IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, SPANISH ARTIST OSCAR MARTA AZPARREN DISCUSSES THE PARADOXICAL NATURE OF COPYRIGHT LAW, HER PASSION FOR EDUARDO CHILLIDA, AND THE AESTHETICS OF MACHINIMA.
A graduate in Fine Arts of Madrid Complutense University, Marta Azparren works across disciplines and genres, including video art, visual arts and net.art. Her work has been shown in exhibitions, festivals, and international fairs around the world including The New Media Film Festival (Los Angeles), DFA’s Dance on Camera Festival (New York), Art Beijing (Pekin), Festival Videoformes (Clermont-Ferrand), Festival Facing the Artwork (Werkleitz-Centre for Media Art, Halle), Kassel Dokfest (Kassel), MADATAC (Madrid), Feria ESTAMPA (Madrid), LOOP (Barcelona), Images du Futur (Montreal), Festival MOVES (Manchester), Festival de Videoarte de Camaguey (Cuba), Festival Óptica (Gijón y Madrid), VAD Festival (Girona), Festival Escena Contemporánea (Madrid), Museo de América (Madrid), Premi Videodansa (Barcelona), la Nuit Blanche (Paris), la Noche en Blanco (Madrid), Cervantes Institute (Paris and Manchester), Machinima Expo (Jury Award), Videomix La Casa Encendida (Madrid), TV Metrópolis programme (TVE 2), Photoespaña Clic&Rec, Festival Visual 09 (Net.art. Award Madrid), C Arte C, Espacio Enter, Cologne Off Festival (México), Festival Digital Marrakech (Morocco), CeC - Carnival of eCreativity (Sattal, India), Spanish Cultural Centre in Santiago de Chile, Rosario, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, México D.F, Miami, La Paz, Managua, San Salvador, among others. Azparren lives and works in Spain.
This interview was produced by the students of Master's Degree Program in Arts, Markets and Cultural Heritage at IULM.
GVA: Can you briefly describe your education?
Marta Azparren: I studied Fine Arts, Video, and Design. I also try to keep learning about anything that captures my attention...
GVA: Can you name some influences - not necessarily artistic ones - that played a key role in your evolution as an artist?
Marta Azparren: Beckett, Pasolini, Viola, Godard, Velázquez, Woolf, Celan, Von Trier, Dreyer, Hanneke, Nöel, Zidane, Jelinek, Lennon & McCartney, Taniguchi, Bergmann... I draw from all the sources I can get my hands on, regardless of its discipline, time or context.
GVA: When and why did you begin using video games in your practice?
Marta Azparren: I began creating video games with an artistic intention (as a part of a net.art collective velcroart.net), we made a few ones but my favorite is simul.art a simulator of artistic life. The goal of the game was hanging a picture on the walls of the museum. The player chooses an artistic profile, negotiating between talent, productivity and creativity, and has to develop an artistic and successful career. During his/her career the player/artist must take a lot of decisions that affect his/her personal and artistic development, the market value of its artwork, its prestige, its media appearances... and that makes him/her go forward or backward towards its goal. The game was created as an artwork, a sort of critic to the art market, but as a game it was very addictive too!
GVA: Why did you specifically choose a video game to make art? What do you find especially fascinating about this medium? Its interactivity? Agency? Aesthetics? Theatricality?
Marta Azparren: When I made art with video games the key difference was, for sure, interactivity. Playing creates a very different experience of the work of art, it involves the player in a very intimate way, letting him or her thinking and taking decisions while he/she plays and enjoys the work. When I use existing video games to make a film, as it is the case in The Goalkeeper and the Void, what really attracts me is the chance to control all the pieces of a big production (characters, scenarios, camera movements, weather, colors...) just sitting at my computer. I like to make films the same way I draw or paint, being autonomous and having all the control over the process. When you have to shoot in real life you have to delegate a lot of choices, share aesthetic decisions and let a percentage to hazard; here you can choose everything, even design the faces of your actors... Of course there is animation, but then you need a work team, you can't do it all alone, or it will take months or years to finish it. Machinima allows you to create films in the most independent way.
