Interview by Siliva Mangialardi
In early 1990, when he was already a recognized Argentine artist, Eduardo Medici incorporated photography in his work.
In Praise of Memory: Eduardo Medici November 13-December 7, 1997 Sicardi-Sanders Gallery, Houston
How did you get involved in art?
Medici: My mother noticed when I was very young that all I did was draw, so she enrolled me in a neighborhood academy. I studied there from ages 7 to 14 even though it was not a school for children. I spent all that time copying illustrations and drawing from statues. All of this was then forgotten until I was 25 — an age when most painters are already famous by today's standards. Through Roger Pla, the writer with whom I was doing a literary workshop, I met Anselmo Piccoli whointroduced me into the labyrinth of art.
Why did you choose the visual arts?
Medici: I think it had to do with a feeling of comfort. It was easier for me to paint than to write a story. There was a sense of pleasure in the image that didn't exist with words. The image sprouted while words seemed to get stuck making it a very difficult task.
Does one create for pleasure or to express something?
Medici: We might think of creating as an internal imbalance, an area of conflict that the artist will attempt to resolve within an image. As any conflict, it brings along with it angst and pleasure, which will then share the space on the canvas and will lead the viewer to interpret, in his own personal way, this battle of strengths taking place within the work. As the Spanish philosopher Trias would say, "The beautiful and the sinister must all live together in the work of art. Without the sinister, beauty does not reach the completeness or wholeness of its beauty, and without beauty the sinister provokes horror."
Should an idea be behind a work of art?
Medici: I believe there always is an idea: loose, weak, bad, strong, an idea nonetheless. That idea coincides with one's own world, with a vision of how that world affects us. I don't start out with an idea; I don't have it beforehand; I don't expect it of me. I trust that an idea is already there.
Is the creative process then an inquiry?
Medici: To me art is a process of investigation. One must search in such a way as to find the undiscovered within ourselvesto the point where we cancel out all the certainties and one does not recognize oneself within the finished product. Thatinstant, full of angst, is what enables new small discoveries which can keep the work of art from being trapped in a static or stereotypical phase. Foucault said, "In life as well as in work, the most interesting thing is to transform oneself into something that we were not in the beginning."
There is a point when you began to incorporate photography in your work.
Medici: Yes, in 1992 I met Luis Martin and Alfonso Castillo. Their enthusiasm, mixed with conversations about photography, peaked my interest not even knowing that someday I would incorporate it (in my work). The final push came when I met Luis Gonzalez Palma. He came to Buenos Aires and stayed in my studio. We spoke a lot and he even taught me how to put emulsions onto textiles and canvases. However, a certain amount of time had to pass before I could feel tired of painting. This lead me to use radiographs, to produce installations, to use direct or manipulated photography negatives, to emulsify and to even take my very own photographs. I believe that at a specific moment that dissatisfaction between what we want to say and how we say it produces a break in the person. That is where it all changes and the elements begin to entice the eye of the artist.
In my case, I think photography came to me during that break: presence/absence, time/death ... all these themes relating to the body, mine in particular. A body that ceases to be mine to be incorporated in the work of art assuming the role of the other "one" that I am and I am not. This body that looks at me can be veiled and revealed (as in developed) and peers from another space as though I were the photograph and the other the real me.
What happened to the art market when you incorporated photography in your work?
Medici: Nothing special because the art market had not really existed for me. My work, generally speaking, didn't attractcollectors. It was not easy to acquire even when I painted. The exhibition in Der Brucke is where I, more or less, synthesized what I had been doing with photography. It was well received and got very good reviews. I am pleased with the results it generated.
What is your opinion about the legitimacy of app rop nation ?
Medici: Appropriation is one of postmod-ernism's postulates which is currently a little in disuse. I agree with Borges when he states, "We are incapable of creating without an idea that existed before." This means that we are always appropriating things from others. I believe that it is important/necessary to distinguish appropriation from plagiarism. Plagiarism would be the appropriation of other's concepts in their entirety, without any type of change or reelaboration, something that at times could seem to happen with appropriation.
It is said that your work is deeply autobiographical; however, I feel that it goes beyond that.
Medici: That was one of the criticisms made regarding my work. Some people felt that it was exceedingly biographical. That, however, does not scare me. I feel that the work of art is like a diary of ourselves which holds all, from dreams to the most innocuous and mundane occurrences. I work from the intimate, from that which is mine, but all of us arecontaminated by external forces. Some artists begin from outside; I do from within; I use myself as a reference. As Sartre said, "When one speaks of oneself, one also speaks of others." These themes belong to all; they go from person to person. I believe that my work essentially goes beyond the biographical because it is not a description of my life. If I were to give you an anecdote, then, it would be autobiographical. I work with broad subjects that touch me, parting from my sensations, my experiences and fantasies ... but we all have them.
What makes it easy to produce a work of art?
Medici: It is not a matter of producing a work of art. It has to do with having the work of art within yourself. It has to dowith chiseling or breaking away until the work appears. One must realize in all reality that we are a faulty subject and that from these faults and cracks the work of art is made. If one sees oneself as a whole subject, one will never be able to produce a work of art.
It seems that we are speaking of life.
Medici: We are always speaking of life when we refer to art. That is very clear to me. To me, they are very joined. I cannotseparate what I do from what I feel from what happens. It all relates; to look at a woman, to have a cup of coffee, to closethe eyes of death ... in the person who makes art, it transforms and thus becomes that diary that is the work of art.
Therefore, it's about living?
Medici: I believe it is. At times the artist has an excess of things that he needs to get rid of. Much like a glass filled with water that spills over, that which spills is the work of art. Generally it is a little, the excess, the leftovers of everything that happens to him. That which he can sustain, he puts into the work of art.
And what about introspection?
Medici: To look, observe, live and feel. With all of these one elaborates conscious and unconscious strategies. I take fromwithin; others might from outside. In the end it all comes together and without realizing it, we create a small piece of life enriching our own life history.
What about education and craftsmanship?
Medici: I don't speak of them because I take them for granted. I don't think they are the most important values. Craftsmanship is one of the simplest aspects in any art form. The techniques, the tricks can easily be assimilated. It is a matter of applying oneself with discipline and study. In teaching, it is not craftsmanship that I think important to communicate but that which is between craftsmanship and life, that which comes from that the act of looking and is not vision. Not that which I am looking for but that which finds me.
What is it?
Medici: The living being of things. The only problem an art student has is that he doesn't know that he knows. The teacher's task is to make him realize that he knows. People cannot see that they have the work of art within. They fight and suffer thinking that to produce a work of art they must do what they suppose they have in their heads, to reproduce something perfectly. Making art is not doing what one wants. Gaston Bachelard states, "One caiv never communicate a secret, what he can communicate is an orientation toward the secret." A work of art is a secret. •
Silvia Mangialardi is the editor of FOTOMUNDO. This interview originally appeared in Spanish in FOTOMUNDOand was translated courtesy of FOTOMUNDO and Pan American Cultural Exchange