enrique marty


· Conversation with Isabel Tejeda
























After mounting with him his project in Sala Veronicas in Murcia, I meet Enrique Marty in Salamanca. Over the next 48 hours he tirelessly takes me from one corner to the other of a city both old and young at the same time. With tape recorder and laptop as bodily appendices, I carry out one of the most productive, flexible, extensive and enigmatic interviews I have ever done. I visit his studio located in a dilapidated house with countless rooms crammed with works: mutants hanging from hooks, jagged extremities without an owner and press clippings pinned to the walls. They are separate words, devices with which to build an image. I recognize the filthy toilet because it has been used in one of his most intense images —“it’s just paint”, Enrique remarks, always attentive. He is right: sometimes things are already there, they only need to be activated. On the first day we had a long working session in front of the computer where we viewed some of the works of the last three years this publication will gather together. There are a lot. Enrique Marty’s production is both qualitatively and quantitatively extraordinary.

The following day, a splendid morning in early July, he shows me places of his personal mythology around the town, and we do the interview as a litany of questions and answers exchanged and repeated till the night falls. We begin in the Plaza Mayor, where at the sight of the University musicians of the tuna he — usually impassive — grimaces with disgust. We carry on our work seated on the roofs of the old cathedral and, while he remembers his childhood and we talk about his work, we try to ignore the groups of tourists as well as the insistent sporadic strokes of the tower clock. We lunch in the coffee shop of the Da2 where a quail’s slit throat torments my digestion and brings up the subject of guilt feelings. We spend the evening in the amazing Convent of San Esteban, of the Dominican Order, the church Enrique used to attend with his parents when he was a child. It is the church where the mystic Teresa of Avila went to confession, in a narrow niche of the cloister, and the church that helped Ignatius of Loyola; it is also a place of pilgrimage where believers, and those less so, place their petitions before a miraculous saint using a very peculiar system: a filing cabinet with small drawers situated in a massive sacristy. Always ready to ask for more, I could not resist submitting my request and Enrique Marty warns me: “Be careful what you wish for because it comes true”. We chat, sitting on the steps of the Escalera de Soto, surrounded by Gregorian music and a dramatic lighting that underlines what should be admired: a polychrome relief of Mary Magdalene. We go on talking in the upper choir, under the first painting by Rubens Enrique remembers having seen; there we speak in whispers until the mass starts and we have to leave. We visit the reconstruction of a Masonic lodge in the Archive of the Civil War and the Garden of Calisto and Melibea. Unfortunately, this interview does not capture the voices and murmurs of a town in which religious and secular spaces communicate fluidly and naturally. *1

In Veronicas, a space which is hard, but one which, if properly intervened, can become a godsend, Enrique Marty has created a different work: he has not transformed the space, neutralizing or denying it by an overlap with objects and architectural elements, instead he has emphasized its architectural and cultural connotations — in a way he has awaken its memory from its lethargy, as well as the memory of the viewer’s imaginary. Under the crossing there is a crypt whose situation is marked by a veined marble stone and by some large rings. The intervention is minute: the opening of the crypt, a couple of theatrical tricks of some technical complexity, sound, incense and a sculpture hanging from the cupola. During the mounting I told him that I had the impression that he had encountered a monster and had simply caressed it. His intervention is minimal considering his viewers are accustomed to see him not only hang paintings or place sculptures, but also create a colourful scenography in which the viewer may enter.

He has taken the space back in time and held it suspended there. It is a work with a strong Baroque component, in the historical sense. Holding time suspended, he recreates a landscape in which the space is an “other” space, or a space that refers metaphorically to another space — similarly to the religious mystery plays that, as the one in Elche, were performed in the church apse —, it is spectacular in the sense of shows typical of the 17th century. By this I mean that the concept of show he uses is not the one generated by post-industrial societies that transform the viewer into an indulgent voyeur, but the concept implemented by the Jesuits from their pulpits and that was so well described by James Joyce in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; the one generated by the Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation, rhetorical, moving, which drew the spectator into the scene, as a user of the event. I can think of thousands of examples, from Caravaggio to Bernini.

ISABEL TEJEDA: I have told you many times that I think in Veronicas you have created the least “marty” of all of your works (of those I know); after seeing your latest works in yesterday’s working session I even find a greater quantitative distance in this intervention...

ENRIQUE MARTY: To tell you the truth I just don’t take style into consideration in my work. I don’t know if this project is more or less “marty” than others because I have never ever considered adopting a style or aesthetics. It comes from somewhere else, something that I guess is an emotionally charged influence made up of thousands of things; from my life experience, my aesthetic and artistic experience to the absolute present time. Actually, I create each piece in the spur of the moment, without looking back to other works (at least not consciously). I look just a little ahead, because in fact I always think of the present. Maybe that’s why I don’t really contemplate having this or that style.

I think the question of style must be considered consciously. It is an issue which was more often discussed in other periods, such as the eighties, when everybody went on and on about it...

TEJEDA: However, I believe you do have a style, and a fairly distinct one. If you don’t want to call it style, then I am talking of a way of doing things which is your own. That’s why I said “marty”, instead of style.

MARTY: Yes. But it isn’t something I am deliberately looking for. I mean, to begin with, the Sala Veronicas space is a church and, going back to your previous comment, I don’t see the exhibition as devoid of elements. I see it packed. I feel as if I had built the church myself. I cannot separate the area where we have introduced the new elements from the rest of the building at all. At all. It’s as if we had built a church in plaster inside a huge white cube, on top of it, to make the installation. Only that the church was already there.

TEJEDA: I found fascinating that you incorporated the crypt in your work. I had been using it conceptually for years. I have talked to many artists about it and some reacted by taking it into account when intervening with the space, such as Antoni Abad or Marina Nuñez. I even used it in the show The Dead Class by Kantor. Although nobody knew, Kantor’s installation about this theatre play for the exhibition Présence Polonaise in Pompidou — a work he had created almost as a literal construction of the moment in which he discovered the relations between memory and death — was located just above the crypt. It is funny, but, in spite of the work of these artists and my own contribution (which I have just explained), when you decided to work mainly with the crypt, I realized there were lots of people who visited this space without knowing that there was a crypt down there. Visitors didn’t know how you had done it, they thought there was only a light projector, but no hole. Do you remember? Some people were so scared they didn’t want to come closer, and that happened because they didn’t know if they were coming closer to an abyss or to an accomplished trick. It is still more surprising if you think that churches are built on crypts. They walk on them everyday, especially those who visit them frequently, but they are not aware of their existence. It is not only that the memory of Veronicas is lost, a location that lost its previous religious use. Did you expect such a revelation?

MARTY: My aim was to activate the space of the church as exhibition space. That’s why I don’t think it’s empty. Perhaps it is one of the fullest exhibitions I have ever made. The church is quite empty, but if it had the paintings, the candles, the saints, and the rest... Just think about it! Remember that one of the first things I thought of was to transform it in church again — to put benches, confessionals, an altarpiece and open it again as a place of worship. Even have a mass there. It is as if we now go to the University of Salamanca and, although it has a wonderful facade, everybody is looking for the frog and nobody looks at the rest of the facade. “If it’s not the frog, it’s no use to me.” It has a metaphysical meaning which is that if you locate it I think you pass all your exams... you still have to study, but you pass. It’s like illuminating something which is not there and suddenly be aware that it is there. I am very interested in focusing attention. It’s a device I find very productive.

TEJEDA: You have illuminated exactly the element that no one was looking at. You’ve rendered it visible.

MARTY: That’s the secret. If there is a camouflaged element and you suddenly focus the attention there, everything comes out. For that reason I am more and more convinced that hanging the girl very high has been a great idea. It should be even higher! What’s happening here is an experience which is going to open up interesting new fields for me, although I have done similar things for the theatre. But it’s not the same to do it in a place where the viewer enters the stage itself. In the theatre I often work with an empty stage, with only video-projections. But I don’t do it indiscriminately. As a set designer, there are two ways of approaching a theatre play: the first one — the one I don’t use — ignores the work completely, while the second one consists in doing a deep analysis of the work and the author, examining how it was performed at the time and trying to be faithful to that without forgetting that I am creating it now. If you are designing the set for The Marriage of Figaro you cannot build a Sevillian palace, dress the characters in Sevillian costume... because when Mozart wrote the opera it was taking place then, while when you are performing it now, it’s taking place in the present time.

TEJEDA: In this case, that invisible place is, precisely, the field of death.

MARTY: Death is a constant feature in universal thought. It is always present, no matter how optimistic one is. All art has a necrophiliac aspect. In any case, I see my work in a Dionysian way, as a celebration of life. There are lots of people who think that I am talking of death.

TEJEDA: Not, that’s for sure, in the Veronicas project, which is a resurrection. From the very beginning it reminded me of the end of Breaking the Waves with the bells tolling and that mystic light created by Lars von Trier. You leave the cinema with a nice feeling because you think the protagonist rises from the dead. You have other projects that don’t seem to offer that positive alternative. I think specifically of your show Nephew this year in Witzenhausen Gallery in Amsterdam: those dead children leave no room for a “happy end”.

MARTY: I don’t think so. I think it is like that for the viewer who sees only that exhibition, but I cannot help considering all my works as a whole and wonder how it will be analyzed in the future. But, all right, let’s take Nephew as an isolated entity. If you crossed the first corridor of that kind of morgue, you arrived to another room — a kind of office without furniture —, where there was a video and a woman with that child... The video has three classes of sounds. It has a sound of a crowd. And the moment of the fight is seasoned with distorted circus music... I don’t know if you have noticed that the music goes slower and slower. In the third part you hear the sound of bombardment — you don’t know very well if what you hear are shots or helicopters, bombs... — and, at the same time, there is a storm. In the end, the boys go away. I think that, once you’ve seen the video, you leave the room with a message 100% optimistic. In reality it is hard, but it seems as if nothing had happened. Very nihilist. Then, you go the same way, but in the opposite direction, and go out to the street, where everything repeats itself: war is a group of idiots playing at being heroes or gods, or who make a profit... but it’s the same feeling that moves two fighting kids. I have used Viktor Kemplerer’s book on the Third Reich because its language is the model of war and of the attempt to dominate the world (I employ very often the Reich as a symbol). The most important is that it’s just around the corner. All that didn’t happen three thousand years ago. I am talking of the Third Reich. Only sixty years ago. Something that seems to be sci-fi terror.

The first word is Mannen (which means how teenagers grow and become men), the second one is Schau, which they used for their mega-colossal military parades, for the banners, for the music. That’s why in that moment instead of a military march, I put circus music. And then Sonnig, which means the radiant sun, to become the Übermensch. I am actually laughing at all that and turning it upside down. I put it into schoolyard context. In general I see my work as very optimistic because I confront something that apparently is not pleasant, not optimistic, but the key is not what I show, is the impression each person leaves here with. And they leave with a cathartic feeling which is very positive. In truth, the function of the monsters, the gargoyles, is to frighten fear, to frighten evil. The purpose of those evil sardonic faces you see on the door of a Renaissance or Baroque house was to exhibit something grotesque, fearsome.

TEJEDA: This reminds me of the ninots (dolls) of the Valencian Fallas. The idea of burning a grotesque doll after laughing at it. Something common to many cultures.

Lebensborn at Llucia Homs Gallery in Barcelona (2005) also referred to the Third Reich.

MARTY: The name of the show comes from a women’s battalion called Lebensborn created by the Nazis with the best Arian women to generate a “master race”, genetically perfect and superior to any other race. I saw the connection between Lebensborn and La calle del espejo, a very weird connection. That doorway has an absolute immobility and chequered floor that, according to the Masons, means earth, good and evil, and duality. And Goya used to live next door. I suspect that this street changes position, it goes away and then comes back. I relocated the doorway and waited to see what happened. We built a reproduction virtually identical to the original doorway, but from which a kind of mutant — that you thought looked like a penis — escaped.

TEJEDA: It is not that I think it looks like one: it actually is a combination of a skinned dead creature and a penis.

