Luis Felipe Ortega/Centro de la Imagen

Abraham Cruzvillegas
Art Nexus No. 38
October - December, 2000
At the end of the diagonal corridor at the Centro de la Imagen are two horizontal oblong, some say light boxes stacked one on top of the other (Sin título [Grado cero], Untitled [Zero Degree], 1998-2000). In one we see Ortega, duplicated by the photograph’s ubiquitous crease, sitting in both ends of the image, watching through a partition: screen a patio, a garden, a park or a simple extenior where the trunk of a tree twists capriciously. In the other light box, we find a mountainous landscape, a hill that opens over the reproduction’s two-dimensionality in such a way that it seems to have eyes, mouth, and soul. Both are close relatives of the photomurals found in cantinas and barber shops. They seduce us with a contemplating fuss but at the same time they never hide the deception from which they arise. Anselm Kiefer referred to the romantic act of usurping the landscape as conceived by Cas par David Fried rich by simply writing ich bin maler, “I am a painter” above the man facing the angered sea. Luis Felipe Ortega, on the other hand, remains silent.
The bulk of the show Yo, nosotros (l, We) is related to the book Seis ensayos a propósito de Calvino (Six Essays Regarding Calvino), published this year in which Ortega gathered texts, drawings, and photographs concerning the “Six Memos for the Next Millennium” conference, in a dialogue with artists and friends around the planet. The collection of images is also exhibited as a slide show, in a sort of dislocation that turns the museum wall into a brief sojourn, light, exact, multiple, and consistent. Visible.
Sitting on a pedestal, without renouncing to its sculptural condition, is Diez formas de olvidar a Gilles Deleuze (Ten Ways to Forget Gil/es De/euze, 2000), a maquette featuring a small lead figurine that wanders about the rocky formations, which, at normal scale, would be huge pillars of piled stones. Under this circumstance, the small figurine gives us a portable version of sites the size of Stonehenge. In another environment (Sin título/Untitled,1999), the miniature character stands at eye level on a platform made of the synthetic paper used in maquettes. The figure has his back toward us, and we move about following its ecstatic eyes fixed upon a photographic reproduction of an underwater landscape.
In a darkened room, three video projections (3 emplazamientos, 3 Formations, 2000) make up a new panorama. Here, time’s fugitive and delicate nature is picked up as it unravels silently around us: a highway filmed from the boundary, running water on the impression of water running, and the artist himself seen in a straight shot from the zenith, taking a strange risk by walking on a tightrope placed a few centimeters from the floor.
To the proverbial rabbit trap (box, cannot, string), Ortega added a small oil painting depicting an anchored boat (Trampa, Trap, 2000). The yarn of thread so close to the hand is tempting, we want to pull it and capture the gaze of indiscretion of those watching its self-sufficient luminosity, Its eroticism allures us but only as voyeurs. This piece, of course, is not referring to Bas Jan Aden’s sentimental picnic.
In another probable footnote on quotation, on appropriation, on rifle, on paraphrase, on robbery, on allusion, on wink (on whatever you want to call these multidirectional works), Ortega placed a pile of signs ([Des] Ubica c/On, [Dis] Location, 2000) reproducing a landscape upon which he projected the phrase ‘Words come to me only when I think I won’t be able do find them,’ fooling us into believing that it is printed oven the image. We are allowed to move the signs, and as we retrieve them and take them home, the concept disappears and reappears. A souvenir that empties itself of language and takes in its new surroundings, outside the museum.
At first glance, the works of Luis Felipe Ortega seem to remind us of other works, as if their intention is to make us accomplices in a sort of plagiarism, a deliberate euphemism before which we would have to remain silent and assume our memory (on ignorance) as the place where the piece unravels beyond the object. In reality, these pieces which indeed refer to preexistent expressions, but it doesn’t matter will come to our memory to dissolve the times we’ll affirm the know/edge of all artistic manifestation. In any case, it’s an ideological knowledge of a work of ant; a rupture which must be political.
The body (not the things that compose it) makes us ignore the place and time in which the history of ant and its codes shield the representation and the interpretation of every artistic product. And if this is not enough, it reveals an unusual dimension in which we rediscover ourselves as individuals with the ability to see with unstable, impermanent, untemponal eyes. This body of work probably doesn’t say much; instead, it organizes, moves, and dislocates.
With the clandestine ‘psst’of the activist, Ortega summons us to dialogue, to rummage in the improvised limbo of the work of ant as a phenomenon transcending its own materialness on as the unrepeated moment. It divorces us from the corny affectation of the “concept” pen se and of the “form” as something imperfect, devoid of a reality one day we’d know. If it’s necessary to adopt a mystic on idealist reading, we’d have to say that the purposes of Ortega’s works resuscitate with a beard every day, and that they die in the gambit’s uproar when each citizen says l(on We).
In terms of form, his work has to do more with the tradition of the text; the almost complete absence of craftsmanship in his pieces relates us directly to typography, the paragraph, bookbinding, and the smell of cellulose. Visually it reminds me more of a bibliography than an art catalogue. His alter ego travels with a suitcase that has the same color as his suit; once waist-deep into the horizon, he decides to name a shape that comes and goes: Wave. And we see it.
As prisoner of the book, Ortega uses his five senses to traverse kilograms of paper with thick, rustic covers bound in skin, their mycotic inertia populated with mites. Surrounded by everything known, as the Man Controller of the Universe that Rivera painted in Bellas Artes, Ortega never finishes going through notes and printed material that one day will accumulate dust in a 900-thousand-turn merry-go-round. Meanwhile, the fax machine rings and the Web connection screeches; once in a while the phone also rings. What he doesn’t know does not exist: Ortega, a man educated in schools requiring khaki uniform and cap, and then in other schools of picketers and provocateurs, deduces that the landscape is inhabited only when you traverse it or dream of travelling. He smokes while he watches the horizon unfold before him, then we walk together to the Copilco subway station.
Skeptical of his own characterization, Ortega is intolerant, he cannot remain in the same place without measuring the growth of treetops. The generous tops give him shadow and embrace him in his love for the Fibonacci Series. By the mere nature of his endeavor, seasons and fruit lacquer him, forever hiding aromatic flowers with the small circles that the thin hair gone has left behind. Everything is image.
The utopia of his masters undresses and roams the streets followed by herds of euphoric boys in love with the city, who chant slogans naming every avenue, street, and highway, smearing them with tree-like, topographic, and racist highhandedness. For example: Phi-PhiPhilosophy, Fresno, La Laguna, Indios Verdes, Pirámides km 1, In a disproportionate and eccentric scale, Ortega creates routes and shortcuts by coming and going on the lawn (pe/ouse, for the poststructuralists). Parsimoniously, he invalidates the Roji Guide, the Rough Guides, and the subway maps, giving the atlas a hard time. Get to know Luis Felipe Ortega’s work. Take a good look at it. You will never see it again.