Interview with María Edwards, winner of the first call of the European Digital Art and Science Network

The Chilean artist discusses with us her first impressionas and her work after being awarded the residency

Published: Mar 16, 2015
Interview with María Edwards, winner of the first call of the European Digital Art and Science Network

Image of María Edwards’ atelier

By Marta Lorenzo Jáudenes (@MartaLorenzoJ) My Art Diary

This year LABoral has joined a project based on two disciplines traditionally considered opposed: Science and Art, the most avant-garde side of the first, together with technology. The initiative is called European Digital Art and Science Network and is lead by pioneer and historic institution in the development of technological art or sound media, Ars Electronica. With the purpose of creating a circuit for exhibiting works in this field, generating international work networks and thus reaching new audiences, this initiative has been joined by eight other institutions: At scientific level, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile and, at cultural level, LABoral, the Center for the Promotion of Science (Serbia); DIG Gallery (Slovakia); Science Gallery (Ireland); Fundación Zaragoza Ciudad del Conocimiento (Spain); Zavod K6/4 (Slovenia) and GV Art (United Kingdom).

In January they launched their, consisting of a double stay first at ESO (the main transnational European astronomic institution and the World’s most productive observatory) and then at the Futurelab of Ars Electronica in Linz. They received 147 proposals from 40 countries around the world and the residency has been awarded to the Chilean María Edwards for her project Encuentros/Taller/2015.

The Jury of the European Digital Art and Science Network gathered to reach a final decision

In addition to having free access to the resources of these two centres, the piece produced by the winner will be exhibited at Festival Ars Electronica, between September 3 and 7 this year in Linz and, from November 12, as part of an exhibition at LABoral.

María works with concepts like levity, gravity or weight, where poetry combines with mathematics to generate pieces whose simplicity offers a great load of universal symbolism. Below you can read an interview with the artist about the meaning of receiving this award:

Before taking part in this call, were you acquainted with the existence of the European Digital Art and Science Network?

To be honest, I knew nothing about it. I did know the ESO and its astronomic research and observation centres located in the Desert of Atacama. I had always wanted to visit them, but I never had the opportunity to do so.

What do you think of this call, and what is most valuable for you as an artist?

Clearly what I value the most about this call is the opening of new spaces for creative development, the intersection and connection with disciplines that seem far away from the world of art, but that basically come, in my view, from the same principle or concern: the relentless pursuit to understand and explain the origin and future of all things...each using its own mechanisms and procedures, but both based on observation, research and reflection, resulting in ideas, theories, discoveries or constructions...

I think that what is most valuable of this is the generous gesture of Science, represented here by ESO in Chile and Ars Electronica in Linz, by letting art enter its research spaces, thus relying on and recognizing its potential and value, as well as its ability to inspire. In consistency with the idea that we all share a common origin, as well as all things need something else to exist and that it is the relationship between things what makes them visible.

Your work, even though it is based on science, represented by mathematics and astronomy, translates into somehow ephemeral supports, on hardly artificial material. Did you have any doubts regarding the submission of your project fearing that it might not fit a more digital approach associated with Ars Electrónica?

Yes, I always have doubts. Although not because of lack of conviction, even if I lack lots of knowledge about certain topics that I would like to understand deeply, I somehow let intuition work, even if this sometimes makes me make risky decisions, always relying on a first impulse that made sense at a certain point. And in order to extend this sense, I believe I have to test it outside, in spaces beyond my logics or what is known, let it act, allow for new possibilities to develop and thus open myself to surprise and encounters... That is in my opinion the origin of the inspiration for any work or project.

As for the issue of digital and electronics, it is true that at formal and essential level, my work is far from that, and this is where the challenge lies: Being able to be loyal and consistent with the essence and the principle of my work, in terms of producing a work that intends to explore ideas of the universe and the infinite, through simplicity, precariousness and material and technical “substraction”, using the minimal to refer to the macro...Working with precision, accuracy, the beauty of the simple and the harmony that all this can find when it is based on ideas and technology in terms of its fundamental and original principles...It was very reassuring to discover the meaning of the word technology, developed from ancient Greek, made up by téchnē (art, technique or trade, that can be translated as skill or dexterity) and logía (the study of something)”. In other words, achieving this dexterity with the “technique” to materially represent the idea following the study and observation to be carried out. It was even more reassuring when, speaking about this, a friend told me that there is nothing more technological than a book.

You have studied Fine Arts and filmmaking and this translates in the aesthetics and poetic in which you represent your work but, How come your interest for mathematics? How do you overcome the gap between allegedly opposed disciplines?

Generally, “things”, or experimenting with them at material level, take me to the ideas, to reflection and the pursuit of theories, like the ones proposed in the fields of science and mathematics. It is experimenting and doing that generates my approach and my diverse interests regarding topics that seem to be opposed. When I approach them from intuition, from the pursuit of solutions, this is when the shining appears, when I realise that some operations that I perform while building my work, have an origin and a connection that go way beyond these little gestures I perform in my atelier, on the street or in some everyday actions… All this ultimately responds to the way in which things are arranged and function in nature, in the universe and within our own body. There is an order that can be translated into numbers, and into musical notes, that occurs both in the universe and in the space near the street, my atelier or even my own body.

