A journey on motion and time with KMB artist Pedro Gómez-Egaña

The Colombian installation artist, one of the first 25 selected for Biennale, gives Art Talk

Kochi, June 27: The historical and cultural junctures between technology and temporality inform Pedro Gómez-Egaña’s art. In the intersections, he discerns both promise and peril — the double-edge sword of progress.

The Colombian-born installation artist presents this understanding through ‘ephemeral sculptures’ – structures that are both movement- and time-based, using motion and its derivatives as gauges and mediums for time and technology.

“My impulse is to utilise motion as a way of framing temporality. I make objects that are transformed through motion, sculptures that move and I stage them in very specific ways,” said Gómez-Egaña, who is among the ‘First 25’ artists selected to participate in the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).

He was speaking at an ‘Art Talk’ hosted by the Kochi Biennale Foundation at BTH in Ernakulam on Monday. Titled ‘The Chariot of George’, the evening discussion offered insights into his artistic process and a preview of things to come at KMB 2016, which runs from December 12 to March 29 next year.

The event was supported by the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), Office of Contemporary Art, Norway and the City of Bergen.

 “The question of how to subvert the technological dominance of the temporal landscape and diversify it with perspective is central to my practice,” said the artist, whose oeuvre frequently features historical machines that trace society’s complicated relationship with innovation and temporality.

Among these is the ancient south-pointing chariot, an early example of differential geared propulsion that housed a moveable pointer, which only indicated the south cardinal direction, no matter what direction the chariot turned. The mechanism was a kind of ‘directional dead reckoning’, which is inherently prone to error and uncertainty.

“Built around the year 2,600 BC, the engineering in this chariot was so intricate that the machine slowly began to acquire life and command its own movements. A replica I made called the ‘Chariot of Greenwich’ began over time to became imprecise and divert from its southward bent owing to the changes it inflicted on its environment,” Gómez-Egaña expounded.

“The chariot turning in opposition to its design showed that the technology was both a demonstration of power and evidence of its limits: that the promise of technology is fraught with the possibility of accident,” he said, echoing the contentions of French cultural theorist Paul Virilio who argued that all technologies carry their own negatives: electrocution with electricity or shipwrecks with ships etc.

Gómez-Egaña noted the value in viewing historical innovations as models for the present, with invisible digital technologies supplanting vehicles as drivers of progress, leading to a “technometric definition” of time.

The uncanny nature of this transition, he contended, hits at the heart of the technology-time paradox with fast-loading Internet feeds, tweets, likes, shares and even pop-ups becoming socially acceptable benchmarks for time and duration, while slow-moving temporalities such as climate change become harder to grasp.

To address this, the artist said, “I devise immersive experiences where the audience escapes a world saturated with the temporality of catastrophe and enters a purpose-built space: Performative situations where objects and stories speak of the relations between society and time.”  

As with his practice, Gómez-Egaña’s discussion reflected the depth of his scholarship, his training in music composition and visual art and the versatility of his expression, whether through performance, sculpture, video, installation, or sound.

Come December, the city will get a closer look as his works feature at India’s only Biennale. 

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