Interview with Eriz Moreno

Lost highways and mediated memories

Eriz Moreno is an artist from Bilbao, Basque Country. His practice has led him to places as different as Eastern Europe, North America and Western Asia where he spent time researching and collecting documentation for his projects. He has been part of several collective shows, such as  “9980 km el horizonte que nos separa” at the Domus Artium 2002 Museum (Salamanca) and” Horizonte” at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. His solo shows include “Projekt Beton” at the Szczecinek Regional Museum (Poland) and  “Ararat” at the Ereván Contemporary Art Museum (Armenia). He’s currently based in Leipzig at Pilotenkueche, an international residency located in the Spinnerei complex.

I sat down with Eriz and talked about the way he approaches his work.

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If I enter too much on the symbolic, I give too many opinions. For example the Battle of the Nations monument, or Mount Ararat: they are both physical and symbolic places. I have to be careful, because I’m working with things that hold a lot of meaning for different people. That’s why in these cases it is best to see these things as objects and to remain neutral, so that after people can form their own opinion during the exhibition. That’s why I’d rather use photos and documents and also why I try to present them in a neutral way. Because we weren’t there, so we don’t know for sure what happened, and therefore we could be unfair to those for whom these places have a much deeper meaning. But of course everything in art is a negotiation between the symbolic and the real: the final artwork becomes not just a collection of symbols, but something that by existing in reality creates a symbolic relationship with the public.

Another example of this is what I’m doing with the “Fest der Millionen / Werk der Millionen” project. This is a propagandistic book published on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the German Democratic Republic. I don’t speak German. But the Fest der Millionen book is in German. So I was not there at the time, I didn’t experience the situation, and I don’t speak the language. But there I saw the potential. It’s the reading of a book, in a language that I don’t know. It’s an exercise in translation, I observe the book as a structure, as a space with its own structure. The final display it’s a projection of the book.

This is what happens when you start researching, you feel there’s a treasure. And the best part is when you feel that things are starting to make sense.

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Yes, in a way. I was inspired by the ideas behind the Düsseldorf School: to be objective is to take a lot of pictures of the same thing, this way creating a pattern. The pattern is the only thing you decide, and that is the rule you have to follow throughout the project. I know that I’m going to end the pattern, but I don’t know how every photo is going to turn out.

The use of highways is about the concept of pilgrimage, is about the idea of knowing where I’m going without knowing how I’m getting there. For me the usual pilgrimage routes, to Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela, have no meaning.

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The Brotherhood and Unity Highway project allowed me to travel around Yugoslavia, following a specific thread. A sort of secular pilgrimage: this time I wasn’t following a pattern, but collecting information that could be used later for the artwork. I was not showing the highway itself, but using it as a path through histories and places. Since the road was used by tourists, as a leisure commodity, albeit a dangerous one, I couldn’t choose a static point of view, I needed more freedom.

Along the way I learned about the splitting and connecting rifts along the history of Jugoslavia. I found people nostalgic about the past. I learnt how today the republics are more independent politically but less economically.

When I start another. No really, when there’s nothing else I can add. A project can be reopened whenever I find anything related to it. That is not my main concern, when to finish. I can reuse things, make new interpretations, revisit places and what happened to them in the meantime.

Investigate, collect, tell. There is never a final artwork, it changes depending on the exhibition it needs to be tailored to the exhibition, the place, the audience. As Bruce Lee says: “Be fluid, be water, my friend.”

www.erizmoreno.info

Vittoria Caradonna is a writer based in Berlin.

@nononein