whitehot | January 2009, Jordi Colomer @ Traversee Zeitgenoessiche Kunst
En la Pampa
at Traversée Zeitgenössiche Kunst
I find it improbable that the man and the woman in Jordi Colomer’s En la Pampa series have forgotten that their actions are being recorded. Like characters in a reality show, they can only try to act as naturally as possible. Scrutinizing their situation, while being scrutinized by the artist’s camera, the very artist, who in the end will select only a “best of“ from the moments they realize. Intentionally and knowingly being placed under such scrutiny makes one act anything but natural. Observation taking away the spontaneity of a moment, creating a simulacrum of the person under scrutiny. This kind of observation can serve to either embolden or make the “actor” repress otherwise natural behavior.
In the two works En la Pampa - Cementario Santa Isabella I and En la Pampa - Cementario Santa Isabella II (2007), the characters wash a dented and dispirited car. The blue of the car a mirage of coolness in the acrid and abandoned desert cemetery. Their fight against the desert grit is a fruitless one; indeed, the water they use only serves to make the dust stick. However, Colomer raises in interesting point, as he does with many of his works, concerning our attachment to possessions. Here we watch as the characters take one of their few possessions, and try to care for it, to make it new again. This theme, contrasted with the abandoned cemetery is an interesting one. Has no one cared similarly for the dead in the old mining town’s cemetery? Where have the bodies gone? Through the act of making the car presentable to the long gone and dearly departed, Colomer takes a minor event and creates a major action.
In contrast to the deserted cemetery in Santa Isabella the Pozo Almonte cemetery is bursting with life. The 33 photographs in the Pozo Almonte (2008) series are so inviting, I first mistook the mausoleums for small houses. Many are prettily decorated, the gated doors bear familial names and the mausoleums themselves flaunt inviting touches such as awnings and stove pipes poking out of the roofs. Colomer’s dreamy analysis has turned Pozo Almonte into a cheery home for the dead.
Colomer’s relationship with wastelands continues with the film En la Pampa, perhaps influenced by his experiences working as a scenographer. The film is projected on a smooth white screen contrasting the wall of particle board as brown and dry as the desert layered behind it. The same two non-actors from the Santa Isabella Cemetery are fictionally documented, as they stumble through “la Pampa”. In this region, la Pampa alludes to more than just desert plains, the reference includes expanses of nitrate deposits or open areas on the outskirts of mining towns.
Colomer repeats his exploration of what he considers to be an unhealthy attachment to objects. She lugs along a girlie pink bag, while he struggles with a shabby, needle-bare miniature Christmas tree. La Pampa in the background acting as an endlessly melancholy set piece. Perhaps if her attachment to her bag throughout the series represents Colomer’s idea of our unhealthy relationship to objects as a method of identification or categorization, the Christmas tree does the same with our formation of identity through religion and tradition.
As they stumble along they laughingly discussing an idea from Debord’s Theory of Dérive: "Wandering in open country is naturally depressing, and the interventions of chance are poorer than anywhere else“. She teasingly laughs, trips, stumbles, staggers, turns and walks backwards, smiling through the blustering wind. They push forward, fighting nature as baubles tumble off the tree equally from his stumbling and the sudden gusts of wind. They pass ditches and holes, elements in the lonely landscape that cry out for chance to intervene. Rocks trip them up, as they show no signs of either resisting or adapting to the environment. Staged, but not staged, they stumble through and around Debord, in the same way they are stumbling through the desert, realizing through repetition. One again, Colomer inhabits the space with fiction, nurturing events and fostering an environment in which they can grow. Throughout their fight with the elements there is no hint of exhaustion and Colomer never lets on whether they are trying to get somewhere, or if they merely walking in the most appropriate backdrop for the discussion.
The Anarchiteckton series allows Colomer to return to his training in architecture. He scrutinized and teases our recognition of reality by creating detailed localized models of city buildings. Presenting to the passer-by, and the viewer of the photograph, a moment of constructed reality. What is our relationship to megalithic business centers or East Block housing? How have they shaped our reality? Colomer’s presentation of what actually exists, in a miniaturized format, has the same effect as a child’s dollhouse. The viewer intensely examines the miniaturized version, checking for discrepancies, wondering what their place is, where they stand, and how they move through the space provided. Although only one image from this series was on display at Traversée it served to establish the contrast between Colomer’s previous works and En la Pampa.
Chain transformations, personal relationships to objects and the documentation of physical displacement within a landscape create the realities that Colomer so passionately shapes. The works can be seen at Traversée in Munich through 10 January 2009. Several pieces from En la Pampa as well as other Colomer works are currently being exhibited at Jue de Paum in Paris. For more information on this exhibition or Jordi Colomer please visit Traversée Zeitgenössiche Kunst's website.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief