MeetFactory Gallery
Ke Sklarne 15
+420 251 551 796
Carlos Amorales
dal 24/6/2009 al 25/7/2009

Segnalato da

Zuzana Blochova


Carlos Amorales
Adrian Notz

calendario eventi  :: 


Carlos Amorales

MeetFactory Gallery, Prague

Broken Animals Revisited

comunicato stampa

curated by Adrian Notz

Since 1999 the Mexican artist Carlos Amorales (*1970, lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico) has organized an archive based on photographs of digital vectorial drawings that range from personal sources to political and popular iconography: The Liquid Archive. These abstracted black and white images are synthesized into ambiguous forms that combine silhouettes with traces that have strong iconographic character.For the exhibition recently opened in Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Amorales coined the term „Skeleton Image” to describe the function of the Liquid Archive. The images in the archive are images that exist before producing an actual art work, be it a sculpture, a painting, paper cut out, a performance, or an animation. The archive is the skeleton of Amorales’ body of work.To explore the possibilities of the archive further, Amorales started an animation studio in Mexico City in August 2005, named Broken Animals. The aim was to make animated films and artworks through a collective of draftsmen, motion-graphic designers, media researchers, and a musician. Beyond mere visual production, the studio emphasized formal and thematic analysis through a weekly film club and a monthly seminar with guests that have included an urbanism researcher, a traditional animator, philosophers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians. At each session, the film club showed fragments of different films that could be related to subjects that the studio was busy with at the given moment. Broken Animals have also built a library of films and books, so each member of the studio could do research.This working project - an animation collective - is a conscious pauperization of the Walt Disney Studios model: it is a contemporary effort to redirect the understanding of fantasy toward obscurity, where the fantastic can stimulate questions (as well as emotions), without giving answers.

With the exhibition “Broken Animals Revisited: Animations by Carlos Amorales” the MeetFactory Gallery is introducing Carlos Amorales to the Czech audience by presenting all eight animation works that have been produced by the Broken Animals collective. The exhibition not only tries to explore the visual vocabulary of Amorales’ Liquid Archive in the animation collective but also the animation principles of the collective.

In the first and biggest room of the gallery one can see five single channel animations: The Forest (2003), Rorschach Test Animation (2004), Manimal (2005), Faces (2007) and Discarded Spider (2008).

While “The Forest” is still very playful and light, a little bit like a music video, the “Rorschach Test Animation” already very clearly shows a tendency of the collective’s animations: experimentation with the viewer on a visual and subconscious level. The “Rorschach Test Animation” plays with the spectator’s own imagination. In fact it teases the viewer, because just at the moment when one is able to grasp an image and maybe even construct a meaning, it disappears and one is thrown back to one’s own subconscious level.

“Manimal” is the only video produced by Broken Animals that has a clear visual narrative structure. For once, one could say, it is the soundtrack, composed by Julian Lede, that doesn’t have a narrative development, rather than the visuals composed by Ivan Martinez Lopez, another member of the collective and also of Amorales’ studio.

In most other video animations meaning is not produced by a narrative but by the visual compositions. This is very explicit in “Faces“. Here Lopez animated the visuals in quite a confusing and abstract visual way. Only from time to time, one can actually recognize concrete forms such as faces or birds. Most of the time the frame is too full of information. The spectator is thus much more focused on the soundtrack composed Julian Lede. It is fascinating to notice how the images adapt to the sound. How the same visual information can be interpreted variously depending on the sound, giving totally different meanings. The sound also pretends to be an old record, which gives the animation a kind of old flavour to it. Here it clearly also shows one of the few references Amorales mentions when talking about the Broken Animals animations: “The Adventures of Prince Ahmed” from 1926, a feature-length animated film by the German animator Lotte Reiniger. It is the oldest surviving animated feature film and it features a silhouette animation technique invented by Reiniger which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The technique she used for the camera is similar to Wayang shadow puppets.

In “Discarded Spider” Amorales also goes back to this kind of shadow theater. Instead of using puppets, the video shows the artist’s own shadow forming and shaping giant spiders’ webs with a lot of strength.

In the second room of the MeetFactory Gallery the video animations “Dark Mirror” (2004) and “Useless Wonder” (2006) are presented alternatively. One day, spectators can see “Dark Mirror”, the following day they can see “Useless Wonder”. The open-ended scenarios Amorales constructs in his animations originating in the archive also transcend into collaborations with artists and musicians. Thus these two animations were done together with graphic designer André Pahl, who is, together with Julian Lede and Carlos Amorales, a founding member of the record label Nuevos Ricos (

For “Dark Mirror“, Amorales commissioned Pahl to create an animation using the Liquid Archive. Pahl says: “The animation takes up this principle of suggesting rather than defining. Instead of making up a story with a narrative I wanted to create more separated animated scenes that function as individual canvases. Nevertheless, brought together they form one entity, one picture that might assemble to a bundle of fantasies and fears - like a mirror of the viewers’ emotions. Concurrently Amorales asked composer José Mariá Serralde to generate a score inspired by a selection of images derived from the same source. He added a soundtrack that overlaps the animation at random moments (the music is 15 minutes in length, the animation 6 minutes). Pahl: “By doing it this way we wanted to take a step away from an ‘animated clip’ more towards something more infinite and open. So every time you’d see it the notion would be different.” The literal reflection of Serralde playing his music is projected on the other side of the screen. Together the two facets of the work form a coherent whole that positions Amorales more in the role of a mediator than an editor or director.

