Overexposures / Overlaps

Daniel Montero
Luis Felipe Ortega. Doble Exposición (expandida) / Double Exposure (Expanded)

1. In the summer of 2012, in Ribeauvillé, in French Alsace, beekeepers were alarmed because their honey acquired strange blue, green and brown coloration. After an investigation, they discovered that the bee hives were located close to a Mars candy factory where the company produced M&M coatings. The colored honey was quite a curiosity as it called into question the alteration of a natural product by a foreign element (a product "naturally produced" by the bees with artificial elements of that factory), while at the same time, providing the opportunity to understand the overlap of elements which otherwise seemed incompatible. Honey is not naturally blue, nor green, but it could be because not only flowers and bees exist in the world, but also factories which use sugared dyes that bees like.

2. In the years 1997-1998, Peter Fischli & David Weiss performed the work Flowers, which stretched their collaborative work to the limit. Using the technique of double exposure on the same roll of film, the artists presented a book of flower photographs.  Some of the photographs were taken from suburban gardens and others from a park in Zurich.  Clearly some images were taken by one of the artists at one period of time and others by the second artist at a different period of time. That piece, later reproduced in exact printed reproductions of  forty images, clearly revealed the permanent duality present in many of the works of the duo: two dissimilar times and spaces, the question if they represent reality or fiction, the idea of whether this is "serious" art or kitsch fun, and even the nagging question of if those images are beautiful in and of themselves or if they are rather trying to tackle a conceptual problem.

3. Over the Fischli & Weiss’ chromatic images, Luis Felipe Ortega painted a grid of colors differentiated in a sort of pantone that varied depending upon the image. Ortega’s intervention involves a very accurate gesture executed randomly. The gesture does not seem to have any particular pattern or follow any rules. The result is blunt compared to the original image. This is because Ortega acts as the odd-man-out in a duet (the duet of two overlapped images, two collaborating artists, two different times synchronized in two different images), which challenges one’s ability to reconcile Ortega’s intervention with the original image. Ortega thus introduces a third time and space and clearly a third subject, which contrasts the original image by rendering it a background.

The flowers of Fischli & Weiss are radically altered by the reticular gesture—this is not just another form appropriation. The gesture affects the viewing of an image that could otherwise be beautiful and ordinary. The images, already manipulated by the double exposure, are made more mysterious through Ortega’s rectangles.  The Fischli & Weiss photographs become the background, not only spatially (it is clear that the grid is made on the front) but also, clearly, in relation to time.  Ortega treats the solid color of each of the squares of the grid as a different plane. These are detached from original image, which functions as a support. In this sense, each solid color squares of the grid become a larger field making it impossible for one to focus on the background or even on the same plane, instead always focusing on the surface.

What effect might a few solid color squares in a grid have on a photographic image already altered by a double exposure? The point is that the solid color squares in a grid, act as intruders, they alter the perception of the image. One’s eye can remain on the surface trying to guess the possible sequences of rectangles, the logic between these solid-colored squares, and the logic between the squares in relation to the background image. By going back and forth the image is revealed and exposed (anew).

4. Ortega's action grants a kind of differentiated movement in relationship to Fischli & Weiss’ chromatics.  Just like the colored honey, superimposing a foreign element on what was assumed to be ‘a given’ creates a different understanding of the original image, hence invoking more than mere appropriation.  Just as the blue honey or the green honey somehow stop being honey, they are also somehow, nevertheless honey. In this manner, the possibility of understanding what is an image expands by way of a series of differentiated and simultaneous gestures. Overexposure and overlap always imply an act of understanding what is seen and what is perceived as an image, enunciating the elemental process of seeing.