Luciana Lamothe | For Without Tools, How Shall We Slice Up Identity? 

Via Issue 191, Fresh Cuts

Written by

Bennett DiDonna

Photographed by

No items found.

Styled by

No items found.
No items found.
Luciana Lamothe. “Essays For The Project Hope The Doors Collapse” (2024). Plywood, Scaffolding, And Wood. Variable Dimensions. Photographed By Catalina Romero. Courtesy Ruth Benzacar Gallery.

Take a piece of paper (preferably not this one), and tear it in half. Easy enough. Now take that same piece of paper and fold it in half, and in half again, and again, and again. Suddenly, ripping apart something flimsy becomes a feat of strength... or at least dexterity. It is this very exploration of materiality and context that informs the practice of artist Luciana Lamothe, who has been chosen to represent Argentina at the 60th Venice Biennale this Spring.

Born in the mid-seventies in Buenos Aires, Lamothe’s work considers the relationship between hard and soft; building and destroying. From these investigations emerges the concept of transmateriality, a framework she describes as being, “linked to ambiguity in the consistency of a material, but above all, to its way of perceiving it.”

For Lamothe, the exploration of limits and contrasts has manifested in a body of public installations, sculptures, video, photography, and performance. A creation may entice with its striking intricacy, but also with a subtle embrace of the absurd. Metasbilad (2016), for example, invites viewers into a brutalist structure, where they are invited to walk out onto a curved suspended wood plank, unfinished in appearance, conjuring the ultra-refined motor skills and trepidation that comes with walking on a perceived unstable surface. In the sculptural works Mutation (2018), metal pipes are etched and bent to create rounded infinity-like structures; in others, the pipe edges are blown open, creating the effect of budding flowers or branches.

At the Argentine Pavilion, curated by Sofía Dourron, Lamothe will present a new towering sculptural installation, “Ojalá se derrumben las puertas,” or “hope the doors collapse.” Held in place by a web of intertwined scaffolding, long ribbon-like stretches of plywood float downward toward the floor. At one edge, where the boards are sliced to form a floating base reminiscent of intertwined fingers, the plywood acts as a support to geometric metal pipe configurations, which in turn act as a vase-like brace for large tree branches. Melding organic and inorganic materials, the Pavilion will continue to evolve as viewers pass through the space.

Following a preview of “Ojalá se derrumben las puertas,” in Buenos Aires, FLAUNT caught up with Lamothe to discuss the destructive nature of screwdrivers, a reverence for building materials, and finding inspiration in a transforming landscape.

Luciana Lamothe. “Fricciones” (2022). Exhibition View. Ruth Benzalar Gallery, Buenos Aires. Photography: Ignacio Iasparra. Courtesy Ruth Benzacar Gallery.

In a different context, many of the materials that you work with like plywood and steel poles would be considered unfinished or raw. How do you think about the concept of finality in your work?

I have a special fascination with industrial materials and the world of construction. I feel like they don’t need anything else. If I think about painting plywood, for example (paint is another industrial material) I consider it a conceptual gesture. On the other hand, I find the trace that tools and machines leave on materials very important in my work. I think it provides information about process and the way in which machines affect materials, which I feel is fundamental in my work.

At the same time, hard and robust are characteristics that I like to work with. I am interested in generating questions about the possibilities of transformation of this consistency of the material, in order to question the architecture and the spaces that surround us—that is, those spaces that we design to live in and configure ourselves as a society.

Outside of the studio, what have you been doing lately to stay inspired?

Lately, I’ve been traveling by car out of the city, heading into the countryside. I started doing an exercise that I’ve become quite interested in. I was observing how a fadeout occurs in the transformation of the landscape when nature slowly begins to appear until it becomes predominant. This transition was accompanied by a very pleasant feeling of liberation in some sense.

Can you tell us a bit more about the concept of transmateriality? What drew you to using hard and soft as a spectrum in which to explore materiality?

Transmateriality for me is linked to the ambiguity in the consistency of the material, but above all to its way of perceiving it. For example, a wooden board (plywood) is an industrial element with a fairly high specific weight and sufficient hardness to support very heavy structures. If I want to split that board I will not be able to do it with my own strength, therefore it is a very hard board for me, but for my electric saw it is actually an extremely soft material since it can cut it in a matter of seconds. What changed is the point of view—the material remains the same.

Can you speak to the role of tools in your practice? How do you think about the symbiosis of one’s body as a tool and a tool as the extension of one’s body?

In my early work, the tools began to take a leading role. They reflected on the functionality and context from the constructive or destructive possibility of tools. I took my tools out of my workshop, into public spaces and put them to use in different places. Using a screwdriver to remove door handles, or a saw to cut up hotel armchairs or movie theater seats, for example. It showed how the use of a tool outside its context became a destructive force. This idea about the ambiguity of tools runs through all my work, the destructive fact becomes constructive.

Regarding the body, I like to generate a relationship of equals—that is, a relationship is established with the machine—and I think that there is a point of view about them that is different from ours. As I mentioned, the way in which a tool perceives a material is completely different from ours. If I consider a board of wood too hard to split with my own strength, a machine instead perceives it as extremely soft and will be able to cut it in a matter of seconds. This body-machine relationship generates a mixture in the perception of the consistency of that wood, it will no longer be either hard or soft but both things at the same time.

How does the biennale’s theme Foreigners Everywhere resonate with you?

It resonates in many ways, especially in my way of thinking about identity. Not as a fixed category or in binary terms, but rather as something elastic and mutable generated by contexts that are also in permanent transformation. This malleability is generated through intersections and the influences that some exert on others. 

Luciana Lamothe. “Untitled” (2018). Iron Pipes. 27.5 X 27.5 X 27.5 Inches. Exhibition View. Ruth Benzalar Gallery, Buenos Aires. Photography: Ignacio Iasparra. Courtesy Ruth Benzacar Gallery.

Written by Bennett DiDonna

No items found.
No items found.
Flaunt Magazine, Issue 191, Fresh Cuts, Luciana Lamothe, Art, Bennett DiDonna