Carlos Amorales: Creating Fantasy

Mexican artist Carlos Amorales spoke to fluoro about his perception of art and how it can create an intersection between reality and fantasy.

Living and working in Mexico City, and showing his work around the globe, Amorales is known for his strong affiliation with silhouettes. Liquid Archive is one of Amorales’ most renowned works, a project he has been adding to since 1998. Liquid Archive consists of a database of vector graphics that were originally produced to form part of an animation. Filed and stored, these images have accumulated over time to form an archive, which reflect the changes in Amorales’ work.

His 2007 installation, Black Cloud uses elements from Liquid Archive, bringing them into 3D and the physical world. A swarming array of thousands of black paper silhouettes of 36 types of moths and butterflies forms the installation. The piece is notable for its beauty, but like much of Amorales’ work, the piece has a darker side that he intricately weaves with the positive.

Amorales’ diverse practice has seen him work on animations, sculptures and films. His view of art itself comes through his work as he uses it as a vehicle to instigate thought rather than influence.

(f) How has your perception of art changed since you first began practicing? 

(CA) I think that art and the art world have radically changed since the early nineties when I began studying. On one hand they are much more inclusive in terms of nationalities, cultures, races and gender, but are also much more market oriented, institutional and less and less idealistic.

My personal perception has also changed radically. I started studying painting in Amsterdam and at one point I stopped with traditional practice and began a practice that aimed to function outside of the art world. I wanted to integrate much more of society or at least the social aspects that concerned me into my work.

My practice became much more conceptual, relational and also close to what I could call real life. Later in the early 2000’s I came back to work with images, but this time by using digital interfaces, building a digital graphic vocabulary. I wanted to create a space where these images could be circulated, like a record label that later generated a youth movement or a studio where I collaborated with many different people from different professions.

(f) Why do you believe that art makes fantasy possible? 

(CA) I think that no matter how institutionalised art has become, art still has an untamed side. I often remember what one teacher told me while I was studying in Amsterdam: the great thing about art is that nobody knows what it is; it is undefinable. That allows a great deal of fantasy within it, and a lot of creativity.

I also think that art, at least for the artist, is a big compensation for the limitations of real life. I often think of my children playing with odd pieces of wood or unrelated common objects, imagining possible worlds. That discrepancy between the real and the imaginary is what makes art possible, it is an economy where poor means are taken to the maximum expression as vehicles for fantasy.

(f) Tell us more about how your work encourages the viewer’s own thoughts and experience.

(CA) I like to think of the artist as someone that proposes tools for the others to imagine and reflect. I believe that it is important to acknowledge the public’s imagination and intelligence by providing an open imaginative tool, a tool that is not didactic.

I also have serious questions about the artist’s authority in terms of knowing what life is about. I see my own limitations in terms of wisdom, so I like to acknowledge that once an art piece is put in the world, it can reach a significance that is cultural and not purely personal, a significance that is given to it by others. Art is something that happens between the personal and the public. I like to work in and around that lineal space, to open a road that goes in both senses.

(f) With regards to Liquid Archive, why did you decide to begin an archive of your own work?

(CA) Initially it was a purely practical decision since to make vector images implied a lot of labour. Later I realised that I was forming a visual vocabulary and I began to experiment and research its possibilities. At the same time since many of the silhouette images came from pictures that I took in my personal life, I realised that many images had an autobiographic level and reflected the different projects that I made through the last decade. The archive became something life a reflection of my own personal and professional life.

(f) What is the symbolic significance of the butterfly silhouettes seen in Black Cloud?

(CA) Since 2007 when the piece was originally made, and after installing it eleven times in different places around the world, I have come to understand that the black butterflies function symbolically as a vanitas, as a remembrance of the shortness of life.

The image came into my mind when I went to farewell my late grandmother. I was conscious that my visit would be the last time that I will see her alive, so it was an intense emotional moment. The image of a large space with vaults, covered with black moths, appeared suddenly while I was trying to fall sleep and I felt I had to create that image as soon as possible in my studio. At the time I was not conscious of its symbolic significance; it was something that happened spontaneously and intuitively.

Amorales is currently working on his second film called The Man Who Did All things Forbidden, which he shot in Chile. The film was commissioned for the 8th Berlin Biennial of Contemporary Art, where it will premiere. He is also preparing for the production of his third film, an adaption of Dracula that will be filmed in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a place that until recently was considered the most violent city in the world. “Dracula Juarez is the association of two words that represent evil in its most extreme, so I want to find out how to turn that around positively,” said Amorales. 

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