Thinking with and through decaying objects: a digital interview with Nicolás Lamas

Issue no5
Oct / Nov 2017
REMIX

Last weekend, Nicolás Lamas’ solo show The Form of Decay opened at P/////AKT. His show is the last in a series of solo exhibitions that together form a project called Thinging. The project focusses on “thinking with things, about things and through things as a method for rethinking the model of a solo exhibition as an activated environment.”[1] Liza Prins (digitally) met up with Nicolás Lamas and asked him some questions about his work and his current show at P/////AKT.

A look at your website tells me that you've been having a crazy exhibition schedule over the past months, how do you navigate between such a great number of different shows?

Indeed, I did several individual exhibitions this year and it might be difficult to understand how I can deal with all of these projects. But I think it's important to know that I do not work in a studio (actually I don’t have one). When I receive an invitation to make a show, I use the exhibition space as my studio. In that way, I don’t have a physical approach to the project until I’m installing everything. At home, I only make notes, drawings and read many texts in order to create certain lineaments for the project. For me, it is very important to develop the most important part of the project, and take the most important decisions, within the space. I want to keep things open for potential changes in the process. I do not make tests or works of which I already know how they will be displayed in the space. I usually only travel with certain materials and objects that might be part of the project that I have in mind.

As a maker, I completely understand what you mean when you say that you want to keep things open for (performative) changes. Every situation or space needs a particular handling, which is hard, if not impossible, to anticipate in advance without having been in the space before. But I’m wondering, does this 'method' also fail you at times? Isn't it sometimes really stressful to not know where a work is going until the last moment? And in addition to that, were there ever times you thought an installation could have been more worked-out, but the built-up time didn't allow for that?

Of course, that can always happen. Nobody can do things right all the time. To discuss if a project is good or bad is also a very subjective terrain and it depends on the level on which it is analyzed. Everything can always be better, but it can also be worse. So, I do not get stressed or frustrated too much and I don’t try to find the exact point where everything is under control. The decisions I make are the ones I believe to be the most convenient at a certain moment. So, there is nothing to regret. After each exhibition, I need a few days to evaluate what went well and what can be improved for future projects. As I mentioned before, for me every project is an exercise, a sort of material annotation that helps me to understand how certain object relations operate within a specific space. I don’t care so much about the outcome of a particular project, but I care about what I can learn from it. Obviously, I have projects that I feel more satisfied with than others. However, the most important thing is how they all have a role to play and contribute to my work in general over time.

So, you mean to say that all the works exist in relation to each other? Can you tell me something about how your different projects affect each other?

Everything is related on different levels. I understand my work not as independent pieces, but as a big network of associations and references, a series of speculative exercises that grows as a complex system of thought through objects and images over time. I see my work as continuous dialogues, as exchanges of energy and information in constant flow, which operate on multiple layers of reference and meaning. More than a group of defined and definitive works, what I look for are unstable links between things: inconsistent and uncomfortable relationships that pose a series of problems that go beyond the same language. The pieces derive from apparently trivial actions or gestures and they relate on several levels within a shared space; as pieces of a game of which the rules are not yet known, but certain logics are intuited within their dynamics and connections.

I love that you say that you see your work as one big network, instead of independent pieces. I am wondering if it is important to you that the people who see your work understand this logic or know about it. Does it matter if someone just sees one installation and interprets it as an autonomous instance? Or do you have certain methods (maybe through your website or publications) to give them an entry to your way of working and the interconnectedness between your works?

I think that the way one interacts with art in general is quite personal and complex. For me, it is important to create a series of interconnections within my work, as a method of thought and research. However, I don’t think it is strictly necessary that every person who encounters my work finds those relationships. There are no instructions or correct ways to have a dialogue with the work of an artist, just be curious and don’t be afraid of not understanding, because things can exchange information and affect our lives on many levels that we are not able to perceive most of the time.

In P//////AKT you will be showing The Form of Decay, an installation that will function as a frozen production site. It will reflect on the transitional power of matter. Can you already give information about the installation you are working on?