MARTY: And it has escaped from the inside, as proves the trail it has left, and inside there is a blue-eyed blonde madwoman with very short hair. It seems she had had the hair cut shorter on one side than on the other. She has a somehow military cut. We filmed this video I told you about.

In general I feel criticism barely scratches the surface of my work. Perhaps my work is sometimes cryptic and I am the only one able to see all the layers. Still, many many times they just scratch its surface.

TEJEDA: What do you mean by surface?

MARTY: Its shell. She insisted again on provocation, on gore. And there isn’t as much as a drop of blood shown and the spaces are mega-aseptic. But she did say it had touched her, it had left her concerned. That is good.

TEJEDA: You told me that the character in the video who became a man was a transgenic character.

MARTY: The video in the show is out of focus, it is projected as if it came out of her mind. I see it as a very very intense thought, so obsessive that it has been trapped by the wall from

which it cannot escape, so everybody can see it. In this case it is an insemination/rape of a clerk. With a description of what happens in the video you cannot really get an idea of how it is. I prefer to do it like that, more abstract. I have left it open to interpretation.

TEJEDA: Let’s go back to Veronicas. This project is very hard to label. I recall calling it “environment” at the press conference, a much used term in the seventies to refer to works that during the avant-garde had worked as places of habitation such as Salon de Madame B. a Dresde by Mondrian, or Cathedral of Erotic Misery by Schwitters, and that was replaced by the term “installation”. However, I don’t think they mean the same thing. For instance, Isidoro Valcarcel Medina, used to call this kind of work “places” (lugares), which is a more suitable word in his case, really, since environment implies staging and place doesn’t. I have been reflecting on why I found it so difficult to find a suitable word for your work and I think it has to do with the drift that the concept of installation, the concept of intervention, has experienced. When placed in a clearly institutionalized and normalized space they have become less fresh and more spectacular (and I mean spectacular in the sense of something that simply surprises you, that you cannot touch, that you cannot enter, but instead makes you go round it, in the same way you have to go round a statue). I have been meditating a lot about it and I think it has to do with the fact that you have created a place to be in and we have grown accustomed to museum installations, that are looked at, but not lived.

MARTY: It doesn’t matter which word you use. I can reproduce a misty and ethereal thing in a church or it may be something more concrete in a corridor that takes you deeper, deeper, deeper. For example, with Calle Apocalipstick at Espacio Mínimo Gallery, I wanted to do a show hard to live and to understand. In general 90% of people have reacted fine. But there has been a 10% who has felt... I don’t know how to put it... insulted or upset.

TEJEDA: There was a very strong visual aggression in the videos. Yesterday as I was revising some fragments with you I realized it was produced by its narrative structure, by the editing. I find the bombardment of images in these videos is provocative. It is a string of firecrackers whose rhythm you change in an apparently unpredictable way. You play with creating a continuous discontinuity that constantly alters the spectator’s reception. The camera moves. You give no respite. This adds to the mutation, ambiguity, and violence of the disturbing characters. I felt ill. I was thankful to arrive at the room of the philosophers. Maybe because it was something more recognizable and because I could avert my gaze or look away. In the videos that was impossible: you virtually locked the spectator in a niche. It is also true that the opening was packed.

MARTY: That’s the point. I remember something that appeared in one newspaper. The author said that it was a sunny morning, he came into the gallery and he found himself in a disturbing world. Maybe he should have gone to have an ice cream or somewhere else. The project is conceived so that you have to cross that space... For that reason it was called Apocalipstick. It is a combination between Apocalypse and Lipstick. Between glamour and Apocalypse. You cross an area where you are attacked, you go down to a basement where you are also in danger and, then, you re-enter the concept of gallery. You go through an inhospitable space and, suddenly, you enter again a reproduction of that same gallery shrunk to a 60% of its real size, where they are showing a painting exhibition. The visitors seem to be giants. Even the gallerists have been shrunk to a 60% of their real size.

TEJEDA: After that experience, the room representing the gallery has an incredible serenity.

MARTY: Of course. But then you know you have to cross the dark side again afterwards.

TEJEDA: And you hope the doors that lead to the videos are closed...

MARTY: The key is that the reproduction of the gallery was smaller than life: you are a giant within that space. You cross a door and you are huge, the room gets too small for you. I also wanted to play with darkness and light. With the concept of an art container inside the art container. In fact, the first idea I had was that, once he had passed through the door, the visitor found the door again, that he or she had to enter a second time.

TEJEDA: Why did you change your mind?

MARTY: It didn’t quite fit. So I told myself: “What I am going to do is to build the previous space: the street”. Instead of coming from a sunny street, you come from a space which is a mixture between a street and a pickup joint (and Peep-Show). They have these tiny booths where they project porn films at a very short distance; those are places where it is difficult to feel at ease and yet there are many people that actually feel at ease there, or at least, people who are attracted by danger. These three films tell three real stories about some people. If you project them in a huge screen they have a different nature, a different level. And in Calle Apocalipstick they are really working differently. I have seen some of these films in the cinema and it’s entirely another thing.

TEJEDA: Could you talk about the tempo? In the Odessa stairs scene in Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein, the editing repeats the same frames at an increasing pace taking you to the limit, using this pattern to make an action sequence. We can see something similar in your videos, although the images aren’t the least bit rounded, they are torn, wounded.

MARTY: You know what’s the matter? The first film has a much more relaxed tempo, the shots are longer, the music is softer. It’s much much slower... The second one accelerates, and the third one accelerates even further. I see them as three layers of existence. A separate book could be written on these three films, talking only about them. When I show them like this, in this way, I am working against myself, because if I exhibited them in a huge screen they would look fantastic, they wouldn’t be so aggressive and the careful image processing would be more appreciated. I have built sets and selected locations with pinpoint accuracy.

TEJEDA: How did they come about?

MARTY: I filmed the first one for a project initiated by Fernando Castro when he met a porn film producer. Although the project eventually took a different path, I clung to the idea. I made the first film and I realized that, even if at the beginning it could work as a closed story — beginning, middle, and end —, the story went on, I mean the underlying story (those characters were playing themselves). And all of a sudden I saw it as a trilogy. I had the feeling that the first story told only the beginning. The second one is like a deep sleep and the attempt to wake up. It is not a conventional story told in a neorealist manner. Here we are dealing with the concept of narrative, about which there circulate many fallacies. We think that the “right”, conventional way of telling a story is the one used by John Ford. But if you present that narrative system to someone who has never seen a film, he won’t understand a thing. It is a learned language.

TEJEDA: It is a language and we accept it as something assumed. As something natural. My grandmother didn’t understand the narrative language of television. She even got the characters of the different soap operas mixed up.

MARTY: My aunt, once, when she was looking at a representational painting, couldn’t make out what it portrayed, couldn’t link the brushstrokes. She didn’t know how to read it. I don’t agree when people talk about the existence of only one film or literary language. Ok, there is one. But you can invent a new one! It is not only an experimental thing. You see it in galleries, museums, cinemas. It seems that everybody thinks that there is only one way of telling, period. That’s the one people understand and that’s that. But that’s not true at all. It is the same with music. There have been some experiments done taking pop, rock, classical music, etcetera to certain tribes where this kind of music had never been heard before and they didn’t understand anything. They didn’t recognize it as music. It happens also between East and West. For example, a Western person who listens to primitive Japanese music says to himself: “What is this?” Or this Chinese dance in which there is a man dressed as woman with a fan and a terribly heavy bell comes down on top of him. Which is very risky because it weights 300 kilos and if it doesn’t fall properly it might kill him... (Laughter). It’s unbelievable!

TEJEDA: I was thinking of another of your works, which you created for The Real Royal Trip (2003) in a space which is also full of connotations: the PS1 in New York (the Boiler Room). This is an intervention that, because of the way it uses the context, has some points in common with the project in Veronicas. You put just one character and dramatized a space already dramatic.

MARTY: Besides, to get there you have to walk a long way, something that I find very interesting. You don’t go through a door and suddenly find yourself in the boiler room: you go through a door and you walk along a dark corridor and a dark room full of pipes and cobwebs and then another corridor... to arrive at this cell you have to walk approximately 20 meters. On top of that, first you have had to go through spotlight-lit corridors where there are other artist’s photographs hanging... The idea of leaving the exhibition space and find works where in theory there should be none is something I am working with 100% at the moment. It also has a connection with the execution of a specific kind of interventions that I have been making in recent years: the ghosts. The starting point is actually an absolutely traditional method, because they are watercolour drawings, usually black and white, drawn with a brush on the wall. The way they are conceived, the ghosts are removed afterwards. In fact they don’t disappear, but are hidden under a coat of pain and they sometimes come out.

TEJEDA: Which underlines their ghostly component...

MARTY: Exactly. First, the ghost appears, then he pretends to

disappear and, some time afterwards, he shows up again. At times I get a phone call: “Hey! It’s appearing!” You suddenly realize there is actually a shadow on the wall and you begin to make something out. It is gradually coming out of the wall again.

TEJEDA: They are long-term interventions, really. They stay there till the building is demolished.

MARTY: In some places I have left signs for people I don’t know. In places where I know they are going to hang the poster for the following six-month-long exhibition or something which is going to be covered by a false wall, I make a drawing and, then, when they remove that poster or wall, they find a drawing underneath. It is a wink to the person removing it. To a worker who might be the only one to see it.

TEJEDA: Lobos en la puerta (Wolves at the door), the project you created for Luis Adelantado Gallery in Valencia in 2004, developed this subject of the ghosts. Those chubby children painted on the corners, were they ghosts? I mean you painted other, more ethereal characters. And the children aren’t ethereal at all.

MARTY: But they are floating and seeping through the walls. There are more ethereal ghosts and other less so. It doesn’t matter what I paint, anyway. If I paint an elephant, then it is a ghost. Because I am going to cover it with a coat of paint. I mean it is going to stay there. Think of something: these images come from a collection of old photographs.

TEJEDA: Rafael Doctor’s collection, isn’t it?

MARTY: Yes, he was the first one to suggest that I drew them. There are pieces that come about like that, in coordination and combination, and they work.

TEJEDA: Why do they appear in the corners? Is it because the corner is not a common place of representation?

MARTY: Because I am painting watercolours on the wall, therefore I use the corners, the parts underneath, etcetera, also because I know it is hidden there and at a certain point they are going to remove it, I don’t know. I am thinking that when I created a version of the PS1 project for Patio Herreriano... I took the madman, the madman that was in the Boiler Room at PS1, with that hospital air about him, I sat him on one of the benches in the cloister and it worked very well. During the mounting, I sat him on the arms of the statue of the Queen.

I took the exhibition everywhere, to the stairs... We were painting hidden children everywhere and I started splashing paint all over the place, as if there was something contained in the museum and it was about to burst from all electrical things, doors, lifts, etcetera. Some people asked me: “But, are you allowed to do this?” “Of course, it is an intervention in a museum.” One of the things I did was to paint the four pendentives of the dome at a considerable height. One afternoon Christian Dominguez, the coordinator, Harald Szeemann, his son Gerome and me went to eat together and I took pictures of all of us... drunk, making a spectacle of ourselves, and I painted the four heads, huge, on the four pendentives. And on the floor I painted Christian shouting. Suddenly, I left the subtle story of the ghosts and created a Baroque scenery. But they are still ghosts, because they were covered with paint afterwards. And they are still there. I don’t have good photographs of that, because I finished just when the official inauguration cortege was coming in. I have bought myself a camera afterwards, because I have realized that — although it is not my obligation — in many cases my installations are not otherwise documented.

TEJEDA: Did you do something with the madman in the end? Did you put him somewhere in particular?

MARTY: On a bench. It seemed as if he had been allowed to go out to sunbathe.

TEJEDA: In truth, as you were saying, the representational system or the technique is very traditional, but the context, the way in which things are shown but not shown, the way they are hidden and the fact that you are sometimes the only spectator of that image is unconventional — you told me yesterday that, at times, you even had to pull something up in order to see the image, a hiding place that only you knew. You use an anti-exhibition strategy...

