The “new media art” of Enrique Radigales. Between the physical and the virtual

Conversations and reflections with Enrique Radigales about his last two projects at LABoral Centro de Arte

Published: Mar 24, 2014
The “new media art” of Enrique Radigales. Between the physical and the virtual

Panoramic view of “Primer Diagnóstico Taxonómico” by Enrique Radigales

Last March 14 the exhibition “Datascape” was inaugurated at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial de Gijón. It features several works by twelve artists of the new media art reflecting the relationship of the landscape with the new technologies. Among them the artist Enrique Radigales (Zaragoza, 1970) has a fundamental role, not only because a good part of this work revolves around this topic, but rather because he is a resident artist at LABoral this year.

Like in previous occasions with artists of new media, Net.art, technological art, digital or whatever you want to call it, I want to emphasise the fact that we tend to forget the essence and the scale of these pieces until the artist explains the meaning of his work. As one of my former college teachers put it, “There is only culture, where there is culture”, meaning, certain cultural codes are only understandable for us, when we are acquainted with them, or, in other words, what we sometimes cannot appraise fairly, is due to our lack of knowledge.

 

Detail of Enrique Radigales´s "Primer Diagnóstico Taxonómico"

 

What I have most valued after having a conversation with Enrique Radigales a few days ago is his intelligence, discursive capacities and his effort to make his research clear in the easiest way. Here I transcribe part of these conversations with him, trying to reflect the essence of the two projects he executed for LABoral: “Primer diagnóstico taxonómico” (for “Datascape”) and “Totem evanescente, a work resulting from his 3-week residence at LABoral.

The first thing we should ask ourselves is What is Radigales’ work about or what is his essence: “My artistic work explores the frontier between the analogical (or physical) and the digital. I consider it a blurry border. A no-place which is a space for experimenting. Based on this field we can discover which is the relationship of human beings with machines, because there is a fuzzy barrier. In order to translate this rather complex ideas, I like to use simple ideas in my projects.”

Enrique Radigales

His piece for Datascape is the result of a whole research and documentation project he has been developing during this last year: “Pimer diagnóstico taxonómico”. It consists of digitally interpreting a specific landscape. This is not the first time that Radigales uses the topic of landscape in his work. Actually he has used it quite often so far. On the other hand, Radigales says that generally landscape in art is beyond any actual geologic consideration. In order to illustrate this, I use the same examples he gave me. On the one hand, the romantics inaugurated landscape as a painting genre per-se. They opened a new concept of landscape. They discovered that the human being could feel tiny in nature. Friedrich is perhaps the best example among the romantics. He shows a specific perception of landscape that opens up a window for us. Another concept and another different window of landscape is the perspective-based representation system inaugurated by L.B. Alberti at the beginning of the Renaissance. It is another window to represent reality.

Friedrich, “Wanderer above the sea of fog”, 1818

At this point, How does this relate to Radigales’ work and with technology and the digital world? “This can be translated to computer windows. These are other windows that show more hostile landscapes. However, the obsession or focus on technology is not exclusive of our time, although, obviously, it has been more present in certain periods. The futurists (since 1909 until the second decade of the 20th century) were already obsessed by machinery. Before us, other people had the obsession for progress that we have now-a-days in relation with technology. There was a boom at the time of the .com, but digital natives, or those already born in this era, are not obsessed with it” (…)

“In Pimer diagnóstico taxonómico, the idea has been to digitalise a specific landscape, Pericastó, in Litera, Huesca. It is a two-hectare piece of land that I use as an anti-workshop. This is an area that has remained unchanged for centuries, unlike technologies, that are always evolving. I worked with the biologist Fernando Lampret, who made a plant taxonomy: He classified all the plant species of the area, which is a dry weather area. He made a classification of 155 species. Then I researched to find out which are the “growing strength cycles” of these species. Id est, when they are growing and fruiting. Based on this we made a graphic with those data. And these graphs are represented with clay pixels; One pixel per each species (mauve and rosemary...) in twelve clay columns (one for each month of the year). Each clay pixel represents one plant unit. Not all of them are represented every month. Some plants bloom two months, other ones bloom every month. May and June are the “strongest” months (the highest columns), while December and January are the less fruitful months, with a lack of strength. Thus, for example, rosemary, which blooms and fruits all year long, has a pixel that appears in each of the twelve months”.

Clay columns of “Primer diagnóstico taxonómico” by Enrique Radigales

On the other hand, the base of these clay columns are printings on PVC representing the hexadecimal colours of each quarter of the year. Hexadecimal colours are the web colours, used in html encoding. These are reduced to 216: “What I have done in this piece is translating the colours of each of these plant species into hexadecimal colours. These colours with pictures of the area in each season can be seen on the cloths supporting the columns. Just as if it were an irregular plinth, these digitally printed pieces of canvas compensate the coarseness of the clay”.

Both the research and its visual result are really interesting, but there is in addition a deeper meaning: “I consider that one of the most interesting aspects of this project is the balance between the digital and the analogical. Eventhough the field of data visualisation is linked to computer graphics, the contrast with clay interested me, its irregularity and its completely manual production”.

Now: What was Enrique Radigales residency at LABoral like? What is Totem Evanescente de Datos about?

“My residency focused on a moment where the margin of error was very high. Failure was very present. I discussed it with the people of the Lab of LABoral. We only had around two or three weeks to develop a project and, instead of being rigorous with the results, we decided to work with a high margin of error, not focusing so much on success or failure. I think that in a residency experimentation and risk must trigger the process”.

“Totem evanescente”, Enrique Radigales

 

The work produced by Radigales during his residency at LABoral is “Totem evanescente” and it deals mainly with technological intangibility, in other words, with the fact that the intangible does not actually exist in technology, as there is always an underlying material component or resource. “Totem evanescente starts from technological intangibility, based on the idea that behind technology there are tons of natural resources. I believe that we rarely think about how much energy is needed to send an e-mail, or how many tons of natural resources are needed to design the last Android update.” (…)

“This Totem, which is physical, has also a digital form, which dwells on the Internet in video format. Therefore they are interdependent, its physical format would make no sense without its digital counterpart”. The totem is the whole thing, including all the materials behind it. In turn, this artifact (totem) could not exist without the video: it is a relationship of interdependency”.

Totem Evanescente from Plug&Pray on Vimeo.

 

 

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