Aitor Ortiz: “I am interested in photography’s inability to explain things and its limitations”.

On the occasion of the recent opening of his exhibition “Gaudí: Intimate Impressions” at Galería Senda we chat with Aitor Ortiz about his approach to the architect’s body of work, his influences and interests related to architecture and industrial processes, and his particular way of understanding photography. We met the Basque artist at Yurbban Passage, where one of his works, “Destructuras 071” (2003), can be seen as soon as we cross the doors.

Your exhibition at Galería Senda, inaugurated last Saturday, January 22, allows us to see Gaudí in a new way, far from the trivialization and massification with which his work is usually portrayed and showcased. We don’t usually see that delicate side that you managed to find and grasp. How did the idea of collecting these “Intimate Impressions” come about?

Precisely, by delving into what we think we know – and don’t really know. When it comes to Gaudí, photography has trivialized the mental picture we have created around his architecture, precisely because of an excess of information. There are millions and millions of photographs that are repeated, each one more exuberant, exotic, saturated, excessive, that have really annulled, basically and in essence, people’s own individual capacity to establish an intimate relationship with his works. Because we all think we know Gaudí’s work, when in fact, nobody – or very few – know it well, because they have not had that direct contact with it.

Is there a reason why Gaudí attracted your attention in particular? What motivated this choice?

Truth be told, it was a coincidence. I was given the challenge of photographing some of Gaudí’s works and I must say that initially I felt a certain detachment from his work, but precisely because of those prejudices I had, because of what I had previously seen of the architect. 

And talking more about your work in general, it’s pretty safe to say that your approach to photography is not so much about documenting, but rather, framing and molding an existing space to create a new one. Would you please elaborate a bit more on this way of understanding photography, almost like a sculptural act.

Well, I work with photography, which is a means of representation. But what interests me are the drifts that this medium generates; the inability of photography to explain things and its limitations, despite the fact that we believe otherwise. As a means of representation I work with it, as you say, expanding that documentary capacity. Then, I merge it with other interests that I’m very drawn to, such as architecture and industrial processes.

And how did this interest in the industrial element spring up? 

In the end, where I grew up, Bilbao, has lived through an great process of industrialization or deindustrialization, if you will. The Basque society is absolutely permeable to technology and industry. It is part of my life. All those industrial processes have always interested me a lot; what industrialization means in itself, its impact on the territory, on my overall aesthetic development… That ends up generating a series of influences that make a breeding ground in which I am comfortable.

In that sense, what inspires Aitor Ortiz?

In terms of what I photograph, which can be aspects related to architecture or industry, I’m inspired by any of its elements. For example, when it comes to architecture, it’s not only about the spaces; it’s all the areas related to that medium (architecture or industry) that really inspire me: all the technical processes derived from it, including aspects of construction. It is not only what is photographed at all. Then there are other things that I feel drawn to, related to the photographic format itself: its codes, its uses, its aspects such as focus, perspective, optics… Also, some elements that are specific to architecture, scale, perspective…

But interestingly enough, there are similarities and common elements between both. I often work with these elements from different media. That confluence zone also interests me a lot.

So to speak, those elements, those particularities of the medium, have a narrative impact on your works. 

Indeed. I’m not interested in that documentary side of photography. The act of photography is the foundation on which I build and argue other interests, perhaps more tied to the medium itself.

You have already pointed it out in a way, but why architecture – and not portrait photography or still life? Besides the architectural influence of your native Bilbao, is there a particular interest in this discipline? 

The process of building, also very present in the creation of an image itself and its materialization at the end of the process. As I was saying, it is also linked to that scale, that perspective, that position that the work occupies in a space. There’s both a tension and confluence when it all comes together in an exhibition. That is why I often work with architecture, because if I worked photographing other subjects, those subjects would not have those connotations.

While pointing out those elements around the act of exhibiting, “Memoria Trazadora” (2018) came to mind. There were many large-format works, with a very spectacular staging. How impactful and important is the exhibition, the format, the materials… within the whole creative process?

For me it is very important, because it is also part, precisely, of that process of materialization, it is when things really acquire certain properties. Otherwise, photography would be very ethereal. It is not the same to see a photograph on a screen: you are not the owner of everything that surrounds it, of that capacity of visualization and relationship with the work. You don’t know how you are going to see the work, if it will be shown in a space 30 or 300 square-meter space, noise-free or not… For me it is the final decision: how the work should be shown and in what conditions. Each work has certain connotations: for example, with Gaudí, it was essential to stage it in a minimal, intimate scale, so to cancel out how overwhelming the real spaces are. I wanted to take it to the opposite extreme.

What does 2022 look like to you, and can you share with us any future projects?

If everything goes smoothly… At the moment, I’m preparing several projects that are not going to be exhibited in 2022 but are in the development phase.