MARTIN SOTO CLIMENT
We sit down for a conversation with the Mexican-born mixed-media artist
Martin Soto Climent’s conceptual sculptures are an interesting vantage point onto the Surrealist landscape of the 21st century. The Mexican-born mixed media artist captures the dissonance between object and form, and shapes his art out of that friction. Although he works across various mediums such as installation, photography, collage, and sculpture, his most notable work includes the de-contextualization of everyday, mundane objects into readymade art. Climent asks questions of both function and femininity—in his 2016 installation Frenetic Gossamer, a spiderweb of pantyhose is tethered by high heels, while 2015’s “Caramel Huysmans” featured a leather vulva stretched across wood.
Born in 1977 to industrial designer parents, Climent grew up in the countryside outside Mexico City. Initially studying industrial design in the mold of his parents, when he was 24 the end of a long-term relationship inspired him to travel in a more tangential direction. We spoke to Climent about surrealism, his Mexican heritage, and the future.
Does climate change scare you?
The planet is a single and indivisible entity—we are a system. Everything else is a human concept. Earth will manage without us. I’m sure it will be equally happy inhabited only by bacteria. I am not afraid of climate change itself, it scares me to know that humanity does not reflect on its existential behavior and does not learn from the mistakes accumulated in more than 2000 years.
Do you think the notion of artistic freedom clashes with the idea of scientific certainty?
Not at all, I think they complement each other. I understand art and science as research methods and paths to certainty, but I know that both are illusions. Even so, we have nowhere else to go, and it is important that they do not contaminate each other. Certainly, art is a matter of intensity in the emotions. It is a subject of depth, of existential interiority. Tools for measuring art and science should not be confused.
How do you go about building an installation? Do you fit your ideas to a space, or does the space give birth to the ideas?
I respond to the conditions of space, society and the context in which I present my works. I try not to force things, just follow favorable coincidences to make my pieces sprout naturally and effortlessly. I do not believe in spending resources to achieve banal effects or in torturing the materials to make them something I want. Rather, I adapt to follow their possibilities. And be as much as I can within pre-existing conditions.
How much of an influence does Mexico have on your work?
The influence of Mexico in my work is total, but that does not deny the influence of a global, or international aesthetic, in all my work. Mexico has given me essential guidelines: the existential bases for understanding life as a cyclical phenomenon, a game based on duality. From popular culture I rescued the ability to reuse things—ingenuity stimulated by need, but more importantly, sense of humor versus life and death.
What does surrealism mean in a modern context? How has the genre evolved?
Surrealism is an essential movement of the twentieth century because it makes an effort to relate the cultural tradition of the West to the new problems posed after the disenchantment and barbarism exposed with modernity. I believe that all art is valuable while maintaining its relationship with a tradition. Art is original in so far as it recognizes an origin. [André] Breton’s surrealism was based essentially on restoring the condition of Love in a world torn between wars. That struggle seems to me as urgent today as it was then. The love to recognize ourselves against fear to deny us.
Written by Claus Allen