Luis Guzmán (1984) is a Chilean multimedia artist with experience in bioart and bioethics. His work focuses on the biopolitical potential of art as a valid epistemological discipline with the power to provide alternative forms of knowledge to the current techno-scientific framework that mobilizes late-capitalist societies in the age of ecological entropy.
By participating in the dialogue between the arts and sciences, Guzmán seeks to offer alternative points of view on the post-human world to come, where nature is defined by engineering logics and humanity is mediated by a technological interface that aims to govern the most intimate aspects of life.
His work is a hybrid combination of sculpture, architecture, digital media, and synthetic biology that seeks to modulate forces and tensions between ideas from a populated array of conceptual references from the areas of philosophy, arts and sciences.
Those ideas articulate a conception of the artwork in which the art process is a way to “build a space” in terms of creating spatial-temporal interactions between matter, ideas, and processes.
In his work, he connects ideas about biopower and technique, expressed in the thoughts of Foucault and Heidegger as matrices of energy or tension that articulate the contemporary world, in which beings are moved, impacted or transformed by technological reason apparatuses.
In Guzman’s thinking, this sense of our time must be overcome by new elastic articulations that allow “transmutation” towards a sense of the human that surpasses the logic of action and resistance characteristic of discursive power apparatuses in dialectics based on the subject-object relationships that have articulated contemporary epistemologies.
In this sense, the idea of rhizome enunciated by Deleuze and Guattari, and Morton’s concept of hyperobject, are shown as conceptual windows that allow being expressed in the field of plastic creation, and that allow to “elasticize” the human-world relations or human-nature without exiling the technique.
Both concepts, rhizome and hyperobject, are motivators of the sculptural will of the artist. The idea of space, like an umwelt. where different entities of diverse nature collide, would allow a holistic exploration of being-in times of what Terrence Mackenna calls the “approach to the transcendental object at the end of history”. According to Mackenna, the human history would be a phase that takes place between the evolution of the monkey and the disintegration of the human by the combination of factors such as the ecological crisis and the advent of artificially intelligent systems.
CAPTURE 2017. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/microscapes/
In works such as LIGHT MODULATOR (2017), the artist seeks to create an architectural element whose function is to transform the specific space of the work through the modulation of sunlight. In this work, a transparent crimson tetrahedron is presented as an object based on synthetic relationships between shape, materiality, and color that effects the reduction of the temperature inside. This is done by filtering sunlight, allowing only the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum to enter, which is useful to activate the photosynthetic process of a moss culture located inside the volume. In this case, the sculptural action would be expressed in the implementation of a minimum amount of physical objects for the modulation of a non-physical hyperobject such as the light of the solar star and its intimate activation-translation within the photosynthetic process.
In BIOARCHITECTURES (2017) the artist seeks to extend the relationship between technique and nature through the elaboration of procedural objects aimed at diminishing the sterilizing ‘will’ of modern architecture. The use of biodegradable biopolymers has a sense of elaborating structural objects that can be devoured by microorganisms. In this way, the subjacent idea in architecture of separation of the human world from the non-human world is inverted, as soon as its meaning is shifted towards the production and reproduction of the non-human.
BIOARCHITECTURES, 2017. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/de-compose-re-compose-asn1/
The work presented at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) entitled RHIZOME (2018), is the result of a formal investigation of the rhizome concept articulated by Deleuze and Guattari ( A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1980 ). The idea of the rhizome is attractive since it seeks to pulverize the power relations established in hierarchies established by the “arborizing structure” or “central stem”.
RIHZOME, 2018. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/asn-exhibition-at-ecci/
The idea of the rhizome is Stimulating to insofar as it contains a subversive potential with respect to the hierarchical forms of organization, which tend toward standardization and control. For its part, the rhizome offers a generative and open form that can be understood almost as a formal archetype in multiple biological and ecological forms, from the organization of galaxy clouds to the molecular level of proteins in living organisms. In the work, a polycaprolactone structure was contained in a transparent cube of plexiglass, this structure supported a crop of grasses, which fed both the moisture and nutrients contained in the transparent cube and the carbon dioxide emissions inside the building of the ECCI. The work seeks to articulate natural rhizomes and artificial rhizomes to modulate the atmospheric carbon, understood as a sculptural gesture on the hyperobject-climate.
