Andreas Fogarasi: “Me interesa descubrir lo que hay detrás de las cosas»

El estudio de Andreas Fogarasi (Viena, 1977) es una extensión de su obra: minuciosamente ordenado, lleno de librerías diseñadas por él, fotos distribuidas a lo largo de una pared imantada a modo de display y una gran mesa llena de pequeñas maquetas. Formado en Arquitectura y Bellas Artes, en su obra conviven dos líneas inseparables de trabajo: la que reflexiona sobre el papel que ocupa la arquitectura en nuestra sociedad – su utilización como medio de atracción para el turismo y los inversores – y la que presta atención a la importancia de los materiales, las estructuras y el diseño, esta última de corte más minimalista. El resultado son obras de aspecto escultórico y contenido documental en las que analiza cómo se nos presentan las cosas y la influencia que tiene la cultura en el desarrollo urbano.

Su carrera ha sido meteórica. En 2007 representó a Hungría en la Bienal de Venecia y fue premiado con el León de Oro al mejor pabellón. En España hemos podido ver su trabajo en muchas ocasiones, con exposiciones individuales en el Museo Reina Sofía y en el Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo en 2011, o con colectivas en el Centro de Arte Laboral o en el CGAC, entre otras. Actualmente participa en una muestra en el MAK Center de Los Ángeles junto al artista norteamericano Oscar Tuazón con una obra sobre el desmontaje del Salón del Automóvil de Detroit, y en 2015 las citas serán muchas: un proyecto de arte público en la ciudad de Burdeos, tres exposiciones individuales en la Galería Casado Santapau de Madrid dentro de a3bandas, en tranzit.ro/ de Iași (Rumanía) y en amt-project en Bratislava, y un largo etcétera.

* Fragmento de la entrevista  publicada en DARDOmagazine #26 en febrero de 2015.

Andreas Fogarasi studio is an extension of his work: everything is meticulously organised, the bookshelves are designed by him, there are many photos magneted to a wall transformed into a display and a long table in the middle with models on it. Having studied both architecture and fine art, two fundamental lines of work converge in the art of Andreas Fogarasi (Vienna, 1977): a reflection on the role that architecture plays in our society, as a lure to draw tourists and investors, and, in a more minimal vein, an emphasis on the importance of materials, structures and design. As a result, his works are sculptural in appearance and highly documentary in content, using them to analyse how things are presented to us and how culture influences urban development.

Fogarasi’s rise to artistic prominence has been meteoric. In 2007 he represented Hungary at the Venice Biennale, where he won the Golden Lion for best pavilion with his video project Kultur und Freizeit. He has made solo shows at Reina Sofía Museum and CAAC Seville in 2011, and group exhibitions at Centro de Arte Laboral and CGAC, among other venues in Spain. Besides, he is currently participating in a show at MAK Center Los Angeles together with Oscar Tuazón and is preparing a public project for the City of Bordeaux, and three solo shows at Galería Casado Santapau(a3bandas (Madrid), tranzit.ro/ (Iași, Romania) and amt-project (Bratislava).

LUISA ESPINO / You pay special attention to the role that architecture plays in the commercialisation of a city’s image with, for example, the construction of emblematic buildings. How would you describe the institutional criticism that can be noticed in your work?

ANDREAS FOGARASI /Part of my work stems from institutional criticism. When I started my career in the 1990’s – whilst I was still studying but already aware of what was happening – a group of artists had a strong influence on me: the generation of Andrea Fraser, Christian Philipp Müller, Fareed Armaly, Mark Dion or Renée Green (who was my teacher at the Vienna Academy), as well as the previous generation, with people such as Allan Sekula or Martha Rosler. They are all artists that practice political criticism, and this is partly where I come from. However, in my work I do not refer to an artistic institution in a specific manner. It’s true that the logic of the art world has become in some ways a logic of other more important systems – a process that we can call “culturalisation” of the economy. In many of my projects, I research the influence that museums, galleries, artists, etc. have in urban development. What is the role of architecture, where do the projects go once they come off the architect’s drawing table, in what context, in which society? … How can an art museum function when it is placed in an arbitrary manner in London, New York or Abu Dhabi. It is maybe something that isn’t so different from what Louise Lawler does when he looks at the context in which artworks finish.

