Alex Da Corte The Shows­top­per

L'officiel Art - - Backstage Introspection - In­ter­view by Ya­mi­na Be­naï and William Mas­sey pp 64-79

Ea­sy on the eye, the work of Alex Da Corte (born 1980 in Cam­den, New Jer­sey; lives and works in Phi­la­del­phia) un­set­tles and pro­vokes. Images that bring ter­ror and nai­ve­ty to­ge­ther in an unea­sy and un­ner­ving co­ha­bi­ta­tion are so ma­ny in­vi­ta­tions to ex­plore beyond the vi­sible, beyond the tip­ping point. The ar­tist de­ve­lo­ped a pro­ject for L'Of­fi­ciel Art and ex­plains his ap­proach.

L'OF­FI­CIEL ART: Dead Roses, which you de­si­gned spe­ci­fi­cal­ly for L'Of­fi­ciel Art, is made up of com­po­si­tions in which you su­per­im­pose ima­ge­ry from di­verse se­man­tic uni­verses to create a po­ly­pho­ny of nar­ra­tives. Each dip­tych is construc­ted like a very short sto­ry. How did you create the two parts of those nar­ra­tives, which seem both com­ple­men­ta­ry and au­to­no­mous? Dead Roses is a se­ries of cell­phone images I have been col­lec­ting and ta­king over the past se­ve­ral years. These images, along with film stil­ls and found gra­phics, have been col­la­ged to­ge­ther as a com­pres­sed quilt, which cor­re­lates with my show at MASS Mo­CA en­tit­led Free Roses. Wor­king with de­si­gner Ted Guer­re­ro, we crea­ted these col­lages in the spi­rit of my sculp­tures, which are of­ten made from a col­lec­tion of found ob­jects. These col­lages are bru­tal, things sta­cked on things sta­cked on things, in the vein of Han­nah Höch's pho­to­mon­tage Cut With The Kit­chen Knife. As with much pho­to­mon­tage, there is a be­gin­ning, middle and end.

You have said you are par­ti­cu­lar­ly at­trac­ted to ob­jects you don't un­ders­tand or like. By using them in your art, are you trying to un­ders­tand them? Trying to over­come an im­pulse to re­ject them? I think that trans­cen­dence is so­me­thing to seek out and pos­si­bly adopt, or at least strive to­ward, in full awa­re­ness that our tastes, in­cli­na­tions and beings can be fluid, sus­cep­tible to change or to an in­herent ca­pa­ci­ty for evo­lu­tion. This pro­pen­si­ty to learn keeps us free. I think eve­ryone has things they like or dis­like, but I'd like to be­lieve that the line bet­ween af­fi­ni­ty and de­tes­ta­tion is per­meable, that the ideals we create re­main in mo­tion, mo­ving for­ward. Em­pa­thy should lead us.

You seem very pre­cise in your choice of pic­tures to use, cap­tu­ring the pro­phe­tic or re­vea­ling mo­ment a frac­tion of a se­cond be­fore or af­ter a dra­ma­tic oc­cur­rence, as if it were a sur­gi­cal ex­plo­ra­tion of that par­ti­cu­lar mo­ment. What is your per­cep­tion of time? I am very in­ter­es­ted in the middle, which in­volves un­ders­tan­ding what came be­fore and an­ti­ci­pa­ting what is to come. I stu­died ani­ma­tion in the ni­ne­ties, im­mer­sing my­self to the point of achie­ving some kind of cla­ri­ty. For me, thin­king about time means thin­king about it in such slow mo­tion, frame by hand-drawn frame. I was very in­ter­es­ted in the stu­dies Muy­bridge did with the hu­man bo­dy in mo­tion, dis­co­ve­ring the de­com­po­si­tion of form, seeing how forms are both flat and fluid. His works were about trap­ping time, so­me­how ana­ly­zing the space bet­ween an image (the past), the ob­ject (the present) and its po­ten­tial (the fu­ture). For me, that space bet­ween image and ob­ject is the ether, where me­mo­ry, fan­ta­sy, and po­ten­tial dwell and ex­pand ad in­fi­ni­tum.

The way you ex­plore time com­pels us to re­flect upon no­tions of the im­mi­nence of death. You grew up in South Ame­ri­ca where the ima­ge­ry of life and death im­pre­gnates dai­ly life. How im­por­tant is death in your men­tal land­scape? I do not think that fear eats the soul. I think that death and fear have pro­du­ced some of the best dis­co­ve­ries on how to live again, how to heal or grow. In other words, there are ma­ny deaths in one's day, and each is a call to come back, be new, and re­vi­sit our­selves.

The way you as­so­ciate conflic­ting images, su­per­im­po­sing for example naive ele­ments on a violent image, can un­set­tle the vie­wer. But not at first sight. Ra­ther, and more subt­ly, it's as we go dee­per into the work that we be­come in­crea­sin­gly unea­sy. Is this a way of coer­cing or cap­ti­va­ting the vie­wer? There are ma­ny skins to an image. I be­lieve that all images wear a mask. To dis­rupt the icon and un­ra­vel the mask is to add ano­ther layer, to slow down the time it takes to see the land­scape in front of you.

One of your tools of ar­tis­tic ex­pres­sion consists in seeing the stage as an are­na, a ve­nue of vic­to­ry or de­feat, a place of ac­tion, as if a clap­per­board were set­ting the tem­po of a ne­ver-en­ding show. How has the so­cie­ty of spec­tacle in­fluen­ced your prac­tice? I'm not very in­ter­es­ted in spec­tacle, but I am in­ter­es­ted in the his­to­ry of special ef­fects, and how ar­chi­tec­ture, lights and stages can in­fluence one's psyche. For me, un­ders­tan­ding the role played by the per­iphe­ral edges of our eve­ry­day spaces is key to a bet­ter un­ders­tan­ding of how and why we move th­rough space in the ways we do. I do not feel that pre­sen­ting smoke and mir­rors for a smo­keand-mir­ror spec­tacle is what we need right now. I want to un­ders­tand the smoke and I want to un­ders­tand the mir­ror.

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