GVA: Digital games often create parallel, alternative experiences for its users. How do you relate to the complex relation between reality and simulation? How do you address this tension through your work?
Marta Azparren: Every fiction creates an alternative experience to reality, as a good book does, in fact I think this is what art is all about, alternatives to the real world, or just ways to tolerate it or learn how to deal with it. Digital games add the act of playing, which makes this immersion in virtual reality more effective and more addictive. If applied to the reception of the artistic experience, this interactivity and this straying into the artwork while playing with it, make it more deeply intense. I think the research of art perception in interactive virtual environments is just beginning and I think that could be a source of intense aesthetic experiences.
GVA: The creative opportunities afforded by machinima are greatly constrained by existing copyright law, which prohibits many possible uses, including commercial purposes. What’s your take on the paradoxical nature of this artform?
Marta Azparren: Well, copyright law is paradoxical; on the one hand it supposedly protects artists and the integrity of their artwork, but at the same time, art history advances through successive copies, replicas, imitations and especially collages made from fragments of works from the past. A very interesting sector of video artists works exclusively with found footage, reinventing, dissecting and deconstructing material already recorded and transforming it into different artworks and this is widely accepted as an artistic product. In my opinion, machinima is just another form of found footage with more control tools. In the case of Goalkeeper... there are advertising boards of the company that created the game, at stadium perimeter. I could have chosen to remove them in post-production because they are anachronistic elements which appears in supposedly old images, but I decided not to because it is clear that all images belong to a video game, it is a clear convention and I felt it like a kind of courtesy with the game creators not denying its origin. And there they are, all these advertising boards every time you see the film. Companies should consider machinima as an opportunity, not as an attack to their rights.
GVA: Would you agree that machinima has democratized the art making process? Has it lowered the entry barrier for creators of video art, as some critics argue?
Marta Azparren: When the first domestic video cameras appeared, they said it was the democratization of cinema... But that allowed artists to work alone with their cameras without any shooting team behind which led to a different way of recording images, more casual, exploring the intimacy, watching their bodies, recording public social issues or exploring the limits of the video tool in a way that was unthinkable for cinema. Video art (art in general) is not about technique, if it was so, it would be easier... And what's wrong in democratizing art making, anyway?
GVA: How do video game aesthetics affect the overall impact of your work? What comes first, the concept or the medium?
Marta Azparren: In my practice, the concept always comes first. I think very carefully what I want to show and then I choose the medium that fits my needs. Video games have a very particular and very recognizable aesthetics; using a video game to make a film, immediately implies accepting this convention, which I think that it's not very different from using, for example, puppets in theater.
GVA: How and why do you use Pro Evolution Soccer to create The Goalkeeper and the Void?
Marta Azparren: Chillida was goalkeeper in the 1940s so there isn't any existing film or TV footage of him playing. I didn't really want to shoot a film trying to recreate those old football matches. I wanted to show a kind of "schema", as a drawing board of his thoughts about art, space and football, as if it where motion graphics. And machinima came as the perfect option. I chose Pro Evolution Soccer, because I have played with it and I knew I could create an avatar that looked like Chillida, change colors, control the camera and its movements, etc.
GVA: In The Goalkeeper and the Void, you cite several quotes by the basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida. Why did you choose him? What is the relationship between football and sculpture?
Marta Azparren: A few years ago I was visiting Bilbao (Basque country, where Chillida was born) and I discovered that he was the goalkeeper of his city team, Real Sociedad, and that was very surprising for me. We are used to see football and art as opposite things, as if it was impossible to enjoy a good match and then watch a Kieslowski's film. Chillida, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Umberto Eco, were exceptions to this rule. Chillida was one of the greatest Spanish sculptors of the XX century, but he always talked about football as an inspiration, he said that he have applied to art things that he have learned as a goalkeeper. In my video I collect all his quotes about football (in interviews, books, diaries) where he reflects on this relationship. I can imagine him under his goal developing all those deep thoughts about time, space, void, geometry and I wonder how would the Twentieth century sculpture (or football history) have been, hadn't he broken his knee…