FLOATING IMAGES /
Solo exhibition / Sanatorium Gallery, Istanbul / 10 June - 23 july 2022
“Wet Memories of the Immediate Future”*
“Floating Images” seems to take place in a lapse of memory, in the scintilla of space and
time separating one mechanically reproduced image copy from another, an infra-distance
barely enough for an accident to occur, for a glitch to slide in and to signal a deviation from
the program, which serves as a metaphor for memory: every remembering is a forgetting.
Like the before / after instant of the blink of an eye, or the distance separating binocular vision
into two varied images of the same, the gallery space and the exhi-bition occur in the
movement between two seemingly repetitive images: “Soft Amnesia” displayed on the window
front facing the outside, and “Soft Amnesia” installed on the back wall dominating the
rectangu-lar gallery space. Now, before we continue, you might want to try to remember
what you saw on the win-dow front before you were inside the space. You might also want
to go back outside to look at what you saw before entering the gallery, while trying – and
failing - to remember precisely what separates the two. “Floating Images” is an exhibition
that requires movement as an exercise of seeing, forgetting and remem-bering all at once,
an exercise to learn to get comfortable in the face of doubt and uncertainty.
“Soft Amnesia” carries simultaneously multiple projections and effects of erasure, fragmentation
and jux-taposition. The surface image – a print on paper – oscillates between a
myriad of potential and virtual meanings: it could be the eroding trace of a bygone day at
the beach, a body floating on the surface of water, in process of losing its precision as an
indexical trace or an imprint, and gaining in turn a quality of imagination and dream.
It could also be a body propelled by an engine, like a spacecraft, leaving a wake of clouds
behind it as it pierces through the atmosphere. It could be a missile wayfaring through
the sky on a predetermined trajectory to capture a target, or a drone on a reconnaissance
mission, projected towards regions of the universe yet unknown; or even, the microscopic
visualization of a biochemical agent in-serted into the cellular structure of an organism in a
lab experiment. It could be an accidental image, and the image of an accident at the same
time, reminiscent of those pixelated images of human bodies falling through heights, captured
by unintentionally by an amateur camera or a surveillance machine. As such, it serves
as a metaphor for that precise historic moment when image-making devices escape human
intention and start operating as parts of an inter-objective network - whereby which
machines communi-cate with machines to remember in our place, to coordinate physical
movement through geolocalization systems or to manage logistic circuits for objects and
information to move in the world.
Luz Blanco has spent the past decade investigating how the technological shifts in image
production and circulation compose with and affect human memory, in its subjective and
collective aspects. In the process of making of these works she proceeds through a careful
selection of visual and textual elements from personal and institutional archives, including
found images and film stills, that she carefully com-bines, fragments, erases and juxtaposes
through several translation processes from digital image mani-pulation to projection and
manual drawing and then back to digital renderings and printing techniques. Through each
one of these operations, the virtual and the physical, human mind and artificial intelligence,
carbon and silicone, the pink marks or beats of remembering and the white space or
silence of forgetting interrupt one another and compose with each other.
The images thus obtained converge in pointing to the speculative aspects that characterize
what we understand by the notion of memory in 21st century, as a hybrid thing made up of
pixels, indexical traces, data flows and interruptions, flesh and biochemical cells, fiber optic
cables and central nervous systems. We are after all in the age of semi-solids and soft kills,
of semi-conductors and soft errors: a slow and steady administration of violence and trauma
in small doses carefully wrapped in blissful oblivion.
A spectral appearance from Blanco’s last solo exhibition at the gallery, the twin framed
works “Soft Error” and “Of Terror” convey this paradigm weaving desire and repression.
The texts-as-image appear through a mise-en-abime as image printed on textile, photographed
and printed again on paper. Variations of meaning appear through what seems to
be accidental curls and folds of the textile medium. The absence or presence of letters as
well as variations of distance act as smooth transitions between the word “soft error” – a
permanent loss of data in computer and electronic systems due to cosmic rays affecting
silico-ne chips or noise phenomena – and “of terror”, hidden inside the first one, suddenly
revealing itself like a piece of memory lost and retrieved by accident.
