Antonio M. Xoubanova says that Aleix Plademunt (Girona, 1980) is someone who cares and is interested in everything. “A guy who listens and watches, and that’s rare.” Hence, it is not by chance that the idea that has kept the Catalan photographer busy over the last nine years has been encompassed in one word, matter, matter in English, whose meanings also include matter, something that matters, even that worries. Thus, what else could concern the restless author than our origin, the origin of the universe; The matter.
Matter arrives in the form of an exhibition at the Canal de Isabel II hall in Madrid. A sample that through conceptual approaches investigates who we are and where we come from, in matter and its transformation, as well as in the concept of time, while referring to historical events and our current situation. “It also talks about war, love, ambition, leisure, selfishness and the sublime in art and science; of human ingenuity. How matter can be inert but also conscious, intelligent and sensitive; creative, destructive and transformative”, writes Xoubanova, curator of the exhibition (and also a photographer), in antimatter, the catalog that accompanies the exhibition. For this, Plademunt entered the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the European Space Research and Technology Center in the Netherlands, where samples from space are received and work is done with the so-called God particle or Higgs boson. (a fundamental finding to complete our understanding of matter), in order to find spaces of temperature and pressure similar to the origin of the universe. The photographer crossed different borders, traveled through different landscapes and cultures, from Japan to Mexico, Peru and Belgium, among many others, to, starting from a scientific basis, invite reflection on our species, our environment, our relationships and our actions. . He would shape a work that alludes to our anthropocentrism, to the disconnection with our origins and the material reality of things, through a network of associations that refers us to today’s complex structures.
In Matter there are many hands and it is precisely the image titled Two hands prepared for forensic study, the one chosen by the photographer when we ask him to highlight one of his photos to Babelia. It is an image taken in the mortuary of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “After working on different images that had to do with matter directly or indirectly, I wanted to show the human body as matter itself,” explains the author. “I thought that if I photographed a hand attached to the body, it would always end up associated with the person, but the moment it was decontextualized, it would be understood as a piece of meat, as matter in itself.” The photograph is related to the many other images of hands that make up the project; a hand delivering a placenta during childbirth; another that, sheathed in a glove, holds a skull taken from a plastic bag; the hand of Constantine, the emperor who made the Christian religion official in Rome; the hands of a robot, an allusion to man’s attempts to replicate himself. Another hand holds a diamond, the work of a Swiss laboratory where the remains of a loved one, converted into carbon ashes and subjected to a certain pressure and temperature, become jewels. There are also the chocolate hands, souvenir main Antwerp, from where the ships departed for the Congo, where in the time of Leopold II they cut off the hands of slaves as punishment. All of them are hands that create, manipulate, transform —naturally and artificially—, and destroy, and symbolically serve the author to introduce and link these same concepts.
Everything is dark on the ground floor of the room, where a screen 6 meters high shows an image that comes from cosmic background radiation. “Scientists estimate that 1% of the interference observed in an untuned analog television corresponds to the so-called background radiation, the noise is caused by the explosive waves produced by the Big Bang, 13,800 million years ago”, explains the photographer. “Something so eternal, so existential that takes us back to the origin of everything is related to something as routine and banal as being in the living room of your house in front of the television.” In the same room is also the most distant photograph that exists of the Earth, taken at 6,000 million kilometers. It is one of the seven photographs included in the exhibition not made by the photographer. “In it you see a white dot, the reflection of the sun on the earth,” he highlights. “The image is illuminated by sunlight, introduced into the interior of the room through solar panels located in the building. In the same way they illuminate the image of a sunset. A photograph where a very interesting collision of concepts is generated, since it is known that, paradoxically, the more polluting particles there are in the sky, the more intense and contrasting the red tones of the sunset. That drama that we contemplate and admire as something beautiful, can be produced by something perverse”. In dialogue with these three pieces is the photograph of a tzompantlian Aztec altar where skulls were exposed in order to honor the gods.
Black and white images predominate in the exhibition. “Because we see in color, black and white is for me an interpretation,” says Plademunt. “What you presented here is an interpretation, not even a conclusion. My photographs function as notes that I have taken throughout my meetings with different people and scientists, notes that help me to unify disparate situations and places. I am interested in confronting images of different kinds. And that from this collision a new mental image is generated. On an ongoing basis, I tend to refer to scientific concepts, hence, taking into account that we only know 5% of matter (95% is energy and dark matter), I dedicate only 5% of the exposure to color”. These images are in turn related to the ephemeral; with sunsets that last only seconds, with flowers that live for a couple of days, and contrast in their lightness with the black and white image of the oldest tree in the world or others taken in Iran, which refer us to the origin of our civilization and carry a clear historical weight.
“Photography opens the doors for me to discover many things and satisfy my curiosity”, assures the photographer, “without it I don’t know how I would manage to enter certain places, such as CERN or the Bank of Spain. At the same time, it is still an inventory of concerns or interests that I have had in recent years”. On the dome of the building, is projected A tree is a tree, a film made by Plademunt and the filmmaker Carlos Marqués-Marcet that, as an essay, narrates a series of reflections and thoughts linked to concepts introduced in the exhibition that affect the gesture of looking and observing. At one point in the film it is said that if we split a stone in two, it becomes two stones, but if we split a human being in two, we would only have one dead. Similarly, Plademunt’s photography is an invitation to look beyond oneself, to delve into our condition as “thinking, ephemeral, almost insignificant” beings, as the exhibition’s curator describes us. A reflection on our passage through this world; about the known and the unknown; over time.
‘Matter‘, Aleix Plademont. Canal Isabel II Room. Madrid. Until July 1st.
‘antimatter’, Aleix Plademont. Ca l’Isidret and Community of Madrid. 96 pages. 30 euros.
‘matter‘, Aleix Plademont. Ca l’Isidret / Spector Books. 640 pages. 48 euros.