David Martínez Suárez: exploring new narrative forms

Benjamin Weil


Director of Activities at LABoral Center for Art and Industrial Creation

Inertia, the new work by David Martínez Suárez, is the sixth project produced by LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial within the framework of its collaboration with the Asturian Youth Institute of the Government of Asturias. Since 2007, the LABjoven_Experimenta award has provided support to ambitious projects by young Asturian artists, to whom LABoral offers the experience and knowledge of its staff and access to its Platform 0. Production Center, while the Principality of Asturias ensures financial support. .

Inertia, a multidimensional narrative structure, has its roots in the two lines along which David Martínez Suárez has directed his exploration in recent years. The first is that of film creation, reflected in the production of a series of documentaries related to the social conflict that affects the Asturian mining area as a consequence of the gradual closure of mining activity as a whole. In the production of these documentaries, Martínez Suárez reveals his great interest in editing as a key element for the creation of his narrative and that allows him to compile fascinating film material that is related to a situation that, as a native of the area, he himself know first hand.

The second line derives from his training as a visual artist, and in it he applies the same editing strategy when approaching his complex installation work, combining sculptural and photographic elements and sometimes incorporating materials that add a performative quality to the project.

Prior to the development of Inercia, David Martínez Suárez produced a series of tables for what, at first glance, seem like scientific experiments but which in some way also allude to the domestic sphere since they use, for example, kitchen utensils—such as pots used to boil water and generate a cloud of steam, which in turn materialized in a laser beam that would otherwise have been invisible. But also, the cloud referred us to the industrial landscapes of his land, a reference that was also reinforced with photographs of smoking chimneys.

Likewise, the narrative structure of Inercia is an assembly of moving image and sculpture alluding to both commercial cinema and games. For its creation, the artist has selected fragments of a cult Hollywood film from the eighties — Streets of Fire — which he mixes with three-dimensional renderings of both characters and scenic elements from the no less popular Halo video game series, fusing, in doing so, , these two universes while addressing the differences that exist in our relationship with time between the screening room, the recreational hall and the exhibition hall, three types of spaces that imply also diverse types of narrative experience.

It is curious that both the plot of the film – the kidnapping of a famous pop singer by a gang of motorized criminals – and that of the video game, which tells us about a future time in which workers are sent into space to exploit the resources of others planets, show a disturbing resemblance to the social conflict that David Martínez Suarez has documented in his films. In a world in which social identification is increasingly blurred by consumerism and the denial of the social strata that it attempts to establish, the artist seems to show a lively interest in questioning this narrative aspect, pointing, perhaps, to the fact that that, while the global post-industrial capitalist world we inhabit tends to be based on the notion of a common interest and set of references, social categories continue to exist. And although yesterday’s class structure may no longer serve as a template for understanding the dynamics of relationships between various social groups, the antagonism between the dominant classes and the rest of the population is still there.

Another truly fascinating aspect of this new work is the way in which David Martínez Suárez mixes the different fields of a common narrative. Indeed, many fictional products currently function as a constellation of experiences. Let’s think, for example, about the expansion that a feature film is experiencing today through derivative products such as social networks, video games, t-shirts, accessories or figurines, among others. Well, the artist appropriates this strategy to create his own multidimensional structure in which each element contextualizes the other, thus enriching the central narrative thanks to the creation of multiple access points.

InertiaIt also describes a specific state in a chemical reaction, which is what takes place when several of the components begin to interact: a kind of temporary arrest, suspension. It is at that point when the viewer begins his or her own interaction with the piece, when he or she begins to associate the various constituent elements of the narrative to create his or her own experience. In some way, what the artist suggests is that, as long as a viewer does not activate it, the artistic object will remain inert and that participation is key to producing that “chemical reaction” that we could call art.