Is this the terror of forgetting or of remembering?
“I remember, I don’t remember, I believe I remember, I don’t want to remember.”
In the new series “Mantras”, the choice of the silk fabric as the medium of these images
not only gives these works their floating material quality, it is more importantly a reflection
on the (im)materiality of the digital image itself. The binary matrix is shared by the primitive,
artisanal origins of weaving through warps and wefts; the punched cards that control
the mechanical movements of a player piano or a Ja-cquard loom and the binary code of
computing systems based on the numbers 0 and 1. An infinite pool of possibilities based
on serialized equations of either / or cutting across the most physical and manual of productions
and the most abstract and immaterial data flows. Furthermore, Blanco’s images
on silk are not simple one-sided surfaces stretched on a wall, but they are textile and tactile
in their very being, encompassing the fabric’s permeability to natural elements of wind
and water, to be blown away and float, curl and fold, to cover and shelter another object
or form, or to act as a screen that exposes and reveals an underlying shape as much as the
one printed on its surfaces. Each one of these possibilities of com-position are present at
once in her installations, they are visual as much as sculptural and performative, and require
the movement of the audience in order to be fully perceived. As installations, both
“Mantras” and “Pacific Riot” furthermore reference collective action and memory. They are
reminiscent of banners carried in protests and resistance movements against programmed
oblivion and blindness.
Several other works in the exhibition are mobilized as remnants from Blanco’s past exhibitions
in this very same space and elsewhere, they acquire new life and draw carefully selected
connections to her own body of work as a resonating memory-organism on one hand,
and characterizing collective memory as a battlefield between operations of erasure and
attempts at consolidation on the other.
“Landscape” carries two of the most identifiable images in this exhibition. Composed of
two overlayed textile images, one occluding the other, the work brings forth the subterranean
ties between financial speculation and food and agriculture policies on one hand,
and the repressed colonial heritage still acti-vely affecting and determining global politics
today, on the other.
The image of a Cuban sugar bond from 1922 exchanged in US financial markets hangs in
front of the black and white print depicting a scene from a sugar plantation in Cuba from
the same period. Above the stock exchange bond, we can only see the trees delineating
the plantation, and below it, three partially visible human bodies among sugar canes.
“Landscape”s reference to the early 1920s is not a coincidence as this was the moment
when US banks gave large loans to Cuban sugar producers to profit from the speculative
boom in world sugar prices – following the collapse of which, the same banks would take
over defaulting sugar producers. This is a well known and documented method of expropriation.
But the history that “Landscape” activates does not begin nor end there. It harks
back to the introduction of sugar cane to the Caribbean by Christophe Co-lumbus himself
in early 16th century, paving the way for what we now call “monoculture” across the globe
under the administration of colonial botanical knowledge centers and the slave-plantation
economy that was invented for sugar production. Throughout centuries, as the value of sugar
bonds increased over speculative booms, new labor power could be afforded massively
via African slave trade into the Carib-bean. Even when slavery was abolished in the UK and
in the US, it persisted in Cuba in late 19th century. Throughout wars between British, Spanish
and French colonial powers up to Northern American imperial interests, and later, trade
privileges with the Soviet Union, Cuba has been part of an imperial periphery dependent
on sugar cane and beet monoculture to survive.
Every claim of a break from history betrays continuity. Celebrated memories black out censored
ones. This is a type of ‘duress’ that is not discernible in the dramatic scenes of global
politics, but persists th-rough low frequency, quotidian comings and goings, generic everyday
“Landscape” takes its strength from the relation of occlusion between the two surfaces in
contact: the su-gar bond does not only cover a large portion of the image underneath, but
if you lift the bond, you would only see a white band marking an erasure over the image of
the plantation. Memory is not retrievable by simply lifting the curtain, and occlusion precisely
points to this: ‘a line drawn in the construction of a figure that is missing – or more
accurately ‘disappeared’, from the finished form. As a term, occlusion also points to an obstruction
of breath blocking the articulation of a speech sound, connecting the work to the
phenomenon of aphasia. Trauma expresses itself through the fragmented language of that
which remains unutterable in the present, exposing not memory erased itself but rather the
machinations of archiving and history writing that produce this very erasure.
