Interview With Marc Badia
Idiot, Absurdity, and a Failed Portrait – Lorin Gallery’s Interview with Marc Badia
Following his previous solo exhibition “There Goes a Falling Man”, Marc Badia has brought to Lorin Gallery’s group exhibition a series of works that also manifest the same downwards motion of falling. Before his first presentation in the United States, Marc Badia joined Lorin Gallery’s interview to talk with editor Luxi his failed portraits of an absurd idiot, a humorous dystopian fall off the classic portraiture painting.
Luxi: In your statement, you emphasize the hermeneutics of imagery and curatorial practice. Can you elaborate on that? Does it mean part of the completion of your work is also in the viewer’s reception, and does that mean you are also curious about how the imagery elements work on you and on other paintings?
Badia: "Hermeneutics of imagery" is a concept that came up in conversation with a curator about my work some time ago. I used it in my statement for a while, and although I don't use it anymore, I'm still just as interested in the image as a social construct.
To answer your question, the viewer always has their own perception of the works and that really fascinates me. It's impossible to control the interpretations that someone will have of an image. So yes, I am curious about how images work, and even more in the visual culture we live in. Since I am not interested in images with a fixed meaning, I have never worked from a sense of certainty.
Luxi: We can observe an interesting interaction between the painting and the title. In many cases, the title reads like an inner line from the subject in the painting. For instance, “I don’t know if I explain myself well.” How did you conceptualize the relationship between the visual content and the verbal content in your painting, especially in the scenario where most of your figures are incapacitated from speaking or any facial expression?
Badia: I like the ambiguity of being able to attribute the title to the character's own voice but at the same time not being certain about it. Moreover, as you rightly point out, the character doesn't have the ability to speak, so it seems like a contradiction in some way. I'm a fan of contradictions and unanswered questions, I think they trigger our imagination and that's wonderful. They challenge the human urge to classify everything, to give them a closed meaning. I strongly believe that nothing makes sense, that it is all absurd and therefore we have the freedom to give it the meaning we want.
Luxi: Following the question above, it may not be ostensible at first sight, but in most of the paintings your central figure is “faceless”. Their face is either covered by the foliage or situated out of the frame. Is it intentional? And why was the central figure deprived of everything that’s humane about a human face – facial expression, the eyes, the speech?
Badia: In the specific painting you are referring to, titled "I don't know if I explain myself properly", we can see a character who has fallen off his chair and whose head is out of frame. In this case my interest was to make a failed portrait, to laugh at the magnificence that is sometimes attributed to the subject in the portrait genre.
The reason why the main figure lacks expression is because I don't want the viewer to have a clear idea of how the character feels, or even whether he feels at all. He may be immersed in deep philosophical thought, or he may be an idiot, what difference does it make? why does a philosopher seem more transcendent than an idiot? who is more of an idiot, the one who lives enclosed in complex axioms or the one who lives unconcerned about giving a deep meaning to everything? what lies in-between? I have no idea, to be honest.
Luxi: In our curatorial introduction to the theme of the exhibition “Three Tenses of Contemporary”, we have interpreted your work as a visual narrative in the past tense – to narrate contemporary in the past tense, to make the conjecturing and to imagine like an archeologist from the future. Do you think your painting has a temporal distance from present, from what is happening now? And if so, in what way do you think to keep a distance from present has enabled more artistic expression in your painting?
Badia: I completely agree with your interpretation, although I think it is impossible for my work to be detached from the present. This thought process of imagining the present from the point of view of a future archaeologist is just a strategy to try and see more clearly the contradictions we live immersed in. Not to understand them, as I don't think there is anything to understand, but to accept them.
Luxi: Many of our visitors, when describing feelings upon seeing your work, have mentioned “realistic bizarreness”, which reminds us of the earlier literary genre of psychological realism – to portray the psychological landscape of a human being even though it might seem fictional in the physical world. Do you think that “bizarreness” is a psychological trait specific to the contemporary minds, or do you think it has always been there, across ages? Why do you choose it as the theme of paintings, and what do you think of it against the wider context of art history? Do you think that our art has been honest with this mental state?
Badia: I find these concepts very interesting, and they are clearly related to my work. The bizarre could be understood as that which is weird or unusual, and that fascinates me because it takes us into the realm of what is considered normal, and well, nothing is normal. The idea of classifying things comes from the human need to make sense of everything, and this inevitably leads me to the concept of the absurd as understood by Albert Camus in "The Myth of Sisyphus".
To answer your questions, I think bizarreness is something inherent to the human condition, since the search for meaning is something characteristic of our species. Whether it is now more or less accentuated by the times in which we live, I wouldn't dare to say. Regarding your question about why it is present in my work, it would then be because it is one of my intrinsic aspects as a human being. It has always been part of the history of art, Goya or Arcimboldo are two artists in whom we can find this quality approached from very different perspectives.
In any case, all these digressions that I can make are in my opinion rather limited, I am neither a philosopher nor a theoretician... I am a painter and I understand that my work is to paint while embracing the contradictions of the present and accepting the absurd.
Text credit: Luxi He