THE TALK: PEDRO GOMEZ-EGANA

By Afet Baghirova

Pedro Gómez-Egaña is an artist who was born in Colombia and now lives and works in Norway, makes sculptures, installations, films by means of different mediums such as performance, text and music. The artist explores the performative aspect of sculpture creating theatrical scenarios and spaces, and combines scientific and technological approach with occultism and mystery. Throughout the years of his artistic practice the artist has developed a variety of research projects at different institutions and with partners such as Goldsmiths College in London, Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, The Laban Centre in London, Bergen National Academy of Arts, and Universidad Nacional de Colombia. LAVIEW had a chance to catch Pedro right after the opening of his solo show “SLEIPNIR” at Yarat Contemporary Art Space in Baku, Azerbaijan and asked him a couple of questions.

 

Pedro Gómez-Egaña, Photo by Aleksandr Danilov

 

There is a kind of a very harmonious movement residing in each and every artwork of yours even in the ones that are visually still. And I feel that it’s somehow connected to your background in music. Please, tell us more about Pedro Gómez-Egaña as a composer and a musician and the path that led you towards becoming a visual artist.

Even though I haven't been a composer for a very long time I still think that I became an artist through working with music. In some ways I’m still working as a composer. When I work with objects and images I'm always thinking in terms of administrating events and textures in duration. This means that I pay attention to what happens when intensities rise and drop, how images and objects enter a viewer’s perception, and the cadences and curves in the navigation of a space by an audience. I think that my musical background is with me all the time. Having said that, I also do work with music a lot: The work that I just opened at Yarat, for instance, includes music that I have composed and performed myself.

 

So, time is your media..

Right, exactly. If I had to name one particular skill or one main focus in my practice that would definitely be working with time.

 

 

Day or Night?

Dawn
.

 

 

"Domain of things" - the artwork you’ve staged at the 15. Istanbul Biennial - has really touched me. In my interpretation it questions home being a stable and unaltered space as a metaphor for a consciousness-subconsciousness duality. What does your metaphor stand for?

While “Domain of Things” started with an interest in science-fiction narratives of escape to the underground when something catastrophic happens in the world, I also relate to both of the readings you mention. On the one hand, yes, there is a layer that speaks of a home that is a safe place but at the same time it is also affected in ways that you can’t control. And then the piece also speaks to the ways in which we present ourselves in contrast to our hidden lives. In the installation the upstairs is organized and perfect, but then there is the underground where the dynamics are very different, and ruled by different kind of ideas and motivations. For me however, the most important element is the question of who the performers are and why they behave the way they do. In training performers for this piece I actually tell them to imagine they are in a car crash. I ask them to imagine the exact second after the accident when you still haven’t realized what has happened to you. I then tell them to stretch this second indefinitely and stay in this exact moment during the performance. Unlike what one finds in science fiction scenarios where people adapt to underground worlds, this awkward narrative gives them a quality that is suspended but not panicked, and also without agency, without a plan. I seek this because I believe that we are all in this kind of emotional place ourselves: things are changing so extremely fast, and we don't have time to grasp them, we are always too early to understand and too late to do anything about it. A kind of phantasmagoria.

 

Pedro Gómez-Egaña, SLEIPNIR, Installation view at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2018.

Photo Aleksandr Danilov.

 

In one of your interviews you called yourself a time-fetishist and it’s quite obvious in somuch as time and space are your favorite medias. Please, tell more about your "fetish".

I guess what I mean with this comment is that I am aware of, and connect with, a great diversity of rhythms and intensities of everyday life. I also try to enjoy different temporal experiences. For instance, I'm not one of these people there that get desperate when standing in a line at the airport. I kind of like boring movies, but I also like speed and gadgets. I also enjoy both ritualising small everyday actions, while also purposefully inserting interruptions and variations. I am the kind of guy that loves to make his coffee the same way every single day, but who enjoys the day when the coffee runs out and it throws all his rhythms off. This reminds me of my work "Pleasure", which I made last year. Pleasure is the story of a man who has a hobby of making sex machines, and one day he discovers that he is more aroused when his machines break down than when they are functioning properly.