Setting the image against its grain, Luz Blanco’s exhibition opens the door to a universe in
movement, subject to entropy and struggling against it, producing new forms out of every
error, just like nature does.
*The title is borrowed from a short essay by Vilem Flusser, “Photograph as Post-Industrial
Object: An Es-say on the Ontological Standing of Photographs” (1986). The text was inspired
by this and other writings of Vilem Flusser, Anne Laura Stoler and Tim Ingold.
NEWS FROM NOWHERE /
Solo exhibition / Sanatorium Gallery, Istanbul / June 2016
It is failure that guides evolution; perfection offers no incentive for improvement.
Colson Whitehead (1999)
Le titre du roman écrit par William Morris News from nowhere (1890) évoque l’idée d’un voyage dans un lieu qui n’existe pas. L’abandon au sommeil et au rêve, permet au narrateur d’inventer sa société utopique, dans la forme d’un socialisme communautaire et créatif. Ce titre est aussi la possibilité d’une autre utopie : celle d’apporter des nouvelles d’un lieu qui n’existe pas, d’un voyage ou d’une expérience sans lieu, et pourtant remplie de mémoires.
Comment faire émerger de la mémoire à partir d’un nulle-part, en affirmant que ce nulle part possède une certaine réalité ? Voilà peut-être le paradoxe apparent qu’explore LB depuis plusieurs années par une pratique assidue du dessin. Si le titre renvoie à la notion d’utopie chez William Morris, il englobe chez LB une utopie mémorielle reliée directement à l’oubli. En effet ce travail posant la mémoire de l’oubli comme dialectique fondamentale de ce processus, forme le moteur d’une recherche graphique particulière. Saint Augustin, dans ses Confessions, fournit un cadre de pensée incontournable pour aborder cette complémentarité entre les deux termes apparemment opposés.
Ainsi, les dessins de Luz Blanco constituent-ils une sorte d’archéologie de l’image et de sa mémoire, traçant - puisque le graphique est ici un relevé de traces linéaires et pointillées - des résidus de formes iconiques aux sources personnelles incertaines. Comme une archéologue, l’artiste fouille les surfaces de l’image par l’analyse de ses trames, pixels, points, de ce qui constitue sa forme et sa surface, pour ne pas dire sa profondeur. De cette archè (origine), une forme de crypto-graphisme - située entre le retour vers le passé et l’imagination d’un futur - nous fait assister à une activité réellement mystérieuse ; l’artiste, substitue sa main à la machine, en simulant un tracé technologique, à la fois électronique et archaïque, qui annonce la finitude de l’ère des révolutions du paradigme numérique dans lequel nous vivons.
Le postdigital en suivant Kim Cassone (The Aesthetics of Failure: "Post-digital" Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music.) est ce mouvement musical, mais plus largement cette pensée esthétique, qui postule que l’erreur, l’échec, le résidu, le bruit constituent les fissures du paradigme numérique. Chez l’artiste nous voyons bien cette esthétique postdigitale mise à l’œuvre. (voir l’exposition Soft error de luz Blanco à Paris). Le tracé, la graphie, sont arpentage archéologique de l’image numérique ; d’une certaine façon le dessin vient tenter de reconstituer le fil perdu de cette ère disparue. Car, ce qui est volontairement oublié ici - ou bien ce qui a déjà disparu - c’est notre lien à la mémoire artificielle, cette autre utopie qui voudrait que la mémoire du monde se résume aux giga-mémoires numériques, aux datas center écrasants. Une fragilité inhérente à la toute puissance de mémoire artificielle semble s’immiscer dans les fêlures ou les absences générés dans ces dessins ; l’artiste intègre des vacuum et des fragmentations dans l’image ; elle disloque son unité par des jeux d’émiettement et de pixellisation ; elle travaille avec les failles et les découpes afin de questionner ses oublis et sa mémoire en retraçant sa trame à la main. De ces failles dirigées vers un futur postdigital, nous pouvons deviner qu’un travail introspectif est en évolution. Luz Blanco explore des images oubliées qui lui révèlent quelque chose de son propre passé par une prospection dirigée vers l’avenir.
