A place Among things.

Daniel Montero
...and so it shall become rift. Luis Felipe Ortega.

It’s likely that most of the work Luis Felipe Ortega has made in the past ten years is concerned with the production of spaces, based on relationships established among fixed and moving images, bodies, objects, sculptures, sounds and texts. This is the common thread that links up many of his areas of interest and that articulates his ideas. Yet this categorical affirmation demands clarification, since it might appear somewhat reductionist. This is not the case. Indeed, what allows me to make this claim is found in the very concerns he raises: what does it mean to produce space and under what circumstances it this possible? What type of procedures does he carry out and how? What images, objects, sculptures, bodies, sounds and texts? How do all these elements in turn affect each other? What type of experiences emerge?

In effect, the production of space, as understood by Ortega, has to do with how these relationships are put into play, and how they take a unique form in each of his works. So firstly, we must consider the placement, that is, the way that objects and bodies are situated in specific places, not because they necessarily belong there, but because it is there, in those places, that Ortega makes them exist. By conceiving of spaces as something that are not given a priori, but as something that must be inhabited, filled and even discovered and represented, they can only exist in these works and interventions. Naturally, this applies to a particular experience, since the relationship between place-object-body is localized in all the works he presents.

In this way, the tension always arises from a triple relationship expressed in each work: first, that of time-space; second, that of form-material-image; and third, that of form-content.

Concerning the first of these, it is evident that time and space are always unstable, because they appear in both synchronic and anachronic form in their use of references from art and cultural history, from the landscapes they were once in and the objects they once saw; in addition, of course, to the presence of the work in the space where it is installed and its connection with the viewer. All these relations are manifested by spending time with the works, ensuring they never lose their relevance. In this sense, we could say that time is the space that is produced in the presence of the work. With regard to the second relationship, form-material-image, each element is subordinate to the other, depending on the experience that Ortega seeks to produce, calling up a new instability. It is not that the form is more important than the material or that the material holds a privileged position over the image, but that, depending on the work, Ortega questions the image by means of the material, and in turn it takes on specific forms. As a result, there is no happenstance in the way that Ortega selects, uses and composes his forms, his images and his materials, emphasizing that while the procedure involved in executing them may be highly rational, it is based on intuition and emotion.

Finally, beyond specific meanings, the works accompany the spectator in the space. Asking what they mean is a kind of violence that negates the possibility of an encounter with them. It would therefore be more appropriate to ask what each of them produces, making their meaning something that is strictly localized. These effects of the works cannot be repeated: they can be talked about, but the trace they leave is not limited to language.

The exhibition …y luego se tornará resquicio is a staging of all these circumstances, since it was conceived to generate singular experiences in each of the space of the Amparo Museum.

Production of Spaces

This production of spaces happens in at least four ways. The first is through installations that happen in given spaces and that interact with the architecture in a specific manner. A paradigmatic case is Black Box (2016), a cube measuring 244 cm (96 inches) on each side painted with black acrylic paint, plaster and marble dust, which was first installed in an uncompleted house in such a way that it hindered passage and distorted the light. In the case of the exhibition …y luego se tornará resquicio the same idea is taken to two key spaces of the Amparo Museum: the lobby and first gallery (A4), where the tour begins. These interventions alter the architectural space with their presence, which depends on their scale, volume and materiality, creating a new place. In the case of Open Space, the work plays with the ceiling heights and with the large area in which it is placed, leading to its existing in different ways depending both on the angle from which it is observed, and also how far away the observer stands. By contrast, the work Closed Space, located in the first gallery, clings to the ceiling of the museum and fills the entire space, making it impossible to see all at once and forcing viewers to move around it and adapt their bodies in order to enter. In this way, altering the height of the museum space with the volume of the work and its color cancels the comprehension of a totality to become full presence. The way in which Ortega alters architectural space means his works acquire a concrete singularity in the place in which they are installed, making the experience of them unrepeatable.

