atavistic, inherent to the folds of the flesh rather than a product of intellectual progress. It seems curious that without citing any author, without setting himself up as an example of any trend and without further claim than that of the affirmation of his love, Rodríguez’s work seems to me like one of those dark and throbbing pieces of flesh that the world needs to be a better place.
Alfredo knows, as we all do, that each photographic image is the inexorable proof of our end. In the firm desire to embrace that fear, to love the silence in which his images will be lost, in which all images are lost, a sense of the contemporary emerges that is no longer synonymous with the present.
Alfredo Rodríguez (Madrid, 1976) works around the photographic image subjecting it to experimental processes of variable complexity in his studio and laboratory. His practice almost always starts from images that refer to the body and ends up being transformed into an equivocal presence, moving away from the singularity of the physiognomy and approaching an idea of expanded flesh. The time of chemistry, photosensitive materials, light, his partner’s body and the material imprint of the photographic go through all the phases of his process, giving rise to a desire to erase or to a fading of the time of the image. In this way, his research pursues a maddened conservation of the ephemeral, by (or ‘while’) trying to provide the whole set of events and materials with a stable permanence, as if it were a crystallization. Rodríguez is represented by Espacio Valverde in Madrid and has recently exhibited at the Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo (CA2M) in Madrid, Montecristo Project Cerdeña, Matadero Madrid, Sala Arte Joven, and the Istituto Europeo di Design, among others.
Juliana Cerqueira Leite (Her Mother, 1981) is an sculptor based in New York and São Paulo. She is represented in London, England by T.J. Boulting, in São Paulo, Brazil by Casa Triângulo, and in Venice, Italy by Alma Zevi. Her sculpture Climb, 2012 is currently on exhibit at Mitre Square in Central London as part City of London’s Sculpture in the City initiative. Cerqueira Leite was awarded the 2016 Furla Art Prize for her contribution to the 5th Moscow Young Art Biennale. She has exhibited her work internationally in solo and group shows in venues including Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo, the Saatchi Gallery in London, The Antarctic Pavilion in Venice, The Sculpture Center in New York, Marres House for Contemporary Culture in Maastricht, Galeria Casa Triângulo in São Paulo, Alma Zevi in Venice ,Galleria Lorcan O’Neill in Rome, TJ Boulting in London, DUVE in Berlin, Arsenal Contemporary and Regina Rex Gallery in New York.
With many thanks to Espacio Valverde, Madrid and Alma Zevi, Venice.