Under the watchful eye of God, or the abstract landscape Pablo López Luz
Text by Fátima Khayar
We are in the age of the simultaneous, of juxtaposition, the near and the far, the side by side and the scattered. A period in which, in my view, the world is putting itself to the test, not so much as a great way of life destined to grow in time but as a net that links point together and creates its own muddle.
—Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”, lecture given in the Cercle d’études architecturales on March 14, 1967
In March 2011, I arrived to the city of Tapachula to discover the world of the geographic representations made by the migrants in transit through this city. To prove my various hypotheses, I started working with different methods, cartography being one of the most important ones. I asked the migrants to make a map of Tapachula and of their own route. However, it wasn’t long before I was able to prove that maps are abstractions and that God’s vision creates a certain cognitive, maybe even existential, tension.
Pablo López Luz’s photographs evoke that tension. His aerial landscape portrays a surreal image of the space, an abstract image that is as overwhelming as it is uncomfortable. What an absolute delight to see from the sky! To be able to witness all that takes places in a precise moment! All that can happen!
I initially suspected that the photographs were professionally altered, but when I saw López Luz’s work for the first time in his “Panorámica” exhibit in the Museo de Bellas Artes, I instantly thought of photography’s hidden secrets, more so, the endless secrets that were occurring simultaneously in those shots, as the photographer flew over Acapulco and Mexico City. How many people were having sex at that very moment? How many watching TV? How many people were having a domestic accident, petting their dog, or confirming that their infallible plan had not worked? To know everything, see everything, understanding everything! But beyond these mere professional fantasies composed of statistical studies and development plans based on secret matrixes, I believe that López Luz’s work questions the categories with which we tend to judge our living spaces.
For ordinary people, as Anthropologists call them, time cannot be understood if it is isolated from other variables: space and matter. Thus, time is only perceptible trough the movement of matter in space, similar to how we move within our territory. The places that make up our living space create a network of meanings that make sense to us in our everyday lives. The appropriation of space occurs the moment we infuse a certain order to those places: thereby, we organize our own territory hierarchically.
There are sacred and profane places, places of leisure, work, family life; places that lead us to other places; public and private places, etc. Now, what happens when we realize that our places are nothing but mere points on a horizontal network? When do we prove that our hierarchies do not exist naturally?
According to Michel Foucault, Galileo’s true revolution was not so much his discovery of Earth spinning around the Sun, but more so his affirmation that space is infinite, infinitely open and continuous. By proving Earth’s movement, places became moving points: hierarchy was thus dissolved and extension substituted location.
López Luz’s landscapes are sceneries of that which is eternal; of the territorial conquest that knows no limits. Mountains are covered by people, highways, one after the other, to infinity. These landscapes are perpetuated in our imagination like waves in a sea of people. We feel the movement, the vertigo of progress. The contrast between those images of barren, dehydrated lands prove our tendency to expand, to test our limits, to destroy them.