MARTY: That’s the point I was trying to make. I use completely conventional materials and techniques in another way. I paint series of representational images on board (which is even older than canvas), but in reality the concept of painting, of a “painting” as a work of art that is hung and must work on its own, it’s something I always try to overlook. I work in series of paintings and in sequences: some support the others, while some invalidate the others. In this way everything belongs to the same piece. A painting might be not one painting, but one hundred modules. Actually, I often work with paintings as if they were — I posit an absolutely extreme example — ... as if they were Carl Andre’s cubes. I mean... imagine that Carl Andre makes twenty-five cubes and places them in one way or the other... I can paint twenty-five paintings and mix them with other twenty-five from another series and see how the images work together. When the paintings are interacting in a certain way in that show, it is happening in that show; it won’t happen like that in another show.

TEJEDA: Can exhibitions not be repeated?

MARTY: Yes, yes they can be repeated, but, on the whole, I don’t do two identical shows. I think a project happens in that very moment, here and now. And even if I take some pieces from one project to the other, they are never the same. It’s the same that happened to your grandmother: if you don’t know the code you might not realize that that guy is an actor who may appear in several films in several roles. What happens when Harrison Ford is interpreting the character in Working Girl? Who is Indiana Jones in that universe? Imagine that the characters in the film go to the cinema to see Indiana Jones, who do they see? The business executive or the heroe? It is a meta-language. When you are watching Star Wars, what face does Harrison Ford have? His own face, the face of that guy who is actually a business man. Does he see himself? Is there a confrontation? Is the world destroyed? If you go to see Alien, the lieutenant is Sigourney Weaver who is another character in Working Girl.

TEJEDA: That’s what The Purple Rose of Cairo is about.

MARTY. Yes. About the character coming out of the screen. I can now take the child in Veronicas and place her in a different context, in another project or have her stored for months, or I put her in a different place, where it can be seen from a really short distance. Because trying to repeat the show in Veronicas isn’t too interesting.

TEJEDA: The project in Veronicas cannot be repeated. It is impossible in that architecture, although perhaps in this specific case the impossibility of re-exhibiting is not something deliberate; it is given by the context, which will change anyway. But there is also a rejection of the idea of re-exhibiting, as you have commented yourself, when making other works which, in reality, don’t have a sequence created by you. Yesterday you showed me a wad of your latest watercolours and as I wasn’t able to find a narrative thread, I asked you: “Is there an order?” And you answered: “No, there is no order”. There is an order because the spectator builds it when he is watching them and also reading the texts you include by way of predella in its lowest part. In my opinion the texts emphasize that vignette reading, that apparently narrative quality of the images. However, you neutralize that interpretation with a counter-narrative strategy, with the impossibility of narrative that pervades your work. It even was in your show in the MUSAC: in spite of the corridors, and of the fact that an image takes you to the other, you actually build unconnected environments. That is to say, the idea that you come into a cinema and then you go to a small room with an image and, from there, you go through a dark corridor and you find a completely different story... They are like bubble-spaces. Yesterday, when you showed me the images I imagined it a bit like that. I might just have made too many associations and don’t know what the question was anymore...

MARTY: No, but it’s great. The other day, when I was looking for some things on the Internet, I realized it somehow worked like my work. You go somewhere and that door takes you to another one and there you find another file and then it suddenly takes you somewhere else and you click on a word and it takes you somewhere else... and you don’t know where you are anymore. You get completely lost. The same can happen to a train of thoughts. Unless you are a mystic with a line of thought like a laser beam, perfectly focused, — a yogi or a Buddhist —, in general your thoughts wander. Thus, you are thinking about something and that takes you to another thing and that to another thing. You might not remember what you were thinking originally. Or you are already somewhere else. When you dream anything can happen. Absolute mayhem occurs there.

TEJEDA: And what about life? Life is not narrative.

MARTY: Sure. The same happens in a conversation. You are talking about a film and that takes you to a director, the director reminds you of a friend and you end up telling a story about the military service. Indeed, everyday life works in exactly the same way.

When I set up an installation of three hundred paintings, they are like fleeting views, like memories or a bombardment of images... it is so much a mental space as when I set up a reconstruction of a funfair, which for me is a mental space. It is like one of those Russian Dolls: one comes out of the other. The Flaschengeist funfair reminds you of a funfair because all the elements put together lead you to remember or to conclude it is a funfair. Just as all the brushstrokes of a painting put together give you the impression that they are an image, but they are only brushstrokes. When you paint you realize the only thing you do is linking the brushstrokes by means of a given code which you learn by practice, but it still is a brushstroke here, a glimmer there, a shadow over there, a line on the other side... just as the words in a book. The grouping of words gives you the impression that they are telling you something, but in reality it is an abstraction. If you consider it objectively it is an abstraction.

TEJEDA: About the narrative aspect, it is impossible to interpret none of your stories due to the obvious discontinuity that exists from one image to the other in these series. Is it another rhetorical strategy to prompt the spectator’s unease? Or is it a device to destabilize the tradition of the pictorial language?

MARTY: I make the viewer believe that there is a narrative, but one he or she cannot understand. I have even created sequences, for instance one in which someone crosses herself and I have painted each one of the steps: every image is simply one gesture but, effectively, all together, if you follow the series, make you recognize that she is crossing herself and what is each one of the gestures. I have created other series which have a performance behind that no one sees and no one knows about: for example a huge series of people taking off their clothes, all of them with the same background (a flowery blue wallpaper). I suggested my friends to take off their clothes in my studio, the clothes they were wearing at the moment, garment after garment, and I took one photo of each moment; they could stop whenever they wanted: they could take only their T-shirt off or end up completely naked.

One girl, for instance, was wearing a long black dress, a kind of evening dress. Elegant, a bit old-fashioned. She came straight from a party. She was wearing black gloves, too. And I told her: “Let’s see what kind of striptease you make”. And she took a glove off. Just that. And I told her: “Wait. Do the gesture again”. In the sequence she takes the glove off and then the skin. Doing exactly the same gesture she ends up with only her muscles on.

The trick was that I had to do the same thing up to the point that person wanted. In the last image they adopted a pose like they were saying: “That’s enough”. 90% of the people ended up completely naked, which I find quite interesting. At the end they took a picture of me imitating their final pose. Over time I realized I wanted to make a series with those images of me, apart from painting all those paintings. But I think now that I should have given them my photograph, just as I kept theirs. In the end I didn’t paint my portraits. I might do it in the future. That installation is made up of a massive number of sequences.
I worked similarly in The Perfect Kiss in Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York. The installation consists in several series of paintings, videos and sculptures, showed conventionally. The paintings are series of suicides. Series of wounds. I asked all my friends to simulate their own suicide in front of the camera, so you see all of them like if they were wasting themselves. I didn’t ask them: “Let’s take a photo of you with the gun”. No. It was only the two of us and I told them I was going to take a picture of them committing suicide, a front view and a profile, in a documentary style. Historically, a portrait is the wish to remain but, in this case, afterwards you see a portrait which you were never supposed to see because you were already dead. Many lived it as a very strong experience.

I made another series in which my mother appeared in several places of the house, without changing the environment, without changing anything, imitating a pose copied from an ancient painting. You realize there are positions which are very difficult to adopt, they are so unnatural they look really awkward. I have titled each painting after a saint’s name. And I have used from Simone Martini to Van Eyck. Especially ancient painting.

TEJEDA: That’s a question I wanted to bring up: references to Art History. At first sight one doesn’t notice that you use many direct referents. I remember that in Pesadilla de superwoman (Superwoman’s Nightmare), in which the protagonist of the video, of the performance, is your own mother, you made her base her movements in some actions of Paul McCarthy and Joseph Beuys (I like America and America likes me). However, when talking to you, it is impossible not to talk of the history of painting, of painting in itself.

MARTY: I make references to art history, although many remain hidden. For instance I filmed a video which is shown in three screens, like an ancient altarpiece. The two donors are praying and in the middle there is a scene where we can see a woman and a man dressed up as a satyr and a bacchante from a Baroque painting, by way of parody. He wears a huge wig, some plastic leaves and a false nose. He comes in bringing a birthday cake, but instead of eating the cake, they eat each other. They love each other so much that they eat each other. I have always said that this is a romantic scene. Some time later I painted a series of paintings in which these same characters appear with my mother. As goblins.

TEJEDA: Yes, it is, to be precise, do you remember?, the series that was exhibited last year in Veronicas in Impurezas (Impurities).

You live in Salamanca, a city riddled with churches with lots of altarpieces, some of them excessively ornate, and with an important Baroque tradition. I think I am able to relate that to your general attitude towards the concept of exhibition. You have some projects whose exhibition-style is more traditional: white walls, hanging objects, a video and a couple of pieces, you have even talked to me about (why not?) using a pedestal. What do you think of the neutral space, the hackneyed white cube, which is the space par excellence since the twenties, considered ideal to show a work of art? You seem to abhor it, or at least you deny it and conceal it every time you face one.

MARTY: Actually I don’t. If you have a white cube which is only a container, it’s obvious you have less respect for it. It is simply a disposable container. And well, if is only that, let’s use as what it is.

TEJEDA: You create a skin for it and thus transform it in your own support. In a very personalized way.

MARTY: Of course, it is a support in the same way a board serves as support for a painting. Before painting on a board, you have to prime it and apply a colour layer, otherwise the paint is absorbed and painting would be impossible — the ground layer I use now is brick red, the most traditional one. You are in a way cancelling the board. There is no theory as to if the support is respected, or if it is advisable that it is seen or known.

When I’m facing a white cube, I see it as a container, as an empty, wall-less space and as if I had to create everything from scratch. A sterile space. There are white cubes with three walls from which one is a glass that leads to a garden. Or there is a door to a bathroom. Well, then you work with that. For example, the show Musterhaus in K4 Gallery in Munich this year. I played with the shop window there 100%, because the gallery is a white cube, but one of the walls is made of glass and gives to the street. People coming by can see it from the outside. That’s why I left it completely white and I put the figures so that it seems someone was pointing a gun at them or they were scared. I came across the idea when I saw the photographs of some women and children who had been arrested by the Nazis and forced out from their homes: in those coats, completely defenceless, with their hands up. And I put another figure in a different posture (with a closed fist), a gesture of fright, really. This installation plays with the fact that, invariably, the person that comes to see the show has to see it from the outside first. They cannot help it, they would have to cover his face not to see it. It is a huge window and the door is on one side. The walls are completely empty because in that moment I wanted to focus attention on the three statues, on the three women.

TEJEDA: And what about the horror vacui? There is some of it in your work, also in your paintings, with those close-ups of characters that seem to leap up at you.

MARTY: Possibly yes. I think I should undergo psychoanalysis on that one and go back many years, but having been born and having lived in Salamanca which, as you said, is a town that can be anything but minimalist, might have had a big influence. Another influence, for instance, is that as a child I was very impressed by Rubens paintings. I found the capacity of the Baroque art to make you find something beyond itself fascinating. But instead of offering you something empty that empties your mind, it does the opposite, it fills your mind to such an extent that your reaction is to empty it. That is to say, there are two different kind of catharsis. I am not sure that before Rothko’s work the same thing happens. For example in the Seagram room that the Tate has just set up in half-light: if the fundamental base of a meditation as the one proposed by Rothko is to empty the mind, he gives you something already empty. It’s the same idea of the Japanese koan, that they have copied in a car commercial: “The disciple told the Master, an arrogant attitude because it implies the belief of having reached a certain level of the meditation: Master, I am going to retire to an isolated cave to meditate on my own. Can you give me a subject to meditate on?” And the Master answered: “Meditate on whatever you want except about monkeys”. And the disciple returned in desperation saying: “Master, I have failed: I haven’t been able to think of anything but monkeys”. On the contrary, you face a series of paintings by Rubens, the Torre de la Parada, for instance, or the Marie de Medici cycle, and the avalanche that falls on top of you acts as a true catharsis. It is like when you go to see the Sistine Chapel. The impression is so big you come out a different person.

TEJEDA: Do you think it has to do with the sheer amount of elements included or with their intensity?

