A glass of fruit & Better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all

ALEJANDRO ALMANZA

Alejandro Almanza Pereda was born in Mexico City. He has a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the University of Texas, El Paso, and also did a Masters in Fine Arts at Hunter College in New York. He currently lives and works between Mexico and the United States.

Alejandro has a personal connection with used objects. He looks for them in markets and second-hand shops to bring them together with different materials. His work method challenges structural instability, creating endless possibilities for sculptures. In these videos, he experiments with objects, submerging them underwater and observes them under a different set of laws of physics.

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Where did you get the objects that we see here?
From markets from all over the place. This project arose from a tick I got – every time I see an object I wonder whether it floats or not. It’s incredible. When I research, I discover interesting things, like that grapes don’t float and that there are kinds of pears that roll around. Finding objects is fascinating, and I almost always use used objects to build my sculptures, not for the “vintage” look, but because it is an aesthetic that is closer to my era. I feel closer to them than to an object bought from Ikea.

 

What relationship do you have with the objects you use in your work?
I have a very personal relationship with the object. It takes me back to my childhood. When you are little, you learn about the physical world and the world of objects in your house. You relate to them and you start to understand whether they’re heavy or not, if they’re fragile or valuable. You give them several dimensions and qualities. Objects that carry a load and history are the ones I use in my work. I choose them for that. Then there are the physical properties. For example, if the jar has enough air to be turned over under water, etc. Plus, I go to a lot of stores with a bucket of water to test things. Everyone looks at me weird.

 

Do you choose the object or does the object choose you?
I don’t know, many people have to talk about the object and its capacity to see you. I collect many objects and sometimes I take them with me. Now I’m in New York, in the middle of nowhere, and I’m collecting objects. What I don’t know is how I’ll bring them back to Mexico. But it’s interesting, sometimes I think that it isn’t me who chooses the objects, but that they are the ones that choose me. I like them. They’re like a parasite. Well, I don’t know who the parasite is!

I have a passion and illness with the object, of being able to acquire it. But sometimes they are the ones that have power over me.

 

How did you get the idea to experiment with objects under water? Was the idea difficult to materialize?
It was a kind of romantic idea where I saw a bunch of helium balloons lifting a construction block. I work with the laws of physics, and at one point it began to be monotonous. In reality, everything goes downwards. The power of gravity makes it so that few things go up, like helium or hot air do. So, I ask myself “How can I go somewhere with different laws of physics?” And my idea was under the water. That’s where everything started. I signed up for scuba diving classes and I asked the professor if we could do my idea, and it happened.

But to get to this very simple idea, I signed up for the course, got a bag for my camera and I took a spontaneous photo.   Getting to the final realization of each image was a constant shipwreck. I started this work in 2006 and then I set it aside. Ten years later, a curator friend, Cesar Morales, asked me to show him all of my failed ideas and he saw this work. He thought it was incredible and he invited me to Phoenix at a friend’s house who had a pool and we did it. Actually, the hand in the video, the one setting the apples and the letters, belongs to my friend.  He helped me on set and I operated the camera. Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating, but you have to keep going.

 

Objects under water have another physical reality. Do these elements have an order and composition of these elements in the different videos?
Yes, they certainly do. But in each of the videos, the compositions were very quick. The essential part of this work is behind the camera. It is very hard to carry out this machinery for these videos. It took me four months to do the set and each video took me three or four days to shoot. I focus more energy on solving problems and how to do it than the aesthetics. There isn’t time to think about aesthetics. It’s something simple and fast, we’ll see what happens. In the videos I let the object be. There are always mistakes, but you have to let these accidents happen.

 

What allowed you to discover this new form of expression?
It’s another world, they are other laws of physics and they can create surreal situations without tricking the public. I don’t use any special or digital effects. There are physical effects, in a certain way. That’s what interests me in my work: what’s real. Breaking the paradigms that we have on objects and situations. A classic piece of mine is a block of concrete on top of light bulbs. It makes you think “how can that be?”. If you distribute the weight, it’s possible. Plus, the focus is something that you think is very fragile, but when you take it and push on it you realize that it can handle a lot of weight. I’m interested in breaking these kinds of things.

 

Why did you choose still life? Are you using it for the first time or have you tried it before?
Two of these videos are based on the still lives of Juan Sánchez Cotán and the other in Caravaggio. Everyone did still lives. It was seen as the lowest in painting, for beginners, and it was always looked at from different perspectives. But Caravaggio did a painting that revolutionized still life. He placed the perspective at the table. And I did this but under water. I took a glass and put things that floated and things that sunk in it.    They are like two Caravaggios, in a way. For Sánchez Cotán, I recreated many of his paintings, even though I did not find all the vegetables, but I played with a niche space under the water, with objects that can float or sink, as well elements hanging with ropes. It’s like a reverence to still life. In my sculptures, I have always used still life. I leave objects and make constant reference to still life.

 

In your videos, especially “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” we can contemplate the object from a nostalgic perspective. How is it related to everyday life?
Yes, it is a very nostalgic video. Second-hand objects and antiques carry a tremendous load. It is interesting that all human beings need objects, we need to see ourselves on objects. When I go to the markets I find myself with these kinds of things, everything on the stand belongs to one person who died. And I see the connection with this person and the person itself. Objects define us. All objects that we have will survive us. I wonder “What will happen with all my things?”

Will they be sold? What if I wrote it in my will? Do I create a piece with all the objects?

It is interesting to see these objects that one creates, which might not have any kind of importance, but you still have a relationship with them. You are going to die, and the object will remain.

 

By Javier Morelope