Carolina Montejo Bogotá, Colombia
In a surreal tone, my work emphasizes questions and scenarios based on memory, the subconscious, dreams, and illusion. As a parallel manifestation, there are other elements that direct my quest: the size of objects and space, the continuation of concluded occurrences, the juxtaposition of thoughts and sensations throughout different stages of life.
My photography responds to my interest on how the brain experiences, stores and reproduces information through mental processes of intangible imagery. It is so that my art feeds off of the uniqueness that lies within the human psyche and its capacity to create a view of the world through its own interpretation of space, reality, movement, language, change, imagination, and the aleatory.
Additionally, I focus on color as a defining element in the aesthetic assembly of each photographic construction. This responds to the need of having to create a new space based on two very different experiences –the real world and the subconscious world. The interpretation of light in both scenarios and finding a color palette that is both neutral and accurate for each situation is of great importance in my work.
Where are you from?
CM: I am Colombian but spent part of my childhood in the United States, and since then I have lived in several cities throughout Colombia that include my place of birth, Bucaramanga, Neiva, Cartagena, and Bogotá, where I currently live. I also had the opportunity to live in Mexico City for a brief period and for almost 3 years in Buenos Aires, Argentina. All these cities have influenced my work because of experience and the great importance it has in my photography. I have also been greatly influenced by visual and literary expressions of artists from different parts of the world, especially France and Japan.
What is your earliest memory of photography?
CM: I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents bought me one of those disposable cameras that were really popular back in the 80s, I think I had been asking for it quite a bit and finally they decided to give it to me. I remember feeling I had all these photos to take –24 perhaps- and deciding what to do made me a little anxious. It was winter and cars had some faint frosting on the windshields. I went outside and took photos of cars and their windshields until the film was over. It was nice to see the prints a couple of weeks later. Several years passed before I used a camera again.
Something that makes your work unique is how you combine different techniques such as paint and collage directly onto your photographs. Are you interested in the physical process of using these materials or in the textual result produced by additional elements?
CM: Combining different elements and disciplines has been very important to my artistic development. Literature and writing, performing arts, drawing and photography have merged many times to produce a series. Writing usually comes first, sometimes sketches come next, and then creating a sort of living sculpture is the final product of some works. In my mind, I guess they are always a kind of hybrid and recently I have decided to make this “hybridization” more explicit. So, to answer your question, I would say I’m interested in both. I enjoy the physical process because of the time and care it demands and find the textual result important to presenting my ideas.
Colour seems to hold a very important role in your work. Are you interested in accentuating the colours that you perceive or do you choose colours based on a symbolic reference?
CM: Color is one of the central concepts of my work, it takes a great deal of time when deciding how to approach it for different series. Mostly, color interests me because of its relation or non-relation with intangible imagery. A dream or memory has color only as “the idea of color”, its not really there. But in conscious life color is a complex biological and electromagnetic process. It fascinates me. Some series, like Fotocromatosis, take on color for its wonderful possibilities and its relation to accessing some types of feelings. Other series, like Monochromatic Portraits, use color as a way of making reference to shape, and in Conscious/Unconscious, color sets a mood, a symbolic reference, as you call it, not a specific semiotic reference, but a reference to a faded midpoint, like the one that exists between the conscious and unconscious mind.
The tone of your images seems quite intimate, many of your photographs feature people, faces, but although they show relatively little facial expression, they seem to be about human relationship. What is the importance of the human figure in your work?
CM: The human figure is important to me because my work explores the human mind and in many cases this means my own mind, my own memories. Most of my past series are based on memories from dreams, and people and relationships were abundant in these scenarios. For a long time I could not conceive a photo without a person in it, I considered the human body, face and gesture as vital to telling these stories, but lately I have transitioned form that idea. Although I will always admire portraiture and human relation, and possibly continue working on it in the future, I am moving on to objects and their absurd relation/use in the unconscious mind.
A lot of your photographs are staged or composed images, but you are not creating narrative stories. What kind of stories or feelings do you want to express through your photographs?
CM: The stories I tell are fragments of bigger fragments. There is a narrative in dreams and other subconscious forms of thought, that are not a formal structures but are still narratives. Things and situations change quickly and even storylines that seem to be continuous have quite an absurd sequence. I think that is one of the biggest differences between conscious happening and unconscious happening, the alteration of sequence. The stories I want to tell are based on this other kind of time, where information is placed in a different way than we are used to, where there is an aleatory feeling that has to be filled by other stories, other memories and suppositions-the observer’s. Because, in the end there is a lack of certainty about how things are processed in our brains.
Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work?
To assign meaning
To lose information
Part of the Laatikkomo project asks the artists to choose the next photographer in their link of photographers. What qualities are you looking for in the artist you will choose, what criteria will guide your choice?
CM: I would like to see the development of a process in the photographer’s work, an obsession almost, a combination of ideas, investigation and production. My choice will be guided by visual strength, conceptual elaboration and coherence throughout different bodies of work.
Thank you so much Carolina, we look forward to seeing where your link will take us.