LE / In Barcelona Sights (Architecture), you talk about the mediatisation of architecture, of iconic buildings that have been converted into little dots on a map, used as a tourist attraction and a source of revenue..

AF / Yes, totally, to attract tourism, to attract media attention, investors, for external communication and also with the inhabitants. Moreover, we see other phenomena such as the European Capitals of Culture, large infrastructure projects with the “culture” label, simply because museums are being built, almost always thought up solely for this specific moment, and that in the years that follow, end up with no budget for alternative initiatives of any scale. It’s very important for cities and sometimes also for the cultural scene. Last summer, I went to Romania and all the cities I crossed through were applying or had applied for the title of Cultural Capital. Culture is always perceived in a positive way. Many cities in Europe and beyond are post-industrial and must reinvent themselves and it seems as if there aren’t many possible options: the city of culture, the city of knowledge, of sport, of technology, of fashion, of leisure: all these names are new identities on which it isn’t complicated to communicate. I concentrate on the role of the cultural institution in all this mechanism.

LE / Do cities build their images based on very different models? You barely touched on this theme concerning Vienna, your city.

AF / I honestly believe that it is a very globalised process. It’s always the same five architects, with a woman as well. All of them want to count. All of them want to make an iconic architectural work. Concerning Vienna, everything changes slowly here. This city is an ideal scenario to see transformations in slow motion.

LE / How do you prefer us to label your artworks: as installations, sculptures, architectures…?

AF / There are two inseparable aspects in my artwork that sometimes clash: the documentary and the sculptural. The first is quite obvious: I research themes that then I present. I give information. I communicate. The second aspect, the sculptural, has a lot of presence, it is very architectonic and normally, the materials and techniques that I use do not come from traditional sculpture. In some ways, I also like to think of sculpture as a documentary practice. I try to make hybrid objects that combine visual and formal information, that are linked to other things. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes the links are hidden. I often use the display format to show information. In the artwork Süden, one of the first ones I created, this sculptural aspect transformed itself into something more independent. This artwork included an object that held no information, that was only an object, a signal, an advertisement board. These counters are usually made out of metal or painted wood, but I made it in untreated plywood, as if it was a full scale model but that at the same time didn’t represent anything. Several years later, in 2008, I made the same object out of stone for an exhibition in Bordeaux. It was very heavy and solid sandstone, identical to almost all of the city’s buildings. Surface areas and materials have always interested me. For example, in the video series Kultur und Freizeit that I presented in 2007 at the Venice Biennial, amongst the different wide angle views of spaces, urban contexts and documentary information, the camera stopped on details such as a wall, a facade or zoomed in on a surface.

LE / Can we therefore talk about two principles of work: the first one on the image of the city, and the second – more minimalist – on materials, drawing, structures, etc. ?

AF / I think that these two principles are inseparable. I believe that the documentary aspect of my work is generally structured in a very formal manner and the objects are very informative as such.t

LE / The connexion would therefore be between the documentary and the architectonic.

AF / Yes. The small cinematographic systems I made for Kultur und Frizet are also sculptures. They talk about the inside and the outside. They have a front part and a back part, there is a side on which there is a video screening and on the other – the one covered in black plywood – it looks like a minimalist object floating in space. There is also a part at the back where one can see the whole structure, like a backstage. Finally, all these materialities reinforce the theatrical aspect of the installation that echoes the spaces that appear in the videos.

LE / In the artwork you mentioned, just as in many others, you leave part of the sculpture unshaped. For example, in Les Etoiles [Stars], exhibited recently at Georg Kargl gallery, you combine mirrored surfaces with plywood visible on the back

AF / What lies behind things interests me greatly. For example, if you pay close attention to the marble walls I exhibited at the Reina Sofia museum, or in my previous work, the marble I used is a very architectonic material. It’s not just a sculpted, solid block, but a panel 2 cm thick, like the ones we normally use to cover facades, kitchens or bathrooms, with a polished front part and an untreated back part. When we move around these artworks, it becomes obvious that the back part, that had the same importance as the front for me, is the most polished surface on which I would usually hang photographs.

