Carlos Amorales

Manimal

The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art

April - July 2010

Carlos Amorales's solo exhibition at Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art spans three of his pivotal works. The video Manimal was created by 3D animation techniques with wholly flat, two-dimensional forms. The work is founded on a database of digital images called Liquid Archive which Amorales has been constructing since 1999. Originating from his own drawings, he uses this reservoir of images to implement many of his works. The images—forms devoid of scale and medium, sharp black silhouettes based on formal and symbolical archetypes, which disallow individual identification—turn out to be silhouettes of human figures, skulls, animals, birds, insects, spider webs, trees, buildings, and various sites. These images, which are cornerstones in the artist's visual vocabulary, are variously intersected in the work process. The tension between the arbitrary and the premeditated dimensions in their mode of intersection generates internal conflict, enhancing the potential of alertness and horror upon viewing.

The work evolves via constant motion of the camera, on the one hand, and the objects, which seem to shift position in front of it, on the other. The combination of motion directions alongside that of work techniques and manipulation—this is Amorales's only work containing subjective images such as the wolf running at the camera—thwart the viewer's ability to fix on a given narrative meaning, in fact striving to undermine the very desire to do so. In addition, the work is accompanied by a dominant, rhythmic and repetitive soundtrack (by Julián Lede), which is occasionally interrupted by processed squeaks or screeches, and which transpires simultaneously to but independent of the motion of images or the camera movement.

The power of this work stems, in part, from the fact that it addresses contemporary aspects of technological progress, while at the same time relating to visual, political, and historical sources, among them Black Theater and the birth of cinema. The word 'animation' derives from the fusion of animate and inanimate. The Latin word anima denotes mind or soul, and the technical process in fact relates not only to the creation of movement on screen, but also, mainly, to animation, namely revivification of an inanimate object. At the same time, one must stress that Amorales's work does not address the mental dimension of the forms and images featured in it; to a large extent, it even opposes the current trend typical to the large animation studios in the Far East, such as those of Murakami and other leading anima artists. Instead, Amorales shuffles the familiar categories man-animal-machine to create disturbing hybrid images which express certain aspects of contemporary existence. The gradual transition from man to animal and back, repeated in his work over and over, ultimately leads to a loss of authenticity of the categorical definition itself.

In effect, Amorales's work employs familiar images and symbols to create states of uncertainty, of threat, of something which is at once foreign and familiar. At the same time, the video unfolds a linear tale about a city being overtaken by a pack of wild wolves. By means of this narrative structure Amorales strives to discuss metaphorically the tension between nature and culture, issues of immigration and survival, and even notions such as hybridity, savagery, the degradation of moral and social norms, the domination of impulses, or rather—of natural needs. He conveys the sense of a collapsed, post-apocalyptic world, a world in the wake of a calamity—whether man-made or natural. The title of the work, Manimal, attests to one of the major themes at the core of Amorales's works, many of which combine images of animals and humans, or cross forms of life and structures existing in nature with contemporary urban manifestations and social perceptions.

Dark Mirror, 2008, features a large bird prostrate, shattered, spread on the floor. At first sight, the figure of the bird appears like a direct derivative of the silhouettes of the Liquid Archive and the film Manimal. The fragmentation and breakage of the bird's body is highly conspicuous, yet the fragments may still be put together into a coherent form. The bird parts appear, at first sight, highly smooth and bright, but a closer look reveals that each and every unit comprising the structure has, in fact, been individually and sharply hewn and polished, and has the outlines of an independent architectural structure. The work conveys great force stemming from the bird's dimensions and materiality, but at the same time also a sense of total collapse inherent in its soft merging into the floor.

Another work, Subconscious City, 2008—which is not featured in the exhibition, but was created around the same time—unfurls the model of a big metropolis where every unit is sculpted from an impervious hard black substance and installed separately. A high vantage point in relation to the work exposes the fact that the structure is reminiscent of an orderly cobweb, a visual and conceptual motif often recurring in Amorales's work, which is likewise drawn from the Liquid Archive. Both these works present Amorales's unique and fascinating treatment of the combination between fusion and fragmentation, and the manner in which he ties between nature and civilization, man and animal, as described in reference to the film Manimal.

In the new piece, Explosion, 2010, on the other hand, only the fragments seem to have remained. The work consists of hundreds of sharply cut acrylic surfaces, hovering in the exhibition space at different heights; dissociated fragments ostensibly disconnected beyond the sense of rift, dissolution, and estrangement they convey. The work is made entirely of pieces of material detached from any source or context; refractions of light and form, splinters of body and meaning. It conceals great violence, which nevertheless remains unrealized. It seems to freeze one moment in the process of explosion, a moment which oscillates between the energetic cohesion that has held all the different elements in a single body, and final scattering and loss, as in the supernova effect where a massive star explodes because the internal pressure caused by nuclear fusion outward is insufficient to balance the great pull of gravity inward. The result is akin to a state of breathlessness, hanging between inhaling and exhaling; an enigmatic state combining a sense of overabundance and flooding with a brittle airy feel.

Much like the broken, faulty perception of architecture characterizing Monica Sosnowka's works in which she tackles the conceptualization and construction of spaces while introducing elements of chaos and ambiguity therein, this work by Amorales refers to contemporary existence in the public space; an existence frequently threatened by unexpected violent eruptions, various ideological bursts, and the collapse of commonly accepted cultural constructs. In this context the work may also be regarded as a mirror image of radical states of conflict, terror, and war. Man-made situations intended to strike at human beings, which nevertheless generate an element of astonishment and wonder, invoking unexpected awe.

A dominant feature recurring in Amorales's works throughout the years, also characteristic of the work under question, is the dimension of excess: from the ongoing culling of images for the Liquid Archive at the beginning of his career to the multiplicity of elements in later works such as Black Cloud, 2007. In this work, hundreds of black paper cutout moths are glued to the walls in varying densities, taking over the entire space and deviating beyond. The quantity, inundation, and overflowing generate a sense of discomfort which calls to mind an unwanted attack or an unexpected takeover. On account of the moths, the initial connotation is the world of nature and insects, but the work may also be read on the metaphorical level, whereby the surplus is associated with certain, extreme political situations.

An overview of Amorales's oeuvre makes it clear that his perception of beauty brings together seduction, attraction, and repulsion. In his essay "The Spirit of Terrorism" Jean Baudrillard maintains that "the spectacle of terrorism forces the terrorism of spectacle upon us" (in The Spirit of Terrorism and Other Essays, trans. Chris Burden, Verso, 2002, p. 30). According to Baudrillard, the fourth world war, whose beginning was marked by 9/11, is no longer a violent conflict between people, states or ideologies, but rather a battle of humanity against itself; no longer a clash between civilizations, but an implosion of the system known as Western civilization. Thus, one may regard the excess as a sign of domination and repression, which, at the same time, embeds a potential of breakthrough and liberation.

The three works in the exhibition fully and intricately unfold the underlying principles of the visual language and themes addressed by Amorales's work over the years. The human existential condition arising from it is one of constant change, and consequently—also of fear, of horror of the unknown; a state to which transgression, instability, and loss of control are as integral as evolution, progress, optimism, and hope. At the same time, these works reflect the development of Amorales's oeuvre over the years. Frequently-changing, sharp, broken images in the 2005 video ultimately transform into fragments devoid of formal identity, a state of rupture rather than a narrative description thereof, in his new 2010 installation. The current phase in Amorales's work is, thus, more principled and abstract


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Carlos Amorales

Manimal

The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art

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