by Zohra KhanAug 05, 2022
When a work of art keeps the viewer engrossed to not easily give away its meaning, the exercise could not be accounted futile since it keeps the mind attentive to its making in order to trace the embedded implications. To let the viewers remain a step closer to curiosity, when it comes to distilling meaning from the art piece, is the hallmark of Rio de Janeiro-based Catalan artist, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s practice. The inquisitive nature of the works stems from Steegmann Mangrané’s use of elements that are both organic and technology-driven. These elements traverse through an array of elements including drawing, film, holography, installation, photography, sculpture, video, and virtual reality. The mediums and processes are a way to bridge the gap running between the subject and the object only to alter the collective experience.
His deep-rooted admiration for nature, which led him to settle in Rio, Brazil, has not even remotely faded and brings home the fact that it is pertinent to realise the interdependency between flora and fauna. Brazil, as Steegmann Mangrané likes to see, serves as the place to investigate how technology and the ecological crisis have redefined the relationship between man and its environment, where the boundaries are constantly in flux. In a similar fashion, A Transparent Leaf Instead of the Mouth in a glass environment is populated by local trees, shrubs, exotic stick and leaf insects, all caught in a web of nets, weaves, meshes and grids. But he is acutely aware of the threat that the rich biodiversity of the forest faces in the hands of humans.
Phantom offers an immersive experience to the audience who puts on the oculus on the head only be introduced to the wide forest that is free of boundaries. The twig, leaf, bush in the forest is rendered in white stereoscopic stipples on black to emphasise how nature has its own ways to sustain balance. The artist, before creating this installation, performed a high-precision 3D scan of around 1000 square metres at the centre of the forest Mata Atlântica in southwest Brazil. The observer in the forest is deeply immersed in the forest to heighten his/her presence while amongst the setting of a lush green forest.
In an interview with Lauren Cornell, the Director of the Graduate Program and Chief Curator at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Steegmann Mangrané says, “Phantom came as a surprise, and that was the fact that looking at the user was actually pretty fascinating: suddenly you were looking at someone that was clearly somewhere else. This dissociation was really strange. Of course, the staging was carefully planned, and obviously, I had the notion of how the user would look in the empty space, but I didn’t think it would be so powerful!"
The latest work ⧜, which was displayed at the Taipei Biennial, is an attempt to defy the calculative details of the architectural building. The curtains deconstruct the spaces into a variety of sections only to underline the space of in-betweenness: the interplay between “fullness and void” and “continuity and interruption”. The idea of curtain comes from the Steegmann Mangrané childhood days spent in the south of Catalunya. The Kriska aluminum curtains are light and brightly coloured that recreate a characteristic metallic sound when someone passes through them. For Steegmann Mangrané, the curtain, “was obviously the right material for dealing with notions of corporeality and incorporeality, materiality and immateriality, tridimensional experience and flat surface... the work changes as you traverse the different layers, and you grow more and more aware of your body and your movement in a space which you need to constantly negotiate. When doing a new curtain, I normally try to enhance something of the given space and its experience.”
For the film installation 16 MM the artist put in a cable of 60.96 metres length, equal to the measurement of the film on a standard 16-mm reel. The suspended camera slides along the cable at the same speed at which the film rolls through the camera the suspended camera slides along the cable. The superimposition of the two recreates images and sound only to lead the way for the deep swarming of a forest. For Steegmann Mangrané it is of extreme importance to draw a balance between the two diverge things through the lens of reciprocation and sharing.
Interestingly, many of his works carry the titles such as /(-\ which are “read, but cannot pronounce”. According to Steegmann Mangrané when the language falls short to communicate a meaning it does not imply reality and truth will not remerge. He avoids putting a tag of finality with his exhibitions, but likes to see them as a “point of departure”, where it is important to see that meaning does not remain confined to the piece of art, but stays with the visitor long after she/he has made an “exit” from the space of the art exhibition.