7 November 2022
ENAR DE DIOS RODRÍGUEZ
UKS is pleased to announce ENAR DE DIOS RODRÍGUEZ as the recipient of one of two grants from the foundation Snorre Andersen, Maleren Ambrosius Egedius og Hustrus Legat (SAMAEHL) of kr. 50,000 following the 2021 Open Call. The SAMAEHL foundation supported two younger gifted artists in 2021.
How has receiving the SAMAEHL grant helped Enar de Dios Rodríguez to trust the deep research processes she undertakes? UKS’ Ida Møller Engebretsen talks to Enar about her extensive research practice, her many obsessions, and how her former career as a translator influences her art. Find a comfortable seat and get ready to learn about the complexity of our planet’s seabeds, hydrofeminism and the hand gestures of 16th- and 17th-century cartographers!
Ida Møller Engebretsen: Hi Enar! You are one of two recipients of the SAMAEHL grant: kudos to you! Can you tell us about yourself and how you became an artist?
Enar de Dios Rodríguez: Thank you! I became a full-time artist about two years ago, and I have been able to maintain my practice thanks to scholarships and grants such as the SAMAHEL grant from UKS.
My background is in translating. After graduating from my translation and interpretation studies, I understood that I couldn’t make a living from translating Aimé Césaire to Galician, so I got different jobs related to languages, like teaching English and Spanish. After a few years I felt unsatisfied with my professional life and I felt ready to take the leap and study fine art. I got my MFA when I turned 30 and started working at different art institutions as an ‘artist and curator’. When I lost my last institutional job, I used the opportunity to push myself into my own personal artistic practice.
IME: Leaving a career behind to pursue a career as a visual artist is courageous. I find that people who change careers are able to merge their diverse professional experiences in a unique and creative way. How does your experience as a translator come through in your artistic practice?
EdDR: When I started studying fine art I wanted to distance myself from text, but after a couple of years, and quite unconsciously, it began leaking into my projects. I guess it was unavoidable, so I have learned to embrace it. Now, text plays an important part in my artistic practice: words and text are always part of my artistic process, from inspiration to research and conceptualisation, and at the end as visual words in my artworks or auditorily through film. My artistic process also has some similarities with translation: I constantly consider how to tweak a message so it can turn into a visual language, or how to shape an image so it conveys my message, much like how I used to translate texts from one language to another.
IME: What are the messages you want to communicate?
EdDR: There is so much I want to communicate. All my obsessions stem from something that sparks my curiosity and leads me to extensively research a topic. I investigate topics from a historical perspective as well as philosophical and economical perspectives, and I end up with a wide range of textual and visual information. When I feel I have done enough research, I start the process of conceptualisation by editing information. The artworks start to take shape and acquire certain structures to the concepts, which is when I decide what media best suit the content.
For example, my latest body of work, Liquid ground (2021), arises from an obsession with seabeds. The works were ignited by an article about current endeavours to map the world’s oceans floors by 2023. While researching, I became acquainted with a range of aspects of the topic: colonial traces buried in the seabed, planned seabed mining plans, sonar technologies used to map oceans floors and environmental consequences of the upcoming exploitation of the deep sea. Simultaneously, I fell in love with hydrofeminism, the philosopher and cultural theorist Luce Irigaray’s book Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, and illustrations from the first worldwide oceanographic expedition, among many other topics.
IME: That is extensive! Uniting aspects from hard science with softer cultural phenomena like language and feminism can be tricky but you bridge the fields through hydrofeminism. Can you explain what hydrofeminism is and why it is relevant to your practice?
EdDR: In the essay ‘Hydrofeminism: Or, On Becoming a Body of Water’ philosopher Astrida Neimanis builds a concept around hydrofeminism. It derives from ecofeminism but with a focus on water. Water is defined as the core of life, and it continuously flows in and out of bodies and spaces, proving that we’re all connected, constantly interacting and influencing each other. I believe hydrofeminism can help people understand and rethink reality from a post-human, planetary perspective, rather than an individualistic position. If I consist of 70% water, and if water is continuously flowing, where do ‘I’ begin or end?
In Liquid ground I interpret water as a body that can show us historical traces, anthropocentric habits and anti-colonialist resistance. Water becomes the symbol of a space where nothing is disconnected from influence or influencing, where everything is a beginning and a becoming, and thus where any and all acts must be ethical and in solidarity.
IME: Tell us more about Liquid ground.
