Interview with the artist:
fist_ART: We know that you are an avid science fiction reader. We would like to know, what artist/writers you are interested in or have influenced your work? What are your favorite readings?
Manolo Rodríguez: There are many artists that have influenced me throughout my career like Manfred Pernice, Charles Juhasz Alvarado, and Rebecca Horn. I would dare to say that each one of them, beyond working through assembly and installations, possesses the rare ability to take a concept to its ultimate consequences, or rather, test the elasticity of an idea. This is something I strive to accomplish, for I believe that things take on their most beautiful shapes when they are at their most concentrated.
I also draw a lot from fiction. Amongst my favorite writers are J.G. Ballard, Phillip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke. In the context of my work, I am especially fond of Ballard, for his wild imagination and ability to convey extremes. In “Hello America”, Russia installed giant water pumps in the ocean floor, reverting the Earth’s climate, causing the east half of the continental US to become a desert and the west a jungle. While stranded on the desert, the protagonist is haunted by giant holograms of John Wayne and Mickey Mouse, projected by airships sent on orders from the last president, who went by the name of Charles Manson.
FA: In your proposal for fist_ART.Foundation, you stated that “According to Buoyancy” is a project that encompasses the Land Art movement and experimental art from a current perspective or viewpoint. Can you explain how these historical references relate to your work and how you perceive the historical distance that divides them? Is there a desire to confront these two movements?
MR: From the beginning I have looked for ways to approach the art practice in a pragmatic manner. As a student this led me to the study of Russian Constructivism and Futurism. Both of these movements sought to reconcile art with concepts like city planning and design, engineering and architecture.
I look back at this moment in history with certain nostalgia. In a way my projects tend to find solutions to inexistent problems, through the cynical use of materials, processes and technology. Yet, I think there is a very fine line between cynicism and poetry.
Movement, whether “real” or suggested, is also very important in my work. In “According to Buoyancy”, I attempted to endow a garden with dynamic properties. Vegetal life grows within a space that is commonly perceived as static. By allowing vegetal life to manifest itself in a dynamic manner through the very “pragmatic” – I say pragmatic because there were no aesthetic considerations – design and construction of a floating garden, I attempted to find that dimension where the will of the imagination confronts practicability. I guess it is just a stubborn habit of sapience, to forcefully alter the immediate environment through sheer force of will.
FA: At the moment you were creating your project “According to Buoyancy” in the vast open spaces at Dorado, you were also exhibiting art works at a Museum and at a private art gallery. How were these experiences similar or different for you?
MR: Having three openings in the same month was both very stressful and enlightening. It was stressful because I never had produced so much work in so little time. And it was enlightening because I learned a lot about what I can accomplish if I organize and dedicate myself. I would also say that I gained a lot of discipline in the process.
I am also especially thankful to Fist Art Foundation, for allowing me to create my biggest, and most structurally complicated project yet. According to buoyancy confronted many problems from the beginning. It was a complicated structure that had to be built within the allotted time and budget, which allowed me a unique opportunity to test my manual and organizational skills. For example, the main structures that support the soil containers were cut and assembled in my shop in Santurce. The soil containers were made in Sabanera/Dorado, and the plastic drums that served as buoyancy devices were bought also in Dorado. In the end, all three main subassemblies were assembled on site.
FA: During your work in “According to Buoyancy” you expressed in various occasions that the process of creation is more important than the work itself. Could you explain more in depth this idea and your creative process?
MR: I think the process of conceptualizing and designing a project to be very beautiful, even more that the end results itself. Because this is a moment were ideas have unlimited possibilities, and everything concerning the project is mutable, it’s a very dynamic process.
Also, I have come to understand that even the most beautiful idea can become superfluous once it’s realized. I guess some ideas should be left as they are, as ideas, were they can never be disproven.