 

What do you do, where do you go, who do you refer to for inspiration? Where is your source? But don’t tell me it’s everywhere!

Well, I don’t believe in inspiration in a romantic way. I don't think that artists have some special way of channeling impulses.

 

 

Theater or Cinema?

Cinema.

 

 

Sure! Like some people see artists as crazy romantics standing on the edge wearing a scarf fluttering in the wind...

Yes, no, not like that (*laughs). But I do believe in how inspiring some sources can be. In my case I’m really into historical literature, from mythology to pseudo-scientific accounts. I also like to research the relationship people have to technology, be it real or fictional, at different historical times.

 

So, do you do a research to find a source of interest or you just hear something here and there and that inspires you and you start working on it?

I do both. For example, when I got invited to come to Azerbaijan I began looking at local histories. Soon I found some theories that link ancestral Azeris with Norwegians. Being based in Norway I was fascinated with this and so that became the starting point of this project.

 

 

"I love to work in teams but I find artistic collaborations

very difficult."

 

 

You mean Thor Heyerdahl’s theory, right?

Exactly. When I heard of this I thought it was almost too good to be true. But through the research I started working also with Norse mythology and eventually with Jorge Luis Borges’s "The Aleph"...

 

Oh, that’s one of my favorite stories!

Mine too. So soon in my research there was a story of an explorer who wants the whole world to be interconnected, and then another story about an object through which you can see the whole world at the same time. On top of that there was also a myth about an Azerbaijani warrior whose head was chopped off, but it kept talking, and it became an oracle to the norse god Odin as it could see distant places. So, to get back to your question on inspiration, this is a way for me to get inspired, by digging through information and finding how things might relate to one another.

However, there is another way for me to answer the question of what inspires me: flying. You know, I used to be very scared of flying for some reason and then it went away. I got rid of this fear with hypnosis. And now I really connect with the experience. I fly at least once a week and it has become a kind of important part of my life: just to be up in the air, to be no one, to be nowhere, to be in no time. And also to be in a place where you have this huge perspective over the world. There’s an existential substance in flying that does something in my brain, and that helps me make connections and come up with ideas.

 

So you create while being up in the air...

Yeah, I really believe so. I think flying is extremely inspiring. Not just the flying sensation, but also the great contradictions in flying, a machine that encompasses huge violence and waste, and that at the same time produces such delicious sense of drift. I also like the fact that flying forces you to be part of a very temporary collective, a bunch of strangers placed inside a carefully designed space, and that you get to experience this very extreme sensation together. I find all these layers and contradictions very inspiring.

 

Pedro Gómez-Egaña, SLEIPNIR, Installation view at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2018.

Image copyright the artist and courtesy of YARAT. Photo Fakhriyya Mammadova.

 

My next question is about your roots. As an artist whose roots go back to Colombia which has more than 3500 years of astonishingly beautiful art and crafts do you source from there, feel the connection and get inspired by any of the traditions of your motherland or you feel more cosmopolitan these days?

I don't directly reference Colombia or any other country I have lived in when I work. I am more often referencing the places where I am exhibiting actually. An example is a series of works of mine called ‘The Observatories’ which are actually explorations of the different layers of history, narratives or images that exist in different locations like Colombo, Sri Lanka or Svolvær, in the north of Norway.

 

Yes, I get that. I know so many artists who benefit from the beauty of their traditions and lets say cultural codes and I was wondering if you ever felt any kind of inspiration from there... I mean Colombian textiles and other crafts are just amazing...

Yes, the crafts are incredible. But you know I don't think I ever drew necessarily from there. Maybe it’s because the sense of craft in my work has more to do with how things are made to move, than with what they are made out of.

 

 

Three art places in the world to visit?

Torre de los vientos - Sculpture and Venue

by Gonzalo Fonseca (Mexico),

The David Collection (Copenhagen),

Atlantis Art Space in London in 1999.


