David Lamelas: The Life of Ideas

David Lamelas: The Life of Ideas


The real reason
of everything I do is trying to
understand something. And it’s about trying to
understand how politics function, how space functions,
how human behavior is a product of what,
politicization is as a result of and beauty
is as a result of what. Why do we feel sexy sometimes
and we don’t sometimes? But everything is our bodily
response to something. So that has been a paramount
and recurring theme in my work. That’s what, in a way,
unites the different mediums I work with. My name is David Lamelas,
I was born in Argentina. I started fine art school
when I was very young, I started fine art school at 13. In ’68, I represented Argentina
in the Venice Biennale. And from there on,
I moved to England with a scholarship from
the British Council. And then I became on one side
the professional artist showing in Europe, galleries
and exhibitions, and on the other hand
I became a student at Saint Martin’s because I was
in the sculpture department. When I am in Argentina
I feel local, when I’m in London I
feel a local Londoner, and when I’m in LA
I am an Angeleno. So I have a strong
identity as myself, but not in terms of location. I try to adapt somehow. I try to keep doing my thing
but at the same time to observe what the new culture is about. And when I moved to
the United States I was also learning
about this land. I studied in the United States
from here, from Los Angeles. So this was
completely new to me, and made me aware of what the
American continent is about because I’m also from
America, Argentina is America, Canada is America, Mexico
is America, Brazil. So in a way, LA brought
me back to America. When I was very
little, my brother Victor, who passed
away, my twin brother. We are identical twins. It was David and Victor, always. So I was never one. So when I saw myself
confronted with myself, one, I had to do something. So then I went into drawing
to kind of as a safety escape, I guess. Like a gate to go
somewhere else. So I always had a
little book with me, making notes and
writing things and that is because I kind of wanted to
find a reason to be, you know. Painting, it was
never enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted movement, I wanted
volume, I wanted space. I always thought that
painting was limited as being a flat surface. And then I started to explore
other things leaving the wall, leaving the canvas. So then I started to bring the
canvas out into constructions, painted the constructions. The painted constructions
became monochrome constructions, then the monochrome
constructions became space. I invent ideas, I
like to invent ideas. I was invited to Sao
Paulo Biennale first. And I did ’67. That was a site-specific
installation. And then I really wanted
to get rid of the object completely, the sculpture
element in my work. So for me was it was the
ultimate non-object work of art. I started working in
Super 8, then in 16, then in Super 16 film. I worked with film negative,
and I still love film negative. I started working in video here
in Long Beach Museum of Art. Yeah, you know, those days,
video was like a poor relative. And then I say, oh god. And then one day
I decided, yes, I will use video because I have
an idea, it’s about a talk show, a television show. And I started to work on video
because it was like television. And then we started working
with Hildegarde Duane. She’s a video artist
from Los Angeles. And for many years we
did almost 10 videos as collaborators
dealing with politics. The idea came from one of the
things that really shocked me about the United
States is how politics became entertainment. I realized that the thin
line between political news and entertainment. But it’s an entirely different
medium, film and negative to video or digital. So they’re all
different mediums, and you had to use the
medium according to the idea. I have always been
interested in the audience, public interaction,
because I believe the audience makes the work. You just give the clues. And the audience
or the spectator. Like a book. The book is pages full of text. It’s meaningless unless
somebody reads the book. The reader creates the
book, again and again, each time she or
he reads the book. And the same thing
with a work of art. What I do by myself, in
my film, in all my work, is the thinking. And I do the thinking, first the
idea, then to develop the idea, and then comes the
production of the idea. So in terms of film, it’s
a collaborative medium. I am the director, I write the
screenplay or the storyboard, and then I communicate that
to my actors, the crew, and then the movie is made. So is it cooperative project. No, I do many other things. I do the editing. I’m heavily involved
in every aspect of it. The same thing, I
don’t do corner pieces. A carpenter does it. It’s the same way. I mean, if I had to really
make the corner piece, it wouldn’t look very
good because I’m not a good carpenter. I need a good carpenter. And with a cinematographer
it’s the same. I have the idea how
the movie should look, but I am not a good
cinematographer. So I work with a cinematographer
who has experience and the ability to do it. But in a way, this has
always been in my way. Always. When you see the digitalized
version of the film, it’s not the same. It’s a very different piece. So it does acquire a new life. Some works survive, some don’t. I mean it’s like seeing Las
Meninas in reproduction. When you see a 16
millimeter film into a digitalized version,
somehow it becomes flat. It loses it’s spirit,
I call it the spirit. But sometimes it’s necessary
for preservation, of course. Ideally, I like to
preserve my films in film to keep as films, if possible. And 90% of the times,
I do keep that. Sometimes I do exhibit
a digitalized version. But if I have a choice, film. Of course it makes it more
complicated in a group show, an exhibition in
a museum or gallery, to have film projections all
the time is very difficult. And then the film breaks,
et cetera, et cetera, a lot of difficulties. And the film viewing phenomena
changed enormously, too. But it is also important
because, for me, it was very important
to see the projector in the room and the screen. The phenomenon of projection,
that’s very important. With digital, you
don’t have that. The image is transferred
onto a screen. It doesn’t travel like the
film moves into a flat surface and produces the
so-called screen effect. The phenomenon with
digital is different. In the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, I never
thought about conservation, especially in the ’60s and ’70s. The idea was just to
produce work, to do work, to come up with new ideas. It wasn’t all about preserving,
not even about selling. But somehow I always like
to keep my own negatives. And since most of my work sees
as images, even the sculptures, they were photographed,
because most of the works were destroyed. The reason why these sculptures
I made in ’60s don’t exist is because I didn’t
keep anything. They were part of a
show, and after the show they were destroyed
because I had no studio. I had to redo them. I started to redo them in the
’90s when I started to have shows of my work in the ’60s. So I had no choice but to remake
them or show just a photograph. And since that day,
after this day, it has been a process of
reinterpreting my own work. And then it was
interesting for me to redo them, see them again. And that was a challenge. As close as possible to the
original, as within my memory. Very recently I just made a
piece, about six months ago, from 1965, and I got as close
as possible to the original. And I’m very satisfied. So it is great to see
it again all fresh. But it’s very
different if the artist does it by himself
or herself to maybe in 50 years a curator
does come and makes it. That doesn’t carry the
spirit of the work. But I do put this
spirit, or the poetry, whatever you want to call it. The poetry, let’s
call it that way. So is not the piece
made by somebody else, even though I made it
35 or 40 years later. It’s not about the
object, what I’m into is about the thinking
or the evolution of ideas. So that corner piece can be
made maybe, hopefully, in 3015 and it will always be new
because it will be new. It’s not the old sculpture
you’re looking at, it will be a new piece made. So I mean, for me it’s very
important being contemporary because only a few pieces in the
history remain always present. Very few. I will mention Paolo
Uccello, Velázquez. A few artists have
achieved that. But in my modest
way, I would like to have something that is
of today, not of the past. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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