I am working directly in the space, building a modular structure that reconstitutes the space and the circulation of visitors. It is a fragmented space that shows and hides at the same time. In it, different kind of industrial and natural objects will be placed to create an encounter between opposing forces in constant dialogue and contamination. In this sense, the most interesting for me is an emphasis on the transitory condition of things. This means an emphasis not only on the ephemeral state of matter, but also on the displacement of the body within an undefined space where different paths arise when the visitor tries to find links between pieces scattered in space.

In what way do you hope that the 'matter of your installation' will transition? Will elements of the installation actually decay over the period of the exhibition or will it function more like a still life?

Transition refers to something that is halfway to something else, an entity that is in between two different spaces or states. Transition and decay are very important concepts within my work. Normally, we associate movement, dynamic processes and heat to living organisms and the static or motionless to the inert, that which has lost its capacity to generate energy and acquires the temperature of the environment, until it merges with it. However, inanimate objects are mobilized through external forces. The inert bodies or the decomposition of organic matters also acquire a series of changes and dynamics despite their apparent inactivity. Energy is always released while bodies and things are changing shape and condition. In the end, everything changes and moves, everything is in transition to something else even though we are not always able to perceive those changes and movements.

Are you saying that, in this sense, (inert) matter has a form of agency? I cannot help but connect this to upcoming (theoretical) interests described as 'New Materialism'. Were you ever inspired by this or is there any connection?

I have read several texts about it, but I don’t see my work only under a materialistic, post-materialistic or speculative perspective, but also under the influence of other theoretical fields that lead me to approaches that are in constant construction. I absorb a lot of information from many different sources and I have very chaotic research methods, so my ideas are quite hybrids in general terms, which prevents me from placing my work within a specific system of thought.

You will also be presenting your new book 'The Attraction of the Mountains' during the show. Do you see the book as a place where you could give a form to this hybridity of your ideas? And can you tell me something about the interconnectedness between the book and the installation?

When Posture Editions invited me to make a publication with them, it was clear for me that it would be interesting to make a review of my work of the last four or five years, but providing another set of data that would allow a broader and more complex reading of my practice and methods of research. I decided that I would approach the book as a physical space, where I would place only images of works and not of exhibition or installation overviews. Each chosen work was finding its place within the book, creating links with other referential images of my personal archive or pictures of interesting situations that I took with my phone, or quotes from books that I have been reading during the process of research. The idea of the book is to show how I generate connections between my work and external references. It shows heterogeneous and apparently disconnected elements that somehow attract and establish unstable dialogues and relationships that force us to reconsider the ways in which we see the world. I’m interested in finding other ways to understand the circulation and connection of things. So, the book is not only connected to this show in particular at P/////AKT, but also to all my other projects.

I think it is really interesting that the book can almost serve as a guide in understanding your works as part of that continuum we discussed earlier. I am not sure if I understand it correctly, but it seems to me that it was important to 'trace back' the many personal and interrelated strands that influenced certain works and maybe also to negate a hierarchy between 'your work' and 'other material'. Can you elaborate on how you see yourself as part of your work, or maybe even as an inevitable precondition, in relation to 'granting more agency to matter' and negating hierarchies between different sources and objects?

That’s exactly what I was looking for with this book: to break with the hierarchy between work and other reference materials, to give them the same weight within the publication. In some cases, it is not clear if an image is the documentation of a finished work, or a reference: the borders dissolve. This is something that I have also been doing in some exhibitions, where I included materials, objects or images that I don’t consider works in themselves, but that serve somehow as bridges or points of connection between certain pieces. In that sense, I see my work as a scenario that is modified and adjusted during the installation process. As a director of this performative circulation of things, I try to find potential encounters between things that are apparently unconnected and activate dysfunctional links that refuse to be defined.

[1] http://www.pakt.nu/2017/thinging/

Nicolás Lamas – The Form of Decay (Thinging part VI), P/////AKT, Amsterdam, 18.11.2017 t/m 17.12.2017

 

Liza Prins
is an artist and intern at Metropolis M

Share this Article:
|Back to Top
Related | Most read
Magazine
Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 5 — 2017