• Meta-Fictional Exploration

    Interview with Luis Enrique Zela-Koort

We immerse ourselves in a realm of alternative visions, interweaving, and articulations capable of transporting us to different dimensions. The artist invites us into their  mind, making it explicit that art and creative expression are meant to transcend conventional frameworks, eliciting even uncomfortable sensations that are crucial for dismantling conscious classifications. Psyche, science, technologies, life… we stand before a diverse alignment of elements, the essential discovery of an artistic talent that knows how to take our minds on journeys.

Considering all the feedback you’ve had during your career, do you still perceive a noticeable mental closure of the society in front of particular and taboo themes? What would you let clear and evident with your visual creations?

It would seem people do not like talking about uncomfortable things. Or most people do not like to be disturbed, have their values questioned. My work deals with constructing new realities, speaking from a place of queerness, chronic illness and speculative futures coming from the Global South; I used to get told a lot that there were more “positive” ways to frame my research. My response over the years has evolved, and like myself, I’ve managed to see my work outside of many binaries (positive/negative, fictional/factual, and so on); just because things are the way the are, that does not mean this is the *only* possible configuration for desire, or progress. Instead of thinking through a logic of opposition, I’ve grown into thinking in terms of difference. This is also challenging, because modern thought is intrinsically binary. It is always making value judgments in favor of capital, or efficiency and productivity. Paul Preciado mentioned at a recent talk in Bilbao “to defy binary thought is to enter psychosis”, and for the modern neurotic this is often undesirable, letting go. Now I think of my work as a kind of trap: through the use of rather sensual and alluring materials like glass, or dynamic compositions, my audience is enthralled, like some kind of unconventional ritual. Once they are in my world, then they are confronted with alternate truths, new potentials and possibilities. Surprise.

Share your most significant unpopular opinion that you wish could be normalised.

The idea that artworks are good because they are “relatable”, or because they represent a “community”. Of course visibility is essential, but this obeys a reactionary logic: we can only extend our understanding if we see ourselves in what is in front of us. A logic based on the acceptance of difference, of unconditional love is beyond identification. Maybe something extraordinary about the work is its uniqueness, the specific conditions which constructed a subjectivity able to bring forth art that shakes these foundations.

In your works, a significant contrast is evident in the blend of cybernetic aesthetics, technological applications, and emotional sensitivity. Regarding the use of artificial intelligence and technological tools, is your approach entirely positive, or do you think the excessive use could negatively impact creativity?

I don’t think that tools, technology, is intrinsically good or bad. I think these categories are rather contextual, but that in using them with a profound understanding of their internal processes, I can redirect their power in favour of my interests. In that sense I think of myself as a “maker”, I appropriate different technologies, I recontextualise the way they operate. A huge problem of modernised society is our reliance on technology, while vast majorities of users do not understand them fully, so the direction of technological progress is left to private enterprises with questionable interests. If we all participate in the development of the tools we employ, we gain control over our collective future which will be, more and more, mediated through technology. Regarding creativity and art produced through these means, I sympathise with philosopher Émilie Carrière: if the art being made is meaningless to the extent it can be automated, so be it. If we think of the artist as simply a producer of images, then IA will be its doom and that should be fine. Which is why I believe in producing works which articulate the personal, the collective, knowledge and emotion- works that cannot be replicated through recombining data. Maybe these advancements will force us to finally define what separates us from machines, something disciplines like traditional economics fail to do with abstract models on “human behaviour”. What is human behaviour? What is it to be human?

What would young Luis have wanted to become when he grew up, and if you could choose, is there something you wish you had wanted to do or known much earlier?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist. Although my introduction to art was first through Natural History, and thus understood art as a social and contextual practice, based in knowledge.
When deciding what to study however, I was split between art and science. A huge part of me reckons the importance of developing new knowledge, and while science seemed obvious in its material contributions to society, art seemed more abstract. Eventually I decided to study art, and realised that through the lense of art and my own subjectivity, I could observe science. That I could more critically dissect what we thought were “fundamental laws of nature”, which excluded the perspective of countless minorities. This is why I focus on exploring anti-essentialist perspectives, the idea that nothing is truly “authentic”, because this affirmation excludes all other possibilities of existence. Now I coin my approach as “meta-fictional”, recognising all facts as contextual fictions. Acknowledging this earlier would have saved me a lot of headaches.

