Texts

The Uncanny – An Introduction by Bruce Muirhead, 2015

In its most basic conception, photography is the art of what is there.
We think of it as a recording process which provides incontrovertible evidence
of what was there, evidence which shows us a “truth”. But a photograph projects no meaning beyond itself; most photographs don’t even show us everything that was in the frame when the shutter was released. What we see is not something which expresses a meaning beyond itself, but something in which the viewer has an active role in giving meaning.
When I look at a photograph of a past lover or friend, I see and feel my memories in that photograph because my memories are inseparable from that persons face and body. What is there is completed by and merges with what is not there, with what is within the viewer—you and I bring our experiences and ideas to all photographs, irrespective of the subject. Hence, when I look at Alfonso de Castro’s photographs, I see and experience my own eroticism , my likes, desires, fears and prejudices in images which de Castro describes as murders.
There is no real life murder being recreated, no murderer except, perhaps, de Castro’s camera as he uses it to record what is not there. What is there are women in settings, who seem to be at some erotic/personal/sexual extreme which may or may not be pleasure, which may or may not be solitary, which may or may not be something which you and I want to be involved in.
The focus in these works is excess, but it is difficult to say what this means; indeed, it is difficult to know if the excess belongs to the viewer, the photographer or the model. None the less, it is the case that the movement toward excess is
something we must feel in ourselves, especially in respect of photographs such as de Castro’s, which appear as though we already are involved in whatever is taking place. It is this aspect of the work which permits us to explore meaning that de Castro suggests may be knowable only by corpses and photographs, if only because the photographic capture of erotic energy, excess and desire is a murder of expression itself.
Beyond this the idea of photographic murder is not something I can begin to explain. It is an idea we need to bring, as viewers, to the images, and which must be explored within our own tendency toward excess. It is, that is to say, something which we must project into the photograph. De Castro’s images invite this exploration and repay us with self-knowledge over and beyond the quality of the photographs themselves.

The Uncanny Blues. Por Dominique Leyva (*)

The Uncanny Blues, is an exhibition composed of twelve Cyanotypes, a traditional photographic process that produces a blue-toned print. These images combine photographs and texts that have much in common with the musical genre, The Blues. The Blues, forms a musical narrative in what musicians define as Twelve Bars. This collection utilizes the same number of blueprints to express feelings, anxieties and emotions. When composing their songs, Bluesmen follow the creed of only using three chords on a musical level and of only telling the truth on a poetic level. Alfonso de Castro seems to have followed this same rule while constructing these illustrations that cross limits and resist definition.

This series grows out of the interaction between two languages: literary and visual. Each piece is composed of an image combined with texts written on the sides of the photograph. The comparison with the Blues continues to be relevant as we encounter various poetic elements of this musical genre in these writings. We find phrases which follow the musical technique of call and response, others which contain elements of songs of prayer, mystery and faith, while other texts could be classified as field songs. These prose are more lyrical in nature than narrative and express dark emotions that many would be reticent to explore. De Castro utilizes these poems to trigger a mental and emotional reaction that forces the viewer to form new theories and interpretations.

The images incorporate a visual vocabulary which is analytical, methodical, and meticulous. Alfonso de Castro, like the singer Robert Johnson, takes us to the Crossroads where we find ourselves before the binary concepts of life and death represented by the beautiful female models and contrasted by their contorted bodies, their faces full of pain and figures that could be interpreted to be cadavers. The concept of beauty is contrasted by the crude reality of religious symbols, hangers, painted numbers, stuffed animals, shoes, plastics, and dead flowers. These pictures combine visual elements and poems to explore human nature, desire, elegance, violence and sex. Alfonso de Castro’s images are conceived to unchain psychological and affective responses. The public is faced with the difficult task of interpreting and digesting these shots and processing the emotional state they provoke. Mississippi popular lore states that Johnson met the Devil on the highway. Before De Castro’s photographs, the viewer finds only oneself and in tones of blue.

