Luis Felipe Ortega

David Ulrichs
Revista Lápiz, No. 223
May - June, 2006

We often find ourselves fixated to the image of ourselves starring back at us through various television screens in shop windows. Thus, the fleeting glance passer-bys  may allow themselves to throw towards the MAAC`s window , quickly turns, in hope or catching a glimpse of one´s own feet, into a close look, Hopeless. These are not live-streams, but videos recorded elsewhere, in New York  or in Mexico. The experience is a confrontations with our own self-obsession; an individualism encouraged, at least in part, by the estrangement from the Other, which our cities incite. Living here means giving up our natural horizons and replacing them with constructions. Luis Felipe Ortega makes us aware of this by letting us re-discover the importance of looking into the distance. His videos Sin Título (Zócalo), 2002, and Something Happens, Nothing (Time Square), 2002, are fixed views that show the walking feet of people in México City and New York, respectively. While it may be interesting to compare the different shoes that may be worn on the professional Wall Street to those on the tourist Plaza Zócalo, it is the constant blocking out of our horizon that affect us. Our vision unflinchingly tries to unify the visual field from a point of perspective towards a distant point of focus. Yet eventually our eye-muscles, due to this forced repetitive pupil-dilation, become stressed. However, this stress also affects us. This is our live: a disoriented city-life that lives us, since we have lost the focus to be able to live it.

Due to the ever-increasing time we spend in cities and in front of television or computer screens, the need to relax the tension in our eye-muscles has never been greater. Ortega’s The Shadow Line (2004) is an exercise in this. It charts the different horizon-lines the artist encountered in one day on the Amazon. Even though we are only looking at a flat screen video projection, compared to the previous videos, we feel as if we are looking into the distance. The final piece –Before the Horizon (2006)- is an absolute gem. While the rather small, yet heavy, twelve-kilogram limestone is far from being even a semiprecious stone, its owner has turned it, without interfering with its natural state, into something priceless. Resting somehow on top of a web of countless cotton strings that it simultaneously and ironically holds together , and which are stretched from the wall to the centre or the room, this rock seems to float weightlessly at about eye level. We approach it as a spider would its prey, or as we would the Other; with care and respect, with fear and mercy.