“Geographica” by Beatriz Diaz
Conversation with Beatriz Diaz
by Paola Núñez Solorio
Can you describe what is Geographica about?
Geographica is a series of imaginary landscapes of places that are located far away from the present. It is the memory that we have build of the landscape, rather than a documentation of a place. I was challenged by the idea of photographing a fictional place that only exists in a constructed memory that was once rooted on the real. This project is an exploration of the landscape through images where the demarcation between truth and fantasy has become blurred.
Why did you decided to make this work with past images instead of photographing present landscapes? And what are looking for in a reality that no longer exists?
This project resumes some of my main interests in photography: the power of abstract images, the idea of photographing the impossible, and the representation of nature. When I started the project I wanted to photograph an invisible landscape, my intention was to photograph the landscape that preceded me. The idea of photographing an impossible landscape was the main subject of the work.I used appropriated images because these have already a meaning and also because they have shaped our understanding of landscape. It is a political gesture that becomes significant in terms of ecology and civilization. By using this pictures I wanted to state how they have become part of what we believe the world is and how photography has shaped our understanding of landscape.
The original photographs are from my parents’ collection of National Geographic magazines. I grew up looking at these magazines like story books, so it was almost obvious for me that these were the landscapes in my memory and that I had constructed a memory of this places as if I had a true experience of them in the past. I am assuming that the places where the original pictures were taken have changed and, in that sense, it would be impossible to photograph today them as they were before. By appropriating National Geographic images of landscapes, I also want to address its role as a marketer of exotic locales; where photography plays a significant part in shaping fantasies out of what appears to be pure documentation. National Geographic has contributed to a definition of a way of seeing the landscape and remains successful to this day by delivering a mixture of fact and fiction.
Why did you wanted to remove a layer of reality in reality?
The way we imagine a place, the idea of a place, is pure image with no substance of physical presence. In the process of creating this series I started to remove layers of information, so the images became ethereal, abstract and minimal. I wanted to separate the document from its ground and to reduce the landscapes to a vague memory. By using a subtractive process I want them to appear as imaginary locales coming from the viewer’s mind, I make them appear invisible, timeless and immaterial. The process helped me break with the literal aspect of the photographic document by introducing the imaginary as an experience.
What do you try to evoke with these images?
I want the viewer to reach his or her own memory. Through this body of work I am proposing that the viewer thinks about the landscape photography, and about how photography has depicted that landscape by asking the questions upon the images: How do we imagine a place that has been shaped by a visual culture? Do we remember an image of a place that comes from a photograph as a real experience? How do we construct our notion of the landscape that surrounds us?
Nature is a recurrent subject along your photographic work, what does nature mean to you?
I am interested in the alienated relation that we have established with nature in the present. I believe this is more a dissociation, or a battle, between culture and nature. C.G. Jung wrote “I am certain there would be no spirit if it were not part of nature”, on the understanding that there are not two things, spirit and matter, but two aspects of one thing. This is the relation to nature that I wish I had. It is true that one of my main interests is the representation of nature, and I’ve been working with it for about six or seven years now. But when working on Geographica I also discovered many things about memory, perception and fantasy that I still want to investigate.
About the artist
Beatriz Diaz is a Graduate of Photography Video and Related Media at School of Visual Arts. She received her B.A. in Art History from Universidad Iberoamericana. Her solo shows include Nothing to Take, at One9Zero6 gallery in San Antonio, Texas and Mexican Photographs at Los Mexicanos gallery in Hamburg, Germany. She teaches at the Academy of Visual Arts (AAVI) in Mexico and writes for Fahrenheitº Magazine. She has been awarded with the Fulbright Scholarship, sponsored by the JUMEX Fundation/Collection and the Program of Scholarship for Studies Abroad of the National Fund for the Arts and Culture (FONCA). Lives and works in Mexico City and New York.
For further information about Beatriz, please visit: http://www.beatrizdiaz.com/