álvaro pérez mulas
TO BE AND THE STATE OF BEING,
TO SEE AND TO LOOK
In the 1920’s, the sociologist, cultural critic and film theorist, Siegfried Kracauer spoke about the abundance of visual details included in a photograph and, referring to it, described how the art form incited intellectual laziness in the viewer because there was so much information and so many details offered that it was no longer necessary to stimulate the imagination in order to comprehend the features that appeared within it. As such, according to Kracauer, immersed as it was within the real world and the scenes that surrounded it, photography is not a good medium for communicating events, and tends to be rather superficial .
However, he also refers to abstract photographic images and says that they force the viewer to interpret them, questioning what it is that the image transmits. The human mind needs to work in order to discern and critically assess what it is contemplating.
We cannot say that the photographs shown by Pérez Mulas are completely abstract because if we look at them carefully we can identify the object or surface that they represent, but on the other hand, his work does demand a degree of interpretation and guesswork as to what is actually being shown, a different sense from the object’s original purpose.
The work of Pérez goes against a photography that has been characterised by images’ affinity with reality, whose main objective has always been to represent objects and phenomena as faithfully as possible to what nature intended (associated with the precise moment of a piece of news or information). In contrast, as Gottfried Jägger has commented, the images of Pérez …renounce the recognisable object, the decisive moment, conventional perspective, the precision of detail. He does not pursue the automatic truth, but something very different . And it is the fact that the camera is able to capture things that the human eye finds inapprehensible, from the widest landscape to the most insignificant of details.
We are often no longer capable of distinguishing reality from fiction, thanks to the retouching programmes that offer us images far from primitive reality and directed instead to our personal tastes or our wishes as defined by the powers-that-be. In the vast majority of cases, we don’t even question the image that is being sold to us. Reproduction simply becomes another consumer object. It creates models that are far from reality which we increasingly ignore, and associates belief systems and stereotypes with social distinction or personal triumph. As such, Perez’s images invite us to question our reality, just as artists at the beginning of the 20th century used photography as a way of searching for a new language, one that could better express the inner id.
Pérez Mulas’ photography owes its existence to an intentional experimentation with reality, its objects and shadows, establishing a boundary between the recognisable and the abstract, seeking a specific end in their combination. Each one of the images in isolation represents part of an object or surface, that passes before the viewer’s gaze totally unnoticed as they walk down the street, one that we would surely never take in. But the image in itself seeks a new interpretation, something more than simply observing the arch of a football goal, or a signal painted on the ground or a park bench. Each image works in the search for a new message, not only giving us the opportunity to think again about objects that form part of our everyday lives but that we otherwise ignore, but also showing us that the overall combination also makes sense.
Recently, Pérez Mulas has worked by finding and taking photographs of subjects that resemble the alphabet and has managed to discover the sense that he was looking for in the insignificant. The individual, which also warrants our attention, ensures that the collective acquires sense and moves us to open up our minds, to question reality and what it transmits to us, to differentiate between the simple act of looking without taking notice of what we’re seeing, and being able to go beyond that, to see what the arrangement of photographs is attempting to transmit.
As such, the photographs of Pérez Mulas reflect the words of Kracauer, that not everything is complete, we need to put something of ourselves in too. His work invites us to participate actively, walking, composing in our minds, in order to interpret what the artist is attempting to transmit: an accumulation of images whose message, once analysed, can be understood and criticised. As Walter Benjamin wrote, photography is capable of developing or creating a narrative form with its own language.
Rafael López Borrego
 Kracauer, s. “Photography” in “The Mass Essays”, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1991, p51.
 Jägger, G. Fotografía Abstracta. Exit :Imagen y Cultura, Nº14. 2004 . p107
Installation of 24 photographs placed to induce reading
The vertical photographs have a size of 90x60 cm and the horizontal ones of 90x135 cm
Curator: Javier Panera.