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Guillermo Kuitca

Retrato del artista by Guillermo       Kuitca

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Jun 15, 2001
Location: Argentina
Topic: Interview with Guillermo Kuitca in Buenos Aires
Interviewer: Bill Kelley Jr.

LatinArt:  I am very interested in how you use theater as a visual language. Can you talk a bit about this?

Guillermo Kuitca:  I think theater holds an influence in my work beyond the recognizable. In the 1980’s it was very important in that it let me use my paintings as a space for theatrical-not pictorial experimentation. I find it more interesting when the exchanges of influences are more than simply pictorial. It is still difficult for me to say who were the painters that have influenced me, but it is much more clear who were the theatrical directors, or the cinematic directors, who have influenced my work...I prefer that my work gets pollinated with other sources. Theater was a refuge for my work and a place where many elements were used for several years. In the last ten years, or so, I have moved more towards architecture. I would say that theater and architecture are two places that my work has been firmly planted in.

LatinArt:  I am interested in your use of diagrams and the sense of observation I find in your work.

Guillermo Kuitca:  Obviously, diagrams, maps, plans, all these pertain to an organization or re-organization of the world that has a lot to do with the writing of Foucault. But, I also think for me it is interesting to see architecture not only as an architectural design but also as a construction of relations. That’s why I think that when I create a genealogical tree I am also creating something more than something volumetric. The same happens with the maps. They are constructions of the imagination however much they represent real places.

LatinArt:  Can you speak about those maps where use materials like bones, syringes and thorns?

Guillermo Kuitca:  The city plans that are defined with these materials contain a more poetic’s simply that. This series comes directly after a series of mine where I placed different objects within an order to define space over plans of homes and apartments. I found it interesting to be able to construct an urban middle class home anywhere, in whatever city, where I could change the materials that would define the limits of that home. I then began with the city plans as constructions; the house as the private domain and the city as the public domain. What I didn’t change were the kind of objects I used.

LatinArt:  The theme of the stage and the actor/protagonist is another element that you refer to quite often. Could you speak about how the use of the stage has changed in your work?

Guillermo Kuitca:  This interest is a very baroque one – the idea of life as a theater space. It’s a very interesting space to explore. In my work there has been a sort of 180 degree turn. During the 80’s my point of view was as if I was the spectator. With time that evolved and in the 90’s you can see works with the actor’s point of view or the view from the stage. There is a definite turn or change from looking at the scene and looking from the scene. For a while I was very interested in this double perspective. This makes the idea of the theater not only a rhetorical idea but a physical one as well.

LatinArt:  Do these central elements in your work refer at all to any personal experiences in your own life?

Guillermo Kuitca:  In reality, the experiences between the public and the personal apply to all people. My interest in these public and private phenomenons has a lot more to do with my interest in the human condition than with personal experience. I have tried, in fact, to detach myself with the use of maps. I have tried not to install personal voyages I have taken. The cities that appear in these maps from the 80’s and 90’s are not places I know or will ever visit. They are real places but not related to personal experiences. In fact I was interested in them not having any personal connections.

LatinArt:  Even though you are considered a "young" artist you have been exhibiting for a long time, have achieved a great deal of critical attention, having your first exhibit at thirteen years old. You have had a great deal of market success as well, particularly overseas. I was curious how this kind of success, critical as well commercial, at a young age has influenced you and your work?

Guillermo Kuitca:  It’s true that I began very young and that the circumstances "took" me from one situation to another rather than acting on impulse. On the other hand, there is a sense that the Argentine artist or the Latin American artist- I’m not sure that here there is a difference - has a need to leave his home and see the world in a more global sense. I think that this is the Latin American tradition- the idea of leaving and moving from where you are. I try to articulate this in a particular way by staying and leaving at the same time. Maybe my success at a young age affected my work but, honestly, I can’t imagine any other way to have done things. It was a way, as all artists do, of opening my own frontiers.

LatinArt:  Any pressures?

Guillermo Kuitca:  The pressure can be real or can be invented. One can use these pressures to produce change in one’s work or to let oneself be pressured. I think that I am an artist who is a bit more closed off to these things. I don’t perceive anxiety or differences in working in different places; rather I am more affected by personal changes and pressures than external ones. I would say that I am more interested that my work remain and function externally while I remain in the same place.

LatinArt:  I have read of your interest in continuing to paint. Do you have any plans to work with other mediums?

Guillermo Kuitca:  The medium I choose are more a necessity of the moment. Painting is a medium that cannot exist without continuous questioning and crisis. I am not very anxious to abandon painting nor am I very anxious to defend it. That is to say, if I find a medium that offers me avenues for my work I would not have a problem leaving painting. Sometimes I use digital images but they are nothing more than a tool, kind of like a sketch. I don’t think my work has changed as a result of using digital images. For me, the basic mediums I use are always the same, basically painting. Obviously drawing has a central role in my work; architectural forms, the use of architectural drawings and plans, even though they have been "transferred" to canvas they maintain a strong connection with drawing. I am interested in painting because it seems to me to be a medium with enormous elasticity and resists the test of time, while simultaneously coming into crisis with it.

LatinArt:  Are there any new concepts you are currently working on?

Guillermo Kuitca:  There are some concepts and works that I will show in Zurich this September. It has to do with works that have as their protagonist a luggage conveyor belt. I find this series really interesting. Perhaps with this work there is something to do with travel, coming and going. Part of the series called "Unclaimed Luggage" represents luggage that has not been claimed. Others represent an enormous conveyor belt but there is no luggage in sight, only an empty conveyor painted in a hyper-realistic manner. It’s an element that I have been using for about a year now. It somehow metaphorically reunites much of the language in my previous work: exodus, voyages. Many have architectural elements because I’m working as if these are diagrams and blueprints of the conveyor belt while others are treated as photographs. It’s a very particular experience in that you’re waiting for your luggage at the airport as if it were everything you own, even if the suitcase is empty. I think it’s an interesting moment to try to rescue. It seems that it parallels many contemporary fears- that moment when the luggage is supposed to arrive. In some of the works, what I did was replace the black rubber curtain that you see in airports with a theatrical curtain...this object then is transformed into a kind of stage. These concepts are rather new and interesting to me now.

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