MARTY: With both. For example, for me the most convincing Vanitas, more than those simple Vanitas with only a skull and a cucumber, are those that look like a big mass of riches among which, unexpectedly, you discover the skeleton of a bishop. For instance in Valdes Leal. For me Baroque is like the glitter that covers the skull. And when you scratch it you find a skull underneath. The funfair is a colourful world... but if you suddenly look under the merry-go-round, it’s full of cobwebs and falling down things.

TEJEDA: Because it is located on an abandoned area of open ground.

MARTY: Yes. The kids are having fun above and the space underneath is full of falling down things.

TEJEDA: I would like to talk about Baroque painting in relation to your work, of the rhetoric it uses to intensify the spectator’s experience. Baroque art transforms the gaze into a experience beyond mere passive contemplation, an experience related to religion and its sense of a different time and space.

MARTY: There is something basic: 90% of art viewers want to have a completely comfortable stance toward their role as spectators of a work of art. And I believe that is something that has been fostered by several movements, even in historical moments in which art was supposed to be self-referential, etcetera. If one walks along the street one spring morning, comes into a museum or gallery and, suddenly, receives a blow in the face instead of a caress, he or she might wonder: “Where am I?”

TEJEDA: Do we only answer with a blow, Enrique?

MARTY: With a blows or a caress, but it depends on the kind of caresses. I think you cannot read Nietzsche and remain totally unperturbed. If you want one of those summer novels to kill time on the beach, you’d better not read Nietzsche or so many others.

TEJEDA: No peguen al caballo (Don’t hit the horse). Why a performance whose subject is Nietzsche?

MARTY: Nietzsche destroyed the philosophical system that existed before him from Plato or even Aristotle, and rewrote it. He is the Great Western Thinker. He is also very controversial because his work has been used in a very perverted way. Like the Nazis, for instance, to justify the Holocaust. Misunderstanding him. If he had found out he would have gone crazy. Crazier. To understand the Übermensch as a race, when it is precisely the opposite, to try and free yourself of the ties as an individual of a race... free yourself of all that, in order to transcend it. It’s something very mystical. And also because he is a recognizable symbol.

TEJEDA: Everything is connected? Painting, performance, videos...

MARTY: I think of my work, especially the videos, as documentation of actions... When I am filming my mother, that is an action, and I am only documenting it. The same happens with many others. In this case it’s a mixture of theatre and action. It would actually be a one-minute theatre play or a dramatised action or many other things, but I don’t care for annotations or names.

TEJEDA: Was it important that the performer was more than two meters tall to represent the character?

MARTY: Yes, because I present Nietzsche through a distorting glass.

TEJEDA: When you reduce the characters, you do it to provide a more vulnerable image. Is it the same when you enlarge them?

MARTY: I do it to put them in a different level to the spectator’s. If it’s much smaller o much taller, it’s in another level.

TEJEDA: But on this occasion you didn’t choose a dwarf, but a giant.

MARTY: Yes. Although perhaps I could have used a dwarf. It was the choice I found to be right at the moment. I also wanted him to look at the public from above.

TEJEDA: He is also the horse. Isn’t he?

MARTY: What you have just said is great, very interesting. I had thought to ask that boy to represent a horse. Very interesting.

TEJEDA: I also find references to the Ecce Homo.

MARTY: Yes, of course. Nietzsche was offering his own blood, it’s a kind of mass. And besides, the floor ends up covered in stains, it is not tomato sauce, it’s a very realistic blood. And it’s a reference to the character. In fact, it’s as if Nietzsche came out to the street to pee and he saw the people and looked at them we don’t know whether disdainfully or if, in reality, he is offering them his body and soul. He actually says it, that he sacrifices himself for the whole world. It is also funny, isn’t it? A guy like Nietzsche, who suddenly contradicts himself in his books, from one book to the next, in such a radical way. Who is able to write the greatest praise on Wagner and then writes a book called The Case Against Wagner. Nietzsche never pretends. He knows his own sympathies and phobias and doesn’t renounce them; he avoids the pomposity common to philosophers, who would hide them as much as possible. He is a fascinating and very often misunderstood character.

TEJEDA: That’s why he is a vulnerable character. Or vulnerated in this case.

(We are sitting on the roof terraces of the cathedral and the conversation is interrupted every fifteen minutes by the bell strokes.)

TEJEDA: Let’s go back to the intense experience of Baroque rhetorical devices. The horror vacui, or the Counter- Reformation strategy of Ignatius of Loyola, consisted in creating, with a vivid realism, expressive devices, a suspension of time and a continuous space which could lead people, by means of these trompe l’oeil, to contemplate a mystical event as if they were experiencing it beyond mere representation. These are devices used in sculpture, but also in painting. In reality at that moment the two spheres — the sphere of art and the sphere of contingency — didn’t exist separately, but were structured as a continuity. In the 17th century, popular culture begins to be more linked to its folklore and to lose its Dionysian aspects. Peter Burke has studied the carnival in Europe and, specifically, the disappearance of that public square culture and the associated confusion of identities. I’m interested in that continuity of space which I think your work presents and precisely as a device to change the spectator’s experience from that of a voyeur, an indulgent voyeur, into that of someone whose role is to participate. If possible, I would like you to connect these rhetorical strategies with your work.

MARTY: If we see it from the European Baroque context, we realize it’s a Dionysian celebration of life which is directly linked to Nietzsche, to the Dionysian concept as a mystic system, in a period characterized by savage wars, epidemics, etcetera. I don’t think we should see it from the perspective of, for instance, Marie de Medici — the person who commissioned this series of paintings —, but from Rubens’, which used them as an excuse to develop his philosophical theory. I think Rubens is saying something different from the mere glorification of the queen. I think Baroque art, and by extension, Renaissance art and many others, has several readings. The artist is a communicator who presents hidden messages and a personal vision.

An amazing painting of this series located in the Louvre is the one that represents Marie de Medici’s debarking in Marseille. Marie de Medici comes off a ship with her heavenly entourage (Rubens always represented her entoured by angels and saints, glorifying her as if she was the Virgin Mary). Underneath there is a mythological scene of mermaids (combining Catholic with pagan iconography). There are also several earthly characters accompanying her: a cavalier in armour holding a banner, a muscular guy with only four fingers on one hand (I find it fascinating how nonchalantly he painted only four fingers). Critics talk of Rubens as an artist positioned in a religious current, but at the same time as a Dionysian artist, which in my opinion he was rather than an artist of the Counter-Reformation. The statues decorating his house were Roman and Greek gods, pagan gods.

In a wonderful letter whose addressee I don’t remember (very much of Rubens correspondence has survived), he says: “I have forced the mechanisms of my ambition to withdraw in order to recover my freedom”. He decides to live in the countryside and starts accepting less and less commissions or having them painted by his workshop; starts painting just what he feels like painting. In The Kermesse, for example, he paints the Dionysian concept, but not illustrated by gods or kings, but by peasants. A real party. I am fascinated by the legend surrounding this painting, whether it’s true or not, by its compulsivity: he started working and painted those 300 characters in one session.

I mean a real work of art has several readings, from the most superficial to the deepest. For example Goya’s Caprices, where he tells you one thing, but there are four or five readings more underneath.

TEJEDA: This is related to the concept of hidden symbolism and the layers of meaning revealed by Erwin Panofsky, but what interests me now is the expressive devices, the plastic language. That is to say, the use of the suspension of time, the idea of a work of art whose space (I think, for instance, of painting) doesn’t end where the painting’s space ends, but surpasses it. And that happens much more often in sculpture. Some examples, such as The Supper at Emaus by Caravaggio in the National Gallery, or Bernini’s St Teresa in Ecstasy or Ludovica Albertoni are works whose space doesn’t end with the space of representation, but surpasses it. I think it is a rhetorical device you use.

MARTY: That can be seen in the installation of Bernini’s fountains. Even with direct references: the famous story of Borromini’s church of Santa Agnese in Piazza Navona. It’s very clear in the frescoes, in which they even use the effect of a win- dow, not as another architectural element (as it was used in the Renaissance), but in the sense that they want to make believe that what’s happening in the fresco is actually happening above. Some of the characters of the fresco come out. They have one hand, one foot out. Some sneak out.

TEJEDA: Or what’s real becomes symbolic, as in the case of the light in Bernini.

MARTY: When you enter a church, a modern building, a city, a park... not only your mind but also your body is inside. Therefore, your feeling of ease disappears. It is as if you looked at a painting and said: “I am going inside this Battle of the Amazons”, and went in. You are not seeing it in a separate space, but from the inside, and then there is a danger added to mere contemplation, there is a feeling of living it. For that reason I think it was a mistake that, for years, theatre references in art were considered incorrect, because for me theatre is so much a visual art as an installation or a painting. And I don’t know if I have to find arguments to support that, because the truth of this statement is so evident that I think it’s unnecessary.

TEJEDA: We come from a tradition in which everything has been compartmentalized and ordered, watertight compartments have been built. No impurities. You are not a painter, nor a sculptor, nor a set designer, you are all those things at the same time. I don’t think you use only one medium, you use an unclassifiable mixture that has to do with a way of understanding art, in reality, very traditional. Until the Enlightenment, things were absolutely mixed up, then, this trend of creating taxonomies and order things began, some- thing partially challenged by the avant-garde movements. There are always back-to-the established order periods which, at the same time, end up in confusion... You cannot stem the tide. Media don’t end where one wants.

Do you consider the concept of exhibition to be old-fashioned? Is something that needs to be subverted?

MARTY: I don’t even like the word. I prefer the term project because exhibition has a connotation of something finished, closed. When I am setting up a project, I am creating in that very moment. Trying to give another turn of the screw to the turn of the screw.

TEJEDA: This text I have told you about, “Fonction de l’atelier”, written in the seventies by Daniel Buren, questions the concept of studio versus the concept of exhibition. It upholds a way of doing art which doesn’t separate the moment of production from that of exhibition. Buren had visited some artists’ studios (if I’m not mistaken he had visited Picasso’s) and he thought that there, the pieces were alive, while when they were showed in a museum, they were dead. This related to Brancusi and his obsession that his atelier remained exactly as it had been experienced by him and that the things — not only the sculptures, also his tools and personal objects — were left exactly in the same position he had left them. He was right somehow. After visiting his atelier in Paris, despite the fact that the glass-fronted rooms make it look like a fish tank, you see another work of his, without a context, in a museum — I am thinking of the latest retrospective exhibition in the Tate Modern — and it loses much of its interest. You follow the same line of those who break with that duality — although it has lost its ideological and protest component along the years —: you are an artist whose studio is the exhibition space. Even if you are painting in your studio, the piece is not finished until you build it in the exhibition hall.

MARTY: Of course. When I am painting, I think I am making modules with which I will work later in a specific place. In the studio I am making the bricks. Painting is learned by practice. I don’t reject the idea of being a painter, that would be absurd, but I don’t reject the rest either. There is a kind of arrogant fundamentalism about what is or isn’t painting that comes from ignorance. I think the intelligent thing is to rethink things continually, not to be sure, but question everything. And be open to everything, never reject what is not known.

TEJEDA: It is a mentality which needs order to feel sure. And if they don’t have order, they don’t understand... they lose their bearings. Your pictorial work goes beyond the frame of which theorists of modernity estimated mandatory to be considered painting. Apart from its modest support, mere boards, and from its expressive, direct and quick aesthetics, there is the question of its theatricality — Michael Fried could have called it, pejoratively, that —, its hybridization with other disciplines and its resulting impurity, the deliberate porosity between real space and art space, besides an alleged narrative discourse, counter-narrative in reality, which is revealed in many of your series. Have you suffered many attacks?

MARTY: No, but I have received some very fierce, insulting attacks. “Such a good painter... and look what he is doing.” Painting is a medium. Fortunately, I have the pictorial or sculptural capacity to solve anything. Being able to paint or to draw, gives you freedom. But it’s a question of training. Like an athlete. Look at Velazquez who, before starting an important painting, painted a few portraits to warm up. But it’s a medium, period.