The second way in which spaces are produced has to do with the way in which Luis Felipe Ortega questions the conventional representation of landscape and how the invention of the horizon has been decisive to the history of Western representation. As we know, a horizon is always the product of particular conception of the world and Western conventions have treated it as a point of reference to generate an order. Furthermore, it is clear that landscape, above all since the 19th century, has been a painting genre of significance insofar as the modern urban subject questions their place in the world in relation to an ever more distant natural world. Ortega employs this tension between nature and culture to bring to light the artificial character of landscape, using still and moving images as well as interventions in the architectural space. His fascination with the Amazon jungle is no coincidence: a space where identifying a horizon is often impossible because of how close to the viewer everything is, which makes it all the more difficult to represent it as landscape, since taking the required distance is impossible.

In his series Horizons (2013-2017), for example, Luis Felipe divides pieces of paper laid horizontally into two sections. In the lower half he makes small drawings in graphite and ink, creating an accumulation of lines that generates the effect of a terrain, while leaving the upper half empty. This series of works stereotypes the landscape on the basis of the up-down relationship, leaving all the work of “representation” to the saturation of the lines. The artist engages in a similar reflection in Altamura, a video work that is a single sequence of 19 minutes in duration, filmed on the island of the same name in the Sea of Cortes. It shows the horizon changing by having a fixed camera rotate. In fact, this work includes two horizons: that of the island and that of the sea, which makes much more evident the artificial character of the representation produced by the camera. In addition to the images, Luis Felipe Ortega incorporates a sound track into the video on which can be heard the voices of Kurt Cobain, Jean Genet, Truman Capote, Louis-Ferdinand, Céline, Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs and Pier Paolo Pasolini, all of whom are traveling companions fundamental to his work. With the sound, a new spatiality is generated, making the representation still more artificial and inhabited only by the voices we hear, as if the landscape itself produced them. This is why much of Ortega’s work is itself a landscape and a passage .

The third form in which the production of spaces occurs is through the installation of horizons in the architecture itself. Of particular significance in this light are Inverted Horizon (2010) and On the Edge of Things (2017); since the effect of the representation of the landscape unfolds within architecture, altering it. Inverted Horizon is a room completely saturated in graphite, with the exception of a single white line crossing all the walls at eye level, becoming the sole reference point for distance. In addition, it makes explicit the number of bodies required to create the saturated black of the work and the inversion of the horizon, appearing as pure labor. Meanwhile, On the Edge of Things is a horizon line cut through a wall, causing the light to penetrate a dark space; in this way, the line produced by the light becomes the only reference point for a possible outside. These horizon-based installations within the existing architecture subvert the interior and exterior of the building and the landscape, creating a point of external reference that is projected into the internal spaces. In this way, the space is produced through a kind of estrangement due to the tension between bodies, architectures and landscapes.

The final form of producing spaces to which I would like to refer has to do with the interaction between bodies, places and objects. In this case the bodies interact, sometimes one with another, sometimes with objects and sometimes with architecture itself. What Ortega seeks in this case is to comprehend the space, not only as the space in which actions take place, but rather as this single space where these actions can happen. But sometimes these bodies appear as presences, in the same real space, and sometimes as presences in videos and photographs. This is particularly significant in the case of E logo se tornará resquicio de um presente tomado abrutamente, a video produced especially for the website of the Amparo Museum, in which two bodies with pendulums and chairs interact, and whose movement is connected to a sound work composed by the artist. The work, which I would describe as dramatic due to the way in which the actions and the moments of tension between sound, bodies and objects develop, establishes relationships with the language of theater and of performance, making clear allusion to Samuel Beckett, and generating in itself an interplay with the spatial character of the network. Given the impossibility of having bodies in the real space of the exhibition, Ortega displaces them to the digital image in movement to inhabit all the possible spaces of the museum. Space is thus produced by the interaction between bodies and objects and also by the relationship between the digital and the real exhibition in the galleries.

It is clear that these are not the only ways of producing space, because there are multiple working strategies. In addition, all the works interact in a unique way, producing in turn a complementary experience: the work of Luis Felipe Ortega is an ongoing exploration of the way in which the interstices can be inhabited.

