Fernando Velázquez

04/Aug/2012 – 01/Sep/2012

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    Lucia Leão 

    Mindscapes (2011-2012), a series of works by the transdisciplinary artist Fernando Velázquez, is an invitation to reveries and reflections. The title of the work clearly evokes the idea of mental landscapes and, in dialogue with Oliver Sacks' thinking, Velázquez leads us to "see with the mind". In this process of discoveries, we perceive through flights of the imagination in full image-generation mode. But, we might wonder: what images are these? What constitutes an image in the era of data visualizations?

    The universe of signals engaged by Velázquez interweaves threads from science, technology and art. From the field of science, Velázquez’ creative inception features the association of contemporary questions regarding the impact of computer technologies to the emergence of complex data visualizations and machine engagements that involve transformations in perception, memory and experience. Mindscapes uses studies into neural images to produce reflections on our conscience, imagination and mental image creation processes. The project brings to mind echoes of António Damásio’s image studies. For him, mental images are defined as patterns with structures created from signals that arrive from the different senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste and somatosensory (Damásio, 2000, p.402). Furthermore, the scientist considers the image beyond its optical or visual meaning and proposes that we contemplate acoustic image, tactile image, feel-good image, etc. Damásio conceives neural patterns (maps) as foundations of image production in perception (2000, p.208); the image is understood as a mental pattern presented in any sensory mode and conscience is a result of a continuous flow of images.

    As an artist, Velázquez strives to create a landscape of the mind. But, his intention is not to diagrammatically represent the scientific system. In tune with Paul Klee’s wish to "make the invisible visible", Mindscapes is a project to reveal occult structures, to trace pulsations.

    Fernando Velázquez’s language of visual signs is demonstrated through editing procedures that intersperse repetitions and differences, in search of unusual beats and dynamic configurations. Here we can also recall Klee, when he establishes the formal elements of graphic art (points, and linear, planar and spatial energies).

    Velázquez constructs a kind of aesthetic experience that makes visible this complex model of images from the conscious mind into procedures that echo aspects of generative art. Although the term frequently pops up among art critics, generative art can refer to different concepts. In Mindscapes, the processes of generative art involve practices and reflections that use programming languages as an artistic tool. To understand the anthropological dimension of generative art it is necessary to rethink the modes of artistic operation (LEÃO, 2011). Fernando performs projects which are deeply rooted in experimentation with technological devices. On this horizon, it is important to consider that technology as "the tangible expression of desire motivating human imagination to modify reality" (Pepperell and Punt 2000, p.7).

    In the setting of production with technological media, we can speak of the emergence of a special type of artist: the aesthetic experimenter. For Mario Costa, there is a unique function of the artist who produces in the environment of synthesis devices to the extent that he: "creates turning operatives and materializing some conceptual paradigms..." (1995, p.64). In his dialogue with systems, Velázquez conducts experiments that unveil the inherent complexity of the devices. In this regard, Velázquez is an artist who conceives devices as active elements, that is, agents in the process of creation. In the network of actors that the artist gathers, technology can be seen in its creative potential, like a machine that engages images to come.

    His artwork develops through a diversity of media. Not by chance, the series combines diverse platforms as printed images (methacrylates), videos, interactive installations and audiovisual performances. Gaston Bachelard, in ‘The Poetics of Reverie’ explains: "Poetry is never as unified as when it diversifies". Likewise, Mindscapes as a series is a proposal that, in its networks of relations, reveals a unity. Velázquez is a wanderer who does not hesitate in crossing disparate territories. Since his formal education in art, Velázquez has been building up a wealthy, iconic repertoire enabling him to resourcefully develop the real-time processes of image combination and generation. Unlike many experiments with generative images, Mindscapes emanates a deep understanding of visual language that, although not tied to strict rules of syntax, allows him to play with different patterns. In this condition, Velázquez likens the device of performance to the pictorial. In his journeys through digital technologies, Velázquez allows himself to plunge into the overlapping networks of codes and conduct experiments that require procedures of equipment couplings, the writing of codes and logical enigmas. Thus, the setting of the interactive installation is conceived and problematized in its physical, structural aspects and also as an intelligent, sensitive system. For Mindscapes, the artist progresses in his investigation and combines classic elements of interactive installations (like sensors and projectors) with a thinking that revisits the concept of translation and presents crystallized moments of time in images. Experienced in time, the evanescent images of the installation migrate to fixed supports, the methacrylates and are arranged as enigmas. To solve these puzzles requires more than a mere analysis of the two-dimensional image. The crystal image, in Deleuze’s reading, has two faces: the actual and the virtual. It is, therefore, an image in circuit. This type of crystal image demands processes of displacements and distortions. Only be uniting the movements, times and actions of the image on the various platforms can their layers be unshuffled and made visible.

    We live in a world increasingly inhabited by information and communication technologies. In this context, art projects like Mindscapes lead us to think about the way in which technological apparatus operate as "devices", establishing lines of discourse, weaving visions, mapping out knowledge and power relations. For Foucault, device is a central concept and refers to diverse elements like machines, technologies, programs, laws, institutions, scientific enunciations, regulatory decisions, administrative measures, etc. But, as Deleuze asserts, devices are not homogenous systems and, alongside their lines of foundation and stratification, they also have lines of openings, intersecting cracks. In many ways, by apprehending our memory, Velázquez’s machine couplings outline courses of destabilization between these abysms and lead us to question the complex relation that engage our systems of perception. In the relations made explicit by Mindscapes, the hybrid character, built and mediated of all perception is stripped.

    The aesthetic reverberations of Fernando Velázquez's work echoes neural image projects, inhabiting the imaginary realm of the media. However, while the collections of scanned images of the brain reinforce causal logics established between form and function (witness, for example, Kosslyn, 2006), Velázquez moves into oneiric scenarios. In these landscapes, the connections evoke temporalities lit by the movements and rhythms of an iconographic network in mutation.

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    Critical essay