The architecture of power


Growing up, artist Jon Gorospe was a BMX rider. Now he uses the same playful and experimental way of relating to urban spaces when making his artistic projects. We have talked with Jon about his ongoing show City Surfaces at KB Contemporary.
City Surfaces by Jon Gorospe at KB Contemporary.

Congratulations with your show City Surfaces at KB Contemporary! What are you showing in this exhibition?

Thanks, it is great pleasure for me to have the chance of having a solo show in Oslo after some time.

In this exhibition, I am showing two different projects that I have been working on since 2018.

On the top floor, I am exhibiting “The Spot”, a work dealing with the constant commercialization of urban space, where LED advertising displays are taking more and more of our sight. This work seeks to subject advertising images and their support to the pressure of the same visual production media, but with opposite intentions. I re-photograph these screens introducing values that generate interferences to create a new proposal that transforms the advertising image into abstract elements. Aiming to transform ephemeral images that constantly try to sell you something into abstract compositions that are meant to last.

On the bottom floor, I am showcasing part of ‘Polished Cities’, a series dealing with the architecture of power. I am interested in documenting architectural areas that are not meant to be inhabited. Parts of our cities that people use just as working spaces. Such as banks, big institutions, headquarters, offices and so on. I am interested in the smoothness of the surfaces, the modular structures and the grids, elements that are all at the service of an aesthetic of non-friction in which the subjects - whoever walks, passes or stops - are extraordinarily easy to monitor.

City Surfaces by Jon Gorospe at KB Contemporary.

You have a strong interest for photographing urban space - the architecture and the sleek materials that make up the face of modern cities, and the people that inhabit and interact with these spaces. What makes the city an interesting motif for you and what sparked your interest in this theme? 

For a great part of my youth I was a BMX rider, I was always surrounded by skaters, riders and different people practicing extreme sports in urban spaces. This experience gave a playful sense of the use of the city. While most of the people use the streets to go from A to B, we used them as a big playground, a place to meet, explore and play. Not long ago I discovered this fact to be a big influence for me, but it took a while to make the connection.

Of course, with a bit of time I started reading about the situationist movement during the vanguards, and the political potential the use of the city could have. The great legacy of artists that have used the urban scenario as a field of work.

All this is mixed with the fact that the population is massively migrating to cities. A fast-growing phenomenon that creates new and exciting ways of living but also problems we have to face sooner or later.

City Surfaces by Jon Gorospe at KB Contemporary.

In your series Polished Cities, you combine your photographs with sheets of material that could appear to come from the very buildings you have photographed, and in an otherwise monochrome installation there is vibrant red Plexiglass overlapping the works on the gallery walls. Could you say a few words on this combination of photography with other elements in the show?  

I am always trying to push the boundaries of image-making culture, I love mixing media, and since in this project I talk about the skin of the buildings I wanted to emphasize the multiple layers contemporary architecture has. Where the structure of the building is usually hidden and covered with smooth surfaces such as metal and glass. 

I use the red acrylic as a colour code we meet in the street every day. Red is the colour that set the rhythm of the city. Creating pauses within the urban flux with the use of traffic lights and signs.

City Surfaces by Jon Gorospe at KB Contemporary.

Several of the photographs in the show relate to LED screens, and some of these works also take on a sculptural presence. Would you elaborate on these works?

Zygmunt Bauman wrote about the liquid society and how nothing is stationary anymore. Everything is in constant change. The wave-shaped photo sculptures are a homage to Bauman and speak about the theories of the liquid image. The screens are stationary but the content is constantly moving. The light values change and act as a chameleon, changing its appearance to seduce our consumption will.

When I face a project like this I try to approach the questions I have isolated from different angles, using different media that create a body of work where these pieces have the chance to dialogue. In this project, I have used photography, video installation, photo sculptures and light installations. 

I am interested in how images are created and distributed. Today, if we think about photography, we must think about the way the images travel and their speed and fractal dissemination. My work has a strong meta-photography base. In transcendental terms, I aim to have a temporal anchor in the way I work. I want to speak about contemporary topics and our contemporary tools.


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