 

 

So you are free from tradition.

No one is really ever free from tradition, but in my case it just doesn't translate to direct craft-related references. I would like to believe, however, that I am influenced by my roots in many other ways. Maybe something about ways of looking, ways of telling stories, or ways of working.

 

What scares you and excites you the most?

I'm a little bit nerdy and so one of the biggest pleasures for me is the experience of understanding knew things. Learning essentially. But not scholastic learning, but rather when you are motivated and driven to find out something, and you put yourself in the process of making that knowledge yours.

 

 

"No one is really ever free from tradition,

but in my case it just doesn't translate to direct

craft-related references."

 

 

And what's scary?

I feel incredibly privileged, I’m part of a group of people who are very mobile, very engaged with finding new ways of making, finding connections, and materialising ideas, all of which is incredibly rewarding. However I feel that this all can also carry complications that we are perhaps not so aware of. Maybe this drive to move, and to be so uprooted can also lead to places of extreme solitude and fragility. I’m naturally a loner, and I’m quite comfortable with it. But there's a very fine line between an enjoyable kind of solitude and one that accumulates against ones own wellbeing. I’m scared of the day that I won’t be able to know where this line lies.

 

And it’s sometimes scary because you don’t actually know where does it lead you, right?

Right...

 

Pedro Gómez-Egaña, SLEIPNIR, Installation view at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2018.

Image copyright the artist and courtesy of YARAT. Photo Fakhriyya Mammadova.

 

 

Who is your favourite artist and if you could choose any of the ever living artists in the world to collaborate with who would that be? And how do you see your collaboration?

I would have to say that it is the Mexican film director Carlos Reygadas. I love the way his films develop in time. I’m actually very inspired by cinema, both the films themselves but also the ritual of going to the cinema: I love the fact that you are put together with a group of people in a space where you're sitting and looking in one direction and you commit to whatever is happening there for one or two hours. As you can see I try to do something similar in some of in my work, I try to build spaces of commitment. On the question of who to collaborate with?…this is hard for me. I love to work in teams but I find artistic collaborations very difficult.

 

 

One place in the world where people can find you?

The dairy aisle at the supermarket
.

 

 

Maybe you would agree to collaborate with yourself but 15 years younger? Can you imagine being your own mentor? Would that younger version of you listen to you?

You know, if you put the ego part of the question aside then why not? I think he would listen. I'm always open for advice, always asking people that I work with for feedback at every level. 15 years ago I was very good at making and identifying musical patterns and textures, so that could lead to an interesting conversation. In general I have many doubts in my process and I really enjoy to work them out with colleagues or friends.

 

I think that having doubts is good because the more doubts you have on the way the more enlightened you are going to be at the end of it.

True. I definitely owe a lot to the conversations that have taken place when I’m in doubt.

 

 

A song for all time?

Volver a los 17 by Violeta Parra.

 

 

In your art you combine music, performance, sculpture and video. Is this the way you perceive the reality or the way you create your own?

I’ll answer that by saying that I am very interested in sensations and reflections on movement, be it organic processes, digital interfaces, factory dynamics, or speed machines. I see the world as a chaotic place with all sorts of colliding and aligning dynamics. A lot of miracles and accidents.

 

Could you please advise all the young and emerging artists out there one book to read and one movie to watch.

I would recommend the book "An Intimate History of Humanity" by Theodore Zeldin. I love that this book exposes a world history that is driven by intimacy as much as by politics. It teaches you something about intricate perspectives that can be found on some of the big world narratives. This I find is a good skill to develop as an artist. For the film I would say Ingmar Bergman’s "Persona". The film is the story of an actress who has lost her voice in the middle of a play. It then shows how this event transforms her life and triggers a hypnotic journey that has very little to do with recovering her voice.

 

Pedro Gómez-Egaña, Sleipnir, YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan, 

9 November 2018 – 24 February 2019.

More Info:

YARAT