Lourdes de la Villa Liso

My view of the world

My view of the world, Por/By Lourdes-egatik, Textos

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Secuencia imaginada. Lourdes de la Villa Liso, Bilbao, Fundación BilbaoArte Fundazioa, 2011, pp. 61-63 (exhibition catalog)

In October, 2003 I covered one of my walls with photographs I had taken that same year in March. I arranged them horizontally from left to right, in order to follow the action of some characters as in a film sequence shot. The scenario for this action was the Bilbao estuary that I could see from the road that goes along the edge of the sea. If I look through the window to my left, I can see as backdrop an industrial scene almost gone nowadays. If I turn my head one hundred and eighty degrees, I get lost in a fork without a visual curtain. This route ends at Las Arenas and I have to go on to get Barrika. At halfway I will pass by Algorta where I spent the childhood I recall. I can’t see the sea until I leave my car, I walk in my house and look through the window at end of the room, the window witch is on the contiguous wall where I sited the photographs of my imaginary route. I see it far, framed between the houses that protect mine from the wind, the cold and the heat. The place where my imaginary route finishes is the place where my look ends. The estuary flows into the sea.

I could never try to get the place from where I look under the protection of my look. The characters that settle my scene are, as owners of the action, the ones who led me here where I am. I don’t know their names or their stories. I just know that I tore them out of the environment where I found them, just for a photo collage operation. They come from Venice. They are the outcome of two trips, between December 2001 and April 2003. I walk along the streets, hand held camera. A girl reading a paper that holds in her hands walks along the right side of my viewfinder; two men dock their boat in a canal and they unload bottles of water. I am leading to the Querini Stampalia Foundation. On the shelves I find Tomaso Filippi’s work, a photographer who took pictures of the Venetian urban environment between the 19th and 20th centuries. Among his work I find a little girl up on chair from where she looks down on the horizon; two men are rowing in a caorlina (1) like the ones we can still find in Venice; a little boy buries his feet in the Adriatic sea waters while he is dragging a bucket over the water. Along with other elements of street furniture, all these anonymous characters have settled my landscape. So I wonder what the childhood I recall is, because as in a movie that I have not seen yet, it is yet to come.

My photomontage work was giving shape to a story similar to the cinema one: no matter how many times you see a movie, changing the original order of the actions will be out of your possibilities even before you watch it for the first time. This order is out of the temporal flow in which you will be able to read it. You feel the movie, as Barthes says, “as something given, when the truth is that it is just a product” (2). A visual product though. That is exactly why, as spectators, we do not process the movie through a visual way, but we let ourselves be led to an imaginary space (3) shot as in a dream. What feeds us psychologically is what our brain is not able to differentiate. It seems to be proved that it does not distinguish between seeing and remembering (4). The matter is, then, how to delimit such confusion in our own life, a confusion that omits the meaning. In films it is done with the sequence. As Barthes discusses, it is possible to “imagine purely epic, non meaningful scenes” (5), but not purely meaningful since the meaning is always on the margin to the scene object. The meaning is constant along the movie thanks to the direction going through it. The meaning “will be, for example, a profession, a civil state, a character, a nationality, a statute of marriage” (6).It might change but there will always be one. The meaning we leave out of our own life will not be what builds our identity. Neither will the meaning we get back by means of a stressing task we devote ourselves called art. The film in our eyes can only be read in our own lifetime.

That is the way Imagined sequence began. With the intention on gathering enough to leave words out, I mean, getting hold of a view of the world. But without being conscious about what I think over now: my purpose was looking through it. Reaching these words I am writing down through the image speech which has not been spoken yet.

Four years later, I was writing about this purpose because of the possible participation in an exhibition curated by Izaskun Etxebarria. This exhibition would create a speech around the landscape alternating video art and painting (7). My project had been developed as an experimental activity related to the development of a doctoral thesis. It was organized in three levels of representation. Each level was conceived under the premise to examine the human visual process unit in the perceptive experience (8), that is to say, each representation was created by a process that reflected the human visual process. The information that made each representation explicit and therefore, the meaning recovered by it, made possible define the following representation. With the third one it seemed to have reached the top of what my stressing task of artist could give for the object of thesis study (9). This object was the human visual function. This function is usually very clear in irrational animals. For example, different kinds of jumping spiders use their vision in order to discover the difference between food and a potential mate (10). In the case of humans, the variety of activities where we can use our vision makes its function be undefined. It seems that this undefinition let us get much more objective information about the world than the one the jumping spider gets. However, the closure of the association between painting and thesis was about to create in me a paradox: that objectivity humans are able to get, and in my case it would adopt the shape of a pile of papers full of words, would not be the source of food for my brain. My thesis object was not the object of Imagined Sequence.

