In partnership with 18th Street Arts Center: 18th Street Arts Center is an artists' residency program that provokes public dialogue through contemporary art-making.
Los Angeles-based, Barcelona-born artist Adrià Julià is known for his multi-media installations and performances that investigate the interdependence of individuals vis-a-vis their physical and social surroundings as they negotiate concepts of memory, resistance, displacement, survival and erosion. Central to Julià's mapping of these historical and psychological relationships is the medium of film, as in "Notes on the Missing Oh" (2011) in which Julià explored "Inchon" (1981), the lost and forgotten failed South Korean/Hollywood blockbuster starring Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara from various angles creating objects and projections that looked at issues ranging from the film's political roots in the Korean War to its reemergence on YouTube. Over the past three months Julià has been working as an artist-in-resident at 18th Street Art Center in Santa Monica where he has created a new body of work that extends such interests. On the occasion of "Cat on the Shoulder," Julià's upcoming exhibition at 18th Street Art Center, Yael Lipschutz sat down with him.
Yael Lipschutz: I see a meditation between the human body and the camera as a conceptual anchor driving this work, from your reference to Aaton's 1970s so-called "Like a Cat on the Shoulder" 16mm camera advertisement, which was meant to ergonomically sit comfortably on the cameraman's shoulder, to your quasi-anatomical camera drawings. What concerns would you say are fueling you in this new body of work "Cat on the Shoulder?"
Adrià Julià: I began with a close consideration of the production of moving images from the point of view of the camera itself - its weight, mechanisms, ergonomics - and how it affects the body charged with its operation. We speak often of the images themselves - as two- or three-dimensional - but in this case, I was concerned primarily with the acts responsible for their being made. This is not only the decision to press the 'record' button, but also how the very gestures of holding, rotating, moving and so on participates in and dictates that production. Also, I was curious to explore types of images that are generated to understand that close relationship between camera and body. To take one example: magnetic-resonance imaging or x-rays produced by doctors in order to decipher damage caused by the repetitive use of a camera.
YL: And your anatomical camera drawings exude a sort of x-ray vision, as if we were looking through the apparatus to see what you imagine to be the camera's flesh, tendons, muscles. The drawings appear as etchings, a tradition that predates photography, which is nice in that you create an interesting temporal distance as you deconstruct or probe at the history of man and mechanical reproduction. Can you describe the process that went into creating this new work? I know you decided to work with a medical illustrator for these anatomical camera drawings?
AJ: This work at 18th Street Art Center progressed with very open-ended intentions, starting about two-and-a-half months ago. This presentation is less a conclusion or end point than a step along the way, and a recollection of exercises and experiments conducted during this research period. My aspiration was to work not only with aspects of the film industry, but also gather stories from different fields that deal in their own ways with the nature of the camera and image-making - medicine, industrial design, physics, and optics in particular. Early into the project, I contacted Justin A. Klein, a certified medical illustrator living in Los Angeles. I was interested in understanding his working methodologies in order to generate a dialogue that could lead to - something. We are still working on it. I also talked to camera operators, designers, and service and rental providers. Particularly Dave Kenig at Panavision, with his invaluable experience, has been extremely helpful in navigating the history of film and video cameras. But throughout the interviews and collaborations, I didn't necessarily expect any direct outcomes - for me, they are more like pieces of an imaginary puzzle.
YL: Your structural approach to film and perception; breaking down and investigating the various iterations and histories that arise from these technologies . . . how did this strategy plays out in past projects, such as your project "Notes on the Missing Oh" in which you investigated the lost and forgotten blockbuster "Inchon," and how does it play out here in "Cat on the Shoulder?"
AJ: I am interested in examining a process of production, and posing questions regarding that process. When I worked on "Notes on the Missing Oh," what most propelled the work was not just to re-view a failed, forgotten film. Rather, I wanted to better understand how it happened, why it happened, and study the traces and effects that the film left behind and indeed continue to re-emerge. What is exhibited here in "Cat on the Shoulder" came together from different moments during the research period, and reflect multiple temporalities. For instance, one of the works I present is the outcome of melting completely a particular film camera. I was interested in seeing all the components and parts of it collide into a single, solid volume, where the different melting temperatures from each alloy, as well as their exposure to heat, would determine the material's outcome and coloration.
YL: This melted down camera is fantastic, it looks like an igneous artifact from Vesuvius. And I like the way there are these subtle reverberations between all the new works in the show. The camera you melted down -- the Eyemo camera --reappears in one of your anatomical camera drawings as a silhouette of Robert Cappa holding an Eyemo, which he famously used in his reportage of the Spanish Civil War. Your dreamy film of Oscar, the albino goldfish in the tank staring at the (unseen) black cat is funny counter to the idea of the cat on the shoulder. This poetic subliminal to-and-froing between the pieces creates an interesting dialogue. How does the new work relate to your overall practice, and how do you envision developing the issues it confronts into the future?
AJ: Yeah and the fish could reference everything from national geographic style documentaries to our contemporary banal interface with the fish/aquarium screensavers that so many people had floating on their laptops. I think I am continuing in many ways the investigations embarked upon in earlier projects, which is, a long-standing concern with the production of images and a relationship to how history is performed. As for the future, I am not really interested in prediction - instead I draw inspiration from continuing to work through unexpected calculations.