Plinio Avila | Snapshots

Part of the illusion of realism promised by a photograph depends on the fact that the camera is not seen. Nevertheless, it also depends on the photographer not appearing either. Any photographic self-portrait makes us feel in the first instance that the photographer is not the photographed object, because before a photo we always assume that the one responsible is that someone behind the camera. The effect of absence unraveled before any photography contaminates the author’s notion, because the author is someone who is outside the frame. His device is irrelevant because its appearance would be intrusive and prosaic. We have to choose: either we accept the illusion (eliminating the supposition that there is a device involved) or we accept the device, and then the photography becomes a vulgar and frigid object. These are the options with which Plinio Ávila plays – we must acknowledge this with enough ease – in his series Snapshots, created through a variety of visual wordplay that emphasizes the ambiguity between reflection and redundancy. This duality, that seems typical of every photographic representation, is enhanced here by the act of taking photographs of people that are in turn taking photographs themselves of artworks in the space of a museum. The commentary regarding the photographic aspect, derived from this almost tautologic gesture, is complemented with a commentary on the consumption regarding art consumption that in this series is summarized as of the crossing between contemplation, overtaking and reproduction of art work. This work is a good example of what happens with the work of art in the age of technical reproducibility. We all know that in Walter Benjamin’s famous essay there was not so much a critique of photography as there was a critique of the pretense of consumption that arises in the relationship with the photographic double of the work of art. This consumption pretense is ironically exposed in Snapshots, by means of an almost didactical a mis-en-scene of what Benjamin deemed as the substitution of the cult value for the work of art’s exhibition value. I talk about redundancies because in Snapshots, the work of art unfolds in another work of art, as well as the photographic act unfolds in another photograph. We could summarize it by saying that it is a project that intends to represent a certain type of representations, with an effort that is not without that touch of absurd self-sufficiency inherent to that current art zone that oscillates between surrealism and post-conceptualism. But I also talk about the reflection thinking, not so much about the specular quality of the photos, but about the author’s projection in the photographed subjects and in the projection of said subjects on the author. These photos of Plinio Ávila are like self-portraits, not because he appears photographed, but because there is always someone taking photographs, and this causes a curious case of transference of subjectivities. Even if the photographer does not want it this way, every time he photographs another photographer he is photographing himself. The same attitude we see in the photographed photographers, is what we may suppose in Plinio when he took the photos. We may even suppose that this author shares one same subjectivity with the subjects ‘photographed taking photos’, with one particularity:  for the photographed subject this subjectivity depends on his own condition as joyful viewer that turns his ephemeral presence into a show along with the work of art. But overall, that subjectivity depends on a confidence on the photographic representation in which the cycle of enjoyment of the work of art will be completed. Such confidence is split precisely when the photographic representation is exhibited and duplicated in Plinio Ávila’s photos.

By Juan Antonio Molina Cuesta  (Translated  by Leticia Consuegra)

 

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