Work by María Edwards, "Blackboard 7. Et sic in infinitum", 2013

Could you briefly explain which mathematical calculations enable your works to “levitate” or what is the production process of the piece like?

Working with the weight and counterweight of things, with balance, tension and levity. Rather than mathematical calculations, I see it as exercises and “testing” what my own body is able to do.

If I am able to stand on one foot on the floor, on top of a table, to reach the highest point in my atelier to hang a line attached to the plum bob, stone or weight equivalent to the moving piece that will be attached to the other end of the line, on the other end of the room, then I am able to construct the work, or at least a part of it… And then let it act so that its own weight starts the movement, the constant rotation around its own axis...and if it is not so, I am forced to make an effort to find a new mechanism or introduce another element that enables the movements in some cases, while in others, I am satisfied with the stopping and levitating permanence of these “pieces” or elements that stay suspended and scattered in space.

In some cases their presence is important, while in other cases they are present just as an excuse to make visible the empty space between them.

Ultimately each of the pieces hanging is like the extension and permanence of a gesture executed in space by the body, in this case, my body. Some even escape any calculations and respond more to a movement and sort of “dexterity” achieved at a certain point, that would be hard to replicate.

This would be the exercise for building moving pieces, for the rest they work or appear in the same way, as simple solutions and new possible operations of combinations and relationships of the encounters and objects that I gather.

Behind all these pieces lies always the idea of “constellating” things within space, or ideas within blackboards, or the routes and stops when we walk on the street and in the city...hence the connection with stars and constellations. There is a statement by Walter Benjamin that I have always found very inspiring “Ideas are to concepts, what stars are for constellations”.

María Edwards, "Constellation IV (from the ground)"

You will acquire some technological knowledge at the Future Lab of Ars Electrónica in Linz. How do you think this will affect your production? Would you make use of all the advancements offered by technology, by incorporating, for example, more technological materials?

It will definitely affect my work, in principle, this is the idea, new possibilities, new solutions, test and arrange my ideas and constructions, think them and re-think them in the light of unknown “technologies”, but remaining always loyal to this economy, simplicity and material “substraction” that inspires and characterises my work. I would not like to get there with any pre-conceived ideas or judgements about what “technology” means, beyond the concept delivered by its original definitions: dexterity, trade and study.

Rather than using all the “advancements” that technology can offer, what concerns me is to find a single principle to use, the essential, some element within the wide technological range that rings a bell and makes sense for me, there must be something consistent and connected with the principles and techniques that I apply in an intuitive manner in my work, and I guess some of this principle I will also find it in the applied “techniques” in scientific fields in the observatories that I will visit in the desert …

But to be honest, I do not tend to wait too much when facing a new project, I think this necessarily forces things, makes things more rigid and prevents processes to develop in a natural way. Usually, if we have a preconceived idea, we tend to focus too much on that idea that is within and we miss what is going on outside...Therefore I am open to new possibilities that inspire the creative development of work and research, from a new beginning, from another scenario, another space.

I believe that there is a “new light” behind every new experience, that does not have to be new, it can be something thousand years old, like stars, that has always been there, but that, may be, we never really took the time to observe it in a conscientious manner and to see all the potential that exists in it.

What are your artistic references?

My references are not only visual artists. I have always taken much from literature, poetry, some scientific and philosophical thoughts as well, like fractal geometry and the pythagorean approach to astronomy, music and mathematics.

If I had to name a visual artist, it would be Joseph Beuys, when I learned more about his work I discovered Rudolf Steiner, and I was amazed with his concept of eurythmy as “the art of body movement” expressed in the “three aspects of the soul: thinking-feeling and will”...This idea long ago proposed by Steiner with which I work now, is not a mere coincidence, it appears somehow as another light that gives meaning to my quest, which I pretend to carry on during this residency.

In the field of literature there is the “Oulipo“ movement, a literary experimentation group made up by French writers and mathematicians from the 1960s, who endeavoured to build their work using limited writing techniques, self-imposing themselves restrictions that would result into new ways of creating. As well as the figure of the “flaneur“, that Walter Benjamin took from Baudelaire’s poetry; this man that gets lost in the city and “turns sensitive wandering into his own art”.

Back to art, I can find some references in the work of Matta Clark, Víctor Grippo and Francis Allys, as well as in the neo-concretism movement, I am inspired by the work of Lygia Clark and Mira Schendel, among others.

There is something about all this that I think is directly related to my work and much of it is just pure inspiration and motivation.

Called by:

With the support of:

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  • 33203 Gijón (Asturias)
  • Spain
  • Phone: +34 985 185 577
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