Juan Delcan on his viral video artwork ‘Safety Match’ and Instagram as a medium

The artist talks to STIR about his digital artwork that illustrated the importance of staying at home, and the need of communicating through social media in the time of panic.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Apr 29, 2020

Although more simplistic and rudimentary platforms for content sharing and instant messaging were developed in the 1980s, it was not until the 90s that social media started growing into formats that are similar to what we use en-masse today. The origins of the phrase ‘social media’ itself is ambiguous and debatable, but we very rarely find ourselves looking back at the history of social media. Rather, we are often found jumping from one platform to the other. While AOL and Orkut may have laid the foundations, Facebook changed the game. Facebook gathered a database of millions, and as of today has over two billion users worldwide. However, in terms of social media trends, the platform is rather outdated and younger generations (myself included) will tell you that Instagram, Snapchat and now even TikTok are their media applications of choice.

Every platform offers a new feature, focus and fascination, which appeals to the current ‘need’ of the audience. Instagram by itself has created a significant shift in the way information is consumed, making the experience focused heavily on the image. This has created a viable platform for artists to share their work, developing as a by-product of this trend in ‘bite-sized art’. Art which is quick and easy to consume and not necessarily packed with conceptual depth that art seen in galleries or museums might have. While this kind of visual art often appeals to the masses and is not necessarily the kind you can return to again and again in search for new meaning, the relevance of this kind of work is not any less. It allows a large audience to consume art which is not intellectually cluttered and simultaneously carries important information too. Recently, I spoke to Juan Delcan, whose latest artwork addressing the social distancing trend went viral across platforms after being shared on Instagram initially, spreading as fast as the coronavirus itself!

01 min watch ‘Safety Match’, the trending artwork by Juan Delcan and Valentina Izzaguire | Safety Match| Juan Delcan| STIRworld
Safety Match, the trending video artwork by Juan Delcan and Valentina Izzaguire Video Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Shraddha Nair (SN): Could you please tell us more about the details of your entry into the world of art and design? What drives you as a creator?

Juan Delcan (JD): Art and design have always been a part of my life. I started very young, creating and designing a video game called La Abadia del Crimen that became part of the popular culture in my hometown Spain. It's all about telling stories.

SN: What is the nature of your collaboration with Valentina? How did you meet and end up working together, what do you each feel is the cause for the dynamic balance which works effectively to push your combined practice?

JD: We are husband and wife, met 10 years ago on the set of a commercial shoot. We started collaborating right away. We balance each other really well because our artistic vision is very similar, but our approach to the actual execution is different, creating a healthy conflict that benefits the overall dynamic.

SN: How do you manage the balancing act of having both, a commercial as well as an artistic practice? Do you see a divide between the two?

JD: It's always a challenge to manage being a creative mind in a commercial world. But it goes hand in hand. It's very important to keep pushing boundaries between the two worlds.

More artwork from the Match Series seen on the artist’s Instagram account | Safety Match | Juan Delcan | STIRworld
More artwork from the Match Series seen on the artist’s Instagram account Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist

SN: Do you view your artistic practice as a mode of personal communication or a way to play around with the bounds of applied creativity? 

JD: Mainly as a mode of personal communication, an instrument that helps us understand what we care about and what defines us.

SN:Today, Instagram can be perceived as a variant of an online gallery by itself. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of using Instagram as a medium for sharing your work?

JD: Instagram is a great platform to showcase animation because of the broad reach. The challenge is to create a piece with an immediate hook that it doesn't get lost with a thumb scroll.

2 mins watch A compilation of the Match Series videos, a simple motif which is playful yet effective | Safety Match | Juan Delcan | STIRworld
A compilation of the Match Series videos, a simple motif which is playful yet effective Video Credit: Courtesy of the artist

SN: Your 'match' series started long before the video representing social distancing became viral. Can you tell us more about your conceptual motivations behind the series?

JD: The match sticks series started in a very organic way. Matches are such a familiar character and a very conductive way to express because they have no gender, age or race. Matches light up and that is a great direct analogy to human attributes like passion, love and anger. They could do a lot of good and harm at the same time. The concept was to put them in everyday situations, playing with real environments and elements, always preserving the scale of the matches and keeping it simple.

The universe of the Match Series by Delcan and Izzaguire | Safety Match| Juan Delcan| STIRworld
The universe of the Match Series by Delcan and Izzaguire Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist

SN: What changes when an artwork becomes viral? Does your relationship or perception of the work change? 

JD: The validation is immediate; you can see how a piece becomes relevant and feel a sense of a stronger responsibility on the message you want to convey. We try to stay away from being too complacent. Getting a lot of viewers is very rewarding but could also become a trap. 

SN: Because of the nature of Instagram, transactional benefits like monetary income or even getting due credit when your work is shared is not guaranteed. What then becomes your reason for creating and pushing your work on Instagram?

JD: In the particular case of the ‘Safety Match’, the main reason was to create a telegraphic image to help people understand the importance of social distancing in the midst of the global pandemic. 

Artists Juan Delcan and Valentina Izzaguire | Safety Match| Juan Delcan| STIRworld
Artists Juan Delcan and Valentina Izzaguire Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist

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About Author

Shraddha Nair

Shraddha Nair

Nair is a writer and curator based in Bengaluru, India. Her curatorial practice is a method by which she negotiates with and navigates the complexities of human behaviour, an interest which flows into her writing as well. She believes that art and collective experience hold immense capacity in the cultivation and development of action and emotion.

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