Fundación Botín – Santander, Spain, 2017
Curated by Álvaro Rodríguez Fominaya
February 17th to April 16th 2017
In 1775 Lisbon was destroyed after suffering an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and a fire. This catastrophic event had a profound effect on the country. Letícia Ramos starts from this historical event to produce a non-documentary narrative. This artist has cultivated a specific interest in “cooking” photography, and has developed various prototype cameras. Consequently there is a certain physicality in the experience of images in her work. This photographic experience immerses us in an idea of the past through grain and texture. This crossover between science and craftsmanship, between knowledge and experimentation, emerges in her various series of works. Historia universal de los terremotos [Universal History of Earthquakes] (2016-17) is not a document or a historical review of what happened in Lisbon; it is a fictional story based on an event which Ramos uses to weave an experience of her own. Historia universal de los terremotos is the project she has created for this exhibition and it includes not only a series of photographs but also an artist’s book and a sculpture (should we call it kinetic?), which is related to the gaiola pombalina. This structure, the gaiola pombalina, was developed in Lisbon as an anti-seismic construction technique after the earthquake. For this photographic series Ramos uses a process of stroboscopic photography on microfilm with which she captures the movement of falling objects, in a direct reference to the impact of the earthquake.
Stroboscopic photography has been used primarily in the scientific world and has become widely known through the legacy of Edgerton. Ramos has found a way of interweaving the natural with the mystical, the force of a geological phenomenon with the human construction of an imaginary governed by the irrational. El mago y el terremoto [The Magician and the Earthquake] (2016) and Espectro del seísmo [Spectre of the Earthquake] (2016), titles of series of images within this project, reflect this convergence with the esoteric. The images, of an abstract nature, reflect the loss of focus that we imagine in an event of this kind, where everything loses its sharp outlines and is abandoned to its natural fate. These images also takes us into the realm of avant-garde, unlike historical photography. The fascination with the structure of the gaiola is expressed in a series of studies in which she analyses the movement of a sheet of paper failing, also using the stroboscopic technique.
This is not the first time Letícia Ramos has worked in a hybrid area between science, history and fiction. Each of the projects is in turn an experiment. Ramos constructs all kinds of contraptions and machines that will help her carry out the project she is working on. In 2012 she produced the Vostok project. Starting from the real event of the voyage of a Russian bathyscaphe to the Antarctic lake of the same name, she developed a video in which we see the vessel sailing through the depths of the lake. As part of this project she also produced a sound work and an artist’s book.
This reference to the scientific and to frontiers is something that fascinates Ramos. It is seeing scientific work as means of generating significant images for creating art; it is discovering a new and extreme territory in which dividing lines are erased. Ramos developed this idea of simulating scientific images in the same period as Vostok with a whole series of photographs that lead us into this area, with titles like Teleportation (2014) and Meteorite I (2014), although in fact they lack and scientific meaning and only make sense in the artistic sphere. In these works she not only introduces the notion of simulation in the strict sense, but also the idea of simulating utility in an ontological sense. Together with these concepts, the idea of photographic technique is an ontological sense. Together with these concepts, the idea of photographic technique is an intrinsic element of her work. Ramos has constructed unique hand-made cameras, enabling her to create images distinguished by the notion of singularity. These inventions of technological archaeology, the “Escafandro” [Diving Suit], the “ERBF” machine, the “Polar”, which she developed between 2007 and 2012, are devices she uses to create unique images that somehow swim against the current of the contemporary digital world.
Text from the catalog “ITINERARIOS XXIII”