Le “nulle part” est donc un lieu de mémoire et d’oubli. Il existe dans ses absences. Il y a un nulle part quelque part, dans et en dehors de l’image. Un lieu de présence et d’absence ; (Heidegger abordait cette notion par la philosophie de l’art dans Chemins qui ne mènent nulle part ). Les images de LB sont hantées par leur disparition, de la même manière qu’une mémoire historique ou personnelle est intrinsèquement fragile... Son but : retracer leurs vestiges pour éviter qu’elles ne s’envolent définitivement, tout en admettant que ce ne sont que des traces.
English Text :
It is failure that guides evolution; perfection offers no incentive for improvement.
Colson Whitehead (1999)
The title of William Morris’ novel News from Nowhere (1890) evokes the idea of wandering in a place that does not exist. By giving way to sleep and dream, the narrator may invent his own utopian society in the form of a communitarian and creative socialism. Morris’ title also opens onto another utopia: that of bringing news from a non-existing place that is nevertheless filled with memories.
How to bring memory to the fore from a “nowhere” by affirming that such a nowhere has some kind of reality? This could be the obvious paradox Luz Blanco has been exploring for many years through a continued practice of drawing. In William Morris’ novel, the title refers to the idea of utopia while for LB it encompasses a memory-related utopia directly linked to oblivion. Her work, which presents the memory of forgetfulness as a fundamental dialectic of the process, is at the core of her singular graphic investigation. In his Confessions Saint-Augustine articulated an essential framework for thoughts as an approach to the complementarity of these two apparently opposite terms.
In the same manner, Luz Blanco’s graphics are composed of drawn dotted or linear traces and are thus a form of archaeology of images and their memory, tracing residues of iconic shapes from uncertain personal origins.
Like an archaeologist, the artist searches the surfaces of images analysing their lines, pixels and dots, analysing what constitutes their shape and surface, not to say their depth. Out of such primeval force, crypto-graphics of some sorts – set in between the return journey towards the past and the imagining of a future – has us witness a truly mysterious endeavour; the artist uses her hand as a substitute for the machine, simulating a technical drawing, at once electronic and archaic, which announces the finiteness of the era brought about by the current digital technology revolutions.
The term “post-digital”, as used by Kim Cassone in The Aesthetics of Failure: "Post-digital" Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music, refers to this movement in music and more widely to the related aesthetic thought that postulates errors, failures, residues and noise as cracks within the digital paradigm. This post-digital aesthetics is clearly visible in Luz Blanco’s work, and one may refer to her Soft Error solo exhibition in Paris in 2015. Her lines, her scripts are the archaeological survey of digital images; in some way the lost thread from that bygone era is rebuilt through her drawings. For what has been voluntarily forgotten here – or what has already disappeared – is our connection to artificial memory; that other utopia which pretends that the world’s memory is summed up in the giga-bytes of computer memory and in overwhelming datacentres. The inherent fragility of the all-powerful artificial memory seems to seep in the cracks and the blanks generated in these drawings; the artist integrates vacuums and fragmentations in the image; she takes apart its unity in a process of crumbling and pixelation; she leverages its faults and shapes to interrogate her oversights and her memory, redrawing by hand its grid of dots. From these faults, directed at a post-digital future, the viewer may perceive an evolving introspective endeavour. Luz Blanco explores forgotten images that reveal something out of her own past in a search directed at the future.
“Nowhere” is thus a place of memory and a place of oblivion. It exists within its own absences. There is a “nowhere” somewhere, in and out the image. A place of presence and absence; (Heidegger in Paths That Lead Nowhere approached this notion through philosophy of art). Luz Blanco’s images are haunted by their disappearance; in the same way that historical or personal memory is inherently fragile… Her goal is to retrace their remnants to avoid them vanishing permanently while admitting that they are mere traces.
