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“Our society is ugly, art is our mirror”

In the age of selfies, it seems anybody can take photos. Smartphones are now everywhere and anybody that doesn´t have one is the exception to the rule. For Rosa Olivares, a writer, a journalist, and art critic, “Everybody takes pictures and identifies with the image because it seems close; is the artistic language of contemporaneity. More than the cinema, because it’s what you see but do not do.”

In this context is where post-photography emerges, a term Olivares, director and editor of EXIT, a journal devoted to photographic imagery in contemporary art– says how this comes after the photo and images begin to be technologically reproduced.

“It’s the photo you take me on your phone, the pictures posted on the web, all this is post-photography. More than a change in techniques, it is a change in sensitiveness, a change of times,” said Olivares, who recently participated in a discussion panel with Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) students as preparation for their master’s in Practices in Contemporary Photography.

In an interview with UN Periódico, Olivares provides an approach to this new scenario, the challenges and the current reality of contemporary art, because when she talks of photography, she talks of the art, as an expert in his field.

“I am not an expert in photography; I am an expert in art. I am not interested in the tools, I am interested in the results and I analyze them from the artistic, cultural and historical perspective,” she says.

UN Periódico (UNP): What is the difference between photography and post-photography?

Rosa Olivares (RO): Photography is an object which in reality is printed on paper while post-photography we work with signals; the images are not physical, you can resend and manage it in a thousand ways, without printing it on paper. Reality is not so directly related with post-photography as photography, because the former works with algorithms and with a computer you can manage everything.

UNP: So, is the relationship between photography and reality blurred?

RO: The relation between photography and reality has always been blurred, what happens is that we are naïve in thinking that any photo image is real, but it is only a fragment of a longer speech. If we analyze a movie exclusively for a still picture, this will not explain the screenplay or anything at all.

UNP: Has the figure of the author been lost with the boom of social media?

RO: We need to distinguish amateur from professional photography. An amateur picture has never had an author and what has been multiplied is the photograph on the web, which nobody cares about, it has no author. But the author is not dead, it is very much alive, precisely because now more than ever, photography is considered an art and everybody wants to be an artist. Professionals or youngsters, who want to be photographers or artists, preserve their ego more than their authorship.

UNP: Doart critics exist?

RO: No, because the market, the system or the institution is not interested because there are too many economic interests involved. This is how they’ve created an image of the Curator, a mercenary at the end, who works for who pays him best and evidently he/she will not very critical because he/she will not be called again. They have shut down the critics all possibility of survival.

UNP: Why does it seem that for the general public, artistic contemporary expressions are not easy to understand?

RO: First of all, because the contemporary public is increasingly ignorant. Newspapers have lowered their writing quality and this makes people even more ignorant. But we also have to take into account that plastic arts go through a bit of what happened to music or poetry, that they communicate more through symbols and signals than through a narrative language. The issue is that many times art is not understood, because there is nothing to understand, it is a sensitive or irrational perception. When you want to translate this to a lined language, much is lost.

UNP: How is this situation managed from the art perspective?

RO: Theoretical people, depending on what type they are, use more cryptic or erudite languages or terminologies which make the public not understand. Many people think that if their writing is not complicated it doesn’t seem educated: behind all this, there is a kind of inferiority complex, which may be global in the world of art. That is not necessary, the language has to be adequate for the target and we need to let people directly relate with art in a sensitive manner; from this approach with a work of art, comprehension of the theoretical speech will emerge.

UNP: Is there a fascination with the ugly?

RO: People that are scared of contemporary art seem not to reckon the society we live in. An artist is not a decorator; it is somebody that transgresses reality, questioning the reality of the world and places us in front of a mirror and has to cause discomfort. Currently, it would be contradictory for contemporary art to be kind, elegant, with smooth colors, impossible for the society we live in. Is art ugly? Is it incomprehensible? I think our society in incomprehensible and ugly, art is our mirror.

An artist is not a decorator …



UNP: Why has the right been more favorable to art than the left?

RO: That is a provoking comment, what I wanted to say is that in Spain, the right has always made an effort to demonstrate its support for art, which it really does not have. And since it doesn´t it has always spent on things, such as infrastructure to compensate for that complex. In that sense, the right produces a false image of the country while the left has never learned to assimilate what cultural management has been. In face of one that does not know and the other that doesn’t, but it provides money, I prefer that one that provides money. That is the explanation of this famous sentence.


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