Santiago, Chile, 2016
Juana Gomez’s work is based on a pact with her own photographic image.
Through a profound process of performance which is born of her own appearance, she works through transfer, re-contextualizing its value. Through the interaction of different systems of appropriation and reinterpretation, her body changes from a translucent and directly visual experience into a philosophical reading. The final result resembles a subtle drawing or painting, because of the faint but accurate impression of her body in the raw weave of the fabric, but carries the accuracy of the inherent processes that characterize photography.
Thus, the final image obtained carries not only the photographic but also the autobiographic.
Can one talk about the ontology of an image born of a digital camera, from the numerical values of a sensor that scans the body of this artist?
Her medium, loose linen and similar fabrics, reminds one of the skin, and at the same time it reveals and transforms it, showing it a substrate sensitive to the action of other systems, including photography and printing techniques on fabric, but also subject to metaphors of the body and its ability to be (to live and die), and the handiwork that re-signifies it.
The artist works with a double, with another self that is displaced by the techniques of digital photography. Thusly, she creates these clones or copies in an attempt to retain and capture a momentary image of herself in time; she then combines it with the outlines of bones, muscles or the circulatory system, a transfusion of thread that embodies and metaphorically charges that which is hers alone: the immanence of her being.
Her work is also the beginning of a conversation between two forms of expression, which together speak of abstraction and/or information. It is a conjuncture of a digitized image on fabric; the image itself is also produced with dots or pixels, while the embroidering needle manages to create and organize a complete system from its minimum unit: the single stitch. Stitch and pixel form a consistent dialogue.
According to Fontcuberta, “The analog picture inscribes the image, while the digital picture writes it. There is a substantial difference: inscribing means that the image is produced automatically. When we take a picture, the image is fully projected on the entire surface of the photosensitive medium. Instead, digital photography has a status that resembles painting; in painting the image is created through a sequential process of adding brushstrokes, which are the graphics units.
The same happens with the digital image, only that these units are the “pixels”. In this sense, the digital image is a kind of writing, because we sequence the signs in lines that can only make sense as a whole.”
Thus, our desire to “feel” that there is something of the author that is carried through by the process of emulsion on a substrate which used to define photography is no longer the case with digital photography. Nevertheless, her work conveys the feeling that it is something more than just pixels and stitches. Even though there is no transmission of a hidden essence, there is a deep communication, but what does it communicate?
As if one expected a projection from a mental field to a visual field, the digital image is no longer necessarily a reflection of reality, but it is a reflection of a post-photographic “reality.” When the act of capturing an image becomes as fast and obsolescent as it is medial, the “truth in an image” is no longer due to its degree of certainty, but rather arises from its visual truthfulness which responds to a specific context and other factors aiming not at the image itself, but to the “why” and the “what for”. They refer not to their use as evidence, but to an experience and consciousness. In this case, the image entwines and connects different realities, such as biological structures and capillaries that can also be observed in the course of the Amazon, as well as the invisible world of digital information networks, and the systems of energy transfer and communication in fungi, all the way to how matter clumps together in the largest structures of the universe.
That is what this artist -patiently and at her own human scale- is insistently underlining by embroidering the patterns that define us as living beings, part of a constructive whole.
Reduction and transfer
Everything is made of numerical calculations, signs and words which are ultimately language. And every thing, vibration and color, has a degree, a measurable frequency wave if you will, a value that contains its essence, soul or immanence, however reduced and abstracted. And while these reductions leave out many things, whatever can become mathematical language can also become a means for universal communication and connection.
The nature of being and existence; the relationships and interactions between them; the gestures and the intervention of embroidery; the merging of biological and digital systems; all of these speak of a movement and a fusion which is becoming increasingly natural. Juana Gomez’s work ponders all of these subjects through a deeply personal and meditative act, and act that binds time and breath and the longing to re-signify this profound relationship between the individual and the networks we are enveloped in. It also allows her to preserve memory and to seek an eternal body, beyond the limits of old age and death.
Maria Eliana Morales