In my reflection I was considering the landscape as a model of the experience perceived by the sight. That meant that the landscape was the object of Imagined Sequence. It was talking about the meaning as a mental eye, since the meaning is what we build mentally as a product of such experience. Otherwise, the landscape, which is the living part, is what gives room to the language so that it might bloom. Barthes says that films are not a language, but a logos. That is to say, films are a continuous landscape. I say to myself that what characterizes real life must be also a perennial aspect. And that was the fate of my search, of my trip that I had started when I walked in my house. I talked about this fate as if it were a place. The place from where I look, right, but where is it if it is nothing material? As for our personal world experience concern, the information we get back from the world through vision is as subjective as the one any given animal can get. Within this vision the meaning can be lost and returned. So what feeds our brain is such subjectivity. And it was that subjectivity what my brain was claiming before hand. It had not found room for the meaning. Because, how can an eye be brought to life? What about a visual brain sleeping under the protecting sky of our own cranium? And what about all the stories we are able to consume under this sky?

Not getting room for the meaning meant not having reached the language. As my area of experience in the visual art is painting, it meant to not have reached the painting. However, I could feel protected by a landscape that was giving me as ceiling the sky open, and as base to stand on, the ground of my own brain. It was autumn, as in “Escrito” by Botho Strauss:

“I was outside, open field, far from all kind of roof, it was autumn and he read in a book the most important words he had read so far. Meanwhile, the sun was going down and soon the real darkness and he was fighting in the air, in the nature, where there was not artificial light in an wide surrounding, but the book was fading away inevitably, it was vanishing in his own hands, it was getting dark. At no time, he was completely sure that the following morning, with the first rays of light, he could continue reading. He felt upset by the inexorable deprivation: blindness –separation – castration. Just the language, said to him, has allowed you so far to bear this terrible loneliness. You have no idea what it would be if this language demanded everything from you and it vanished almost completely until the last of my breaths. You do not know what the real loneliness is until you have perceived that tiny murmur, in any corner, in the edge of you spirit. You have no idea how you will have to wait and cuddle when the words get together and you get out of place without understanding” (11).

Paisajismos. Land_scapes meant finding that book where to read all I need for the analysis of the cerebral event that defines the human visual function from the side of the meaning, from the subjectivity of the human look (12). But this book was written in a visual language, so reading meant that my view of the world, my creation, turned down and got me out of it. That was the end of my stressing artist task. For two more years plus the one I had not been painting; the time I took to finish the belated writing of my thesis. And in a similar way to the character in Botho Strauss’ story, during that time I was never sure if I would be able to read again. All though, for me reading has nothing to do with words. However, it will be another writer’s character the one coming to help me with the meaning of my life.

It is Christmas dawn 2010. It is one year since I started painted again. In some days I will have to leave my studio in Bilbaoarte. Now I can say my work is done. In my application I explained that Imagined Sequence was a way to reach the painting in an indirect way, but through a sequence of four representations. The last one was still to be developed. Even then, it was not clear at all the reason why it was so hard to get rid of those years I was working on my thesis. The truth is that nothing was clear, not even that I would be able to take a brush again. It seems that it will never be daylight. I decide to get up without making noise. I do not want to wake up my hostesses. I make tea and go to the living room. I look through their books. I stop when I see Obabakoak. The Esteban Werfell of Bernardo Atxaga comes to me in the first pages. He writes on his twelveth diary notebook:

“(…) and everything that is alive, it is alive as a river. Without interruptions, or stopping. But being this true, it is also undeniable our memory tendency, which is almost the opposite. The same as a very good witness, memory likes something solid, it likes making its choice. Just to compare it with something, I would say that it acts as an eye. However, it would never act as an accountant specialized in stocks. For example, I can’t see now the swans kennel in the park, covered in ivy from bottom to top, dark and even darker on rainy days like it is today; I can see it, but, to be honest, I never see it. Every time I look up, my look slips on the tedious green or on the black leaves, and does not stop until it finds the reddish spot that remains on some corners in the roof. I do not even know what it is. It might be a piece of paper; or a primrose that wants to sprout there; or a gable which ivy has left uncovered. Anyway, my eyes do not care. Leaving darkness, they always try to find that spot of light. (…) This is the way the eye acts –he continued- and, if my idea is right, so does the memory itself. Forget the common days; search, however, the light, those especial days, those intense moments; search, like me, a remote afternoon in my life. But this is enough. It is time to start with the story itself” (13).

Then, what’s the meaning of seeing? Because I would say that only what I see is what I can protect with my look, what I can protect from being dragged by the flowing of the time of my life. Well, no doubt Imagined Sequence represents what I see, what I have always seen and what I am not able nor I will never be able to define. However, I have been able to get lost in my view of the world, in my creation. That coloured trace that I have spent the whole year placing on a piece of cloth, it is just a mark which my eyes get held, it is not what I can see. The observer which forces us to be the work of making images is, like the meaning of our life, an ethereal body. If our brain is the machine of our body when we create an image, the observer is just the soul of that machine, and what we see is a dream, but a dream that builds the reality in which we can cope with.

