ART AND TECHNOLOGY
A gaze beyond Pedro Morales’ work
By: Susana Benko
The integration of the rational and the emotional is necessary in any artistic appreciation. It requires attention, care, and most of all sensibility and information. This is indisputable as to the work of Venezuelan artist Pedro Morales (Maracaibo, 1958). Being in front of his work implies to see it and to think it with conscience. These actions, to see and to think, are important here since such an informed and active look allows us to appreciate in it unsuspected situations. As a matter of fact, this is a work that pertains to reason and senses, being carried away by the pleasure of the limitless relationship between art and technology and by the ecstasy before the presence of beauty.
A Harmonious and Necessary Relationship
Maybe the presence of a set of “glazes”, “meshes”, or “laces” installed in an exhibition space is enough to contemplate and assimilate their beauty. It is what happens at the exhibition Signs & Symbols, Mobile Tagging Art because, without a doubt, the pieces are beautiful. Displayed like tapestries, they stand out for their “drawing” as if they were a fabric of filaments, formed by small panels whose invariable forms repeat themselves following a determined geometry pattern. Some of these “meshes” vary according to the type of weave; they may change in color, or by contrast of blacks and whites. Each of them, seen together as a whole, present in turn a particular geometric composition. All is part of the formal values of each piece that we optically perceive. However, we know that these are not their only values. There is something more…
In fact, each piece was conceived as a compendium of signs that need an audience in order to be revealed. Given the nature of these signs, each panel is filled with a meaning or a hidden referent. They consist of codes used in digital technology to communicate all kinds of messages, in this case, selected by the artist using Internet links. Each of these codes graphically conceived in 2D (in two dimensions), are known, according to its type and use, as QR codes, Aztec codes, Ultracodes and the PDF417. All of them may be scanned and decoded through a smartphone using a special application for it. Each code has been printed, however, in 3D, using a printer assembled by the artist to produce these pieces according to the characteristics determined by him. The reunion of these printed panels makes up a mesh and together they form an installation, creating thus an atmosphere in the exhibition room.
To create this geometric and at the same time communicational compendium, the artist uses digital technology to put into practice the essential principles established in fractal geometry; which consists of the study of the constant and invariable geometric aspects of an object or image, even when there is a change in size or scale. In other words, fractal geometry analyses the regularity between an object and its parts, a regularity that repeats itself on different scales. Pedro Morales calls it auto-similarity because: …the more you penetrate into the work; you find more of the same. Then, the artist appeals to the geometric elements that are regular and constant in the codes he uses, elements that are repeated without changing, regardless of the scale, color, or space where they are used. His work is clearly, an analogy with fractal geometry. His main objective is unveiling the intrinsic beauty of the codes’ geometry. In summary, it is about the harmonious relationship, necessary and at the same time aesthetic between the artistic forms derived from the digital language in a recurrent reiteration and similitude according to the fractal structure principles.
The audience, through their smartphone, explores beyond the formal appearance of the work because this is how they discover the messages (or links) that these codes hold. The smartphone and the image decoder, instantly open a web page, which refers to a particular topic. In this way, Morales searches the participation of the audience, an interaction that begins as an individual act, yet evolves into a collective gesture. Curiosity, amazement, and expectation before the unknown, generate a sense of involvement within the audience which turns an abstract geometric composition, into multiple and limitless readings. The artist may change the links of these codes depending on the context and circumstances. In Dallas, for instance, they may be interested on a page dedicated to job search. But the audience may also scan other codes where they may find links about more global issues, such as controversial aspects of American or international politics; complex subjects like power and sex; sex in adolescents, or, the effects of social media on people’s behavior, among many other topics.
Despite the fact that the use of digital means is frequent in contemporary art, it must be said that Pedro Morales is the only artist in Venezuela that uses the geometry of the digital codes as the basis of his work; which is precisely the foundation of his series Mobile Tagging Art, in which our vision is extended through the telephone window. Another example is his Stereogram series. The predominant element is the vision by using anaglyph lenses (or 3D lenses), which have a different filter for each eye (red and blue). Morales’ works consist of two-dimensional images that may be seen as three-dimensional through these lenses. The artist has made stereograms in two different ways: by adding elements (plastic eyes, silk flowers, etc.) in the aim of creating, almost in a handcrafted manner, virtual volumes by using some applications (3Dmax, Maya and Truespace) or, as we can see now, by moving the images position. In this way they look as if they were displaced in two positions; the red or blue dyes and the use of the 3D lenses facilitate the illusion of volume through an optic overlap. For this occasion, he makes pieces much more hybrid since he conceives the anaglyph stereograms using Aztec or QR codes in pieces materialized through three-dimensional print. The result: a sort of fabric that allows, once more, a gaze beyond, towards topics apparently invisible but which appear through the optic illusion in consonance with technology.
The Extended Gaze
The essential axis of Pedro Morales’ work lies in the search of transcendence. Its geometry promotes the entrance to the virtual world, which cannot be seen; but that exists, and touches us in many ways in our daily life. From there comes, the codes, the reiterations in the fractal logic, and of course the extreme stimulation of our senses. It is an unusual way of perceiving beauty, which implies a greater opening and depth in our perceptual capacity. To achieve this means to enter in the deepest fiber of our vision and understanding, turning the communication into a work of art. Or, conversely, it might be seen from the opposite perspective: to create from the geometry of the codes, a communicational space that, because of its beauty, turns into a place for contemplation.
Caracas, February 2018
*Curator and art Researcher. Member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). Venezuela Editor of Art Nexus magazine