MIGUEL ÁNGEL TORNERO: Life Made Photo Made Collage

By Teresa de Andrés. March 19, 2012


Miguel Ángel Tornero makes the most of the machines’ mistakes to create things that surprise fate (which is the shape that life takes when it becomes photography). He plays with the geometric rules that command eyes and tongues and dismantles the images with a camera in an operating theatre.

It is the collage that denies the axis and the reinvention of the vanishing point, wrapped in mystery, travel diary and miracle.

When and why did you start The Random Series –berliner trato–? Where did you get the title from?

This is a project I carried out in 2010 while studying Art in the Künslerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. My work is based on the photographs I take every day –each day more intuitively– about what happens in my daily routine. Then, I use those images according to the project I’m working on. In this case, The Random Series could be translated literally as the series of fate since they are digital collages made from several pictures chosen by me. The final result was obtained taking advantage of a mistake made by a software that is actually designed for sewing correlative images, in a way that I ignore the parameters that the computer is going to use for interpreting such (apparently) different pictures. In that moment, fate, mistakes and the unexpected take the starring role and co-write these images coming from a hybrid world.
Berliner trato is something quite subjective. Basically, it indicates that the setting is Berlin and that the whole experiment has a point where I play with what is established, rules and language – that’s why I call it berliner trato, I use a German word and a Spanish one. It is all about creating expectations.

Can you tell us something else about the video that goes with the series?

It is actually an advertising video. When we put the book up for sale at Dalpine, we decided to illustrate the project the best way we could. The book includes the 32 collages that make up the series and it also includes a booklet with text formed using a process similar to the one used when creating the images: filtered with web-based translation engines, so we find inconsistencies and unstructured grammar in the text that somehow underline the idea we have in mind about what cannot be explained or about the fact that sometimes oral language is not enough.

To what extent do you think that being in the same presentation space of the work influences its reception? Tell us a bit about the “stage” of The Random Series –berliner trato– in the Künstlerhaus Bethanien exhibition in Berlin.

I like the fact that it is a hybrid piece, something fresh within the city report proposals. I seek identification with the spectators that know the city and who could identify themselves in this certain atmosphere that I am sure floats throughout the series. Künstlerhaus Bethanien is a true institution in Berlin (big names have exposed there since the seventies) and in Kreuzber, the Turkish neighbourhood, to me more precise, and I like to make of photography something living; so when I started thinking about my exhibition there I decided to introduce new specific pieces. A structure that never stopped spinning shaped like a giant kebab, made with impressions of all the images I had rejected while I created the series. I liked the idea of something rotating, slow-cooked, day after day, at the same time so representative of the place where my operations base was. Also, the introduction of décollage and shreds of photographs over the room highlighted the importance of process in my work.

What is your preferred format when showing your photos?

It depends on the project. There is a boom in photography books (I think that for now I am happy about that) and I understand it can be the ideal setting to structure the photographic narrative. On the other hand, my work concentrates on the part of photography where the limits are stretched out, where the picture ceases to be an image container and takes the starring role as an expressive tool. Also, lately I feel that my works tend to slowly leave the two-dimensions and dialogue more and more with the space and the context of where they are shown.

What is the role of fate in your practice beyond this particular series?

Not as much as instinct. I don’t like to think too much about what I am doing when I am immersed in the work process, I prefer for something else to be in charge –whatever is most similar to my own unconscious.

There is a lot of familiar and strange in The Random Series –berliner trato–, do you think there is a certain tiredness in how things are seen?

My responsibility as artist is that if I add a new piece to the world –whatever its medium– I must believe it contributes with something new. Although that tiredness you mention is unavoidable, because there are a lot of images and, if our gaze is saturated, we are not fit to interpret –it’s like with information, we have more each day, but its quality is worse–, especially when we have to translate to the oral or written department what we see. I mean, we don’t tend to be educated in looking and that would be more than interesting. But, in the same awareness process we also have the risk of conventionalizing the interpretation of what is being looked at. Not many people are capable of reflecting the intensity of what they have experienced when they have to express it and/or know how to conventionalize the artist’s work. On the other hand, I think that the saturation of images has made us redefine the way we approach art in a way in which the image and the artistic object have less and less importance or, simply disappear in the end. And that is how we kill time…

Would you say that humour is an important element in your series?

It is important in my everyday life, so without doubt it also is in the professional side of it. Humour is a symptom of health and intelligence. I often like to trivialize deep matters and find the soul of what is apparently superficial.

Five artists who have influenced your work in some way.

I have a grudge against these references although I must admit that when I read I love it when people get involved in these questions.
I’ll be easy: Morandi, Hirschhorn, Wall, Fontcuberta, 091 (the band I always listened to when I was a teenager)…

What are you working at now?

On the 14th April I open an exhibition with Noé Sendas called Esperando a Houdini (Waiting for Houdini) in the Raquel Ponce Galllery, in Madrid, curated by Virginia Torrente within the event “Jugada a 3 bandas” (3-way play). There I will present a preview of a project called Photophobia in which I will focus for some time. In July I will take part in a collective called Parataxis curated by Carlos Fdez-Pello in La Casa Encendida, Madrid, and in November The Random Series –berliner trato– will be exposed in an individual I will have in the Juan Silió Gallery, in Santander. On the other hand, I am preparing a fanzine for the publishing house Fiesta that will appear throughout the year.

If you lift your head from the screen, right now, what do you see?

I’m in the studio, so the table-cabinet I work on and where save my work horizontally, stocked-up works and all the trial prints and works in which I am working arranged over the studio’s floor (the truth is that this looks more like a serial-killer’s hideout!)

* What is the soundtrack of this interview?

Right now, Aquella Canción by Tórtel


Miguel Ángel Tornero lives in Madrid, takes pictures, makes installations and films videos.

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