“Useless Wonder“, the second animation that Pahl did for Amorales is - according to Pahl - inspired by “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe, a fictionalized narrative about an ill-fated Antarctic expedition. Pahl: “It deals with the ambiguity of fear and fascination that can attract and repel the focus of the spectator at the same time”. “Useless Wonder” combines Amorales’ graphic imagery of the animal, human, and natural worlds, abstract forms and Pahl’s sense for bizarre and androgynous motion and camera movement. On the front side, scenes that feel both evolutionary and apocalyptic unfold. On the back side, the floating and recomposing map of the world - moving sometimes gently but often aggressively - shows the macro level of the front screen’s detail view. The soundtrack is composed by Julian Lede.

In the third room, the latest Broken Animals production is installed: Psicofonias (2008). Here again Pahl was asked to make a realization of Amorales’ and Lede’s idea to build a virtual pianola with the representation of Amorales’ drawings by dots. A realtime-animation translates the drawing’s dots into musical notes that trigger two synthesizers playing the sound of a piano and of a harpsichord, which is also known as cembalo widely used in baroque music. The virtual pianola displays on two screens a selection of Amorales’ drawings, represented by dots, which scroll infinitely towards the bottom, and as they approach it, they play a note and vanish.

For this exhibition, the Swiss design studio Elektrosmog was asked to create a poster. Normally, designers are invited to work with the visual material in the Liquid Archive. Elektrosmog decided to restrict themselves to typography only. Instead of interpreting the visual material from the Liquid Archive they focused much more on interpreting Amorales’ method or principle of reassembling shapes within in a given pattern.

“Broken Animals Revisited: Animations by Carlos Amorales” is curated by Adrian Notz from Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Just a month ago, Notz and Amorales opened a small show in Cabaret Voltaire, where the whole Liquid Archive is available as postcards. This is just a smaller step within the context of wider research and discussion that Amorales and Notz are having about the Liquid Archive and the use and meaning of archives in general. Therefore even this show, being kind of didactic and presenting the whole body of animations by Amorales, can be part of this discussion.


selected texts

Carlitos Way
Or the Artist as Framework, circa 2000 AD

The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.

Jorge Luis Borges, “Borges and I”

Carlos Amorales is a phony. Even his name is phony. But it is in this calculated phoniness–delicately crafted between plain disguise and a latent reinvention–that we can find not only the kernel of his own artistic exploration but, most significantly, the most distinctive of signs of what the very practice of art might mean for some of its most successful practitioners at the present time, circa 2000 AD. In fact, it might not be phony at all to suggest that a good deal of the effectiveness of Amorales’s works stems out of the rare offering they provide: they spell out not only a way of conceiving the artistic practice but, most importantly, they reveal an account of the picture of subjectivity that is behind such beliefs. With him, it is all on display.

Precisely because of his phony phoniness, with Amorales one gets the full package-or even better, the Full Monty-as he covers everything up in order to expose it all without shame: his primitive elements, the set of rules by which they were combined, and even an explanation of the history and the normative force of these rules. The guy might be self-conscious, but we are still, in each one of his shows, somehow able to get a glance at it all.

Probably because he is not completely conscious of it, or maybe because he is, Amorales has been able to transform his keen, self-conscious awareness into an iconographic system (that is, wrestlers, rock musicians, dancing spectators, an archive of images) in which part of the magic is the illusion that no one element of it is more important than the other. The enduring appeal of some of his most remarkable work is the detailed, diligent display of a system of self that, while acquiring different forms, always begins by establishing the basic critical distance–through phoniness-between first- and third-person stances that one can host within oneself. If high modernism was concerned with trying to show us how to contain multitudes (from Whitman and Baudelaire to Pessoa and Eliot), Amorales actually makes a spectacle out of it. And he sells the tickets and posters for the show, serves snacks in the food court, manages and coaches some of the most remarkable characters of his own circuit, divides the profits among them, and posts the earnings for his investors on the Web. He probably even tapes the whole thing and sells the DVD–the legal one and the pirated one–on a phony Internet site.

Not a bad way at all to go public, in these complicated financial times, for the perennial startup that Amorales’s self seems to be. Although we already know that it has never been a bad business plan to be one’s own pimp (what is the history of art filled with, if not with a list of the best of them?), what is particularly relevant in Amorales’s business model (i.e., poetics) is the way in which this is achieved and how it actually marks a departure from the common way of drawing authority from authorship, and of pinning authorship to the complicated web that is involved in the production of a work of art.