Alfonso de Castro is an artist in a continuous process of evolution. We all know that traditional blueprints have been replaced by more modern and less expensive printing methods such as those offered by digital means. These cyanotypes offer a new interpretation of the aesthetic principles of the photographic medium by combining visual, literary and musical elements. Alfonso de Castro’s poetic and multidisciplinary images are intricate, graphic and possibly controversial, but they always accomplish their goal of pushing us beyond our standard concepts to explore new territories inside ourselves. The Uncanny Blues, by Alfonso de Castro, forms a visual soundtrack in twelve images that we could call, The Alfonso de Castro Blues.

The Uncanny Blues, de Alfonso de Castro, es una exposición que contiene doce cianotipos, un proceso fotográfico antiguo que produce una copia en azul. Estas imágenes combinan textos con fotografía para formar Blueprints o ‘impresiones-azules’. La estructura de la exposición tiene muchos aspectos en común con el género musical The Blues. En las canciones de clase Blues se forma una composición musical utilizando, lo que los músicos llaman, doce barras o Twelve Bars. The Uncanny Blues utiliza el mismo número de imágenes para expresar sentimientos, inquietudes y emociones. A la hora de componer sus canciones, los bluesmen siguen el credo de solo utilizar tres acordes a nivel musical y a nivel poético, solo decir la verdad. Alfonso de Castro parece haber seguido esta regla para construir estas imágenes que cruzan límites y evitan ser definidas.

The Uncanny Blues se desarrolla a través de la interacción entre dos lenguajes: literario y visual. Cada pieza de la exposición está compuesta de una imagen con textos grabados en los laterales de la fotografía. La comparación con los blues es relevante ya que encontramos varios elementos poéticos de esta clase de música en estos escritos. Encontramos textos que siguen el patrón de la técnica musical de llamada y respuesta, otros tienen elementos de canciones de oración, misterio y fe y escritos que se podrían clasificar como gritos de campo. Los textos son más líricos que narrativos y manifiestan emociones oscuras que muchos no estarían dispuestos a explorar. De Castro utiliza estos escritos para desencadenar una reacción mental y emocional que obliga al espectador a establecer nuevas teorías e interpretaciones.

Las fotografías utilizan un lenguaje visual controlado, metódico y meticulosamente gestionado. Dice la mitología de Mississippi que el cantante Robert Johnson se fue a los Crossroads y allí adquirió del diablo su poder de tocar los Blues. Alfonso de Castro, como Johnson, nos lleva a una encrucijada donde nos encontramos ante el concepto binario de la vida y la muerte. Vemos los dioses Eros y Tanatos representados en las bellas modelos femeninas con sus cuerpos contorsionados, sus caras llenas de dolor y lo que podrían ser cadáveres. La belleza contrasta con la cruda realidad de símbolos religiosos, perchas, números pintados, peluches, zapatos, plásticos y flores muertas. Las imágenes combinan elementos visuales y textos para explorar la naturaleza humana, el deseo, la violencia y el sexo. Las fotografías de Alfonso de Castro son concebidas para causar reacciones psicológicas y afectivas. El público se enfrenta a la difícil tarea de interpretar y digerir las fotografías y procesar el estado emocional que provocan. Johnson encontró al diablo en la carretera, ante las imágenes de De Castro el espectador se encuentra a sí mismo, en tonos azules.

Alfonso de Castro es un artista que está en un proceso continuo de evolución. Sabemos todos que los blueprints tradicionales han sido reemplazados por métodos de impresión más modernos y baratos, como los ofrecidos por la tecnología digital. Los cianotipos contemplan una nueva interpretación de los principios estéticos del medio, combinando elementos visuales, literarios y musicales. Las imágenes poéticas y multidisciplinares de De Castro son intricadas, gráficas y posiblemente polémicas pero siempre cumplen su propósito de llevarnos más allá de nuestros conceptos habituales para explorar territorios nuevos. The Uncanny Blues, de Alfonso de Castro, forma una banda sonora en doce imágenes que podríamos llamar, The Alfonso de Castro Blues.

(*) Texto escrito por Dominic Leyva como introducción a la exposición The Uncanny Blues presentada en La Maldita Estampa en noviembre de 2018.