Federico Guzmán: somos mortales, es verdad…

Federico Guzmán
Conversación con Martín Carrasco

Federico Guzmán

Federico Guzmán

“Somos mortales, es verdad, pero hay sistemas, leyes, ideologías y muros que limitan nuestro potencial de trascender” — Federico Guzmán.

Federico Guzmán (Sevilla, 1964) es un artista visual analítico, poético y de la imaginación… Un creador “expansivo” y culto, con una obra diversa que escapa de clasificaciones evidentes. Guzmán conjuga el trabajo individual con el colectivo, actuando en territorios como la cultura libre, los derechos humanos y la ecología. En su estética, conciencia y responsabilidad social van de la mano, sin duda su mejor forma de servir al mundo.

—Contemplando La canción del tomaco, tu “fantástica” exposición que podemos disfrutar en el MEIAC, me ratifico en la idea sobre la capacidad transformadora que nace de lo naif.

Albert Einstein explicaba que “La mente intuitiva es un don sagrado y la mente racional es un fiel sirviente. Hemos creado una sociedad que honra al sirviente y ha olvidado el don”. Efectivamente la civilización occidental vive una paranoia racionalista que cree que todo puede ser controlado, y para ello ha de ser conceptualizado, separado, alineado y explicado. Es ese ego dominante al que Enric Corbera llama “el tonto del culo” que tenemos en la cabeza. Desde esa perspectiva lo naif se reduce a infantilismo. Yo defiendo la mirada limpia de nuestro niño interior, nuestra capacidad de aprender jugando con los demás y la confianza de seguir nuestro propio impulso guiados por un corazón abierto. Si eres capaz de transformar tu perspectiva del mundo tienes el poder de transformarlo todo.

—Un corazón abierto –el tuyo- que nos regala La canción del tomaco…

El tomaco es una planta fantástica que se hizo realidad. Este injerto de tomate y tabaco saltó a la fama en un memorable capítulo de Los Simpsons. En la fábula Homer Simpson se hace agricultor y de manera accidental descubre el tomaco, un híbrido mutante de tomate y tabaco. Todo el que lo prueba se vuelve peligrosamente adicto. El tomaco es una droga poderosa. Justo cuando Homer está a punto de ganar cien millones de dólares con la venta del tomaco, unos aterradores animales adictos destruyen sus planes.

—Y entonces, a partir de ahí, se inicia el viaje de esta planta espiritual…

Sí, es un viaje de la ficción a la realidad, he copiado este invento para cultivarlo en nuestra tierra. El tomate y el tabaco pertenecen a la misma familia de plantas, las solanáceas, lo que permite su injerto y crianza en una sola mata. Aprendiendo su cultura lo he criado con cuidado en tierras de Andalucía, Extremadura y Colombia desde 2005. Después el poeta Michel Hubert me propuso colaborar en un proyecto con la Fundación Ortega Muñoz. A través de ella entramos en contacto con el naturalista Joaquín Araújo para cultivar tomaco en su finca extremeña de Las Villuercas e iniciar un diálogo que nos ha llevado del arte a la ecología y del huerto familiar al planeta Tierra.

—¿Y “más allá” del tomaco?

Siguiendo la llamada de esta mata he aprendido que el tomate y el tabaco son plantas originarias de Abya Yala, “la tierra en plena madurez”, como la gente Kuna ha llamado ancestralmente al continente americano, donde se han cultivado desde hace milenios. Uniendo sus tallos y compartiendo su clorofila, las frutas de tomate crecen en raíces de tabaco, y funden sus nombres, mitos y genealogías. El tomate, sustancioso alimento, es el cuerpo; y el tabaco, planta sagrada y alucinógeno chamánico es el espíritu. El alimento del tomate y la medicina del tabaco coexisten discurriendo por su savia. La alianza del tomaco propone señas de un camino de sabiduría. El ser humano es una hebra del tejido de la vida y nuestro pensamiento siempre busca su par. Nuestro orden cósmico es un pari-verso, regido por la proporcionalidad, la reciprocidad y la complementariedad. La relación entre dos sólo es posible en el diálogo y el consenso, y este diálogo debe buscar la equidad para el equilibrio dinámico que es la vida misma.

