Text by Curator: Susana Benko. 2011
The subject of Elizabeth Cemborain's recent work is the representation of the contemporary urban landscape. The result is an intense visual experience, produced from a series of gestures the artist made while transiting through one of the most luminous, dynamic and effervescent places that exist on earth: Times Square in New York. While traveling, she left the camera on in order to capture the moving lights and filmed the advertisements from the multiple LED screens.
In this exhibition the spectator sees the result from digitally intervening these recorded trajectories. The result is a composition of photographs and videos that show a new urban landscape shaped by modern advertising technologies. These images are then enlarged, intensified, and digitally altered. As a consequence of these interventions, many images reach abstraction: Stripes of pure color that represent the city.
The contemporary urban experience and new means of communication, such as the Internet, have fostered a lexicon that due to its recurrence has become customary. Words such as: displaced, advertising, propaganda, burst, empire, crisis, savings, action, movement, times, transitory, walking, perceptions, looking, product, information, agitated, immediacy, landscape, and many more that appear on the presented led screen. Instead of being messages that express a new geography, they’ve become images of identity over time.
The abundance of light in New York was later contrasted with the energetic austerity that is experienced in Venezuela. It happened in the last edition of the Velada de Santa Lucia last year. The disparity between the images of Times Square on the facade of an abandoned house during a power outage was eloquent. Once again, Elizabeth Cemborain combines aesthetic and critical values in a very contemporary artistic proposal.
Texts from the Luminisencias (Luminiscences) exhibition by Elizabeth Cemborain at GBG Arts, Caracas, 2011 Susana Benko
LUMINESCENCIAS (LUMINESCENCES) CATALOG TEXTS.
Curator: Susana Benko New York
We usually see reality from a panoramic point of view. We rarely see its most hidden details. This happens for several reasons. The first is the abandonment of intensely observing what surrounds us due to haste, stress and lack of attention. The second reason is the optical limitations of our human condition. In this sense, art often expands our ability to see, transforming an “everyday” experience into something amazing, a world full of charm. This is what happens with Elizabeth Cemborain's urban work: we see luminous aspects of the city, sometimes referential and even recognizable - the advertising of MacDonalds, M&M chocolates, among others, or even the stock market prices. We learn to appreciate the colors of the city through pure forms, in abstractions that suggest trajectories, impressions, brightness, intensities that are present in the contemporary urban landscape.
These works are the result of a series of movements that the artist makes around the city. It is a highly intense visual experience because it records one of the most luminous, dynamic and effervescent places that exist on Earth: Time Square in New York. At this intersection, where two major Manhattan avenues meet, lies a conglomerate of mobile billboards (large-format LED screens) whose advertising themes are distinguished by their heterogeneity. This place is the urban heart of New York visual culture. Elizabeth walks through it at sunset, a time when the sky presents a wide color range. Sunsets are protagonists in other similar experiences that the artist has carried out both in Caracas and in New York. It doesn't matter which city. By car or on foot, she moves around leaving the camera on, so the lights are captured in motion.
This dynamic visual experience produces a continuous succession of images that at first glance, are not easily interpreted or assimilated. Technology has invaded the cities’ means of communication, resulting in images that in the artist's words: “displace nature and even architecture”. This mobile, mutating, technological reality is the source for new images that evolve into works of art. Specifically: Acciones en Movimiento (Actions in movement), composed mainly from the artist’s transit through the streets while assimilating everything –panoramically– through her camera. The lens acts as an extension of the human eye, capturing impressions: Luminescences.
Three types of movement are then produced: the capture of images through the movement of the artist (action from which the photographs derive); the capture of naturally moving images taken from advertising on LED screens (in this case, the artist stops, observes and records a video with the camera); and finally the movement produced from intervening the images on the computer (when the artist intentionally intensifies salient aspects of reality such as light, color, brightness, directionality, etc. through repetitions, symmetries, enlargements, animations). These depictions are the result of an impressionist approach to the city.
An advertisement is converted into a cluster of vividly colored stripes through computerized enlargements. After the artist's intervention, her mobile, changing condition is glimpsed. Sometimes distorted; others in succession, just like when an object in motion is seen in infinite repetitions; others as pure abstraction: fluorescence of color. The luminous condition is essential in these pieces.
This whole process acquired a new connotation when Elizabeth Cemborain participated in the Santa Lucía evening, in Maracaibo, 2010. Her proposal was to transfer exuberant images of the New York energetic reality to the critical Venezuelan austerity. At 9 p.m for two consecutive nights, Elizabeth projected a video of edited Time Square images onto the walls of an abandoned house in St. Lucia. The two windows on the upper floor created a new frame of reference in the face of an avalanche of fluorescent images. Simultaneously, there were energetic restrictions in various areas of the country. These two realities - that of abundance and that of austerity - faced each other: brightness and colors - hence movement and light richness - in the face of darkness and crisis. In this sense, the spontaneous response of the viewer to these two contrasting situations was part of the artist's intention during this intervention in Santa Lucía. Ultimately, it was about questioning the current political management for its inefficiency in the face of the lack of electricity, shocking the viewer with images from two confronting situations, as well as the critical nature of her own artistic discourse.
The projections on the facade of that house in Santa Lucía were in turn filmed and recorded for a new video that is part of this exhibition. Here both realities merge. One, the light, overlaps the other, sunk in darkness. In short, this video is the result of three digital interventions made to the same images in different stages, a process that goes from the original image with its almost intact urban references to images that are increasingly altered. Even though some of the main elements from the New York Landscape remain recognizable, pairing them with the colors of the city of Santa Lucia, result in a particular visual resonance that manages to activate part of our collective memory.
Hence eloquent messages such as: displaced, publicity, propaganda, burst, empire, crisis, savings, action, movement, times, transitory, walking, perceptions, looking, product, information, agitated, immediacy, landscape, among many more that appear projected on the led screen intentionally located in the exhibition hall. All words that essentially point to the urban experience as to the media that generate it: Internet, fence, led, zoom, RGB, CMYK, neon, notices, banding, etc. Lexicon already established in the new contemporary media.
This is what Elizabeth Cemborain's reflective gaze points to: to retake meaningful images, intensifying them through digital animation in order to accent what ultimately involves us as citizens.
Susana Benko 2011