TEJEDA: I would like to talk about the viewer’s role... While I was at home preparing this interview, I went to the kitchen and cut a thick slice of a quite dry ham. It was so leathery that I pulled as much as I could with my teeth, I got grease stains on my hands, and I thought: if Enrique took a Polaroid of me right now and painted the image, he wouldn’t need to exaggerate a bit, it would be a disquieting image and it would seem I was eating something taboo. I have the feeling that many of the images you use as models reflect normal, everyday activities and that it is really the loss of context of the painting and, above all, the new context the spectator gives them, what produces anxiety, fear and repugnance. Do you agree? Does the spectator bring with him part of the readings already? Is the context the crux of the matter?

MARTY: Something funny happened to me. During the press conference of an opening, a journalist said: “Well, I see you have a fascination for male members, because I’ve seen many around”. And I answered: “Well, I must confess I have no special fascination for male members and, besides, if we count them there is only a baby’s penis”. I think every person projects their obsessions. I think he was fascinated by them. If I was obsessed with the male members I wouldn’t mind to say it, but a baby’s penis doesn’t seem so much to me. It would be like saying I am obsessed with heads — there are lots of them!

TEJEDA: Although the viewer brings with him part of the readings, do you play tricks and trigger his reaction?

MARTY: Of course I play tricks, all art is pure trick! You put a symbol, some directions and some tricks... you leave some things for you alone and some for the others creating several levels of interpretation... because you are not dumb and the only chance the artist has is not being dumb. I believe anyway that we have to treat the viewer with respect and think he is intelligent. I am talk- ing to an intelligent spectator. Only many times you don’t find them, but I honestly treat spectators with the utmost respect, that’s why I don’t want to spoon-fed them. What do you prefer: an exquisite, elaborate dish or baby food? It is obvious that you’ll prefer seared foie gras to a jar of baby food.

TEJEDA: Respect towards the spectator. Was it the reason why, for instance, in Nephew you left the “backstage” of the exhibition visible and put no ceiling?

MARTY: As I was working with extremely hard images, I did it so that if someone looked up, he could see something like the open sky, as in a Baroque fresco, so that he could see he was in an exhibition. As if it was a huge sculpture and you were inside of it instead of looking at it from the outside. And I decided to eliminate the roof because I didn’t want to close it completely, I didn’t want to make a complete reproduction of a space. It looked too much like a real reconstruction. I have closed the space completely sometimes. Sometimes very much so. The bunker I built for Casal Solleric is absolutely claustrophobic. In fact, we had to hang a sign warning people with mobility or claustrophobia problems, because it demanded a big effort on the part of the viewer.

TEJEDA: We have spoken many times of Tadeusz Kantor, a referent for both os us, and I was telling you how there was a certain relation between your work and his in connection to the viewer. People didn’t come out unperturbed of this Polish artist’s show: they cried or felt sick. I have been thinking about the impression your statue of the Veronicas dome caused in me. It was almost unbearable, and dual: she aroused in me repulsion and tenderness at the same time; it was too intense. In fact I have dreamt of her several times: she fell from the dome and I was underneath to save her. Even if it’s a bit narcissistic, I think it’s interesting to talk about the relationship I have had with her. I told you that for me she was “the girl”, although you called her “statue”. For me she is not a statue, it’s a girl. There are really many feelings, but I cannot help approaching part of this interview from a more irrational perspective. I’ve felt a pang in the stomach and a lasting uneasiness similar to what I remember feeling after watching Dogville by Lars von Trier.

MARTY: I use “statue” as a technical way of referring to them, when I have to organize the show’s infrastructure. I try to avoid the word “doll”. That’s the reason I prefer to call them statues, I could also say sculptures.

TEJEDA: I touched the girl, I had to embrace her to lift her onto the scaffolding. And that experience changed my relation to her. It’s a shame spectators cannot touch or relate in a different way to your sculptures. They have a strong tactile component which the gaze only partially appreciates. However, the current concept of exhibition, which prioritizes conservation before experience, bans touching.

MARTY: In this project the only element that one could touch was very high, there was no way to reach it.

TEJEDA: Yes, but, what about the others?

MARTY: In others I have tried to increase the tactile element and the proximity with the paintings, for example, because I have reflected on the fact that touching is forbidden in a museum. I have created shows in which some paintings were hung and others leant on the wall. The problem is when the security of the work interferes and you are told that if the public can touch the work, the insurance company doesn’t cover it.

In this sense, I have had battles about objects such as the photo album that was exhibited in the Reina Sofia Museum. As an object (as a piece) it doesn’t work if it is not leafed through, if the spectator doesn’t touch it. A book. Closed. Just sitting there. What is it, a guest book? What’s its point? I had to negotiate. I even arrived there one day, I started leafing through the book and the security guard told me I couldn’t do it. When I identified myself, he allowed me to touch it, but I told him that not only I, anyone should be allowed to do it. I had to call again. Every time I lowered my guard, people were not allowed to touch the book.

TEJEDA: And what happened to the album in the end? Did they cover it or not?

MARTY: I think in the end it was the only object that wasn’t covered. It was chained. When they start telling you the percentage of potentially dangerous people that can enter a museum visited by an average of three to four thousand people...

TEJEDA: Which is it?

MARTY: It is quite high. Anyway, as a viewer I have lived absurd experiences when, for example, you bump into a huge metal box, Kiefer’s wardrobe, you are about to enter and you are told it’s not allowed... when everything is inside! From the outside it is only a box, a metal cube. “No, you cannot go in.” And maybe it is a decision of the security guard.

TEJEDA. On many occasions it’s the chief of security who decides or the museum’s conservation staff, instead of the artist. Lygia Clark suffered very much because her “creatures”, as almost all of her pieces, had to be manipulated by the spectator. And she had to fight all her life, because it was impossible make museums or collectors understand it. In fact, it still happens with many of her pieces.

MARTY: I remember the terrible case of Louise Bourgeois in the Reina Sofia. If they are rooms made to be entered and experienced, so that you enter inside her mind, why are they closed with a wire cord?

TEJEDA: To a certain extent, it’s the museums that underline the passive role of the viewer. The problem is that we are getting used to not touching, to just looking. And when you have to touch, you need to be told it is allowed.

MARTY: When I see that a work is made to be touched, entered... I don’t make questions. I do it, period. Rather than to the security guard, one must respect the artist. In fact, I entered Kiefer’s wardrobe.

TEJEDA: Are you interested in the spectators’ reaction?

MARTY: Yes, but I don’t pay too much attention to it. If you tell me someone has said this or that about the show in Veronicas... I hear it with interest, but it doesn’t affect me. Neither positively nor negatively.

TEJEDA: Let’s talk a bit about teratology and subversion. Do you subvert the concept of the monstrous? It has been a recurrent subject of art in all ages: cancel the assumptions of good being linked to beauty and evil to monstrosity. What is a monster?

MARTY: When we were in my studio, you saw that I had hung some images of Hitler, an article about some children and, next to that, some ads of a beauty clinic with perfect women in a beautiful spa. All that was together for a reason. For me the catwalk models are true monsters, real freaks. Not only because they are extremely thin and, as women, they are missing quite a lot that would make them desirable. The guys are more muscly, it’s funny. It is a learned and aesthetic concept. The concept of beauty is something cultural.

TEJEDA: This morning I saw a program about the sixty-year anniversary of the bikini, or fifty, I don’t know, and the mod- els were a bit plump, with a nice tummy, hips, thighs...

MARTY: I prefer one hundred times more one of the women Tinto Brass uses in his films to a completely androgynous model... that might work like a coat hanger to wear a suit: everything fits her fine. It is possible that you find a batusi ornament in the lip repulsive, bur for a member of that tribe to have a woman with a disk inserted in her ever-enlarging lip is the best.

I don’t relate monstrosity to evil. There is something which surprises me and that I don’t really know if has much to do with this, but that I want to tell you. An archetype present in 100% of horrors, sci-fi films or dark fantasy films... is the fact that when a devil, a monster, a whatever coming from Hell turns up, if it has a human form, it’s sophisticated, while when it is seen in its real form, it is a monster which cannot do anything but scream. I mean it becomes an idiot, a dribbling monster that, suddenly, loses the ability to speak and think. That idea comes from Lovecraft’s mythology — on the Great Old Ones, on monsters as formless things which are constantly changing — but it misinterprets it, because the Great Old Ones are different, indescribable creatures, but that doesn’t make them idiots.

TEJEDA: Do you create monsters?

MARTY: That’s the relativity of it all, I don’t know exactly when something becomes a monster. Maybe I make things that are different and then, if you understand what is different to be monstrous...

TEJEDA: However, traditionally, monstrosity has been linked to deformity... In fact, you deform things.

MARTY: But I also find models look like monsters.

TEJEDA: It’s because they also go against the rules. They don’t eat, they even have their ribs removed...

MARTY: That’s why I say it’s a delicate issue, because it has many sides. And it’s very serious. In reality, everything is weird. We are trained to see in a codified way; if we saw reality we’d just see moving atoms. Quantic physics describes this as a fiction which is codified so that we can see a coherent world for limited minds. But says that all is made of particles.

TEJEDA: Let’s talk of Tod Browning, when he crosses the idea of the monster with that of the fair and uses it as a metaphor in Freaks.

MARTY: It’s fascinating: the true monster is the beautiful trapeze artist. The others are wonderful human beings, only she is evil. Have you read I am Legend by Richard Matheson? I think it’s being made into film although there is a kind of adaptation of it in The Omega Man. I am legend tells the story of a “normal” guy who lives in a world where everybody else is a vampire. And he is the monster. They are all scared because they have found a guy who is not a vampire, who doesn’t drink blood. He can go out in daylight... a guy that can see sunlight. That’s what scares them.

Different is a relative term. The first thing I do with the cast of a person is to reduce its size. That means I don’t want it to be confused with people. There is a moment in which I see them breathing; then, as if they were people, I certify they are alive. It’s a glow about them, a personality. And that is perceived. From the moment I start to reduce it I am separating it from the world, where everybody else is bigger. I have then the impression they can instil fear... although in reality it’s them who are scared... I like to transform the viewer into the monster. That’s clear in the series El Intruso (The Intruder). It’s a series of sequences, a polyptych, and what it shows is someone chasing someone who suddenly perceives the presence of the spectator and gets frightened, tries to escape and falls down. The last take is a close-up. I have done several ones like that. Another one is a very long sequence of someone walking down the street, com- ing into a house, climbing the steps and finding someone sleep- ing in a bed, who then wakes up. And the last take is that sleep- ing person’s fear. And in reality, the spectator is the monster. In my exhibition, I create a world in which everybody is like them, in which the one entering their space, the one disturbing and scaring them, the visitor, is the monster.

TEJEDA: Until recently, the monstrous was associated only with the organic. In a time in which not only art but also reality is filled with post-organic bodies — almost all of us are about to become cyborgs; he who doesn’t have a plastic heart, has a hearing aid or a chip connected to the eye to be able to see —, you insist on the organic, but you show it bare, rotten, you present non-hygienic flesh on its foam and plastic supermarket tray, numbed not by Muzac, but by the sound of the slaughtered pig: its disturbing cries and its blood. Why?

MARTY: Everything is accepted as long as it is not seen. I insist on showing them with a running nose, bleeding, on the existence of all kind of fluids... and flesh is flesh... external or internally...

TEJEDA: In fact, in the trilogy you present in Calle Apocalipstick you show its inside and its outside all the time.

MARTY: And it should be assumed that the guy is living inside the girl. Literally inside. And that there is another bathroom, that there is another world inside that girl.

TEJEDA: But, why so much insistence with organic matter?

MARTY: It’s the flesh, the fascination... the attempt to find out what flesh is, which I’m not so sure about. It is something very mysterious to me. And I think of it all the time. I don’t have an answer. It is as if I was using a microscope, focusing my attention on a group of cells, on something.

TEJEDA: Are you scared of disease?

MARTY: No, to be honest. My work has a strong component of autocatharsis and, it’s quite curious, but I have a limited fear that keeps diminishing.

TEJEDA: Have you had any disease?

MARTY. No, and I fall ill less and less often. I think disease is in the mind. I don’t take much more than an aspirin. I have one from time to time even if there’s nothing wrong with me.