—Tras La canción del tomaco hay una reflexión sobre las plantas…

Desde el comienzo de la humanidad hemos sobrevivido con las propiedades nutritivas y medicinales de las plantas. Dicen que el número de especies vegetales en la Tierra se estima en 400.000, muchas de ellas desconocidas para los humanos. Mientras sólo una fracción ha sido identificada y categorizada por los botánicos occidentales, podemos afirmar que muchas plantas desconocidas en Occidente son conocidas por los pueblos indígenas que conviven con ellas en su entorno natural. Todos estos pueblos ancestrales insisten en que su conocimiento de las medicinas vegetales proviene directamente de las mismas plantas y no de la experimentación por ensayo y error. Lo que es menos conocido es que muchas de estas enseñanzas de las plantas están en la base de descubrimientos modernos tanto en medicina como en alimentación.

—… y más de una crítica.

Michel Hubert, comisario de este proyecto, plantea el injerto del tomaco como una intervención técnica en el mundo natural que por su carácter tradicional significa una crítica a la manipulación tecnológica de la ingeniería genética de hoy en día, al tiempo que un elogio del saber ancestral del horticultor y el jardinero. Sin embargo mi crítica se dirige específicamente al carácter mercantilista de la biotecnología, donde el beneficio económico es el factor que determina cómo y hacia dónde se orienta la investigación. Su objetivo es la industria farmacéutica y la agroindustria. También, cuando hablamos de biotecnología hablamos de patentes y de la privatización de unos bienes comunes como el patrimonio genético de las especies vegetales y animales. Los acuerdos comerciales internacionales están en camino de que un puñado de multinacionales sean propietarias de los principales elementos de la vida del planeta, comercializándolos de la forma y bajo el precio que quieran, habiéndolos sustraído arbitrariamente del saber tradicional y del común.

—En tu universo creativo hablas de los “hombres-plantas”…

El oficio del arte me ha puesto en el camino de las plantas. Avanzando en el camino, poco a poco, me he encontrado con “gente-planta”. Antiguamente no era tan raro que la gente se convirtiera en planta. Los antiguos sanadores vegetales conocían estas historias. Los viejos médicos sabían que este árbol era una niña, que esa flor había sido un niño. Esas cosas son verdad y su misterio todavía nos encanta. Dibujar plantas me conecta con la esencia de la vida. Creciendo como artista he pintado plantas de pequeñas a grandes. He dibujado semillas y hojas, plantado verduras y pintado árboles, he comido frutas y fumado flores. He dejado que las plantas dibujen a través de mí aquello que no sé pensar. Dibujando me he dejado llevar y, en un momento mágico, figura y fondo se han intercambiado. He comprendido que no creamos el arte sino que es el arte el que nos crea a nosotros.

—En la exposición una planta antropomórfica abraza a una mata de tomates. Es un vientre femenino, un útero donde la fruta fantástica ha germinado en los ovarios, y las ramas de tomate son las trompas de Falopio. En ese dibujo está Colombia y está el trópico, el mestizaje de América y África, lo futurista y lo ancestral, la vanguardia y lo popular, me interesa porque todo eso es nuestra identidad, una mezcla creativa de todo lo que crece en un sustrato de culturas olvidadas y despreciadas. Hay que revivir valores geográficos, económicos, sociales, políticos, religiosos, artísticos, lingüísticos, científicos soterrados física o mentalmente, o fosilizados en museos como un mudo testimonio del pasado, listos para saltar pletóricos de ideas y vivencias si los tocamos con inteligencia y amor.

