Mabel Palacín (Barcelona, 1965) belongs to a generation of artists who eschewed a return to painting in the nineties and turned instead to experimenting with technologies of the image. In her photographs, videos and installations, Palacín questions the conventions of visual structures and the logic of representation by probing the processes for producing and receiving images. Her visual work is shaped by technique and she examines her finished pieces’ relationship with spectators. Likewise, her exploratory research serves to stress the importance of managing a given optical structure when fashioning narratives and imaginaries. Untitled (Triptych No. 2) is one of the materials for Sur l’Autoroute (1999), one of her early works. Shadows thrown up onto a backlit screen show us three sequences that represent typical scenes from domestic life and recall the filmic nature of the original work. However, something very different is going on behind the screen: completely separate parts are brought together by a directional light to form a single story. This video reveals the ambiguities between the image and reality or, in other words, shows how fiction easily borrows from any representation. In a similar vein is La distancia correcta (2002-2003), a two-channel video installation in which a person walks to and fro in front of a screen featuring clips of films that fit perfectly with his movements; once again, the real and the constructed dovetail perfectly. The correct distance for glimpsing these kinds of games is where the spectator is, strategically placed between the filming equipment (the camera) and the projection screen. In effect, this contingent place between different points of view reveals the true complexity of creating narratives. In Hinterland (2009)—drawing on the notion of a hinterland as a peripheral, ambiguous, empty and available territory whose influence is key for understanding a city’s dynamics as a whole—Palacín links a static image to a moving image for the first time. A large-scale photograph of a general view of the site, made up of multiple takes from a bird’s-eye view, is then filmed by a video camera. The lens films not the landscape but rather the image of the landscape. The video therefore makes it possible to penetrate the image and show the components that make it up in detail and at the same time transcend the limits of photography. Moreover, it also reveals something that forces us to take a position: the pre-eminence of the technique facilitates the process of constructing images to such an extent that the real world disappears. This same technique, blurring the dividing line between photography and the moving image, is also used in the project 180º (2011), produced and presented at the Venice Biennale (2011). Based on the 180º rule in film that establishes the positions of the camera and the spectator to ensure visual understanding of a scene, it follows a storyline that once again flouts conventions of time and space by combining all coordinates in a mere process of visual construction.
Andrea Aguado Alemany