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Fredi Casco

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Apr 07, 2007
Location: Paraguay
Topic: Interview with Fredi Casco
Interviewer: Ticio Escobar

LatinArt:  One of the fundamental issues addressed in your work has to do with the copy; the copy of reality, the copy of hegemonic models, the copy of copies. And this topic takes us to the matter of reproducibility as well as to the process of the copy itself: there is a constant preoccupation with reproduction devices and their applications. How might both of these issues be articulated?

Fredi Casco:  My generation was born and grew up encountering the latest electro-domestic gadgets that brought home images of the world at a time when all the windows to the world were practically closed. Things that certainly must have left their mark on my way of approaching representation: the limited televised imagery of the 60s and 70s, the successive filtrations brought about by censorship and the "low-tech" quality of those images (in black and white, repeatedly interrupted by broadcast interferences, the insidious "static rain," etc...). This whole situation gave the impression that one was being shown second rate copies of reality. In the era of the analog, each copy was a degraded version of the previous one, something which reinforced even further the statute of the copy, of reproduction.

That is why, when, in the mid-90s (only yesterday!) I had access to the first video-art artists such as Nam June Paik or Bill Viola, I was immediately fascinated by those images with their "visual-tactile" quality.

LatinArt:  Perhaps this fascination with the "visual-tactile" led you to explore the tempo of your own resources and to analyze the presence of technical devices. The topic of ruined saints (presupposing several representational instances: photography, video) assumes intense deliberation about the statute of the image in its different "versions" (photographic, electronic) and temporalities (that of the Polaroid, of exposure –or not-- that of the video). Do you think that these media allows for a new understanding of perception, a new perspective from which to consider "real" objects?

Fredi Casco:  When I began using the registers of Polaroid images that had been previously recorded, I was interested on the one hand in perverting the common utilization of both registers (photographic, electronic), in "spoiling" the results (therein also lies my interest in using deteriorated images of small popular saints, ruined); on the other hand, I was interested (just before digital photography began appearing in the market) in obtaining something on my own that would look like digitalized proto-photography, or, rather, a parody of digital photography, but totally useless, not marketable. The practice of using a single Polaroid copy as final support also resulted in thinking about technical reproduc(t)ibility, since having an image previously recorded on video was like being in possession of the matrix of an engraving. All the same, these instances were not very far removed from the craft, hand-made qualities of traditional engraving, since I had to measure with my own eyes the distances between my camera and the television, regulate the amount of light etc... In this sense, I used to ask myself, in terms of experience, what was it that was happening in the space between my camera and the television, that intermediate "no place" which at the same time was very "real," that burst into the picture with the glare of its lights and shadows, its reflections, its gloss, preventing the processes of those images from turning out 100% "virtual." In those images there is no doubt an interference with what in Lacan’s frequency is known as "The real."

In that series there are also some commentaries obviously concerning the present day spectral statute of such cult images. I was attempting to restore to them their religious "aura" with the cold light of television, but they would wind up coming back, no longer as glorious saints but as little ghosts.

LatinArt:  Can you identify any process throughout your production useful in articulating issues that you were already setting forth in your earliest work?

Fredi Casco:  Commentaries concerning mass media, their incidence in popular culture, upon reality itself, are present in most of my works from the very beginning, but so also are the failures in communication, its fissures and things such as reification and other issues of the contemporary image. I now find concerns in those same works with the break-through of "The real." What is behind the images (or between them) that can not be represented, symbolized, but which manifest itself as a remainder, as a breach, a blemish or a gap?

LatinArt:  But, is there a certain continuity in outlook from the very first works down to the most recent, the one about Stroessner’s double, in El Regreso de los Brujos [The Return of the Sorcerers]? Is thinking about the copy as a mechanical device related to thinking of the copy as an ontological double, as the cloning of a historically traumatizing character?

Fredi Casco:  For sure, even in The Return of the Sorcerers, there is a strong influence from the mass media, in this case, the influence of popular movies, of the class B movies coming from the paranoid Hollywood of the 50s and 60s. To answer your question, you’ll notice that in my next installment of that series which I present in parts and inspired by popular art, I will use the 19th century stereoscopic photos of ghostly apparitions as a starting point. What I find interesting in that kind of photography is not so much the tri-dimensional effect attained when you see them through their technological device, but the effect of repetition. In the old stereoscopic images, in order for the effect to be obtained, the same photo had to be duplicated, but just slightly off. Put differently, discovering this repetition of the image was what caused my perception to shift and to experience an immediate interest in exploring along in that direction.

The theme of the double has been there for several years as well, especially since the time of the Pesebre [Nativity] with two children piece (Pesebre II 2002). Which one of the two in there was "The true one"? How can you tell the Christ and the Anti-Christ apart, considering that both are identical, or even, in the case of the images that I used, copies of an original model that has been lost?

From the formal point of view, what interests me is the tension created by the emergence of the double in an apparently banal image, such as any official gathering might be, but as you have said, cloning a beloved person is not quite like cloning Stroessner.

On the other hand, the recurrence of the double, the twin, the clone, in these works amounts to projecting the notions of identity and of difference against an abyss. At least as a starting point.

LatinArt:  But duplication unavoidably takes us back to the theme of difference. And to the topic of translation and the displacements generated by the artist’s meddling with photography. What expressive value does the digital intervention of the original photographs in your work have? Does the phase-out between the original and the copy allow for a spacing, a fringe for positioning oneself, a space from where to discuss the objectivity, to twist the story around, to anticipate another time?

Fredi Casco:  We have gone from the era of mechanical reproduc(t)ibility to telematic reproduc(t)ibility ... And is it not the case that today even people themselves could be reproduced by cloning? All of this has its consequences, no doubt. On the other hand, the possibility of altering the images through digital means undermines, among other things, all kinds of certainties we used to have in relation to them. Photographs, the document, used to prove that "this is how it was," that "this is how it happened." All that has fallen into a crisis.

Nonetheless, I am not so sure that the possibilities now open to the manipulation of images through digital means amount to such a radical revolution, at least, not as significant a revolution as it is made out to be –in contrast with what is happening with the telematic, which is something truly without precedent. The manipulation of the photographic image to various ends has been going on for some time (in effect, one of my starting points for Volume I of The Return of the Sorcerers, was the Stalinist standard practice of doctoring official photographs). What the emergence of new image technology has done is to accelerate and extend further the possibilities of making alterations to the point of precipitating a virtual collapse. Again, it’s a projection with the abyss for background.

All in all, it seems to me that a strong fetishist attitude towards photography in general, and towards documentary photography, in particular, persists today. If practices such as these help to make the certainties of the Market, of History (upper-case), more problematic, then there is still plenty of work left to do.

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