—Una vez más la mente intuitiva, la “inteligencia del corazón”…

En todas las culturas existe una tradición de percepción directa de la naturaleza a través de la inteligencia del corazón. Esta inteligencia es un flujo de conciencia, entendimiento e intuición que experimentamos cuando la mente y las emociones se alinean en coherencia con el corazón. El corazón es, de hecho, un cerebro en toda regla. La percepción centrada en el corazón puede ser extraordinariamente precisa y detallada en su capacidad para recoger información, tal como afirman los sabedores tradicionales e indígenas. Los chamanes que he conocido en Colombia y en España se distinguen por su elocuencia, su humildad y su sabiduría. Don Antonio Jacanamijoy, un venerable taita del Putumayo, explicaba cómo algunas personas se acercaban al conocimiento de las plantas para ahuyentar el infortunio o curarse una dolencia. Decía que estas personas venían a la planta siguiendo una llamada. Que no era uno el que decidía buscar la planta para curarse sino que era la planta misma la que lo llama a uno. Y que se debe prestar atención para distinguir esa voz, que nos llama en sueños desde el mundo natural.

—Por último, el espíritu del tabaco habla de algún modo de una sociedad enferma…

Sí, elaborando el tomaco también me he interesado por su toxicidad. Me he preguntado por los peligros de un camino al conocimiento del veneno y por la aún más peligrosa ignorancia; y por las peligrosas tentaciones de las adicciones, donde uno no se ha de dejar llevar por los cantos de sirena de la autodestrucción. El veneno o pharmakon (griego: veneno, o rey), la droga, es a un tiempo embriagante y sanador, medicina y brujería, reactivo químico y color de artista. Es también nuestro aliado, y nos habla. El espíritu del tabaco habla de una sociedad enferma, consumida por las adicciones que para sí misma ha creado. A veces somos como la palabra navajo “chindi”: “fantasmas hambrientos”. Cuando Carl Jung visitó a los indios pueblos en los años veinte, el caballero indígena con el que conversaba dijo: “Vosotros los blancos sois como saltamontes hambrientos. Nunca os asentáis. Llegáis, devoráis y os desplazáis a otro campo. Nosotros lo tenemos todo aquí, hemos llegado. Vosotros estáis siempre desasosegados”. ¿Está nuestra existencia tan atascada en su propio embrutecimiento que ha eliminado la capacidad de oír a la voz del mundo natural?

in Trazos

Hamish Fulton

The Road. Short Walks through the Iberian Peninsula. 1979-2008
Duration: April 25th – May 30th, 2008

Produced by Ortega Muñoz Foundation, The Road. Short Routes through the Iberian Peninsula 1979 – 2008 is the result of a direct commission, and can be considered as a retrospective approach to Hamish Fulton’s work in Spain. In a reference to a very specific activity, which gives it a special character (his walks through our peninsula), it shows the keys to his work and thought: his images tightly bound to landscape, his constant vision of the remaining path, his descriptive and brief texts which acquire a poetic sense, the presence of symbolic elements…

In order to realise the project, the British artist visited Extremadura from January 12th to February 1st, 2008. In this period he visited regional places such as Jerez de los Caballeros, Alburquerque, Guadalupe, Trujillo, Madroñera, Garciaz, Cañamero and Jaraíz de la Vera, Guadiana river. This was documented in the publication Río Luna Río [River Moon River]: A circular, 21-day walk around Extremadura, from and to Gaudiana River in Badajoz via Guadalupe, barefoot, counting forty-nine steps on a stone road, during January’s full mooned night, Spain eighth year of the twenty-first century. “Highlighting nature,” says Hamish Fulton “is nowadays a political act of capital importance.” As a student during the sixties of the prestigious St. Martins School of Art in London, where he met artists like Richard Long, the aim of making art upon the experience of walking has been defining and building itself in Fulton’s work since the beginning of the seventies, generating a variant of conceptual art concentrated in landscape and paving the way to one of the most innovating currents in art of the late 20th century. This “walking artist”, as he defines himself, has walked more than 24 countries and thousands of miles. His work, exhibited and gathered in some of the most important museums in the world, is a memory and a witness of a privileged relation with nature.