Material, Body, Time

As should be clear, the production of space directly affects bodies and subjects by obliging them to adopt a position with regard to what they see, that is, to generate particular experiences. This taking of position is not only symbolic but real: on the one hand, they confront darknesses, horizons, landscapes; on the other, concrete presences such as volumes, colors, sounds. It could not be any other way because the space and experience are produced simultaneously. In this sense, rather than seeing something, what Ortega proposes is an experience of being-with; a kind of effect produced by the objects, volumes and sculptures as well as the intervened paintings and photographs. As a result, the bodies often have to adapt to positions suggested by the works, because this is the only way they can be perceived as a whole, while permitting a total experience that distorts time. This is why materiality and form are so fundamental to his work.

With regard to their materiality, it is clear that all of the works demand that we spend a sustained period of time with them, because they present themselves as an effect, as duration and as presence. This is a direct result of the materials and the time the artist invests in each of them. For example, the blacks are not always the same black, but depend on the light used to illuminate the piece, whether natural or artificial, because sometimes the oil paint incorporates hints of blue or magenta, or the plaster applied to the sculptures contains marble dust or sand, causing it to glimmer. In this way, Ortega’s work goes well beyond the anthropomorphization proposed by minimalist art in its day, or the cancelation of the image suggested by conceptual art, but rather takes advantage of these to bring them up to date and even suggest that denying an image produces an image, and that the blackest black always invites contemplation and a journey.

This is where another key element appears: work. Each artwork, out of its materiality, signifies a rigorous and physical work that involves many bodies and precise production times. Since many of the works are the result of saturation, they require many people to work for a long time. Others take a long time because they demand that a single person apply the material with care and great attention to detail. This means that each of the artworks is the product of work that involves the singularization of time in the material. Unlike factory work, the materials used by Ortega appeal to the singular and are impossible to imagine being mass-produced, even if many of the works are carried out using standard building and construction methods. As a result, in some senses the work is closer to architecture than to sculpture or painting.

It should be clear that the form of the works is related to their material character. At first glance they are all “simple” in terms of geometry, lines, pendulums. But each of these forms has been designed to a meticulous degree, precisely in order to enhance the experience that Ortega seeks to provoke in the bodies that engage with them. The simple forms serve to generate a suspension of perception, but also the possible relationship with architecture: spending time with the works doesn’t therefore mean dwelling on formal details, but rather on material effects.

In this way, the relationship between form and material has an effect on the bodies. If the work is very large or suggests a particular route, or rather depends on the overlapping of colors or images, then we have to alter our position and gaze, producing a singular experience in each case. Being forced to pause, crouch down or turn around to look are actions necessary to the experience of the space, to produce particular temporalities. These times depend on each of the visitors, provoking possible encounters. In this regard, Ortega’s proposal means generating times that are both precise and dispersed, that depend on the way that each of us experiences the time spent with the artworks. In this way, time is also a function of the space.


Luis Felipe Ortega’s mode of working always concerns a form of study and is less based on a project or research, generating singular works that are always related to each other and the product of a kind of system. The key is to ask what we mean by study. Studying implies two conditions: intellectual and experiential, both necessarily related to each other. On the intellectual side, Ortega is constantly referring to the history of art, to forms, culture, philosophical, literary and poetic problems; and on the experiential side, he is always thinking about the condition of art as a process and as an empirical phenomenon. In this way, ideas, forms and materials are interlinked in a single process of study. This means that Ortega operates like an experimental physicist: experimentation with materials and images leads him to develop a theory that has to be rigorously tested; at the same time he brings intellectual processes into lived experiences that are a part of everyday reality. In this sense, Ortega’s work always leads us to a certain vitalism.

In this way, on the basis of this study, Luis Felipe Ortega’s works sometimes take shape as volumes, sometimes as images, yet all are shot through with similar concerns. It is not that the material character is more important than the image, or that the image produces new materialities, but rather everything depends on the way in which the phenomenon is studied, the analysis of its circumstances and the reflections it evokes. A process that always leads us to think about the space between things.