TEJEDA: This year in ARCO, in the stand of Espacio Minimo Gallery, you built La Clinica, a semiclosed space in which there were statues of little children with terribly disfiguring diseases...

MARTY: It’s a project that I’ve felt like doing for a very long time, because it’s usually like that, I think of something and I do it several years afterwards. Not immediately; it isn’t usually instantaneous. For years, I have been gathering data on hospitals, children, on this overabundance shown in the press...

TEJEDA: Even undernourished African children...

MARTY: Yes. I wanted to know what would happen if, ignoring completely the concept of the sculpture as something heroic, I showed some children lying on the floor, shattered... and I put them in the context of a clinical environment.

TEJEDA: A very clean clinic, isn’t it?, because what attracts attention in this project is that everything is hygienic... It’s a first world clinic.

MARTY: A few odd things occurred. I had a first idea which consisted in mounting them on pedestals and present them as sculptures, as if they were Boteros, but I rejected it afterwards. Then I thought: “I am going to set up a clinic” and, you’re right, it is a first world clinic. But, do you know what happened? All of a sudden there were doctors around — neurologists, psychiatrists, child specialists — who began diagnosing the children’s diseases and who were leaving their business cards in case I wanted to contact them. They said the works were incredibly well documented: “Have you been to such-and-such clinic in Madrid?”. “No, I haven’t.” “It’s unbelievable, because it is an identical representation, even in child pathologies.” I was amazed at the interest aroused among the doctors.

Also because it was a fair, I wanted to mount an installation there. And mounting it without any warning. I mean closing off the space a lot so that you don’t see it from the distance. It’s not a showcase where you can see things from the distance, but you rather bump into it. If you look, you bump into it. And I closed one of the entrances with a folding screen so that you could look or leave if you didn’t want to be involved.

TEJEDA: And apart from the reactions of the doctors? An installation of this kind is not typical of a fair. Not even Project Rooms have such complex atmospheres.

MARTY: Yes, but I am an artist 24 hours a day, I cannot put on a costume like Masons or superheroes, I don’t have a secret personality as an artist. I am an artist because I cannot help it, period.

TEJEDA: Your project was accompanied by drawings from terminal children who are in the hospital. Was it the first time you worked with other people’s work?

MARTY: I have included some paintings and other works by other people in some shows. And I have even included works I painted as a child in some show. In An Incident in the Burrow, for example.

TEJEDA: What were your childhood paintings like?

MARTY: Mythological scenes, portraits, landscapes... Mysterious, dark, set in churches, in corners of Salamanca. Some showed just mythological motives, not representing anything in particular.

TEJEDA: I think we have not raised the question of the connection between image and text. It has come to my mind because you told me that the children who contributed with their drawings to La clinica used text in a way similar to yours.

MARTY: Do you remember for instance the book of the ghosts? Each watercolour has a text. That book has two parts. And in the second part there are images I have taken from films in which I tell a false autobiography. I tell it in the first person. This is so-and-so, he is my uncle... Absolutely everything made up. Do you remember the watercolours from the Empty Rooms catalogue? It has a similar line.

In the book of the ghosts, there are references to several films, one of which is, for example, The Comfort of Strangers; in Empty Rooms I used 90% of one film and 10% of another one. The first one is The Key by Tinto Brass and the second Fire Walk With Me by David Lynch. And I wrote another false autobiography, although it is true, but it’s false. We would have to speak a lot and revise each watercolour to tell you how what is told there is completely false, but completely true. It’s exactly one thing and its opposite. They aren’t my images, they are from a film, but what they tell about the film and about me is like an auto- biography, it’s 100% false and 100% true.

TEJEDA: 100% false and 100% true. What does that mean?

MARTY: I think I shouldn’t explain that for the time being. But it works as an “automatism”. When I work with watercolours, the text arises as a confrontation between what is happening to me in that very moment and what happened to me when I took the Polaroid. There is a clash. You have taken that photo in the past. You confront that image, remember that moment that might have occurred one day or one year ago. At the moment I am working with images I took five years ago, that I had put in a drawer. For the time being I am not writing anything on the upper or the inferior side of the paintings, but I write in the painting itself in a camouflaged way. I change what is written on a T-shirt and write something else, for instance. And what I am writing then is my positioning towards that past. I write without too much thinking. But afterwards I say: “It’s obvious what I was telling myself”.

TEJEDA: I think there is a gap between your paintings and your three-dimensional figures — you said you like to call them statues —. The latter are more fragile, vulnerable and defenceless. I have already told you how “the girl” of Veronicas aroused a feeling of tenderness in me. Something similar happens with the rest of your statues which, because of their smaller size and their gaze, look defenceless. I sup- pose it simply has to do with the empathy that the three- dimensional form allows. In fact you make statues and insert them in the realm of real, everyday life, as when you place a sculpture in the street or when you performed Padres (Parents), an action in which you made your parents coexist with their replicas in their own house, something impossible with two-dimensional pieces. I find three-dimensional figures more empathic. Besides, at a certain point you can with- draw them from the more representative discourse of the exhibition, and place them in a real space.

MARTY: To begin with, sculpture, painting, drawing, video, photography, or any of the supports, are only a medium, which allows you to shift from one to the other. I have the impression I am working in the same thing exactly. In reality I think my first obsession was with sculpture, with the coexistence with three- dimensional images. I think it was the mystery of sculpture what attracted me.

TEJEDA: Before painting?

MARTY: Possibly.

TEJEDA: Do you mean when you were a child?

MARTY I believe impressions, memories, fixations, are created in your childhood. I am convinced. Afterwards all that is somehow cleaned & polished up. I have been making sculpture for years, but until relatively recently I hadn’t found a form of expression for it. Sculpting is very difficult. That’s the difference between theatre or cinema, and an installation or sculpture itself: Theatre in general is seen only from a frontal perspective while, an installation in which the spectator comes in involves the 360o. When one puts a statue before a viewer, this statue has to perform several tasks. It has to work in that space. It has to fill the whole space. Or it has to camouflage itself. But it has to react in some way. It’s delicate. The same happens with paint- ing. What I have concluded, after seeing many sculptures, from Classical Greek to Renaissance... and of course polychrome Baroque sculpture (essential), is that every sculpture must be something alive, breathing, full of life.

TEJEDA: Hence your use of natural hair for them.

MARTY: Exactly. The hair comes from the person I take the cast of. And the clothes, too. That’s why I take pictures of all the statues. And I don’t photograph them as sculptures, but as per- sons.

TEJEDA: They are like ex-votos, aren’t they? You even put them on a stage, emphasizing the situation... like in a ritual in which they are the performers...

MARTY: Absolutely. Art is absolutely ritual. You only have to remember Beuys and the artist as shaman, a clichéd, but perfect example. For that reason it’s essential that at least the first cast I take of a person is of the whole body. I can reuse that mould but, as it gets damaged in the process, let’s say that the sculpture gets damaged too. I can take a person’s head and use it in two casts, for instance, but it’ll have more blemishes than the first one — those that I paint afterwards as scars, skin problems, or diseases. And later, as a genetic experiment, I can even mix arms, bodies, etcetera from different people. An artist is evidently a demiurge of his or her own world. He creates, organizes and reorganizes it according to his will, like Nature itself.

TEJEDA: Tell me about when you take a picture of them out- side the exhibition hall, in a real environment.

MARTY: It’s similar to the fact that you don’t photograph everything in the same way. I put a black background for some of them and I take an objective, studio portrait, while I take the others to their home, as I did with my parents. I made their statues and took them to their house. More than a portrait it was a documentation of an action, because they lived together one month and I went there everyday to document it. I sat the statue of my mother where she usually sits and it supplanted her, took her place. My mother was mixing with a clone of herself who was sitting there. And my father was also there, in different places. I placed his statue in the corridor to welcome visitors, in the living room, etcetera. The change of size I performed was weird, because I reduced my father and I enlarged my mother slightly. My mother is small and my father is a bit taller. He was worried about that issue: “Why am I smaller?”.

When I take one piece, one sculpture, to live with someone for a while, it really affects people, they are even reluctant afterwards to let me take it away. It leaves a kind of trace and they talk about the statue as if it was “someone”.

TEJEDA: That has to do with the form you give them. It’s the same I feel about “the girl”; I even dream of her, see her falling and I have to run to catch her. Because for me she is a girl. In my subconscious she is a girl. Even worse, a dead girl. An even more defenceless girl. She means something beyond symbols, she represents something ritually. It’s like the idea of a wafer containing the Body of Christ, something coming from our Catholic religion. Or even the burning of demons common to our culture.

MARTY: Do you know that here, very close to where we are, were celebrated several Autos-da-fe2?

TEJEDA: There are places all around Spain. They are called columns of justice and they are big, phallic stone monuments, sometimes in form of a cross, which were located at the entrance of villages... That is where Autos-da-fe were celebrated.

MARTY: There is one near here which is a Caravaca Cross. It’s near the river and has before it a stone where the accused put their head and were beheaded. It’s reddish, therefore the legend says that it is because of the blood. Either people were stoned to death or there were Autos-da-fe... A tiny accusation and you were dead.

TEJEDA: Living in fear... What is fear?

MARTY: It’s a kind of burden. An engine that can take you for- ward, make you better yourself. What you told me once about your illness: “Until I stop feeling fear, I won’t overcome it”. Did the illness cause your fear or did fear cause your illness? We don’t know, all this is very complex and scientists don’t agree on that. There have been some very surprising discoveries in that field.

Alfred Hitchcock was asked to make a selection of short stories which was called Stories That Scared Even Me. Among them there is one about a clerk expecting a promotion which is fantastic. One day a new colleague sits at the desk next to his. And they start keeping an eye on each other through one of those short partition walls that separate the different offices. The first clerk thinks the other wants his promotion. One day a guy with a briefcase calls at his door, sits down and says: “I represent a very exclusive society and we want you to be member. Our membership is limited to exactly 300 hundred people who take care of each other and favour everybody’s prosperity. We gather from time to time and, with our will power, make a wish: something must happen to our enemies. If a member of our society has an enemy all the others wish his death, because that person’s enemy is our enemy”. And he tells him how the power of 300 minds wishing someone’s death inevitably leads to that person’s death. But for that it’s of the utmost importance that he believes in that power. When he asks the clerk if he believes in that power, he answers yes, thinking he is going to do away with his rival. The man with the briefcase says he is glad to hear that, because it is essential that the person who is about to be eliminated is informed of the existence of 300 people wishing his death day in, day out. And he ends up saying: “And it is what I have just done”. Then he closes his briefcase, which was empty, and leaves...

I think we have already talked about it: the statues are more scared than the spectator. It is like with the MUSAC’s leechman, you don’t know if you are scared of him or feel like stroking him. The place where I placed him in the show: in a barred cage... He has a very fierce aspect, without arms, without legs, just jaws and teeth... viscous. When you face the leechman there is a double feeling. You don’t know if you feel fear or disgust: you feel guilty. You don’t know if you are being bad...

TEJEDA: What is guilt?

MARTY: Guilt is a Catholic feeling. Created by Catholics. TEJEDA: Let’s talk about the long Catholic tradition of “gore avant la lettre” in the history of painting, from Gothic martyrdoms — full of torn nipples, the traditional plates with two eyes or the flaying alive —, to the greenish and wounded body of Grünewald’s Christ, or the blood-gushing heads of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judiths. Actually, these rhetorical strategies had done without the restriction, the sense of decorum indispensable in the Renaissance. I’m talking of the abject which, occasionally, has led some people to associate your work with that of the Chapman Brothers.

MARTY: I crack up every time someone says my work is gore. I think: “What is happening here, have you ever been to El Prado Museum? He is showing a complete ignorance of Art History. The first thing painted in Prehistory was a hunting scene and sacrifices to gods. If you visit a pyramid or a Mayan temple, they show you a guy flayed alive...

TEJEDA: What happens with this kind of images nowadays? They are experienced with a feeling of shock and guilt. Like a taboo subject. Perhaps in the past — although there are more restrained periods — they belonged to everyday life, to religion, they were an integral part of absolutely everything.

