· Enrique Marty interview by Paco Barragan in Artpulse Magazine


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Published in Artpulse magazine. No.21. Vol.6. (2015). Photos by Quique Acosta.



“As an observer, I am in a constant state of tension against the superstitions of society.”

Spanish artist Enrique Marty (1969, Salamanca) presents his mid-career retrospective “Enrique Marty: Group therapy, Act of Faith, Dark Room” at Domus Artium (DA2). The show spans 20 years of work and features a variety of formats and mediums–from sculpture, painting, installations and video to photography and watercolor. We’ve spoken with Marty to delve into his obsessions, relationships and beliefs about contemporary subject.


Paco Barragán - “Enrique Marty: Group Therapy, Act of Faith, Dark Room” is the most comprehensive exhibition of your work to date. It consists of 20 years of work, even works from your childhood. What can a visitor to the exhibition expect to see?

Enrique Marty - I should confess that initially, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of having ​​a "retrospective”, as I see my whole body of work as a single work, a core, formed by smaller parts that make up the interconnected series.

I'm even reluctant to date the works because I see them as a single entity that’s unfolding in time. There is an evolution in the work, though it’s similar to when we look at the end of the branch of a tree, the leaf is attached to the branch, to the trunk, all the way to the roots, even though time and growth separate one end from the other.

However, the viewer’s interpretation of the work can be altered if we follow a scripted, conceptual framework and thematic structure for the exhibit. This serves to give the project a more complex understanding, allowing for other conceptual premises and narratives to unfold outside of simply displaying the works in chronological order...

P.B. - Family and the concept of home are at the heart of your artistic practice. Why has family been such a fascinating topic for you? It reminds me of the saying that we get to choose our friends but we cannot choose our family…

E.M. - I am very interested in family as a symbol, a universal symbol that everyone understands. I’ve based a lot of my work on this idea though have recently focused on other targets.

P.B. - We associate family with comfort and security, in your depictions of family we find the ‘unheimlich’, the sinister, the obscene, the grotesque and even the indecent. The viewer is also drawn into these disturbing scenes, confronted by the gaze of your creations. Why?

E.M. - The term “unheimlich” refers to the unexpected, the sinister or grotesque that appears when it should not appear. That's when it leads to catharsis. The role of the god Pan was to cause chaos, terror, and then came the cathartic moment. Pan appeared from the bushes with his terrible appearance and changed the life of the onlooker.
Which brings to mind Artaud´s Cenci Family, theoretically based on a true story. Families that have exterminated themselves have actually existed.


P.B. - Your oeuvre is rhizomatic and holistic in nature. Like a big Gesammtkunstwerk that keeps growing along forking paths but ends up on the same shore. Likewise, in your work, there are many themes and characters that keep coming back over the years through different settings.

E.M. - The eternal return yes, and the total work of art, and here we go back to Wagner and Nietzsche. Surely if I where not an artist, I would be a psychopath, but a psychopath in Nietzsche’s style, an insufferable man (or I maybe already am!) Or a character like Artaud, a runaway and extreme guy.
While I make my work it imposes limits in myself, and as Nietzsche said, a bridled mind flanged better than a runaway mind.
I always have this desire to write with images a philosophical treatise of chaos, trying to bring order, or trying to understand I don´t know what exactly. Sometimes I feel like a real fucking nihilist!

P.B. - Related to the above question, how do you choose your mediums within your artistic process? Every medium seems appropriate in your work, from painting to drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, animation… Do they all have the same hierarchy to you?

E.M. - I don’t think I have ever consciously chosen the medium I was going to use. The medium does not matter to me, I have never identified as a painter, sculptor, video artist or what the hell else… Every day provides a different answer: if I’ve been painting, I am a painter. It also happens with the materials, I do not care at all.


P.B. - The exhibit has been divided in 3 big thematic blocks. In the first, Dark Room, we find works that address our ‘obsessions’. Here we sense a strong interest for Nietzsche—nihilism and his will to power—, Freud—the unconscious and the repressed—and Artaud—theater of cruelty—. Fear, anger, uneasiness, power, insanity…come to mind.

E.M. - Like I said before, I feel nihilistic, but I also deny nihilism. Now I could even say that I consider the materials I use as essential. I'm attracted to extreme characters who defied society and won, as Artaud and Nietzsche, but also Aleister Crowley. And above all, it is important to be contradictory. I find in contradiction much authenticity and truth.