SOFT ERROR /
Solo exhibition / Galerie Plateforme, Paris / Sept 2015.
L’exposition Soft error de Luz Blanco présente des œuvres graphiques réalisées à l’aide de trames et de pixels, comme métaphore d’une mémoire parcellaire. Le dessin est pour l’artiste une activité méditative, mécanique, reconstituant l’image point par point, incluant ses effacements et ses erreurs. La notion de soft error, empruntée à l’électronique et au computing, renvoie ici à un type de perturbation douce qui peut modifier ou endommager l’information.
Pour l’artiste, ses dessins recréés à partir de clichés photographiques tramés, sont comme des sortes de filtres de mémoires. La notion de filtre est ici ambigu : elle est perçue à la fois comme écran dissimulateur et fenêtre révélatrice d’un événement opaque. La pratique du dessin chez Luz Blanco possède l’ambivalence de la transparence et de l’effacement, rendant les images lisibles à une certaine distance, et indéchiffrables de près.
Dans cette exposition, la présence d’un texte de Saint Augustin ( extrait des Confessions ) retravaillé graphiquement et partiellement effacé par l’artiste, donne une certaine lecture de son travail : Dans ce texte le philosophe y définit la mémoire comme « souvenir de l’oubli ». Les dessins de Luz Blanco se situent dans cette zone évanescente de dialogue entre les deux entités opposées. De la même façon, les installations Eden The end et Vanité réunissent des notions antinomiques, de manière dialectique.
EDEN - THE END /
Solo exhibition / Sanatorium Gallery, Istanbul / May 2014
For her second exhibition in Sanatorium, Luz Blanco proposes a series of artworks which appear like a random circulation through fragmented images: Recovered and separated images from their origin, movie and documentary images, scattered and gathered images that direct themselves as a time of graphic recreation.
Luz Blanco shows us an often dialectical combine process: The fragmentation of the visual tales as well as the iconic material creates ruptures, scattering, tensions and mysterious crumbling narratives. If there is narration, it doesn't impose its own codes and fails to conclude its tales, preferring to capture the instant of the emerging image.
For the artist, drawings recreated from photographs are some kinds of memory filter. The notion of filter is ambiguous, both dissimulating screen and revealing window of an opaque event. Her drawing practice has the ambivalence of transparency and erasure, as well as of fictional or real memory. Images constitute some memorial emergences with their blanks and their captivating reality.
This exhibition aims to show drawings as a work in progress on several fronts, with fragmented and reconstructed images, like a combinatorial process. It focuses on fragments of memories, exhibited in order to let the visitors reconstruct them through their own vision and language. Between “Eden” and “The end”, the language rebuilds and deconstructs itself.
"I DON'T REMEMBER" /
Solo exhibition / Sanatorium Gallery, Istanbul / March 2012.
For her exhibition at Sanatorium, Luz Blanco suggests a series of works of art that are orchestrated around the following sentence:
« I remember, I don’t remember, I think I remember, I don’t want to remember ».
The question of memory or recollection is a paradoxical one which involves that which we want memory to retain or not to retain, but which persists despite us. Additionally, memory can be compared to oblivion, sort of a sensitive balance, or rather a pure reconstruction of reality.
In this exhibition, memory expresses itself as an iconic work. With the help of these paradoxes Luz Blanco produces images as if they could capture fugitive memories. The drawings displayed are organized according to research carried out in history of cinema, a name and dateless history which is simply made up of some redesigned frames.
For Luz Blanco, cinema is a means of production of collective, heteroclite, dazzling and anonymous memories. It can be compared to the literary technique of cut-up, an experimentation which founds itself on fragmentation and the collage of texts, and is basically about dialectic montage.
These iconic fragments are formed through the association of sketches of narration which is the reason memory, as a reconstruction of reality, can happen.
Luz Blanco attempts to take us right into this very slit between memory and oblivion.