Participation can mean a lot. It can mean to take part in a public discussion, going to vote, or it can mean opening up to an artistic discourse about political events. At its core, however, participation is directly linked to power. And in particular, to the power to decide: The power to decide whether a country starts a war or not, the power to decide whether one kills another person or not, the power to decide how history unfolds and is told, the power to decide how we relate to our fellow humans and our natural environment.
Power relations are an important element in my work: the oppressor and the oppressed, technology and the earth, the natural and the human, the colonizer and the colonized. I use soft mediums to depict hard realities, exploring these power relationships.
Eclipse (2017) explores the relationship between society and the cosmos. It opens with a solar eclipse and ends with a lunar eclipse showing a footage of violence, totalitarianism, political power games, the fight for social justice and natural phenomena. It explores the unaccountability of thermal imaging drone warfare; political power games between world leaders and ideologies that exist at the expense of society, democracy, individuals and nature; and lastly, it shows the civil rights movements fighting for social justice, demanding equal rights for all members of society. It weaves the cosmic and the political exploring our relationship with the earth in both spheres and investigating violence/technology through the process of combining hand-drawn animation and digital technology/archival footage.
This creates a sensorial investigation of a state of affairs that opens up questions about current political issues of the past and the present, inviting the viewer to interact with this exploration, also by holding the tablet on which Eclipse is playing. Using cosmic and terrestrial events, it explores how technology affects the way we see and understand the world alternating between the tactile touch and the digital touch. Eclipse appropriates historical audiovisuals of violence and gives them another meaning through the drawn animations and the established relationship to the nature and the cosmos.
- Display at the Participation Matters exhibition
Interview with Emilia Izquierdo
By Olga Yegorova, on 19/11/17
Olga: You have been selected to take part in R! with a particular work, but what characterizes your art more in general?
Emilia: I create frame-by-frame animations with hand-drawn watercolors, and archival or own material that are then put together into collages or montages. Physical drawings are always part of my projects. The main subject matter of my work is power. Power is part of all of my projects, whether they are about technology and the earth, the colonizer and the oppressed, … There is always an antagonism and a power conflict that I am exploring.
“Eclipse” is a part of a trilogy of films that relate to politics, technology and nature from different angles. It points to violence and how technology is used for the destruction of the environment or for causing political conflict. But it has also to do with liberation and resistance. Both are always placed in a connection to the giant universe that surrounds this violence.
Olga: R! covers a variety of themes and concepts, where all projects relate to notions such as participation, democracy, community media and/or power, always in very diverse ways. From your point of view, which of these concepts play a role in your project?
Emilia: My project deals with themes such as oppression and resistance. This is inherently connected with demands towards a democratic system. In the footage, I depict fascist historical material in a critical way that points at threads and limitations of democracy. Further, the piece is experimental and gains its interpretations only through the participation of the audience without telling you what to think. It opens many questions and invites the viewer to experience it. Lastly, power is a crucial part of Eclipse.
Olga: Power is important to your work, but in what way? Are you depicting an asymmetry between dominant, power holding and subordinate, relatively powerless positions?
Emilia: It is not necessarily about having a clear position on power relations, it is much more about experiencing an actuality in a wider context. Sometimes we get caught up in a very human-centred mentality. This is a work that reflects about us in the context of the wider cosmos, which gives what happens a different meaning. It is not just violence in Afghanistan or drone warfare, but something that happens within a much larger environment. Even if you do not recognize the archival material, you still get an idea of what is happening: a fight for liberation or a conflict. It is, however, up to the audience to interpret these power relations, which this experimental and sensorial animation displays.
Olga: Why is the sensorial experience of your work important to you?
Emilia: We live through our senses. I am working within a visual language where you get to see which are the hand-made aspects, the digital and the archival aspects of it. This gives my work more textures and layers so that, when you look at it, it is very evocative. It is not just a straightforward linearity, but it is a multi-layered experience that the viewer has, without having to delve into rational thoughts about what he/she sees.
Olga: You are taking visual or audio-recorded archival material about the human history and put it into a new context. How do you change the previously taken-for-granted meaning of these pieces and what does this transformation stand for?
Emilia: The question points at the distinction between what a happening means at a certain point of history in contrast to another one. A lot of the fascist discourses in the video are deeply related to certain things that are happening today. For me, it’s easier to use experiences that have already been digested in history as a way of commenting current affairs. This applies to the history of fascism, dictatorships and abusive power, just as to liberation and the power to resistance and to break out of abuse or injustice. This same power is always present.
On another level, putting the archival footage together with my hand-drawn images into an animation, renders those events universal to similar happenings. Universalizing archival material and using their energies, they become representations of our history and presence.
Olga: You also depict a relationship between the virtual and the embodied? How do you deal with those realms?
When you use both, virtual and embodied media, you apply different languages. It gives the digital image another context. But it also points at the ways we see the world through technological means and that these can be questioned, or at least, they can be accepted as being just the limit of what we are currently capable of seeing.
Olga: Does your project make a political statement or critique on information, technology or media depictions of the world and its happenings?
Emilia: Yes, definitely. We are bombarded with images and there is a certain way of looking at things that is quite standardized. Now, we have certain digital forms that shapes things. For example, the NASA provides with digitally manipulated images of the universe that our current technological possibilities allow us to see. In 100 years, we are going to see things in a totally different way and if you go way back in history, other technological means assume very distinct things about this same universe. I ask to look at things in different ways through the combination of different media that question current or historical taken-for-granted depictions. Raising this question is certainly political to me.
Olga: Conflict moments of violence, nature, and the universe are depicted in different ways in “Eclipse”. How is conflict depicted and how do its different layers interact with each other?
Emilia: Eclipse shows nature in contrast to violence produced by humans, or natural phenomena and human-induced phenomena. If two stars collide, it is also a very violent phenomenon but it is very different from someone using drone warfare to kill people, although there is also an element of explosion. There is a parallel and also a difference. These raise questions to be interpreted by the audience.
Olga: As I understand, you do point to certain things that are strongly politically loaded. Would this also mean that you want to defend another kind of democracy or another kind of society?
Emilia: There are a lot of things happening in the UK, in the USA and other parts of the world that influenced this video. There is an extreme problem with the environment, with neo-colonization and abusive power. And then there is also resistance. Thus, in my project, there is no linear narrative that can be extracted. I just depict these issues of justice and injustice, hopefully from a position of resistance. Am I proposing something? I think, when you ask questions about something, you are proposing to look at things within a larger context; to think of the world as a planet instead of as countries divided by borders; to think of issues that have happened in history and that are slowly repeating themselves. I think the questions are a proposition, but they do not provide the answers.