Hamish Fulton

A conversation with Miguel Fernández-Cid

April 2008

Hamish Fulton: “I am an artist who walks, not a walker who makes art.”

The Road. Short routes through the Iberian Peninsula, 1979-2008 is the descriptive name of Hamish Fulton’s exhibition (London 1946), organised by Ortega Muñoz Foundation and presented at MEIAC, and showing an excellent insight of his vital and aesthetic philosophy, as well as his intense relation with Spain.

Hamish Fulton defines himself as a “walking artist”, and confesses he needs the physical experience of walking: “If I were a painter, I would go into my atelier and paint pictures. Then, art collectors would be able to buy those pictures, knowing they could have some commercial value if they so wished. In that sense, I consider that a painter is a person who commits to his activity. In the case of my own art, I see it as divided in two different parts: first, the experience of walking, and in the second place the production of and artistic result. Art derived from walking has a potential of being varied. For example, when I walk in a group, I consider the other walkers as both participants and observers. In other words, walkers are participating and seeing the walk as a work of art. I have been walking and making art about walking for the last forty years. When I was a young artist, I took the firm decision of linking walking and art. I address the walks with an artist’s perspective, that’s why I call myself a walking artist. Walking has the possibility of touching many aspects in one’s life: relaxation, exercise, meditation, health, brain oxygenation, transport, sport, pacific demonstrations, art and much more”.

By watching him at the beginning of one of his walks, the attention is drawn to his ascetics, which is functional in the case of his luggage, but also ideological and conceptual in his attitude. His walks are a means of inner conversation. He always walks watching “the optical triangle of a straight route disappearing in infinity”. The texts going with his images draw our attention in the clarity of the separation between his attitude towards a walk (“The road ahead”) and the physical certainty (“The land below the feet”). He appears rigorously abiding to some “rules” imposed from the beginning: “As a contemporary artist, my rule was to walk the route at once, not in parts, and never by bike. These clear rules keep the essence of walking”.

In the books documenting short walks, he usually includes self-interviews. In one of them, he shoots the key question: “Why walk? Walking is the answer”. I ask him to go deeper. “Why walk? Walking is the answer means, to me, that walking is not a theory, walking is not an artistic material; walking is an experience, an artistic way on its own right. After walking several days, I have the impression that I can think more clearly, questions arise and I mentally struggle to answer them. Walking through paths leaves time for analysing and philosophising, walking through mountains requires more relaxed but alert physical attention. In some walks I take a brief and light book that may allow for contemplation at night, in the tent, such as phrases by the Chinese Taoist Lao-Tzu. Current politicians in Beijing should have read the following words by Lao-Tzu, instead of taking repressive measures against the Tibetans: If anyone desires to take the Empire in hand and govern it, I see that he will not succeed. The Empire is a divine utensil that may not be roughly handled. He who meddles with it, mars. He who holds it by force, loses it.”

These books usually open and close with images of mineral water labels, from the water he consumes in his walks. “I make collages with mineral water labels that I pull out of the plastic bottles of water that I drink in my walks. A serious dehydration may lead to spoiling a walk. Indirectly, these collages with water labels are a comment on the selling of water, and the elimination of plastic containers. Water is a subject of capital importance… the wars on water. Some time ago in our history, water was for free: now, due to the demand and the climate change, we have to pay for it. We pay for a magic substance that cannot be produced in factories by human beings. While part of the not consumed water ends up in the sewage, in other parts of the world there are people dying of thirst and desperately needing clean water. Water inspires me as an artist; it can arrive at many places. I consider that walking and words share that independent characteristic of water. Words can be translated from one language to another, be seen in many kinds of material, or simply be heard”.

