“I wanted to see something in full daylight; I was sated with the pleasure and comfort of the half light. I had the same desire for the daylight as for water and air. And if seeing was fire, I required the plenitude of fire, and if seeing would infect me with madness, I madly wanted that madness.”
(Maurice Blanchot, La Folie du jour )
The sun rises, a candle flame glows, an electric pulse heats the filaments of a light bulb, and the projectors start rolling. The hum of the machines fills the space until it merges with the sounds from the next room, empty and black. The devices keep running uninterrupted, lit now by their own light, like old museum exhibits on their plinths.
The first forms appear. And if seeing was fire … flashing lights and shadows doomed to fade, a precious but momentary truth, fleeting glimmers. The flames light the world, illuminate it, touch it, and burning, turn the image to ash. This is a metaphor for the gaze of fire, the incessant movement of images, and shifting vision, as presented by the two artists. Like a candle. Georges Didi-Huberman writes that the image burns, fusing time within it, as “time looks back at us in the image”: to them, we are the same.
Light and time are their raw materials. The practice, pace, and creative processes of the piece are determined by the artists’ handling of analogue devices and photosensitive film, their complete awareness of the equipment, and cinematographic expression. It is a conscious methodological choice, driven by a desire to keep exploring the possibilities of the plastic arts, poetic usage and the critical potential of a technique and aesthetic approach considered obsolete in the digital age.
Light makes the world visible. What we can perceive is deceptive, but the invisible barely exists: the hegemony of vision in modern culture. Valentina Alvarado Matos and Carlos Vásquez use framed images, adding filters and lenses: mechanisms that act between the camera and the subject, changing the nature of perception to enable us to see things anew. Their earlier project, Paracronismos, explored ways of considering, within the image, our relationship with other times, or rather whether heterogeneous periods can coexist, disrupting the concept of linear chronological events. The image is thus a memory, a montage of superimposed layers that flash up when summoned, as Walter Benjamin would say. Past and present are contemporaneous, as in cinematographic practice.
We present an experimental project that brings together the themes explored in Paracronismos I and II with an installation specially designed for this exhibition space. And If Seeing Was Fire suggests a natural continuity between the exhibition space and cinema, combining a permanent film show with additional ephemeral performance sessions projecting 16 mm and S8 mm film and improvised sound. These are different but complementary experiences that invite us to rethink the possibilities of film and the place we occupy as spectators.