Open House With Open Studios

Interview with Alex Villar by Stella d'Ailly and Aldy Milliken on August, 2007

How can your art be seen as a political force?

Rather than looking at the political with a focal lens that collapses and reduces its thought into what it seeks to achieve, one should understand it as occupying an entire spectrum, which traverses, among other things, the cultural realm. It is at this level, in other words, at the level of a coalition between counter-hegemonic positions, that I understand my work as contributing toward what may coalesce as a political force.

What are other interesting or personal references?

Beside the stimulation I find in the work of contemporaries with whom I often collaborate, I found perhaps the most formative experience in the work of the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark and the Brazilian Helio Oiticica. I learned about strength and defiance from Gordon Matta-Clark's cutting gesture against the portentous physicality of architecture. I learned about tactical physical displacements from Helio Oiticica's deployment of the makeshift constructions of the shantytown to create inhabitable spaces within the antiseptic configuration of the exhibition space. Both artists understood architecture as a determinant factor in the formation of one's subjectivity and set out to imagine ways to counter it. These artists' work, and here I would add my own, share an understanding of the relationship between the space of experience and the space of presentation in the terms that Robert Smithson termed 'site/nonsite.'

In film and photography can we believe anything we see anymore? Who cares really?

The question of documenting reality and the discussion over the possibilities of its fabrication in face of the currently available technological tools is undoubtedly an interesting one. Also, the sixties' concern with questions of documentation in artistic practice has provided us with substantial examples of the shortcomings of the notion of neutrality of presentation. In other words, should we have ever truly believed what we saw without considering not only the specific techniques that might allow the thorough fabrication of an image but also the very conditions that limit and inform its reception?

Who are your enemies?
My enemies are indeed very clever, to the point that I cannot simply collect them as the police normally does in their cataloguing of suspects and 'law offenders.' My enemies don't fit the pathological profile designed to differentiate the normal from the abnormal. Even when many of my pieces have focused on certain normative aspects of architecture I could not simply name architecture among my enemies. I could not describe my enemies without changing the question's pronoun from 'who' to 'how.' And that is because, my enemies or the enemies or my work to take on the challenge of the question, are not necessarily embodied on a subject but rather deployed via particular mechanisms. The enemy is a procedure, a precise sequence of anticipated actions designed to accomplish particular routines that in the end sediment a proper behavior modeled against an abstracted other.

How do you define yourself as an artist?
What for me remains attractive in the designation 'artist' is the fact that this term remains relatively unfocused. In other words, the very signification of the word depends on the understanding of the particular practice the word is associated with. Of course this is a very relative situation that contributes to a vast range of perceptions associated with the word. I believe this kind of instability between a word and the meaning one derives from it can be productive. Herein lies an open possibility to engage in a situation that is not already completely preemptive of the experience one should have. Clearly, the figure of the artist is subjected to many conventions that often inform, if not, in some cases, fully determine what one can become. But I can say that I like to define myself as artist in this sense in which the possibilities are still relatively open to rearticulation, even if that is a proposition that needs to be repeatedly performed in order to be made consequential.

When did you decide to become an artist?
I came into it relatively late, way into adulthood and though a gradual and lengthy process of self-discovery that made sense of a variety of disparate interests.

What is your usual working process?
My process involves a combination of varied reading and researching mostly on theoretical matters, then leaving it all behind, getting very involved with incredibly minuscule questions, developing them into more evolved ideas which then may become projects. Sometimes these pieces result from this continuous process, while at other times it is triggered by situations I am presented with via invitations and collaborations.

What are you working on at the moment? How does it relate to previous work?
I am working on a project called Crash Course, which is to do with collision between the bodies and cars during the occasion of a contrived accident. It relates to previous projects in the sense that the main concern here is still the relationship between two vectors of force: on one hand the vector of determination and on the other the vector of agency. I remain interested in power relationships, in how the subject is shaped by these circumstances but also in how this subject may redirect this situation. But, this new work presents some new challenges as it introduces the possibility of involving the fictional realm. It is still early to speak of results but I am very excited about the possibilities ahead.

What relationship do you have with your audience?
I remain absolutely fascinated by this encounter between work and audience. And yet, I know so little about this junction. Surely, I am aware of the many debates about art and audiences, particularly recent ones. But the question remains an open one and perhaps rightly so. I seek to create an incomplete experience for my audiences, one that it is not supposed to be completed by them but that could find a supplement in its audiences. I often create provisional architectural spaces to present video that occupies the exhibition space in a 1:1 scale with the viewers. I hope to meet the audience half way: part of the experience provided by the work by means of a collection of interventive gestures; the other part provided by the actual presence and cognitive experience of the viewer. Perhaps a dialogue of sorts ensues.

What are the benefits and the disadvantages of being an artist?
The advantages for me have a lot to do with the amplitude of possibilities of this activity; some of this I suggested while answering your question about defining oneself as an artist. Practically speaking, practicing as an artist might be very similar to other creative types of activities. It shares a lot of the same requirements of many such activities, at least insofar as the development of the creative piece may be concerned. The similarities might stop there. The disadvantages of practicing as an artist are many, and this is of course a wellknown problem that takes on many shapes and forms but in the end boils down to a question of sustainability.

If your work were translated into music what type of music would it be?
Punk rock; at least in spirit. Or, so I would hope.

What do you wish happens to your work when you die?
The dream is about immortality, isn't it? One often wants a part of oneself to go on living so that at least a trace of one's existence doesn't simply decompose along with one's body, and the materiality of one's experience remains forever transcendent. Not my cup of tea. I think the time of my work is the here and now. It is in this contemporary instance that it might best resonate against the ideas and events of its time. Of course, one wishes that the span of a work's relevance be significant, this speaks of a desire to participate and influence the cultural debate but to daydream of posterity nudges on becoming preposterous.

What do you like to get out from a residency?
Residency programs are very different. It would be difficult to generalize about just one goal. Surely, many residences seem to derive from the same notion of providing temporary relief from daily distractions to allow the practitioner to focus on the work. But even this general outline proves to be differentiated when one speaks of international programs. I could say this: I expect residency programs to be different from one another, which leads me to expect different things from each program I may get involved in. Sometimes it is about getting a project done, other times it is about meeting new people, or even and simply to get out of town and get your mind clear. Beyond those practical goals, I usually don't expect much and I often gain a lot. A gain contact with a whole range of new

interlocutors and I learn a thing or two about how the details of life can be so incredibly different from place to place and yet, when it comes down to it, it confirms once more that we have indeed so much more in common than one can possibly anticipate from the vantage point of one's belly button.

Do you like the ideas behind an/this open studios event?
I think the ideas for this event are quite interesting. There's invention in the proposed idea and even a bit of a risk, which is something rare today.

What do your parents think about your work?
You know, I missed on the whole generation debate. Luckily, my parents just got it.