The Strange Science of Ángel Lartigue
By Doria Rosa
La ciencia avanza pero yo no (Science Advances But I Do Not), is an on-going collection of various works involving performance, photographic documents, and sculpture.
Native Houstonian Ángel Lartigue wants to bring to light the deepest darkest human secret we all share. There is nothing more primordial than the long-standing agreement we individually and collectively all have with nature.
He calls out, ‘substance’, the real physical matter of which we all consist.
While Ángel centers his message around the substance of the matter, he uses the science of form and the human body to express himself through his art. He is investigating the relationship between the consumption of Science, communication, and distribution of its methodologies through in which the ways they constrict and oppose the human body.
What is fascinating about this show, is the raw red clay in and throughout the work. We are not looking at a ceramics show, by any standard, but the use of clay. He extracts the clay, from various sources including Houston bayous. He says, “After a hard rain it is visible at the water's edge. The rain makes it soft and wet and easier to collect.”
In Ángel’s words, “The clay is all the dead stuff, decomposed and collected into itself. It smells like the ocean, and is like the ocean floor, another collection place for decomposed material.”
Concerned with rapid advancements of modern scientific technologies, Lartigue creates interactive installations that transform the space into religious-like environments of ritualism often taking visual references from the history of popular Science, Art and Religion.
The centerpiece of Ángel’s work is the DNA Extraction Booth, an altar to science and to ritual. The booth and performance change modes with each exhibition, but the concept is always the same.
Ángel adorns himself in a ‘constriction’ including feathers, beads, and clothes which are smudged with red clay. He then proceeds to demonstrate the DNA exchange with various willing participants throughout the evening. They give him samples of themselves and he returns the gift with a vial of his own DNA, that they can keep.
While the ritual of Ángel’s ‘altar lab’ is certainly theatrical, the scientific demonstration uncovers layers of social norms. Through this process, an active role is given to the spectator, who has inadvertently become an intrinsic part of the artwork.
The DNA exchange experience, agents or activates our native commonsense understanding of our relationship to the Earth.
There are also artifacts from past shows on display. Time capsules which reflect the evolution of his work are manifested as substance storage structures. These structures from previous rituals take forms of an abacus and a breastplate. Do they harken back to past civilizations? Are they a glimpse at the reignition of a future civilization? The stylistic timelessness of the ‘ancient’ works will draw you in even further, examining truths which are still just under our skin.
Ángel Lartigue is currently an artist-in-residence at Box13 Artspace.
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