I like to depict philosophers in comic and grotesque forms, making nonsense. I've shot many videos with people wearing masks representing Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Foucault, etc. and in our show these masks are found exposed in a piece entitled Models of easily ofendible people in descending order. To display the masks I've created a few bodies with extremely long feet wearing the masks used in the videos. There is a saying in the Netherlands to refer to a person who is easily offended: "you have very long toes" (in the case of Nietzsche, his hands are also feet.)

I like to see philosophers as actors in a play of the theater of cruelty (or nonsense). I love Nietzsche and I hate Kant.

P.B. - In this section we find earlier work from the 90s and also recent work like Revealed Outdoor Scene(2014), which connect conceptually with The Rape of Europe (2014) and earlier works.

E.M. - The series "Revealed Outdoor Scene" is the result of my obsession with the Étant Donnés by Duchamp, that fascinates me in many ways.

Duchamp, who in theory had stopped working toward 25 years, and whose work was gone dematerializing itself to become pure ideas, suddenly, after his death, unveils a work like this. Deeply carnal, narrative. Pure visual experience.
This is my reply to Duchamp. The viewer is not a voyeur anymore, but the death itself, which kicks the door and pounces on the woman. For this representation of death, I borrow the archetypal medieval skeletons; dancing, courting women, laughing, drinking… The Étant Donnés talks about Eros and Thanatos with extreme harshness. And I always wondered what is going to happen next in Duchamp´s storyline.
At first impression, the woman, in Duchamp’s work, looks like a corpse, which is denied by the fact that it is holding the lamp with an upright arm. She shows her body “full frontal”, but not his face. I wanted to follow a similar strategy. All women appearing in the “Revealed outdoor Scene" series, show their body openly but their faces, although they are in sight, are somewhat blurred, they are not portraits but rather types, they could be indeed any woman. The complete series are five pieces, two of them are shown in DA2.
Indeed, this series connects with The Rape of Europe. A piece that, represents the mythological  Rape of Europe by Zeus transformed into a white bull. Europe is a skeleton. A kind of horseman of the apocalypse. That is where Europe is heading.

P.B. - The second section delves into the realm of our social relationships: Group Therapy. The tense relationship of the contemporary subject in relationship with society, be it his family, his friends or a stranger. You’re dealing here with—as Foucault would argue—‘the economy of power relations’.

E.M. - As an observer I am in a constant state of tension, a tension of permanent vigilance against the superstitions of society. It´s like these soldiers guarding the border of North Korea. They are always in a state of high tension, so firm and vigilant that their whole body seems a pure contracture; the funny thing is that they are all situated with their backs against the border. They are not guarding the border in case someone wants to enter the country, but to keep anyone from leaving.

P.B. - This section has been built up around the ongoing installation Stalker, which in a sense works as the motor of the show displaying installation, sculptures, paintings, videos, and so on.

E.M. - Stalker was first built up in Cuenca, at the Antonio Perez  Foundation in 2010. I  rebuilt it to be installed in DA2 bigger and more complex.
This piece is based on the concept of the spectator as an stalker, I was strongly influenced by Jung when I did it.
The piece is contained between The Study of My Shadow, a new work, the Jungian term referring to the dark side we all have and we project onto others, as in a mirror. And a piece called Cataract Operation. An old piece in this case, from 1996-99, that has been re-made completely. Where we see the eye of my mother and my father being eye cataract surgery. We see this reflected in a distorting mirror. The paternal gaze being repaired. The raw image is quite hard to see, close up of eyes being operated. A lot of people find it too extreme. But, here the reflection in the distorting mirror transforms the effect into something even beautiful.
In the midst of these pieces, the viewer wanders through a small town  composed by houses of different sizes. As a rogue spy who must take a look within each house, where inside, there is always a recent piece in dialogue with some of the paintings I did as a child. Between 10 and 13 years old.

I want the viewer having the feeling that is glancing inside my own head. And, as it surely will occur, feels reflected in it.

Inside this installations there are others installations like, Magic Lantern. A video installation where four videos develop my self-portrait, and the video “All your world is pointless” which now has become a central core in my work. And other pieces like, Friedrich and Michel in Hell, My most terrible Fear etc. I always think on this whole area of the show as the Phantasmagorian place. Made of shades and fears.

