Félix Luque Sánchez is one of those rare artists who quietly follows his own creative inquiry and vision, seemingly oblivious to trends and conventions. That’s probably what makes his work so singular and timeless.
Luque Sánchez uses matter and technology to seduce, puzzle and inspire viewers. His art installations, which double as science fiction works, materialize scientific concepts and theories that might seem arcane to most people: artificial intelligence, chaos theory, infinity.
I’ve discovered one of his latest artworks a couple of month ago at the KIKK festival in Namur (Belgium.) As usual, his pieces pulled me in because of their enigmatic elegance and sobriety but they also left me with more questions than i had bargained for.
Different Ways to Infinity, the work exhibited at the festival, is staged as a collection of instruments from an imaginary scientific laboratory.
First, two big, inverted pendulums attempt to fight gravity and achieve perfect balance. The system emulates human behaviors in order to reach an equilibrium that seems to elude them.
Another element of the installation is a synthesizer based on Chua’s circuit, one of the first physical demonstrations of chaos existence and of its behaviour. Each time chaos is reached, butterfly-like shapes known as Lorentz attractors appear on the oscilloscopes connected to the synthesizer.
The work also features large digital prints and 3D animations. Generated by software simulating experiments in computational fluid dynamics, they visulize the chaotic elements that can be found in nature.
Finally, ten rhombic dodecahedrons express complex reactive behaviours through light and can be combined together in potentially infinite geometrical arrangements.
I caught up with the artist over emails to talk about complexity, abstraction and personal landscapes:
Hi Félix! I saw Different Ways to Infinity at the KIKK festival in Namur and found the work thought-provoking but it is also visually seducing. Do you think it is possible for a viewer to engage with the pieces without caring much about infinity and any scientific concept explored in the work?
Well that was pretty much the challenge, to make a series of artworks that explores the metaphysical aspects of science through a perceptual approach.
I wanted to generate a fiction where scientific theories are not presented for the knowledge they produce, but as human memories and therefor materialized in artifacts.
This process generates, I hope, a perceptual experience where scientific experiments meet a non recognized collective memory, abstraction and contemplation.
There seem to be an element of science fiction throughout your work. What is it about SciFi that interests you? Is it the speculation on the future? The way it engages with issues that surround science and ‘progress’? Or are you more inspired by some specific works from literature and cinema?
The speculation of the future is essential to question our relationship to science and technology, which are under the dogma of progress.
For me SF is a perfect artistic frame to work with technology. They have always coexisted in a very close relationship, influencing each other frequently.
What can a conceptual approach to science, like yours, bring to the way people understand science?
I see science as a way to comprehend or perceive the complexity of the world, instead of an objective knowledge to apply to the economic and useful world of humans. An artistic approach to science should bring the vision of the complexity and the non-tangible. The idea of science as an exploration tool, rather than a production tool.
How do you think your work has evolved since it started meeting with success (back in 2009 with The Discovery if i remember correctly)?
I think that my working process is still quite basic in a way. I just look into ways of translating the real into a fictional dimension: Chapter I plays with the narrative codes of popular SF. Nihil Ex Nihilo takes an actual communication technology (Network & emails) and projects it to a SF far-near future. D.W.I brings real science to a fictional and perceptive level. Memory Lane uses scanning technology to digitalize our environment, creating a new way of visualizing matter and creating memories.
Your latest work, Memory Lane was developed together with Iñigo Bilbao. It pays homage to places in Asturias which have shaped your ‘childhood and youth memories.’ What has the process to work on Memory Lane brought to the way you engage with these locations and the memories linked to it? Has it had any effect? Enabled you to see it under another light for example? Or discover elements you didn’t suspect?
Memory Lane is our tribute to our childhood and adolescence in Asturias. I emigrated to Belgium when I was a kid. When I go back it’s for holidays and we always meet. It’s a time for us where we have no worries and plenty of time to explore the land and the sea. I feel I have a deeper relationship to the land there than anywhere else.
We wanted to approach these personal landscapes with a set of technological tools, a kind of techno-safari. We focus on capturing its complexity by pushing the scanning technology to its maximum. We wanted the machine to expresses her-self; we chose the most chaotic and complex textures that have always amazed us from these lands.
We are very happy with the result. The machine has generated a cinematography that is unique. You can’t get more data of a landscape, but at the same time is not a human vision, it’s a machine vision. And as such is difficult for humans to recognize the locations, even for locals.
What i like about the work (apart from the fact that it engages with an area of Spain that i like so much) is that it doesn’t play with the ‘vintage’ aspect of memories. It doesn’t feel nostalgic and stuck in the past. Since most of us don’t have any childhood memories linked to Asturias, what do you think we can get from this work?
The aesthetics of the work are in great part due to the technology we used.
We rent a 3D laser scanner that is mainly used in topography. One scan have a range up to 330m. We combine several scans per scene. The result is 3D environments as a point cloud representation (The machine scans up to 976.000 points per second). It means that the geometries, the shapes, are recreated by millions of points distributed in the space. The subsequent images are extremely neutral, they have no basic attributes, light is not captured, nor color or depth of field.
But because of these lacks, they are unique; they have their own atmosphere, a representation of reality without sentiments. It’s the vision of a machine.
We think that this is why the specific locations becomes fictional and in a way universal.
Could you talk about the installation setting? What is the rock, the structure that holds it, the screens all around? Why did you decide to show the piece like this way? Pau Waelder wrote a beautiful text about it (as he always does!) but i was hoping you could somehow condense it a bit?
Yes, Pau wrote a great text about the work. Basically the installation set-up is made out of a machine (custom-made cnc), that moves in space a fake rock in levitation. This replica is made from a precise 3D scan of a rock from a beach from Asturias. The idea was to displace it from its real location to an exhibition space and to make a fictional character out of it.
In the back of the machine diptych HD video display shows a 20 minutes film made from 3d animations of the landscapes we scanned. Basically coast sites we are connected to and the forest in the back of Iñigo’s house.
You are going to have a solo show at iMAL in April i think. Do you already know what we can expect to see there?
The exhibition will be about Memory Lane. It will show the main installation I just described with additional artworks like digital prints, 3D printed sculptures and a light sculpture. All connected with the landscapes we scanned and presence during our journeys in Asturias last year.
Any other upcoming show, field of research or project you could share with us?
And the next project we are working on is another collaboration with Iñigo and is related to cars.
Memory Lane, opens at iMal, Brussels on 20 April and will run until 22 May 2016.