The parallel between the pulverization of the ecosystem and the pulverization of the human is a structural theme in the artist’s work. In 2018, Guzmán created a proposal for Queens Medical Research Institute (QMRI) that presented the possibility of creating a robotic body for a cerebral organoid, which is the result of a culture of human neuronal cells. This work entitled OTHER (2018) projects the sense of the transmutation of the human into a “strange stranger” as Morton understands it, where the rhizome of neurons is conceived as the “connective tissue between all things”. The work seeks to put the human between parentheses, as a result of technological layers that present it as technical detritus, or as a synthesis of humans expressed in the relationship between neurons and their mechanical corporeality.
In the artist’s book VIRUS (2018) the body is presented as a landscape under the premise of dislocating our own conception of the object body-landscape. In the book, the idea of the contamination of bodies opens two main tensions. In the first place, it seeks to explore the theme of latent fear in being colonized by entities of an invisible scale. In the second instance, it seeks to explore the understanding of the body as a biome, or as a rhizome composed of related entities in certain times and spaces that are not accessible to us.
Extract fromVIRUS 2018.
In April Guzmán participated in the design of the proposal for Land Art Generator (LAGI) with a team of artists belonging to the ASN program, the proposal for the St. Kilda area in Melbourne Australia, consisted of a piece of geomimetic design constructed with an agglomerate of transparent solar panels made of recycled glass titled GLASS BOULDERS. The objective of the proposal was to generate an integrated space with local geography, capable of producing electricity.
The proposal was created with a focus on the interaction between the social landscape and the geographical landscape, where architecture is understood as an element that can give rise to the emergence of relationships that connect both poles to the same level. The project was published in the book ENERGY OVERLAYS by LAGI in 2019 and the project included in the contest’s exhibition.
GLASS BOULDERS, 2018. Link: https://asnse.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/asn-success-in-the-2018-biennale-land-art-generator-initiative/
In the work titled CAPTURE (2018) presented at the Patriothall gallery in 2018. The artist sought to focus on the sterilizing potential of modern architecture, represented by the gallery space. The white cube is presented as a paradigm of the idea of space that transcends diverse spaces within the architectural imaginary of the technological era, which are expressed especially in the gallery as well as in the laboratory, but which bases an idea on the space that emphasizes the efficiency and productivity in the modern world. The cube, in this sense is an ideological element that poses formal minimalism as an ideal of rationality. The work sought to oppose the sterility of the cube by producing the minimum conditions for the autonomous survival of a handful of mosses and small plants. In the work this was achieved by creating a hermetic space capable of maintaining the necessary humidity for the subsistence of that group of plants. In this case the cube lends itself to non-human life and at the same time it is configured as a space inaccessible to the human, disarticulating its architectural sense.
In June 2018, Guzmán participated in a joint project between the faculty of biological sciences of the University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh College of Arts (ECA). In this instance, research on rhizomatic structures materialized in the observation of the fungus’s hyphae. On this occasion, the team focused on imagining the interactions between fungi and robotic systems to generate a type of architecture based on biomaterials. The work titled MYCTERIALS (2018) was presented at the Biodesign Challenge 2018 at MoMA in New York.
As part of the same project, Guzmán presented the sculpture titled ECOSPACE (2018) at the Biodesign Here and Now exhibition at the London Design Fair http://biodesignherenow.webflow.io/exhibitors, and later a reprint of the same work in Saint Etienne Biennale du Design 2019. On this occasion, the proposal consisted of a piece of biological architecture made with a biopolymer capable of integrating a mycorrhiza into the polycaprolactone structure. In this way the biopolymer would be biodegraded by the set of fungi and bacteria, finally leaving a rhizomatic structure of plants and fungi to maintain the initial shape. This piece marked an advance in the concept of generative sculpture present in the work of the artist. The idea of generative sculpture is transversal in the work of Guzmán, and has its origin in the understanding of nature as a creative system coherent with the same plastic will expressed in his sculptural practice. This way of seeing nature is associated with the artist’s reference to the figure of Joseph Beuys, who impregnated associations between art and nature in the DNA of ASN by presenting THE PACK (DAS RUDEL) at the Edinburgh College of Arts (ECA ) in 1970. While the concept of Beuys extends from sculpture to social sculpture, Guzmán’s idea goes from the object to the hyperobject, as expressed by Timothy Morton in his book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World ( 2013).