LE / Let’s talk a little about your photographic process. Do you take photos in Vienna or just when you travel?

AF / Mainly when I travel.

LE / As you study in advanced the architectures of your travel destinations beforehand and you plan their visit, do you know in advance what you will be photographing?

AF / They are usually buildings that I know well, architectural icons that I have seen reproduced in many images. I study the details but also how these buildings are connected to their environment. I have nothing to say, only something to show and I do it by choosing the point of view and the framing. I like having an architectural guide nearby when I go to a new city to visit specific buildings that I photograph, almost like a hobby because I usually don’t use most of the images afterwards. I often end up with something I wouldn’t have thought of at the beginning, sometimes ephemeral structures. But I don’t have any photographic training, normally I don’t bring any substantial equipment with me. I usually take pictures with a small camera, and sometimes the ones I need are the worst, almost blurry.

LE / Wood, stone, marble, mirror are materials you have worked with a lot. At Reina Sofia museum, you created a dialogue between the artworks and the museum rooms. In you last pieces, you use mirror, that allowed you to play more with forms and reflections. Do you have a favorite material?

AF / The most basic material is wood. It is the cheapest and the easiest to manipulate, I always use it to create models. In artworks like Süden for example, it is quite clear. To prepare this artwork, I went to the International Car Show, the salon in Paris, and I took hundreds of photos of displays, of materials, of screens, of the way things were shown to the public. In 2008, I don’t really know why, I started using marble. The first time I had the idea was in 2006 when I was working on Kultur und Freizeit. It appeared to me that an object like this (he shows a rhomboid marble piece) could be easily placed near the video, because of its abstract form linked to the formal language of some buildings and because it is a hybrid between a monument and a commercial brand. Marble is a material that we often associate, without meaning to, with power, wealth, monumentality. Recently, I listened to an interview of a photographer from the Magnum agency, Thomas Hoepker, in which he said that a good photograph is like cutting out a piece of the world. For me, marble is just like that: you cut out a piece of the world and its surface documents the geological process that created it. In the end, this material is fashionable but when I started working with it – not that long ago – it was a material that a contemporary conceptual artist would not have used, and this interested me greatly.

LE / And copper?

AF / I started using it not so long ago in a project I am creating for a public space: three covers for staircases that lead to an underground garage in Vienna. The aerodynamic shapes are similar to those of petrol stations of the 1950’s and 60’s, at a time when cars were a distinctive sign. Moreover, we can find this material in many roofs in the historical centre of Vienna. It is very interesting in its transformation over time. The reddish and shiny aspect doesn’t last very long, it then becomes brown, stays like this for a while and ends up, fifty years later, going green. It’s aesthetic but not luxurious and it’s a very organic material.

LE / Are the forms as important as the materials in your work?

AF / In many ways, I am a formalist artist and deep down, I believe I am a minimalist. For example in the Public Brands videos, in which I work on the logos of cities and regions, one of the small manipulations that I do – beyond selecting them and putting them in alphabetical order – consists in transforming them into black and white. The logo’s iconography interests me far more than its colours and moreover, I find them more aesthetic in this way. It felt obvious for me to change things in order to focus on the aspects that interest me the most.

LE / Which technique do you feel more comfortable with?

AF / When I work with video, I do everything myself: research, film, editing, etc. and I make the most of this freedom. Besides, I don’t need to plan everything ahead and this is very exciting: I take the camera and I observe what is going on in front of it. For example, the Constructing/Dismantling video that I recorded in Santiago de Compostela that shows the dismantling of a fair and its conversion into a park, was a magical experience. Then it comes the editing process that is more difficult and takes more time.

LE / Therefore, video is the technique that allows you to be more spontaneous, but you also appear to be very meticulous in its presentation and you always end up with architectonic displays.

AF / In all of my artworks – sculptures as well as photographs – I am very precise in the dimensions and the space distribution. The same thing happens in my videos, they have very specific measurements and technical dispositions. That is why I never send them to cinema festivals. For me, when talking about videos, the important thin isn’t time, but space.

* Interview published at DARDOmagazine #26, February 2015.

Andreas Fogarasi. © CAAC / Guillermo Mendo

Andreas Fogarasi. © CAAC / Guillermo Mendo

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