The project Mar del Plata Revisited was the starting point for a dialogue between Sergio Basbaum and me that took place on the internet from March to May 2008. In spring 2007, Basbaum and I had met at the Dutch Art Institute in Enschede, The Netherlands. Here, we had already discussed the first stages of the project.
The booklet was published in 2008, as a part of the Dutch Art Institute curriculum.
The design is by Marco Balesteros.
Mar del Plata Revisited, booklet, 2008
Pages from the bookletTemporary Monuments and Other Memories, Anna Korteweg and Sergio Basbaum, 2008
Below follows an excerpt from the publication, in which I discuss the motives behind the work Mar del Plata Revisited and underlying themes of memory, image-processing and attachment.
Temporary Monuments and Other Memories - excerpt
Anna: Looking back at this painting (Mendoza Revisited, 2004), I see it as an attempt to monumentalize a certain personal moment of my past, a moment that was then still present. This was just after I had spent several months in Argentina and I found myself back in Amsterdam, in the most familiar place I could be: home. But I found it was not so obvious anymore what was more familiar to me: the spacious, dry prairie of the South or the cosy, unchanged and enclosed living-room that I had known for years.
Once we become familiar with a certain place and attach importance to it, the place becomes a symbol for a certain period or occurrence in life, a monument that memorizes a part of ourselves. The painting reflects on the wish to keep this memory as it is, however insistently images of the present and of other pasts are imposed on it.
And of course the work is a response to "the ever-increasing speed of technical innovations that produce ever more images of the soon-to-be-forgotten". There are so many advanced ways to record, save and archive the present that the act of remembering has become something paradoxical: the more the present can be fixed and documented, the less we seem to have a grip on it. Painting and drawing can be deceivingly helpful to hold on to a moment, because it has become a slow medium. And as an action painting stays very close to ourselves, to the body.'
Although we know that paintings, memories, dreams, are generally not accepted as real, they keep seducing us with their own versions of reality. In a similar way, an actual landscape is seducing us too, I think. It holds the false promise of permanence and safety. Apart from its spatial perspectives -that change with every step we take, I chose to depict a landscape, because I see in it this promise of steadiness. Usually a landscape changes only very slowly, gradually. It moves without hurry. That's at least, what I hope. I want to hold on to the expectation that a landscape doesn't change very fast, that time is on hold. Even though it's not true, it is a notion, or maybe a wish.
The painting shows a mountainous scene, that is very unlikely to change quickly, so the dream stays intact. But what happens with landscapes that do change rapidly, such as the urban environment? In another work 'Mar del Plata Revisited' I revisit again a landscape, but this time it's a city. Using a similar old medium as painting, eight watercolours of the city view are composed as a circular panorama. Instead of presenting the work as a painting on paper, it finally consists of a video that shows the thin balance between a remembered city-view and the presence of the actual city, with its own noise and atmosphere.
In the city that I thought I knew well, Amsterdam, I started to question its reliability. What are the buildings, points of anchor, symbols of steadiness in a city when it's constantly changing? What are the places that offer a foundation to settle our dreams and memories? If there's something like a personal monument to be found, it should be something constructed by men, since cities are entirely constructed by men. But all that is constructed, is bound to be changed again, adjusted and improved, in a rhythm that suits our technological developments.
To come back to the first question you asked (How do fixed images reflect, represent, present and configure our so delicate and sometimes seemingly untouchable present?), I think the answer is that the images that we produce, save in memory and evoke later, are our present. If I want to find a monument in my built environment to which I can relate, it is not so much a particular place itself that talks to me, but much more the images, memories, pictures that I have assembled around it.