Truth Lives at the End of the Tunnel

Sergio González Rodríguez
Before The Horizon
2016

When I discovered the architecture of this work by Luis Felipe Ortega, I immediately thought of Samuel Beckett’s story, Le Dépeupleur (1970), which describes a space “wide enough to allow one to search in vain, and narrow enough that any effort to escape is useless.” But that evocation of a closed cylindrical space jammed full of human bodies—a metaphor for the hell we have all built together on Earth—differs from Luis Felipe Ortega’s installation in various ways. Not only is Ortega’s rectilinear, it also has a peculiar atmosphere and the open format of an industrial container. The dimensions of this box are human in scale, but its function involves the opposite: an action that implies a circular dehumanization.

From outside, the object appears agreeable enough. It seems practically inoffensive but inside it becomes menacing from the very first moment. The interior is entirely dark, and while the walls and ceiling are smooth, they are painted black. Moreover, while the floor’s glistening shards invite exploration, they soon are revealed to be broken glass. How can one avoid mentioning the nihilist dialogue from Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s Lights of Bohemia (1920) regarding the final hours of Max Estrella’s life?

Max:  Where are we?

 

Don Latino:  This street has no sign.

 

Max:  I’m walking on broken glass.

For Valle-Inclán, this work implies a grotesque fable about living in a hostile country. But this apparent similarity foreseen by the Spanish writer is also incomplete, because despite its expressive title, Luis Felipe Ortega’s installation has subtle connotations: neither the tunnel’s space nor its nonexistent end offer any truth at all except the uncertainty of crossing that space, the flagrant resonance of the hesitant steps of a person entering the installation. The immediate result, sound generated by snapping glass, is expansive and atrocious, contributing only to the process of extracting its meaning in the most expressive form: the words actually hide meaning while the noise alludes to an aggregation of instantaneous and irreparable catastrophes perceptible here and there.

This lesson on fragmentary confusion might also allude to the country as well as planetary times, to living alone in an abject period, or to personal despondency translated into shards.  In Endless Death (1939), José Gorostiza wrote:

Filled with myself, besieged in my epidermis

By an ungraspable god who chokes me,

Possibly cheated

By his radiant atmosphere of lights

That hides my spilled awareness

My wings shattered to shards in the air,

My clumsy gait, stumbling through the sludge

 

Ortega’s magnificent installation sparks associations and conjecture; a hypothesis of suspended forms forge a minimum hope of lucidity out of darkness.