It is precisely this way of going public, with the staging of an internal landscape that is not necessarily the direct transcription of its internal drama, where we can actually pin down the critical difference that distinguishes Amorales’s work from prior versions of achieving self-knowledge. It is, in fact, a strong epistemological intuition that seems to be the force behind the whole Amorales enterprise and what fuels it so powerfully: that self-knowledge is not uniquely immediate, and that it cannot be achieved by mere introspection.

Since his first artistic project–where he traded “personalities” with a friend in the Netherlands so that the friend could attend his courses as “Carlos Amorales” at the arts academy where he himself was pursuing a degree, and he could return to Mexico-Amorales has shown a complete, unnerving disdain for the rosy picture of selfhood as one capable of being completely transparent to itself (in other words, capable of having complete and immediate access its own knowledge), which has been the cornerstone of our image of subjectivity since, possibly, Descartes, and that only recently has been showing signs of erosion.

Pointing to those first ruptures, the high roller Amorales continues to bet against this picture. Or at least, he teases it out and exposes its now glaring signs of exhaustion.

He has done it over and over. And in the end, his speculations might actually help burst the bubble of transparency of selfhood. If the entire thing cracks, modernity as a whole might be our next foreclosure. The domino effect that would short-circuit the entire epistemological system would be devastating. Think of this possible scenario:

If one does not believe that the notion of selfhood is based foremost on the capacity of oneself-the first person-to know about itself in a transparent and immediate way, because it has privileged access to our senses (we know it hurts because we feel it, not because someone tells us it does), then the conflation between person and self (read: subjectivity) on which we have based our whole system would almost be bankrupted. And if this picture of subjectivity were to be challenged too profoundly, all its derivatives (authority, authorship, responsibility) would lose their value.

Panicking, isn’t it?

Amorales hopes so. He bets you will. He likes people to panic about themselves. (That might be why so much of his work’s power is derived from the vague sense of fear that it elicits). He actually likes you to go home feeling that the fundamentals of our own subjective picture might be not as sound as we thought they were.

That is why his performances and actions cannot be confused with the usual pantomime of the self–which unfolds into the cast of multiple personae we allegedly carry with us-and display the internal, solipsistic drama of existence that we have grown used to. They are all phony. Really phony. The real phonies. They are all based on the belief that the self truly has a privileged knowledge of its own internal affairs, and he cannot let them have their way any longer.

Instead, Amorales stages the tragicomic vicissitudes of self-knowledge: a subject that is critically distanced from its own self, one that feels that first-person introspection is somehow not enough to achieve self-knowledge. That is the play he has been showing. And it has been a box office hit.

In his hands, our old, dusty internal Cartesian theater has just launched a hot new season, and it looks as if its installations have been totally renovated: even new stages have been added.

Take for example his Amorales vs. Amorales project (1996-2001), for which he made himself a name in the art world arenas by literally matching them up with wrestling arenas. It was during the time when adding a share of the personal vernacular, especially if you were third-worldly enough (as Amorales luckily is), somehow boosted your chances of having your name in the biggest font on the largest marquees. It was obviously a hit. Audiences were, as one critic put it, “mexmerized” by the spectacle. But at the count of three, critics failed to see how Amorales was, behind the curtains, betting against Amorales, and counting on losing the matches he fought against himself.

It is particularly telling that many of the early commentators on his work were mostly interested in decoding the implications of the appropriation of this hyper-Mexican low-brow iconography and its circulation in a larger international scene, and paid little attention to the dramatization of self that lay at its very origin. Thus, they failed to see how the spectacle of the self was masked in the calculated-and phony-muscling of national pride.

They couldn’t see past the phony, and for this, they missed half of the show. Only through critically establishing a distance between selfhood and personhood, was Amorales able to display himself as a framework capable of holding in its center stage, and as main attraction of the night, the struggle that the first- and third-person points of view carry endlessly inside our selves. They hold a tight grip on each other because they are, essentially and systematically, interconnected and entangled. One cannot know oneself, and hence construct a persona, if one does not take into consideration that the avowal of our attitudes and expressions, from a third-person point of view, constitutes an essential part of our self-knowledge. The immediacy of the first person does not cut it anymore. It cannot hold up the old metaphysical scaffolding anymore.

It is Amorales’s ability to open and reveal himself as a framework -in which the essential asymmetry between self and other, in our very own concept of personhood, is played out-that makes him an emblem of the painful decoupling between self and personhood, a concept that we are now trying to come to grips with. And although Amorales is hardly the Robin Hood of personhood (stealing from the self and giving it back to subjectivity), it is about time we realize that the stinging pain of the backbreaking move to our own sense of self that we might end up receiving in his shows entails a corrective measure to rein in an out-of-control picture of subjectivity and bring it down a notch–a crisis we will all inevitably have to wrestle with, sooner or later.

Amorales is still betting against you.
José Falconi, Harvard University

MeetFactory Gallery
Ke Sklarne 15 - Prague
Wednesday - Sunday 3 - 8 pm

Carlos Amorales
dal 24/6/2009 al 25/7/2009

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