Let’s say that the fourth level in Imagined Sequence has let me once and for all get the observer which certainly is me, out of reach of my state of abstinence, or even better, out of reach of my conscious, since I am conscious of the fact of disregarding it while I am creating images. According to Heinz von Foerster, the “crucial test of the memories is in its efficacy to foresee sequence of events; in other words, in order to allow inductive inferences”.14 Therefore in our memories it remains the time to be used by our memory, I mean, to be recovered. Every time I start painting, all my Imagined Sequence will be coming by like that mechanic and unconscious aspect in my biological vision which is difficult to recover unless I use my art. As the comments added to the code in order to start to handle it, “it’s them, not the code, the ones that give the representation of what the code is doing from the handler point of view” (15). If the visual system is the code, and i am the handler, the painting is the representation of what my visual system is doing from my artist point of view.

Painting is making the sense of the image comes up as it comes up in our biological vision: on every corner and in every moment without losing the thread of our mental story which each of us has. It is different in each individual and it’s this thread that makes us understand and don’t get lost. reach the painting means being conscious of the fact that every picture will involve the introduction of changes in my pictorial process, at the same time as in my brain habits. That I will not need to visualize anymore my Imagined sequence for the purpose of not losing the thread of my mental story. The story is my life. A painting is just a feeling to be recovered from the flow of my life. But I do not need the painting to read on the book of my own life.

The entryphone rings. It’s my father. I open the door before he rings another bell. Few minutes go by until I see my younger brother and ruth in the corridor. The dawn was breaking without clouds in the sky. It is time for the movie to start.


1. Boat built in order to cross the canal locks of solid ground

2. BARTHES, Roland, “The film meaning issue”, The Eiffel Tower, Barcelona, Paidós, 2001, p. 37 [text extraction from The Complete Works of Roland Barthes, Paris, Éditions du Seuil,Volume 1, 1993, Volume 2, 1994, Volume 2, 1995]

3. According to the dream: “(…) in dreams, time flies, to meet the present, unlike movement of awake conscious. The first one rotates on itself and together all its concrete images. However it means that we are led to a imaginary space shot, so the same event coming from outside, out of the real space shot, is also seen imaginatively (…)”FLORENSKIJ, Pavel, Le porte regali. Saggio sull’icona, Milano, Adelphi, 1977, p. 30 [Ed. or.: NKOHOCTAC, 1922]

4. During the last years it’s been carried out experiments that prove this target. Through the non invasive positron emission tomography technique, it is registered which areas of the brain are lighted when we asked to look at something. However, if we ask that person to imagine that something, it is proved that the same areas of the brain are lighted.

5. BARTHES, Roland, “The film meaning issue”, The Eiffel Tower, Barcelona, Paidós, 2001, p. 33

6. Ibíd.

7. Paisajismos. Land_scapes, Espacio Abisal , Bilbao, 21 de sep. – 26 oct. 2007 http://www.espacioabisal.org/es/individual.php?expo=1

8. A whole unit undestood as example in any way of visual art. For a description of the levels, go to DE LA VILLA LISO, Lourdes, “Parte tercera. Un modelo experimental acerca del fenómeno visual”, in Lo visual como construcción. Desarrollo de un modelo pictórico de representación de la imagen, p. 720 – 823

9. Sandra Palhares analyses the idea of an iconic encoded image being restricted to a sequence of typologies that are defined as synthetic image of information. What we do is to cancel our own synthesis. That is to say, it is a sterilization of the synthetic image; it wouldn’t give an immediate reading because we create the graphism. Such graphism is not socially conventionalized. So finally the synthesis seems not to be such creation.

10. David Marr explains how “One of them has an interesting retina formed by two diagonal strips in V shape. If it detects a red V on an object opposite it, it will have found its mate; otherwise it will be food”. MARR, David, Vision, San Francisco, Freeman, 1982, p. 32

11.STRAUSS, Botho, “Escrito”, in Parejas, transeúntes, Madrid, Alfaguara, 1986, p. 97 [Ed. or.: Paare, passanten, Munchen, Carl Hanser Verlag, 1981]

12. For a definition of the constrictions to the visual process from the analysis of the four pieces of work belonging to the project of Izaskun Etxebarria. Paisajismos. Land_scapes, ir a DE LA VILLA LISO, Lourdes, “2. 4 – Lo mental”, in Visual as construction. Development of a painting modelo f an image representation, p. 339

13. ATXAGA, Bernardo, Obabakoak, Madrid, Alfaguara, 2007 [Ed. or.: Obabakoak, 1988]

14. FOERSTER, Heinz von, “Tempo e memoria”, in Sistemi che osservano, Roma, Astrolabio, 1987, p. 73 [Ed. or.:

Observing Systems, Intersystems Publications, Seaside, 1982]

15. MARR, David, Vision, San Francisco, Freeman, 1982, p. 342


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