P.B. - We also find here the installation PRAY Pray P.I.G.S! which in some countries have considered offensive. Do you really think it’s offensive or is what’s going in Europe really much more offensive?

E.M. - In fact, this is actually the first time I've managed to show it.
Every time I have been invited to an exhibition, and the subject fit well, I  proposed this piece to the curator and so far it has been rejected on the grounds that it could be problematic to show it.
It's funny how each person interprets this piece. I made it as ambiguous and open as possible. The title; Pray, Pray PIGS, refers to the sarcastic way some banking Anglo-Saxon circles calls certain countries, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. Countries that have been victims, no executioners , of the supposed economic collapse.

Anyway, no problem. Everybody see in the others what they really think about themselves.
People, however, often associate the piece with the Muslim world. It is true that I have used a form of prayer that recalls the shape of Muslim prayer but the figures are dressed in western attire and, actually, are self-portraits. So I am fascinated to see how the spectator reflects himself and creates his interpretations and those interpretations take its own life.

P.B. - Another huge installation is A Fork in the Brain, consisting of 6120 watercolors of 13x17cm with a video that have been installed first time ever. Tell us about both the process and the concept behind it.

E.M. - I´ve made several animations in the same type but this is the longest and most ambitious. Basically it is the portrait of a person I know. The physical and psychological portrait. He has a number of problems, caused in part by a strange relationship with his mother, very dominant.

Once he said that  talking to his mother is like someone digging in his brain  with a fork. This brilliant sentence decided me to make the piece. The process was, first shooting a video in which this person, Luis, wanders for a fairground. Its weight makes him move very slowly, and this was an important part in the narrative. Everything moves around frantically, but he remains nearly stationary, moving heavily. At a certain point, he has a pointless duel with a boxing machine, which, as we finally see, does not take him or the plot anywhere, in a total anticlimax.

Once filmed this video, I proceeded to separate the frames to get an animation of 12 frames per second.
I then proceeded to copy the frames in watercolor on paper in a format 12x18cm, traditional technique. It took about three years to complete the project.

Once you show the whole group together, the piece becomes and optic installation, very immersive. In a way, if you stand in the middle of the space, you fell that you are diving in a sea of uncontrolled thoughts, thoughts that you cannot stop or control.


P.B. - Finally, the third section has been articulated around the concept ‘Act of Faith’ dealing with ideas of the spiritual, the superstitious, the monstrous and the grotesque.

E.M. - The fact is that the grotesque is in everyday life. That’s not the case in my work. I identify with the theater of absurdity and cruelty in that same sense. Cruelty not as a form of violence, but as the radical commitment of the artist to mercilessly represent the world. Cruelty is not in my work, it is on the outside. I'm not interested in art that does not have this commitment, art that is neo-decorative or has a false intellectual varnish that falls at the first hurdle. I am deeply committed to my work.

P.B. - The idea of the mirror and the double is always present in your work. Also the use of masks—either in your self-portrait or in characters like Freud, Foucault et al—reminds me of Artaud’s idea of the human face as the space where to observe the struggle against the forces of death.

E.M. - And again we return to Nietzsche. Regarding Artaud I have in mind a famous anecdote, of when Jacques Rivière was the director of the Nouvelle Revue Française. As you know, he maintained a correspondence with Artaud that was published periodically in this very prestigious magazine. The first letter  published by him was the one in which he explained to Artaud why he would not publish his poems, which seemed to him too wacky, abstract and loose. But anyway, he wanted to know the person behind the poems and establish with him a correspondence that would be published. Rivière thought that Artaud's mind was too rampant. This mind, according to him, when left free suffered from pure digression, but could perform better when focused on writing something concrete like a letter.

That was what he said to Artaud, who named his mind a war machine!

The Double and the Shadow are perhaps that loose and uncontrolled mind. The Shadow as spoken about by Jung, the one we all feel at our backs. It is this shadow that lurks in my Stalker piece in the show. It is the city in which the shadow prowls and spies.

P.B. - I would like to finish this small interview with the following question: in what ways has Enrique Marty changed in relation to the one of the beginning of his career in the 90s?

E.M. - I feel safer, that’s all.

P.B. - Thank you for your time.

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