If you have to talk about a creative production where you fully achieved your visual and conceptual goals, an artwork embodying your artistic identity, what would it be? Share the process and idea behind it.

Each work I do helps me discover more of myself. After every show I put on, I feel closer to something inside of me. And so I’ve found my favorite productions to also be my latest. At the same time, if you look at my work, it’s very heterogeneous, there’s this constant curiosity to incorporate new materials, discoveries, processes and perspectives. It really is a vehicle for me to connect to the world I live in, while developing with increasing complexity my own inner world.
My latest proposal shown through a solo-project at ArcoMadrid called “The Principle of Difference” is something I am very satisfied with. I feel it closing a chapter. It’s about observing Difference and Diversity as fundamental aspects of the Universe: while Modernity views Difference as violence, I am reframing it as Divine. It incorporates a very personal, bodily perspective, imagining new configurations for existence beyond virality for worlds built on interconnection and symbiosis. And it articulates this with research about biodiversity, andean syncretism, and metaphysics. The works are not moralising, neither are they strictly based on identity. The works are digitally fabricated and produced, yet are finished through manual and ancient ways of making. For example, I developed new techniques for translating IA imagery to glass, creating something entirely different within the material
history of the material. All the works presented inhabit these in-between spaces which gives them true depth.
If I can see one maxim emerging from this, and all my previous work, it would be that life in all its forms is beyond human control. That the potency and mutability of life is infinite across infinite scales. And this is something very open-ended, I am not sure where it will lead me next!

Is there any little obsession, superstitious ritual, or unexpected “belief” that characterises you and that you’d be willing to share?

I talk a lot to my work. The life of an artist can at times be rather lonely, in the studio, thinking and making and feeling away. So I talk to my work like I would talk to a child, or my own inner child. I’ve laid in bed many times hugging my ceramics or glass pieces and feeling whole with them. Like they are pieces of me coming back home after a process of self-realisation. And I do this because I do believe everything is “alive”. Coming from Peru, growing under the influence of our rich history and the complexity of pre-modern cosmovisions, our ancients believed everything had agency. Now this is known as “panpsychism”, so I try to be kind and loving to my work, and I know this care and affection will be returned to me through it one way or the other.
Sometimes the image of a work just comes to mind, it appears in front of me, asking to be made. When this happens I know I am in the obligation to materialise it, give a body to this idea; fantastical things have happened just by following these deep intuitions.

As someone continually experimenting and grappling with dematerialisation of social and conceptual patterns, do you already have your next work in mind, or is there a particular project you’re currently working on?

It’s quite contradictory really! I feel like I know exactly what I am doing, until I don’t. There are commissions and projects which are planned way in advance, and thus are very rigid, which is good, it gives me stability and direction. Behind the scenes however I am experimenting and playing around, trying to articulate new concepts or expand the ones I normally work with. I think working between these two states does the trick for me: there’s space for getting lost in the woods and discovering something unexpected, but then that can be channeled into a more ordered structure when it is ready. At the end of the day however, I am always working. I joke about having no work-life separation, because my work is my life and I would not have it any other way.
For example, right now I’m revisiting a data-visualisation video from 2017 from which I am deriving a stained glass work. That’s almost 7 years of thinking until a final form for the artwork was achieved. The video was made from recording my brain using an EEG headset while having sex, converting an orgasm to a geometric visual output, and I finally realised glass is the material to which this composition should be translated too. It’s very intimate too. Again; my work is my life and vice versa.

Luis Enrique Zela-Koort / Meta-Fictional Exploration


Artist: Luis Enrique Zela-Koort / @luisenzk
Interview: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko

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