The grotesque in my imagery is essential. I use it to unveil the present time situation where reality is shaped by deformation. I portray a dominant culture that imposes its perspectives in order to maintain its power. Its main instrument is media because it easily spreads stereotyped ideas about the ‘others’. Television is a good example to understand how economic and political powers try to shape our lives. They sell and impose people their goals and dreams; they deceive us to defend their economic interest. Those ideals are false, illusion, and, therefore, there is an effect of distortion. Mass media consumers are filled with ready-to-consume ideas presented in spectacle formats.
The grotesque in the Spanish culture is also known as ‘esperpento’, an aesthetic term coined by the writer Ramon del Valle-Inclán. He used it to describe his time as obscure and ruled by the power of the monarchy and the Catholic Church in Spain. According to Valle-Inclán, society is grotesque and esperpentic as when we see through the bottom of a drinking glass. Through myths and metaphors, Valle-Inclán criticized the status quo and old values of the beginning of the twentieth century. In my view, the idea of ‘esperpento’ is still a means to criticize power. I use it to understand a society where consumerism and entertainment shape the way people see their future, themselves, and others. To see life through a TV screen is to see it distorted. Valle-Inclán’s drinking glass’ bottom, for me, is a metaphor of TV screens (the spectacle in general) because it offers spectators a nice world where everyone can buy houses, have blond children, and be happy: a stereotyped/deformed society.
In my work, I use hyperboles to deform these images even more so deception becomes evident. I depict this dehumanized perspective as grotesque because it is made of implants and spectacles: false and empty dreams. In my images, the esperpento reflects this “reality” by deforming it, which contrasts with a neglected reality that is much more complex and cruel.
I directly relate the distortion of the spectacle with the journey and crossing borders. Immigrants, displaced, and travelers undertake their journeys in the search of a dream, a distorted dream. In my understanding, we are all travelers of our own lives and in that sense we are in a constant journey. However, my visual symbols are loaded with political meanings around specific events, for instance, the odysseys of immigrants from several countries in Latin America when trying to cross the Mexico-US border. I want my work to act as a witness of these journeys, as the result of the failure of the system. I want to portray the dream of better opportunities as a lie because it might be interrupted by death or it might never arrive. The dream portrayed as beautiful by media is like a mirage, it fades away.
My images, created by an obscure cluster of lines, figures, and shapes represent symbols and metaphors that hopefully will affect the viewer. I use elements of the spectacle and show business that contrast with deformed human figures, counting-lines, empty spaces, and local cultural references. The comparison represents the huge disparity between a cruel reality of close borders and a dream reality that for many is impossible to reach. To sum up, the grotesque in my work is the way to represent the journey in a contradictory system that sells dreams for a very high price.
Andrés Arízaga C