Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guzman talks to Darkfix Blog

Amsterdam based visual artist, photographer, filmmaker and all around creative designer, Antonio Jose Guzman talks to Darkfix about the influence of traveling, the importance of Subcultures, his film Regressions & much more.
 Guzman’s body of work ranges from photography, print media, sculpture, and architectural interventions, to narrative films, sound, single and multi-channel video works, installations, and live performance. Guzman’s video works and installations have taken place in sites as Senegal, India, The Grand Canyon, the Norwegian Polar Circle and Panama.

Darkfix: Have you always lived in Amsterdam? If not where are you originally from?

Guzman: I grew up in Panama, and then moved to Costa Rica when I was about 23, then to London and Barcelona. I’ve been in Amsterdam for more than 15 years now. Amsterdam is after Panama the longest place I have ever lived. It’s definitely home for me. For many Dutch people, specially the young generation is difficult to understand why people move to this rainy small country with such complicated cultural climate, but if you arrive here in the 90’s was a different story, this was paradise in the arts, culture, music, specially in the rave and electronic scene were I was active as music programmer and a photographer.

Darkfix: What influence did living in so many different places?

Guzman: Traveling had a really big influence on me. It influenced the way I intervene in spaces with my art and the way my aesthetics are projected in research projects. I learned to be really observant and have patience with time, which is the way I make art, films and take photographs.

Darkfix: What did you do when you were a teenager that pushed you towards being a creative person?

Guzman: When I was in Panama I spend a lot of time in the city during the academic year and in the province with my grandparents during the summer, I spend my time skating, bmxing, adventuring in the jungle and listening classic rock, punk and hardcore music. I was going with friends to small shows in schools and underground spots. We would take a lot of shit from the police those days, we were like aliens for the Panamanian society back them, and everything got worst once the Americans invaded Panama to capture Noriega in 1989, it turn us into some kind of neo punk beatnik rebels, some of my friends in the circle later in life committed suicide of got insane, they just couldn’t take how difficult was to be in Panama those days. I would say it was being around this type of lifestyle that pushed me into being an artist and to work with geopolitics and social aesthetics, doing research on utopias, segregation cities, DNA and Panafrican projects.

Darkfix: It sounds very heavy to hear about your friends. What do you think it is about countercultures that tend to lead people towards creative lifestyles?

Guzman: Is about being part of a counterculture that pushes you towards being creative and to recognize political failures in the system.

Darkfix: What medium did you first find yourself attracted to and why?

Guzman: Definitely film. Watching movies was really my think as a kid. We use to go with the family to the Roosevelt Theater to watch two films for the price of one, from Friday to Sunday. As a child my parents bought me a Polaroid camera and I would mess around in making photos and interviewing family members with an old cassette player. Photography leads me to wanting to tell stories and make films and installations later on. Deep down I always wanted to be like my grandpa a great storyteller, a revolutionary and an awesome journalist.

When I was about 15 my mom was still in the diplomatic service and she took me and my brother to see work at the Centro de Arte Contempor├íneo Wilfredo Lam, in La Habana Cuba; that was when I had my first profound experience with art. I had known about the great masters like Rembrandt, and then modern artists like Warhol, Basquiat, Gauguin and Picasso. But I didn’t really know much about modern art until I saw Wilfredo Lam’s work, it blew my mind. It was really awesome and I didn’t need to know much about art to understand the work. Another great experience was to see the Guernica at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid in 1993.

Darkfix: What films or filmmakers were influences in your early years?

Guzman: Around the time I started to make photos and videos I was obsessively watching Greenaway, Almodovar, The Cohen Brothers, Herzog, and Welles.

Darkfix: When it comes to visual arts, films & photography how important are other mediums?

Guzman: I think is all one, It really irritates me all this division between photographers, visual artists, documentary makers, I deal with all of them constantly and even if everyone considers all this mediums art forms they all have there own recipes and the people working on all of those sectors only look to what is done in that sector and there are oblivious of what is happening right in front of there noses, I think research in the arts fields has also make it difficult to people from other disciplines to be related to contemporary art.

Darkfix: Any specific visual artists, musicians, writters and photographers come to mind that you admire?

Guzman: Doug Atkien Electric Earth was a great deal of influence to start art studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, Beuys and Baquiat had been father art figures, other important artists, the list is long!, had been Pepon Osorio, Allora y Calzadilla, Kcho, Serra, Marx Ernest, Wolfgang Tilmans, Nan Goldin, Avedon, Stieglitz, Tina Modotti, Lam, Keyfer, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Marquez, Borges, Cortazar, Patti Smith, Fanon, Senghor, Paul Gilroy, Amiri Baraka, Eliasson, the Grateful Dead, Zeppellin, Hendrix, Morrison, Joy Division, Marley, Coltrane, Lennon, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Soda Stereo and my friend Remy Jungerman.

Darkfix: I was lucky to see your doc ‘Regressions. Dealing with such sensitive subject matter as psychological regressions, I was wondering how you work. Did improvisation come into play when making the documentary?

Guzman: There was a script, but I always give plenty of room for improvisation, within what is already plan, but it has to work with the idea and the aesthetics of the story and the editing narrative.

Darkfix: So finally, what are your future Projects?

Guzman: I’m working on a continuation of the Los Angeles Mapping project, the project I did in Windward School recently in Los Angeles, California, using maps, GPS roads and ancestral lines to determine people locations preferences and areas of segregation in multiple cities.

For the rest I’m working on a book of my work and working as a freelance Communication Designer, since the crisis in Europe the grants had finish and the galleries are not selling so much work, so we been forced to search for alternative solutions to our cultural practices, the one for me is Communications Design because is also what I had done for my projects GF Workstation Studio and the State of L3. For the rest my film Regressions just played at The Quai Branly museum in Paris and my last show in Amsterdam was a great success, art critic Rob Perree wrote a great article about it, that’s was awesome.

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Photo by Rogier Fokke