Iñaki Bonillas

Born in 1981 in Mexico (MX)
Lives and works in Mexico (MX)


Installation, 320 slides, 4 slides projectors (35mm), 4 tables, synchronizer
Year of Purchase: 2009

The installation Bañeras is composed of four projectors, each containing an identical set of 80 slides, synchronized to display side by side. These 320 images are colorimetric variations of a single source: the photograph of a cloud sweeping across the sun was extracted from the archives of the artist’s grandfather, J. R. Plaza, which have been furnishing Bonillas with the raw material for his work since 2003. Over a period of thirty plus years, this mysterious ancestor assembled a library of 800 photographs, all with dated captions, which the grandson endlessly rearranges into series―meant less to document the family saga than to tell a story of the photographic medium. The artist subjects this stock of images to a formal exhaustion following various typological and serial strategies: exhaustivity, with Pequeña historia de la fotografia (2003) in which the entirety of J. R. Plaza’s albums is pinned to the wall, frame against frame; formalism, with a selection of all vertical photographs (Todas las fotografias verticals del archive J. R. Plaza, 2004); or yet fiction, with a series in which the grandfather appears in staged settings of his own invention, disguised as a shepherd or a worker (Una tarjeta para J. R. Plaza, 2007), then as a cowboy, on his trip to Rock Springs in 1945 (A somber e o brilho, 2007).
In this context, the installation Bañeras derives its name from the location in Mexico where the cloud was photographed. It manifests the will to anchor this dated and captioned found object in reality, counteracting the generic character of the image, as well as a suspicion that one could harbor towards this providential collection and its amazing founder. Bonillas digitized the image of the cloud in order to modulate its nuances, by adding or subtracting red, green or blue, and playing with brightness. This digital manipulation is accompanied by a reflexive play between the image and its medium, since the veiled sun evokes the mechanical opening of the shutter or the organic one of the pupil of the eye, which produces the imprint on the film or on the retina. Extremely simple in its techniques, Bañeras becomes an instrument of a complex mise-en-abîme of the photograph, which produces tensions between pictorial representation and conceptual protocol, between the anonymous character of the image and exacerbated personalization of its author, between the esthetic pleasure and documentary rationalism. The work also questions the reproductive qualities of photography since, using a single source, each image differs according to the print method, whereas each of the four slide projections is rigorously identical. In this way, the work invokes as much the naturalist tradition (the celestial vision) as pop art (through the repetition of the motif and mechanical chromatic manipulation). At a deeper level, the procedures of proportioning, quantifying and classifying inscribe the artistic practice in the aftermath of conceptualism, but admixed with romanticism. Bañeras could be the product of a fusion between two famous conceptual frameworks: Peter Hutchinson’s progressive disappearance of a cloud photographed at regular intervals (Dissolving Clouds, 1970) and the even overshadowing of a white wall photographed twelve times at different shutter speeds by Jan Dibbets (A White Wall, 1971). Bañeras innovates on the protocols of conceptual art, breathing into them fiction, nostalgia, and poetry.

Guillaume Désanges