During the summer of 2018, Luis Guzmán and his collaborator Diego Estrada, made a residency at Burren College of Arts, Ireland, as part of the activities of the Collective Natural Signs http://www.naturalsigns.net . The result of a month of research in collaboration with a group of scientists members of the local community was a permanent ecological intervention on the landscape of the Burren National Park, entitled GRIKE (2018). The purpose of the project was to create a biopolymer sculptural piece to transform the conditions of the local ecosystems due to the restoration of the soil that was eroded five thousand years ago with the first human occupations in the region. The residence involved field research as an investigation of the geological, social and biological characteristics of the site. The residency experience, including the research process and on-site work, was presented in a documentary, which has now been distributed to two hundred schools in Chile, as a way to foster dialogue between art and the natural sciences in the Art education curriculum. https:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZaIv0ugPCw&t=38s . This film was presented alongside the sculpture titled GENERATIVE (2018) in the exhibition that took place in Tent Gallery titled GRIKE: Sculpture as resistance in the Anthropocene.
In the work entitled MOSAIC (2018) the artist explores the process of human pulverization driven by the exponential development of synthetic biology. The work consists of a mosaic of colors, where each pixel is the expression of a process of translation of the genetic code that goes from the four letters of the DNA to the binary code, and from there to the universal color-coding. The work exposes the potential of the human body to become a language through its treatment as transferable code sequences. The result is a “photograph” of a protein, which is a visually imperceptible molecular entity given that its scale is lower than the frequencies of the visible spectrum. The idea of understanding the body as a language is the fundamental motor of the artist’s understanding of the human step towards the posthuman state, where being is no longer understood as a “being in itself”, but as a matrix of language and code.
In LOUPERKALION (2019) Guzmán makes use of the ritual imaginary of the Roman holiday called Lupercalia dedicated to the horned god Luperko to subvert the celebration of Valentine’s Day. In the artist’s imagination, sexuality, which is the central theme of the Roman festival, is understood as a creative force, intimately linked to the idea of nature (natura). The idea of this performative work was to offer a blood sacrifice to generate a non-capitalist gesture dedicated to nature. In the piece, the artist irrigates with his own blood a small birch (Betula Pendula), which was planted in the vicinity of the ECA.
By comparing the Christian and the Roman version of the festivity, the work aims to raise questions about the ways we relate to nature, as a generative force (which is a concept that the artist explores in depth through his sculptural practice). While the Roman ritual took into account sacrifice in order to offer the vital energy to nature, the Christian-capitalized version lacks any form of giving back to nature. In change, sexuality was sublimated into romantic love, which is ultimately expressed in economic transactions and over consumerism. The lack of retribution in contemporary social (and mental) systems is a sign of alienation created by the inversion of cultural symbology. “Giving back” to nature was slowly transformed into “taking from it”, in the same way, that sexuality was slowly transformed into a tamed form of happiness.
In his degree work, called CLOUD LANDSCAPE (2019) Guzmán seeks to bioremediate the symptoms of advanced capitalism by producing an installation that is proposed as a concrete application for the problem of the relationship between urbanity and atmospheric carbon emissions. In this work, the idea of a cloud ecosystem is the materialization of a synthetic ecosystem designed to absorb greenhouse gases. The installation represents the point of further development of his work in the line of bioarchitecture, where the sculptural gesture is projected from the object exhibited in the gallery, to the climatic hyperobject as a modulation of the suspended detritus of an entire era of human development that extends from the industrial revolution to our days.
CLOUD LANDSCAPE (2019)
The idea of spraying the landscape and the human is the central theme of the video installation entitled LOST LANDSCAPE (2019), presented at Talbot Rice gallery. The work mixes video and digital animations made from fragments found in Ciénagas del Name, a wet ecosystem that was severely affected by the most catastrophic fires registered in Chile, during the year 2017. Both the video and the animations have an almost forensic function which records the destruction of nature as a consequence of the exploitation of the soil by the timber industry. The objective of the work is to explore the ashes as if they were a premonitory sign of our own extinction.
Topics such as extinction and pulverization are treated as objects that speak of the current state of the human. A state that is constantly stressed by the fundamental contrast between creative forces and destruction, both poles are sources of sculptural energy that manifests itself in the sensitive forms. The question for Guzmán is that model or what “scheme” allows to cross transversally the hyperobject Human-world or Human-nature? the always provisional answer is: the rhizome.
Deleuze, GillesCapitalisme et Schizophrénie 2. Mille Plateaux (1980). Trans. A Thousand Plateaus (1987).
Foucault, Michael (1976). History of Sexuality (The Will to Knowledge: History of Sexuality).
Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time : A Translation of Sein Und Zeit. SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy.
Mackenna, Terrence. The Transcendental Object At The End Of Time (2014)
Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects : Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Posthumanities ; 27.