MARTY: In my opinion, the influence of the so-called gore films has been so important and decisive that this word is used now in a somehow expanded way. The truth is I make use of those kind of images for two reasons: as a plastic reference to Art History and as a reflection on what flesh is as a support of a conscience, on something soft that moves, is alive. I use blood not as a shocking device, but as an interrogation on how different civilizations have considered it a mythical and mystical element. I use it, obviously, but not as much as people insist on thinking. “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.”

TEJEDA: In this regard, in your installations there are usually false entrails or bubbling green substances oozing out of walls, with a droll touch reminiscent of the Ghost Train of Christmas Fairgrounds: they cause the same feeling of know- ing it’s fiction for children, but at the same time feeling you are frightened to go round the corridor because you don’t know what you might find. In fact, in your project for the MUSAC you built fairground stands. In fact, I think all your shows could be understood as pervaded by the idea of sideshow stands. What is a fairground?

MARTY: A mental space: for me the fairground is a perfect representation of how absurd existence can be. And that distortion, those colours and lights are a symbol which I presented as a street full of stands, which is how a fairground looks like. Several streets with crazy stands: a Haunted House or a spinning creature where people ride and suffer. It’s very funny how in a fairground you pay to be scared, tortured... At the same time it is a festive, playful place, where you have to have fun. I think everybody in a fair is somehow overwhelmed and has a feeling of disquietude... because it has an important uncanny element. And when I say uncanny I don’t mean gloomy. I use the word uncanny as the Freudian term for the catharsis.

TEJEDA: Would that be connected with the sublime? With the sublime understood from Edmund Burke’s point of view, something that goes beyond...

MARTY: Absolutely. Sometimes I say: “This is really uncanny!” And I say it in a completely positive sense, but nobody under- stands it. They comment: “Apparently he says that in a good mood and refers to something negative of someone or some- thing”, while what I am saying is just the opposite. Yes, yes, I know it’s hard to accept, but once you’ve overcome your first barrier you are going to get a more elevated catharsis than the one caused by a beautiful image per se, which can numb your senses. A sunset can be very beautiful, but I don’t think it makes you wonder or question anything for itself.

TEJEDA: It depends on the sunset, who represents it and which language he or she employs. Think of Turner, his sun- sets and storms. That’s something Romantics understood very well.

MARTY: Of course, it also depends on your mood, it depends on lots of things. That’s why among many other pictures, in a painting installation, some landscapes or a swimming-pool where my father is swimming out into the sun might slip in. And then some people tell me: “You were calm in that one!” But it’s not like that. And for that reason, in this interview, I’d like to make some points clear, because there have been some misunderstandings.

We move to the choir stalls of the Dominican church and talk in whispers about the genie of the lamp and the fairground...

TEJEDA: The fairground was the leit motiv of your project in the MUSAC in Leon (2005-06). In fact, you linked the idea of fairground to that of the labyrinth.

MARTY: It was thought so that you had to go inside a room and from there go to the following one, like Matryoshka dolls. There was an outside and an inside area. An outside area where the merry-go-round and the stands... And an inside area where you find a mental labyrinth where the first thing you see is a cine- ma, then a corridor, a dark room, the horror museum... which are only “fictions of”, really. That is to say, you know it is a cinema because a series of elements give you the impression it is, but only for that. It is like the brushstrokes in a painting that we were saying this morning, the fact that all the brushstrokes together give you the impression that that is a painting, but an isolated brushstroke obviously is not. Or your mind codifies it like that: for instance, a representation of the Triumph of Church, because you can recognize all those elements, because you know the iconography. You see the personification of the Church sitting on the triumphant carriage, and you see the horses stamping on Envy, Hate, etcetera.

TEJEDA: Actually, the idea of labyrinth and fairground is in all your shows, although in this one perhaps in a clearer way. I haven’t been to many funfairs. I was a girl who didn’t like going to the fairground or to the circus. I wasn’t scared by them. My brother was. I remember going to the Ghost Train with him. We sat on one of those little trains on which, all of a sudden, a witch hits you with her broom, although you know from the beginning what’s going to happen to you. Your exhibitions are similar. A little bit that feeling, you go from one place to the other, you know it’s a fiction and yet, you are scared about what you might find.

MARTY: I find the fact that you didn’t like funfairs very interesting, you should like them in theory. But, why not?

TEJEDA: I have always found them seedy, something shabby, sad... and the circus as well. I always remembered the empty and dirty space on which all that glitz and cotton candy settled temporarily. I wasn’t very fond of the rides. That story of fairground attractions of taking your body to the limit, I have always found it unnecessary. In fact I can’t stand it.

MARTY: Something happened to me last year. When I was preparing the project Flaschengeist, I went to the Haunted Castle which, although the opening of the fair was two days away, had just been built. I ask if it is open and they tell me it is. I buy the ticket, sit on the car, the door opens... the typical two-story ride where you enter through one side and the car takes you to the second floor. I move forward with the little car, everything is dark around me, and suddenly a light switches on... illuminating an empty wall. I go through the whole first floor and... nothing. In the following floor at last someone comes out and I see him clearly: he wasn’t even dressed up — the one that sold me the ticket, I guess. And the car turns round and the second balcony is in broad daylight and I see a bloke in shorts and chequered shirt who goes “BOOOO!” at me and both of us start laughing at the absurdity of the situation. I then realized that they hadn’t put the dolls yet. It’s not that you expect the dolls to scare you, but at least you expect them to be there. The only light that switched on illuminated an empty wall! Surreal. I realized there might be people who are much more frightened to see there is nothing there.

TEJEDA: My brother was scared just to be there and he would hold on to me tight. Maybe I have always been more cerebral. I was surprised at his fear since he was older than me, and suddenly vulnerable. He believed it all. I think it is an attitude towards things.

MARTY: People ask me why I am not scared by horror films. It’s because when I am watching a film, I cannot forget that I am watching a film. I know which filter from the special effect software has been used. Some years ago we went into a kind of Haunted Castle where you have to walk through, more sophisticated, with actors. I went there with five huge guys. I heard the sound of a power saw and the bloke from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre turned up. They all fled running. They vanished. And I shouted: “Don’t run or it will finish sooner”. Then, a man in a chequered shirt (it must be their uniform) came out of the darkness and told me in a whisper: “Let them run”. There are guys on the corners watching so that the actors are not attacked. The backstage was visible, but it was visible to me because I was unmoved by it. It was as if two dimensions unexpectedly got together.

TEJEDA: The title of the show and what it evokes go back to your childhood...

MARTY: When I started to think about the title, I always associated this word to fairgrounds and as a symbol of all this: Flaschengeist. This is the stand I told you about that I saw in the fairgrounds in Salamanca as a child in which I imagined there was a fantastic world floating inside it. I never managed to see it open. And it’s not because it was never open, but because I couldn’t recognize it. I passed by, I saw it closed and the sign was visible: Flaschengeist. When I passed again it was open and I didn’t recognize it.

TEJEDA: Was it perhaps also the name what you found mysterious?

MARTY: The name and a painting of an evil spirit coming out of the bottle on the front side of the stand. Anyway, I found out what Flaschengeist meant relatively recently. And when I saw what it actually was: One of these sideshow stands where you have to shoot the toothpick stuck in a cork and some hams hanging behind, I was... it was very cathartic! The mystery was ruined but it helped me go one step forward in my personal analysis. And when we talked about giving the show a title, I said it had to be Flaschengeist. There was a faction in the muse- um which wasn’t sure about having a title in German... but I told them it was not a name in German, that the stand was in Salamanca. When Tania Pardo and Maria (the two coordinators) came with me to the funfair to try and hire the stand for the show, we saw that, once again, I couldn’t recognize it. There was another name on it: “La caseta del alemán” (The German’s stand). Its name had been changed because the owner is a German guy married to a Spanish woman. And in view of the fact that nobody could pronounce the name they changed it for “la caseta del aleman”. We said: “It has to be called Flaschengeist. La caseta del aleman”. For me it’s a powerful symbol of how you imagine or mentally build what is in there to then discover it’s just some hams, an empty bottle of wine and a toothpick. I think mystery is one of the most important things in life and it is one of the things I personally find most pleas- ant. There are indeed things I don’t want to know. Sometimes I am told: “You give really little information!” That’s because too much information cuts off the smooth flow of mystery an art work has about it. Sometimes I don’t ask questions either. Mystery is essential and I think funfairs are very mysterious. But it’s the mystery one carries inside you. And it also has some cobwebs underneath... Churches have mystery too. Like the one we’re in now. In this choir, making this interview.

The idea behind that show was using the whole space as if it was my studio. A lot of people worked in the project, creating a good part of the works. It smelled like my studio. Of oil paint. There were several hands involved, not only in the woodwork, but in the painting of the stands itself. And in the corridors. A team of five people plus me. It was my studio. I had the feeling of working in a very fleshly and sensual way.

TEJEDA: Shall we talk about the Contemporary Art Museum of Queretaro, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca (MACO) and Enrique Guerrero Gallery in Mexico DF? — your project Hotel Medula (2004-05). There you found yourself with a white space.

MARTY: In DF, yes. In Oaxaca and Queretaro it was another story. Enrique Guerrero is a white space with no connotation whatsoever. The only object you see is a flight of stairs which I camouflaged. Everything was hidden. And there the idea was also to use the place as my studio. We were working for a very long time, at a slow, no-rush pace.

TEJEDA: You worked with the idea of madness and used the exhibition space as a mental space (as you say you usually do). In this case, did you want reconstruct the possible vision of a madman?

MARTY: Yes. In fact, that madman who is sitting there, it’s me, it’s a cast of myself. I made the madmen a little smaller than the sculptures I usually make.

TEJEDA: Why madmen?

MARTY: I made a series of madmen which I have divided in several parts. The Mexico madmen have a very small size, even smaller. And I did that very consciously. It is indeed a mental space. It is physical, but also mental. Because that’s how the brain works. It’s like a labyrinth. I find the vision Clive Barker gives from Hell is very interesting. I don’t know if you have read the Book of Blood. Hell according to Barker is a labyrinth you cannot escape from. The one who is in Hell has no clarity. It’s a mental confusion. He is lost in a labyrinth which, besides, is changing. And the devil is a figure that is floating above and doesn’t do anything. Neither for not against. It’s 100% a mental space, because when you face a place which reminds you of a psychiatric hospital, that on its own feels already like an attack. However, at the same time, there is a very loud, confusing sound, a kind of mental sound, underlined by the title “Hotel”. Hotel has many meanings, some mental hospitals are also called Hotels. And it is called Medula as a direct reference to the spinal cord and to the marrow of things. The show is divided in such a way that there is a central core which is the first room you enter, where you have to choose which way to go: left, right, this door, that door. If you choose to go one way you find one thing, if you choose to go the other way, you find a corridor that takes you to another corridor and that, for its part, takes you out again. And some of the doors don’t open. The idea of corridors taking you to other corridors and that of doors that don’t open had been used also in the Casal Solleric. It was a deeper and deeper bunker in which none of the doors open till you get to the end after a very long walk in which there is less and less room and it gets increasingly dark. Along the way you see a hole in a door, you look through and see another corridor which seems one kilometre long, also full of doors. In other words, behind all those doors there is supposedly another corridor and another one and another one... a gigantic ramification of corridors. I think I achieved that effect, because without mentioning it, there were many people who told me: “I see... So there are corridors behind those doors”.

In Oaxaca and in Queretaro, even if it was the same installation, it was slightly different. Although it is the same conceptually. In Oaxaca there were no spaces built, instead we used the spaces of the museum, which has already a cell-like structure. I though it was interesting that we could use those cells instead of build- ing them.

TEJEDA: Talk to me about the watercolours you painted from the Polaroids of your experience in the “Night of the Dead” in Oaxaca.

MARTY: In the Queretaro show this series of small watercolours was included — in the same format than the ones I showed you yesterday — as a work process. As a representation of the fact that, during the project in Oaxaca, apart from the exhibition, all those things had happened to me. For me it is almost more important that surrounding than the show in the museum, which, at the end of the day, was an exhibition tour. I’m paint- ing right now the paintings from the watercolours.