He walks routes and paths, never highways, and vindicates his walks as a political act in a world dominated by cars. His reasons are different from the pilgrim’s, who warned him he was walking the wrong sense when he walked The Road to Santiago in the inverse sense. “I have walked through Spanish routes and highways. Our world has been built for cars, and from time to time a small rural path becomes a speedy and dangerous highway. Those who have planned the highways have forgotten to give legal alternatives for walkers, so you can only step back or break the law and go on. As regards current pilgrimages, I am for them, not against them. I don’t hold a catholic faith, and I can’t obey rules that would link me to Rome’s pope. As a contemporary artist, my attitude is inclusive; I accept all categories of walking, I get informed on them. I see the artistic walk as something that contributes in a creative way to the spectrum of traditional walks. As you were mentioning before, I have done the Road to Santiago in the opposite sense. I have also witnessed the positive energies this pilgrimage may generate. My religion is nature: clouds, wind, rain, darkness, starlight, the sun, the moon, birds, stones, lizards, rivers… the sea and the mountains”.

And what about Kavafis’ idea, that it was not important to get to the final destination (Itaca) but to experience the trip?

“As a walking artist I like savouring the trip, in its sense of transition, and at the same time to experience the satisfaction of walking all the road, till the chosen destination. To feel that euphoric state, quiet, standing at the end of a walk from coast to coast, looking at the sea. My photographs of empty highways may hold some relation with this. I took them all at different times of specific trips, but the also convey the idea of going nowhere. I took them all as a walker, not as a driver”.

His name is frequently linked to Richard Long, with whom he made his first projects, when students of the prestigious St. Martins School of Art in London, and with whom he travelled the Iberian Peninsula from coast to coast twice, in 1989 and 1990. However, Fulton observes the landscape, he does not modify it (“All texts and photographs in the walk are the artist’s work. None of the stone buildings are his”, warns a note preceding the images of a catalogue). He is also related to Land artists, but, as the artist suggests when he remembers one of his “commercial climbs”, “out of the world of art”, climbing the Denali in Alaska: “Mi private reason to reach the Delani’s peak was to make a comment on Land Art. As far as I know, no North American contemporary artist has seen this lake in Art History. Contrary to a work of Land Art, arriving at the top of the Denali only leaves temporal prints on the snow; but carbon prints cannot be hidden under layers of snow”. I ask him to comment on what makes his work something specific: “What makes my work something specific? My work is said to be hard to understand! That might be true, but I have never tried to make deliberately difficult art. Quoting Lao-Tzu: Difficult and easy mutually become reality. I am an artist who walks, not a walker making art. I am committed to walking”.

Two books have been edited by reason of this exhibition, which are closer to the artist’s idea of a book than to a catalogue. In Río Luna Río  [River Moon River], he remembers his walk in Extremadura, through the Via de la Plata, in 2008; in El camino  [The Road] there is a look on his short walks around the Peninsula. In one of the texts in the latter, Fulton is quite eloquent when describing his relation with Spain: “In 2001, when I was beginning to think once more of doing walks in Spain, I had to ask myself, Why Spain? The answer is crystal clear. Spanish people (I think) in the post-Franco period are (still) in a good mood. Sometimes I feel that entire countries have individual personalities. Spain: good mood. United States: authoritarians. China: not assuming responsibilities. They are simple but repetitive answers. Furthermore, Why Spain? In practical terms, Spain is for me the country where I personally felt most comfortable (informs an eye-witness) to walk routes. Walk like a car. Eat like a dog”.

It is tempting to interpret Fulton’s projects in a symbolic key. I suggest him to talk about how came up the idea of walking, following a spiral pattern, from Finisterre, the end of the world for the Romans, to Toledo, the city where Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted. He does not hesitate: “In my 2005 walk from Finisterre to Toledo it wasn’t about the spiral shape. I designed the route on the basis of the directions of five coast-to-coast walks in Spain and Portugal that I made between 1989 and 2004. The supposed spiral shape reflects the walk’s five directions, East, South, West, North and East again, to finally arrive at the centre of the country. When an artist paints a spiral, he can control scale, colour and texture. When I walk, I set myself in a world I do not control, where many associations, conditions and coincidences may happen or be discovered. One might argue that my short walk links Roman influence to the coexistence of the three cultures. Even though, for me it was more about stopping at the end in Toledo, knowing I was being surrounded by a 1,552-mile walk”.