Monday, 28 March 2011

Interview with Hondartza Fraga

Hondartza Frage is a visual artist from Spain. Fraga moved over to Yorkshire to study an MA in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University and now works in Bloc studios Sheffield. Fraga primerliy works with video, photography, drawing, and sometimes from found objects and images.During March 2011, Fraga was chosen as artist of the month at Axis, by invited selector Dominic Mason.

I was fortunate to come across Fragas Video D is for Distance at an artist talk. The ambiguity of the videos structure and form, is incredibly interesting and thought provoking.She describes the work:

A ship travels. I follow its path across the open ocean through a little window in my computer screen. It updates every minute. I collect minutes. But I am not there. I am only here. One day of this journey, one day the sea moving fast below.

But a journey that goes to where it never arrives, and comes from where it never parted. It is the real sea. It was real time. Distance is distorted, compressed and negated. The little window makes me a promise of immediacy, of omnipresence…of control. But the promise is always inconsistent. Always unfulfilling.

I emailed Hondartza with a few questions about D is for Distance

Me: Your video D is for distance reminds me of the term life is always round. Within that I mean that the ideal that we will never know where the ship departed and where the ship will arrive, makes the ships journey futile and pointless, and “unfulfilling”. The “unfulfilling” nature of the ships journey, initially reminded me of the ways in which experimental film, structural film will provide the viewer with a narrative that seems to ‘go nowhere’ and camera shots that seem provide ‘nothing of importance’. Your video is only short although did you ever consider making the duration a lot longer, and the video screened on itself. The only reason that I ask this is because the angst that a longer duration could cause the viewer, could further question the notions of the distorted, immediacy and fulfillment and un-fulfillment. What are your thoughts on this?

Hondartza: The work is to be shown as a loop in an exhibition, so there would be no beginning or end. The ship is constantly repeating the same day over and over again. But with only ocean as reference the journey could also be understood as a procession of endless identical days, all following one another without conclusion. "Unfulfilling'' is precisely the word I would use to describe the experience of looking at all these Webcams on the internet, there is a implicit association between 'seeing' and 'being' when one is sitting in front of a computer with the power to click and see potentially anywhere in the world instantly. As viewers looking at this tiny image in our computer screens, we don't actually go anywhere; we can only inhabit the places with our sight and imagination. And in a way, the video showing a journey trapped in a loop is as unmoving as we are looking at it. The video both evokes and negates the very idea of travel.

Me: The video also reminds me of Marshal McLuhan’s, theories of the medium being the message, and his prediction of the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. McLuhan insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. It would be really interesting if you could give more of an explanation of how the footage you collected and the characteristics of the Internet, and its global vision of world, interlink with the notion of the distorted and immediacy?

Hondartza: I am interested in spaces that are only accessible to the observer through sight and fantasy (like the video I made with night vision in a dollhouse: Vision) and how different technologies can affect the way we interpret that space. In D is for Distance is important that the work has been constructed from Webcam images online, available to anyone, to emphasize how this global vision transforms the meaning of distance. How Webcams are potentially compressing and distorting our relation with the world. The Internet makes the whole world accessible with the click of a button, but the reality of these places, the implications of what a real journey may entail are overlooked. The viewer is travelling only with his/her mind, physical space and the body are rejected, or at best considered irrelevant. These are the concepts I am questioning in these works.

Me: Even though you collected the footage from the internet have you ever represented the work on different platforms on the internet, to reinforce concepts behind the video. (This might be totally irrelevant), just thoughts I had about the work.

Hondartza: D is for Distance was originally produced for ‘Oxhouse’ project by artist Clare Adams. ‘Oxhouse’ was an online alphabet made for and about the digital native. A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already exist when they are born, and hence has or will grow up with digital technology such as the internet, mobile phones, social networking sites etc. The project showcased works from 26 diverse artists from all over the world who responded to the following:
 What are and will be the implications of the digital world on our digital natives?
 What gift would you give to the digital native about to be born into our digital world?

Each artist proposed a piece of work for a letter of the alphabet and then chose a word to represent the letter and made a piece of work in response with a message or definition for the digital native (the project is no longer online but here is some information:

So the work first platform was the same medium from which it had been produced. But it was also important to me to see how it would work in a different context. As a loop on a monitor in a gallery the work can also be in direct dialogue with my other works that relate to the same ideas (like the work Never Arrived, Never Parted, which explore this idea of the no-journey using a model ship’s shadow).

You can view the video here: