Runo Lagomarsino (b. 1977) is currently exhibiting at Nils Stærk in Copenhagen. Kunstforum asked him some questions about his work and inspirations.
The press release states how you are interested in challenging, uncovering or questioning discursive and historical mechanisms; and systems of representation traditionally used to convey meanings, truths or political ideologies. Can you elaborate on this?
Many of my efforts could be grasped; even condensed in Stuart Halls seminal text The West and the Rest. Discourse and power, where the author explores systematically and carefully the centrality of the Rest (the s.c. Third World, the peripheries) in the creation and establishment of the West as the realm of the normal, the desired, and particularly the locus of ethics, philosophy, art and morality. Hall shows how these discourses of the west and the rest (and in consequence of self and other) are acted upon through forms of symbolic and economic violence. My work is a search of fractures, of blind paths from where to tell other stories, from where to unlearn and particularly from where to read the past and name the future from other standpoints.
Can you give an example to how this comes to show in your work? These fractures you’re searching for, do you find any?
One good example is the piece in the exhibition Pergamon (A Place In Things) which contains over 100 different lamps, light bulbs neon tubes etc., from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. There is a narration of fractures on display, a narration about the past in the presence.
You are literally shedding a light on the Pergamon Museum in this work, it seems. Can you elaborate on this? Of all the cultural museums in the world, why Pergamon?
The Pergamon is not just one of all the cultural museums in the world; on the contrary, it is the essence of a particular kind of museum (other examples are of course the British Museum in London and The Metropolitan in New York). Museums with artefacts, objects, even buildings, that come from other places, from the others. These place(s) and people were defined as the periphery, as inferior, in relation to the centre, to the civilization, to Europe.
There is a place from where you collect (or take) and there is a place where it is on display. The Pergamon (as many museums) was and still is very important for the construction of an idea of nationhood, for the construction of a nation state, meaning that the objects on display are imbedded in a powerful negotiation about history, history writing and ideology. I don’t think that Pergamon shades light on other cultures or identities; on the contrary it gives you tools for understanding power, colonialism, and the way narratives are constructed. It’s a mirror of Europe. A mirror with amnesia, a fata morgana. A place for struggle.
According to the press release, your work Abstracto El Dorado is referring to Mathias Goeritz’ work Abstracto En Dorado (1968). Why go via Goeritz’, why not straight to the source, the myth of Eldorado itself?
The colonial past is not a past; it’s part of our contemporary life. Therefore the work has this double edge, or it is in between those spaces, of past and presence (it’s physically hanging in the gallery). Modernity hides its darker side coloniality, in other words, coloniality is constitutive of modernity — there is no modernity without coloniality. (Mignolo).
There is not straight, authentic, clean path to the source. El Dorado is mediated through the ways it has been represented, challenged, resisted and renamed.
Colonization and post-colonization are subject to scrutiny in your project. These are serious topics, and possibly quite loaded in terms of the aftermath so to speak. What made you take up this part of the world history?
It is true that colonialism is a loaded topic. But I cannot think of a topic (worth of art making) that is not loaded. Can you?
How would you describe your work process from idea to work?
Unclear and variable.
What are your main influences when creating a work of art?
A material that makes some kind of resistance.
Can you name an artist, artwork or exhibition that has inspired you?
El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (1612–1616) by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayalas, and Claude Monet’s Houses of Parliament (1904).
El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierne is a Peruvian chronicle dated to around 1615. It was written by the indigenous Peruvian Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, and covers ancient Andean history, including the rise of the Inca empire, the Spanish conquest in the 1530s, and early colonial society and government.
What is it about this chronicle that caught your interest?
It is an incredible “book”, beautiful, complex and an important social document. At the same time when I was doing research for the show at Nils Stærk, I found out that it belongs to the Royal Library in Copenhagen. So it even more accentuates questions of belonging, power, and history writing, all of which are questions very central for the exhibition and for my work at large.
Can you name a writer or book, fiction or theory that has inspired your works?
There are several, in many different and heterogeneous ways. Two books that were important for this particular project are Roberto Bolano’s book Amulet (1999) and Peter Weiss’ The Aesthetics of Resistance (1975–1981).
What is your next project?
The 12 Biennale of Cuenca, Ecuador, in the end of March, where I will exhibit the work Stolen Light / Abstracto en Dorado (2013) which is very related to the exhibition at Nils Staerk, almost the starting point for it. Where I stole lamps, neon tubes and bulbs from the Ethnological Museum in Berlin during several visits there along last year. The work investigates the relation between the light (enlightenment) gold (colonialism) and stealing (Ethnological Museum), here reversed by me as a form of resistance.
Why is art important?
As the Brazilian art theoretic Mario Pedrosa wrote: Art is an experimental exercise of freedom.
Runo Lagomarsino, Against My Ruins, Nils Stærk, Copenhagen until 17 May.