INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH CEMBORAIN
Arts student at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.
1) What does the progressive approach of your work towards abstraction respond to? Considering that your beginnings in photography tended to be referential.
My first urban photography projects were mainly urban landmarks. However, with my projects I have continuously sought to generate questions in the viewer’s mind, I want to make them think and consider possible explanations for the nature of my photographs. For example, in the series "The Yellow Ribbon", people usually wonder: - why are those ribbons there, why yellow? Why is the link associated with words like "GOD", "OPEN", where was this? Did the artist place them or were they already there?
As my research progressed, things happened, events occurred, and discoveries were made. For example, I began approaching projects using the camera as an extension of my body, acting as an active receiver of images and videos during my travels through the city; later in my studio I observe the material on the computer and highlight areas of colors, stripes and lines that share traces of geometric abstraction. I then immerse myself in the digital world, sometimes I feel I'm just inches away from stepping into the computer, I’ve learned to think and express myself through her. This has been my method of interpreting movement, the hectic city life, not only through my physical movement, but also the one generated by digital programs when interpreting images.
2. How do you suppose that abstraction favors and / or limits the public's interpretation of your critiques about society?
I would not define my work as a critique on society. Instead, I seek to understand and interpret the urban landscape from another point of view. Finding interesting color ranges in the middle of a rainy traffic jam on the “Cota Mil”, discovering color ranges in commercials and billboards, interpreting the colors of urban life.
In this sense, abstraction interests me, since the reference is neither obvious nor evident. Compositions of chromatic lines that come from expanding an ad to infinity, colored stripes that are born from a bus passing in front of an illuminated store, these events have served as the basis for my artistic proposals. It is more interesting to "tell the story" through an image that makes people wonder where it came from, instead of an easily comprehensible image that reveals everything at the first glance.
3. Despite the digital interventions of the image, the main source and subject of your photographs is reality. Would you consider that your work pursues an (extended) conception of documentary photography? Please explain.
I don’t believe that my work fits within the strict definitions of “documentary photography”, it’s not social or testimonial photography. If we understand the term “documentary photography” as an "evidence of reality", we would have to start talking about the meaning of "evidence" ... Is it absolute and irrefutable certainty? … And of “reality”,…. True existence?….
My job is the opposite! Uncertainty, doubts & questions.
4. In what way do the apparent, random, ambiguous, dynamic and visually excessive moments photographed by you participate in the formal and conceptual construction of the image?
They are always actively participating! It’s precisely their random, ambiguous and dynamic nature that best defines my urban proposals. Visually excessive? ... You leave me thinking ... I had not considered myself being in the middle of an "abstract baroque" .... Very interesting thought.
5. How does the city and its advertisements intervene in your notion of landscape?
I consider that advertising in large cities displaces nature and even architecture sometimes when interpreting the contemporary landscape. This is more evident in cities of developed countries, unfortunately in Venezuela, with electricity shortages and other factors, the city is in darkness ... There are many other aspects to consider in the Venezuelan landscape.
6. In what sense is digital intervention in photography related to the notion of contemporary landscape in your work?
The ability to digitally intervene in photography is precisely a reflection of what defines our contemporary times. When interpreting the landscape that we have in our era with our current technology, new landscapes emerge within the aesthetics offered by digital programs, capable of capturing and sequencing movement. The digital intervention acts as a tool, like a dark room, brush and canvas.
7. From the relationship that your work shares with the impressionist notions of light, color, change or movement and perception, explain the differences in your discourse regarding this style.
I don't like categories very much. I wouldn't call my work purely "abstract" or "impressionist", I tend to disagree with the thought that painting, drawing and photography exist as separate elements. I am more interested in integration. Drawn paintings, photographs that remind you of a painting, colored stripes that reference the world of kineticism ... Blurred geometry, moving stripes, those kinds of things.
Of course, color, light and movement are present in my work. They are elements of expression in my "discourse" as you call it. Maybe you're right, I'm in the middle of a visual excess!
8. Could artificial light be considered as a metaphor for contemporaneity in your work? Or does it exist solely as a compositional element? In either case, explain this articulation.
Artificial light is present in our era. It's become the protagonist and narrator, stage and playbook, metaphor and compositional element at the same time. It's as important as a sunset was for the Impressionists. It’s present in architecture, in means of transport, in advertising and the media, cinema, TV, cell phones and computers. Artificial light is only one amongst many artificial elements that dominate our time.
9. The emphasis on sensoriality and the formality of your images comprise a characteristic element of your work. How would you explain the relationship and the limits between the aesthetic and the artistic components that are developed in it?
That limit you set is slippery. We touch on a few philosophical grounds! The aesthetic definition of “beauty” or how “beauty” is perceived and the artistic as the ability to express oneself… These relationships are taking place without precisely seeking to generate beautiful objects. I look for images in my work that are interesting. A piece can be attractive, but I also like that it raises questions, a venture of the unknown. I am interested in producing works that are part of an investigation. If they turn out to be beautiful on the way, fine!
10. How does your training as an architect intervene in the composition of your works?
My interest in the urban landscape without a doubt stems from my training as an architect. Having studied architecture and urbanism, understanding the city as a transitable whole as well as interconnected habitable cells, has undoubtedly aroused sensitivity towards the urban landscape, perhaps now not as a functional structure but as a permeable sensation or impression.
Architecture as a career is very strict, at least that's how I perceived it. It requires a strong discipline, dedication and perseverance that gives shape and structure to a concept through possible and sustainable solutions. I apply this discipline to my artistic work. I am passionate about researching, delving into and carrying out visual projects and in some cases, they include an auditory dimension. Sometimes it feels like working in reverse: to bring the tangible and objective reality towards an abstract and ethereal plane. Eventually I have to “land” the idea and present it in the form of photographic prints, videos, paintings and tangible elements.
11. Considering the importance of new technologies in society and in many of your works, as a subject and as a technical tool, in what way do you include non-artistic technological tools in your work, during pre-production and post-production?
Riding on a bus, being a passenger in a taxi in the rain, driving a vehicle while taking photos and videos at the same time, surfing the Internet… These are examples of today's technological tools. Urban transportation is very important in my work during pre-production. I am also interested in visiting advertising companies. Printing with eco solvent ink, large format printing machines, materials such as banners and adhesives. I also like to visit factories that make construction materials, bookstores, hardware stores, labeling sites, glues... Some of my proposals have been developed by incorporating unconventional methods, researching and experimenting with what I learn from my tours. I am frequently asked: how did you do that? People love to hear the details about the different techniques. It is always good to ask questions.
Stephanie Winclaar. Arts student at the U.C.V. 2013.