Alex Da Corte The Showstopper
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.