TEJEDA: In the interview Javier Panera made to you in 2003 you declared you used humour as a device to put some distance — I suppose you meant to distance yourself, I don’t know to what extent you were including the spectator. In fact, it’s the same device Goya used in many of his etchings or Lars von Trier used not only in Dogville, but also in the rest of his filmography. Was the distance intended for you or for the others?

MARTY: Possibly for both, at the moment I think I was talking about myself. However, almost definitely it would be for both. But that was then, now I don’t mind doing without humour, if necessary.

TEJEDA: What if you do without humour but you keep the dramatic intensity? Because there was some contempt in your tone, I don’t know what you meant or who you were thinking of when you made that remark, but I know that in some way you rejected a kind of work that used the idea of drama without any twist to it.

MARTY: I don’t know if I was showing contempt for someone or if I was thinking of someone specific. Melodrama or drama go over the top, trivialize everything. I roar with laughter in dramas.

TEJEDA: Think then about the idea of the sublime in relation to the sinister. The idea you find in some stories by Guy de Maupassant, like the one of the soldier who finds his dead mother. We’re talking about something specific there.

MARTY: It’s a difficult balance. I don’t reject anything a priori. Now I am going to do without humour. And it might be a personal question, but I have used humour a lot and as an important way of relieving tension. On the other hand, I think humour is very difficult. It’s very difficult to make good comedy. So much that, in fact, I find very little things in films to be funny. If something makes me laugh, it’s an exception. Although actually, in the cinema, I don’t cry with drama, laugh with comedy or am scared by horror, I can have a fright, but I’m not scared. They are two different things. Fear and fright are very different. It should be differentiated. A scary film is one thing and a horrifying film is another. A horrifying film might not be in the horror section of the shop. For example, Don’t Look Now by Nicholas Roeg. In several recent installations I haven’t used the slightest point of humour or irony, at least consciously. Some people have found it, though. But doing art in itself is already an irony.

TEJEDA: In any case, and in reference to the pieces were you do use humour, does humour soften things or is it simply a trick to involve the spectators and make them believe it is something...?

MARTY: It is probably a trick. For instance, the Italian neorealist genre always starts as a comedy and, suddenly, turns into a terrible drama. They win you over first. The best way to win someone over is to praise him and tell him they are wonderful. And then tell him he is worth nothing. Because he will believe you. Because he has believed you in the first place, since we are always ready to believe good things about us. There are some techniques of mental manipulation which deal with this kind of things. Like the good cop, bad cop thing.

TEJEDA: Do you think explaining is banalizing?

MARTY: No. The word is not banalizing. It’s closing, taking away, subtracting, limiting. Someone can give his or her opinion on someone else’s work, even I can give an opinion on my own work, but if I tell it in public it’s like a declaration of intent, I’m limiting my work. I have noticed that, over the years, I see new things in old works. I don’t realize when I’m doing them, but five years later I say to myself: “Oh, yes. I see it now”. As if I was sending messages to myself into the future. For that reason I like to give as little clues as possible, which is risky, because sometimes if you explain it everything is much easier.

I think art, at least as far as I am concerned, doesn’t want to give answers. The answer is included in a good question. And I think the answer must be given slowly, it shouldn’t be some- thing immediate. When you install a work, you leave it there as a huge interrogation. I think of the installation in Veronicas and I see a huge interrogation.

TEJEDA: That importance of the spectator’s role is closely linked to your relative refusal to explain your work, some- thing which became evident when you were before the pub- lic during the opening in Murcia. You offer them your work and use devices to make them come out of their comfortable role of spectator. Thus, you try to awaken their five senses, as happens in the project of Veronicas. Do you consider art can still escape from the art field in which has been confined since the 17th century to that of contingency, invade our experience? I remember, specifically, that someone asked you: “What does your installation mean?” Are we disabled to experiment, to live? Do we need to have everything explained?

MARTY: I think there exists the belief, not only in the average viewer, but also in professional people of the art world, that you have to understand what it says and that it says only one thing.

TEJEDA: We are reviving Horace’s Ut pictura poesis. Everything has to have a text that explains what you’re look- ing at, how you look at it, if you should touch it or not. We need an intermediary.

MARTY: Exactly. This reminds me of the Documenta show in the Da2, in which eleven current artists have been invited to create one work for each one of the editions. There is one who has made a kind of painting-sculpture which is a chart of the mar- ket value of the Documenta artists in different moments and a cut-out figure of Penk jumping. It’s obvious: he includes the market value because it is an anti-market Documenta. It is a closed work. Ok, I understand that. But that’s not the way I make things. I refuse to think that in my work one thing is one thing, period.

TEJEDA: In Barberia Altamira (Altamira Barber’s Shop) last year, the project invaded the street, in fact the city. How did it come about?

MARTY: In 2005 I was offered to make a project in Gijon during the film week. The previous year I had already projected one video during the festival. My approach here was different. Instead of doing the show inwards, I did it outwards: that was the idea of the project Barberia Altamira in Altamira Gallery. Since Gijon is a normal, well-off, quiet and obviously beautiful city, I proposed three things. One: make a show using not the gallery, but the street. Two: separate the gallery from the city with a kind of axis of symmetry (so that it worked as a mirror). And three: that the spectator saw the show reflected outwards, that he saw himself inside. Number one implied to close the entrance to the gallery, number two to camouflage it until it was completely hidden from view and number three to use the street as another element. The fog and the total darkness created a film atmosphere, a film set.

TEJEDA: What you have said reminds me of the case of Bunker in Mallorca. What the spectator could see theoretically existed only beyond.

MARTY: Well, in the Casal Solleric the space was covered completely. That space is like a cistern, very labyrinthine and narrow, with deposits. I reduced it even further and built a bunker-like architecture, completely different to what it really is, you don’t see the real space in any moment.

Solleric has such a structure that in order to get to that point where you see the cistern you have to leave behind a lot of closed doors. And in Altamira Gallery from the moment you enter the street you are already in the installation, because of the fog. Remember that, nowadays, all cities, like Salamanca, are mega-illuminated at night. In Altamira Gallery’s street there was no light, just a powerful red beam coming from the gallery. The day of the opening, which I couldn’t attend, the authorities visit all the exhibitions, and I asked that there should be no per- son explaining the show or representative of the gallery around. More or less sixty visitors arrived and found there was nobody there. They were inside the gallery, but didn’t go out. I’ve been said the reactions were very positive. People pressed their noses to the glass to see the inside... They tried to enter, but they couldn’t. The sign “open from this till that hour” was there, but it was closed. There are many hints, such as the memory of a prostitute in Amsterdam’s Red Light District... Well, I didn’t actually see that prostitute, if I think hard it’s possible that I have imagined her. The prostitute was inside with some customer and it was closed. But there was light outside. In other words, the feeling conveyed by Barberia Altamira is that some- thing is happening inside. There is a strong red light. There is a sound. Something is going on inside, but you cannot go in.

TEJEDA: What kind of sound?

MARTY: A noise without other connotations. People who visited it told me afterwards: “I went to see your thing, the truth is that it was quite good, it was something very subterranean, underground. That street there, unexpectedly...” And actually the fact that all you could see were the razor blades illuminated by a beam, creating a blinding shine (the shine was deliberate and controlled), that shine of films, a certain shine away from the red light, a white shine coming from the blades which means danger. That is basically the description of the installation.

TEJEDA: You told me you used documentation material from both the streets of the Red Light District in Amsterdam and the barber’s shops in Brooklyn — taking them as the film’s idea of a barber’s shop.

MARTY: Of course. I made a film set. In that very moment, as an emergency, I asked a friend (while the installation was being set up) to please go to Brooklyn to document all that at night for me.

TEJEDA: Why the insistence on film imagery? Many of your projects, not only this one, are directly inspired in the collective imaginary which is born from films. Does fiction today tell us more of reality than reality itself?

MARTY: Yes. For sure. As it happens, reality is already a fiction [he makes a cinematographic pause and tells me it’s cinematographic]. In the Altamira Gallery, on the one hand I felt a lot like hiding it. There is a mural which reproduces the cave paintings and the owner didn’t want to cover it because it belonged to their parents’ time. I decided to close the space until it was impossible to enter. During the show I asked from them that personal involvement I always ask for: on this occasion nobody should come in. Not even a collector. And they did what I asked for. So much that they even had some legal problem. It’s a small city.

TEJEDA: I wonder if the barber’s shops we see in the cinema actually exist.

MARTY: I think they do. David Lynch tells something amazing: “When I filmed Blue Velvet, everybody, especially in Europe, told me: ‘Those scenes of the Deep America seem from the fifties, you’ve captured the atmosphere so well’. Because it is realistic but at the same time it isn’t realistic. Because it is the present, but it is timeless, because it is the fifties. And I answered: ‘Everything is there. I didn’t add anything’. In the Deep America they’re still in the fifties”.

That’s what I wanted, taking an atmosphere, an experience, something that was happening, a place, to a different context.

TEJEDA: I’d like to end up talking about our publication. This book, in the same way as some of your previous books, is like a continuum of pieces. You told Diego Lizan you didn’t want an academic structure, not even a chronologic order. It seems as if you were drawing a parallel between this book and your counter-narrative works, your film images, your watercolours, drawings, and so on and so forth. The idea of labyrinth recurs as structure, but this time in a publication.

MARTY: One of the things I am more interested in doing is to show a working process rather than a chronologic order. How I find that, before producing the installation, the work is already coming into being. And you can see that process, in my watercolours, in my notebooks, in my drawings... I feel like showing that.

TEJEDA: You go everywhere with your drawing notebook. I know artists who have showed me the boxes full of the note- books that have accompanied them for years. But they are not easy to put in a show. You were telling me before the problems you had with the photo album. With an artist’s book is more or less the same, it is difficult to show it properly. Your penultimate catalogue is a fantastic facsimile of your artist notebook which the MUSAC has published on the occasion of your solo show this year. What is an artist’s book? Is it a work, a crutch, an object, is it a comfortable and private space in which you vomit?

MARTY: I have come to think of it as a script. Buñuel said that after having written the script of a film, he didn’t feel like film- ing it anymore, that it was a drag. I don’t feel it is a drag to implement the project after conceiving it, I am fascinated by it. There is something that happens when I design the set for an opera or a theatre play... It’s a very long process, you might begin working one year in advance, you have meetings with the director, everybody talks, gives ideas, it’s very absorbing, you cannot think of anything else, you hear the music all the time... At a certain point, you are already sitting in the theatre and on stage you can start to see something you have drawn six months ago. That moment is fascinating. I have tons of drawings from my work as set designer. In a project for a museum or gallery it’s the same. Everything is part of a very intimate process. You are usually alone when you are drawing, but you might be in a bar talking and something comes to your mind and you make a note or you draw it. To express an idea with a drawing is much easier. It is quicker to see. There are periods in which I always have a camera with me.

TEJEDA: Do you make the drawings once the installation is finished or just before?

MARTY: Also afterwards. I have even drawn statues after making them.

TEJEDA: We haven’t spoken about the family. I think this is the first interview in which you don’t talk about it and this is the first interview I make like this, traipsing from one point to the other of a city as if in a pilgrimage.

MARTY: Well, from each installation you could do one... I have the feeling there are many things that remain unsaid.

1 This interview, as Enrique Marty wanted, tries to reflect the immediacy of the words and ideas we exchanged during these two days.

2 Autos-da-fe: ritual public penances of Heretics from the Inquisition (Translator’s Note).

Published in Catalog Exhibition in Sala Verónicas. Edited by Consejería de Educación y Cultura de Murcia. 2006.

DESCARGAR en DOCXTEXTS,_INTERVIEW,_Conversation_with_Isabel_Tejeda_files/TEXTS,%20INTERVIEW,%20Conversation%20with%20Isabel%20Tejeda.docx


DESCARGAR en PDFTEXTS,_INTERVIEW,_Conversation_with_Isabel_Tejeda_files/TEXTS,%20INTERVIEW,%20Conversation%20with%20Isabel%20Tejeda.pdf