EdDR: Liquid ground is the title of my largest solo exhibition to date, which consists of four works: a series of light boxes titled A History of Cartography; a wall projection titled New Imperialism, 1884–2021; brochures that visitors can take with them titled Map of the Pacific Ocean; and the core work, Liquid ground, which is an audio-visual essay. I presented the works in a kind of black box where visitors were guided through the exhibition via a wooden platform that I designed as a pier.
The first work encountered in the exhibition was A History of Cartography. While researching for the project, I looked into the history of cartography and portraits of Western cartographers from the 16th and 17th centuries, and I became fascinated with their gestures: all of them held the Earth’s globe in a very specific manner. I showed the gestures in a series of light boxes, presenting them as enlarged details. By enlarging and highlighting this repetitive motif I wanted to show how map-making is linked to a yearning for possession.
The wall-based work New Imperialism, 1884–2021 projected historical illustrations of the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 (also known as the Congo Conference) onto the logo of the International Seabed Authority, which was painted on the wall and acted as a watermark. The conference was where European nations carried out a colonial partition of the African continent, and the International Seabed Authority is an international organisation that creates laws and gives permits to nations for the exploration (and future exploitation) of international seabed areas. For me, this analogy reveals how history and imperialism repeats and renews itself.
I also made a paper brochure entitled Map of the Pacific Ocean. The brochure contains a map from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, an area in the Pacific Ocean that used to be Common Heritage of Mankind but is currently being divided between nations – including China, UK, Germany and many more – because of its great potential as a deep-sea mining site.
The eponymous main work in the exhibition, a projection of a 32-minute film in three chapters, explores how marine spaces have been represented throughout Western history. The film consists of illustrations from the 1872–76 Challenger expedition, which was the first worldwide oceanographic expedition and brought to view new species living in deep seas; recordings from a public aquarium where marine spaces are recreated and represented as a spectacle; and a series of digital imagery and 3D models of the seabed that portrays the ocean in abstract lines, moving grids and graphics. It was important to me that the research on seabed cartography, colonialism, representation and hydrofeminism became a poetic whole. I wanted to avoid a documentary style – that’s why the script is structured in a series of guessing games and the voiceover is carried out by two young girls. This allowed me to be very playful with language and formulations.
There’s a ton of references in the works – many more that we don’t have room for here!
IME: You have managed to include a substantial amount of research material in your multidisciplinary artworks and I can only imagine the amount of energy you have put into it. What does it mean to you to receive the SAMAEHL grant?
EdDR: It‘s an honour and I‘m very thankful! It is an incentive to keep trusting my art practice and the importance of the topics I become interested in. For the past few years these kinds of grants have allowed me to focus all my time and energy on my artistic development, which has been excitingly challenging, inspiring and gratifying.
IME: I’m glad UKS has helped nudge your practice forward. To round off our interview, can you please share what you are currently working on? Can we expect to be presented with another obsession of yours?
EdDR: Absolutely! At the moment I’m participating in an artist residency in Istanbul where I’m researching a new project about air space and I’m feeling very excited about it! As with the seabeds, I’m approaching the topic from multiple perspectives: from cloud seeding to satellite internet constellations and bird migration flyways. I’m also finishing my new film essay Ecotone, which is going to be released this autumn on Austrian public television. I’m thrilled that my work will be distributed to such a broad audience!
Enar de Dios Rodríguez’s film Liquid ground was presented at the Mares da Fin do Mundo festival in Galicia in Spain from 28 October until 1 November 2022. She also has works on view in two exhibitions: Bodies of Water at the Tiroler Künstler:innenschaft in Innsbruck, Austria and Flood Tide of Resistance at the NeMe Arts Centre in Limasson, Cyprus, both running until November 2022. Her work was also part of the screening programme Tecnologías húmedas (Wet Technologies) at the International Image Festival in Bogotá, 17–21 October 2022.
Enar de Dios Rodríguez (b. 1986, ES) lives and works in Vienna. She is a graduate of Fine Arts at San Francisco Art Institute and of translation at the University of Vigo. Recent solo and duo exhibitions include Liquid ground at LABoral Centro de Arte, Gijón (2021) and Vestiges at Project Space, Melbourne (2019). Group exhibitions include Conde Duque, Madrid (2022), Kunsthalle Karlsplatz, Vienna (2021); Mediterranea 19 – Young Artists Biennale, San Marino (2021); Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2019) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (2016).
Ida Møller Engebretsen is co-curator and communications officer at UKS.
*Image: Enar de Dios Rodríguez, A History of Cartography, 2021. Detail. Artwork produced in the framework of DKV Seguros-Álvarez Margaride Grant in cooperation with LABoral Centro de Arte. Installation view at LABoral Centro de Arte. Photo by Enar de Dios Rodríguez.