Josefina Ayerza: In your genealogical tree painting, are the names growing out of the painting or are they falling on top of it?
Guillermo Kuitca: They are floating. All these paths are connections between people. This is not a genealogical tree, it's a map of relations. In People In Fire I made a map and replaced the names of cities with names of people. The roads and highways are now linking people instead of places.
JA: Who are we supposed to insert in the blank spaces? People we don't know, people we don't like?
GK: These blank spots are the people one doesn't know, yet one is linked to them. You don't even know their names, still you are linked.
JA: Is this concept of linkage ideal or real for you?
GK: I don't see myself in the painting at all. Basically it's an ideal, it has nothing to do with my everyday life.
JA: What do you think happens in everyday life, is there a lack of links?
GK: Oh no, there are too many links! Sometimes you feel alone, but it's not because of a lack of links. I suppose that links have nothing to do with love, but are we addressing relations or links?
JA: We seem to be talking about solitude.
GK: Solitude seems to be a very important subject in my work It's in the idea of being isolated in the midst of all these people and places. Do you remember those paintings that I did where the same city name is repeated many times? Whatever road you took, you ended up at a place called San Juan de la Cruz or Hannover.
JA: This is similar to the idea of trauma, in that trauma always returns you to the same experience.
GK: Trauma? My God, that is absolutely what I did. I am happy to link with trauma. It sounds active, it's an action, a verb somehow. I trauma, you trauma, come on let's trauma!
JA: In People In Fire the masculine names are written on orange and the feminine on pink. Do the colors refer to the background?
GK: There is no reference to the background, except that since many names are the same, the others became the background. Maybe my next work will be people with different names so there'll be no background at all. My work is about those persons not having a background, about a name without a background.
JA: I noticed that your signature in the one mattress piece in the show is upside down. Was this intentional?
GK: Someone hung it that way by accident, but when I saw it I was amazed to realize it doesn't have a top or a bottom. This is a celestial map of stars and constellations, but there's no relation to real constellations. I've just put the names of stars together in this very circular and fast movement.
JA: And the buttons, are these fixed dark elements part of the sky?
GK: When I started working, each button was a star. Later I decided they would be dark stars.
JA: A star that doesn't shine? Isn't that awful, isn't that sad?
GK: This star does not shine, but it reflects. There are reflections in the plastic and the leather where the button disappears inside, with rays around it. This work is a very tormented piece. Because of the many buttons sewn into the mattress there are lots of perforations. The whole object is really distorted. I call it heaven anyway.
JA: What are these little signs, are they musical notes?
GK: No, those are symbols-Greek letters-that cartographers use to symbolize stars. They were in the original map and I put them in as some kind of dust in the air.
JA: I like how the frame is nor straight. The perforation pulls so much that it alters the shape.
GK: I staple the canvas on the wall-usually I don't work on the stretcher-so l never get a perfect right angle. The finished paintings are never straight. I guess every artist has a complicated side.
JA: What is the connection between the crown of thorns and the apartment plan?
GK: Well, in this work the apartment is a kind of ring of thorns. I think it's a kind of elementary version of the Christian Calgary. For me to use the crown of thorns is a way of usurping Christian culture. And now I love to use this very heavy symbol. I think it fits my paintings very well.
JA: In your work, are Christianity and Judaism a cultural couple?
GK: The crown of thorns is born out of the houseplant and not vice versa. I wanted to bring the Christian thing in. I may be making mistakes since I know so little about Christian myths, but I still use them.
JA: So your culture is a special blend.
GK: Yeah, sure: moreover I am Argentinean. This crazy country where I live is like the cream on top. Been Argentinean is similar to being Jewish. There is a kind of fiasco down there which doesn't belong to a place or a culture or a religion.
JA: So you feel South American an al all?
GK: I find Latin American countries have different answers to the same questions. I answer as an Argentinean, but I am questioned as a Latin American. I don't represent my culture in my paintings in this sense, I can't even say that the work is Argentinean. I like the traditional stance that infers that to acknowledge your own place is to be universal.
JA: The way Socrates says that you are your city?
GK: Well. my city is so peculiar-that is what my work is about-but you shouldn't forget that all those house plans refer to a universal style. They're the same in Africa. Europe, Asia and Alaska.
JA: I always saw faces, likes masks, in the design of your bathrooms.
GK: The bathroom became a mask because of the WC, the sink, and the bath tub. Three features, like the holy family. I think the WC is the son, and the bath tub is the mother of course, so the sink is left for the father.
JA: How did you do the effects on the charcoal map?
GK: I kept erasing it with my hand. I put myself in the worst possible position for painting and that creates the muddy surface. Normally you position yourself so that you don't erase with your elbow what you've just drawn. I erase my work until everything becomes movement, and that is what happens in modem life.
JA: Do you ever think about going back to figurative painting?
GK: It's always in my mind and some day I will let it happen. Sooner or later figures will come back. but never in the same way.
JA: I often see the idea of anticipation in your painting. In Coming Home for instance it is very obvious
GK: I realize that all my work is about links. The link is the landing platform and a house, then the house is a landing platform, the houseplant appears as a landing platform. the tiny, very intense patch of beautiful blue violet color on the landing platform surrounds the house. After all, you don't arrive at an airport, you arrive at home. Since I live so far from the places where my work is shown, traveling became an important issue for me. The disorder is there because of the changes of time and space, of coming and going.
JA: In Vaencia you are showing 100 beds; why so many?
GK: I wanted to create a field of mattresses in that huge space My first idea was to place one bed next to another, in a rhythmic pattern. When I saw the work installed, it looked like a hospital. I didn't like that so I decided to introduce disorder. It's like a cemetery, like the Jewish cemetery in Prague. There is no metaphor of disease. These are not tombs. The meaning of the work is open. But it isn't sad at all; it's romantic probably.
JA: But where else other than a hospital can you find so many beds?
GK: It doesn't matter, please, its an abstract work. Obviously the whole thing would be so fake, so kitsch. There is no way to enter the work if we talk about cemeteries; this is an abstraction of a cemetery. The map is an abstract idea and this work is also an abstraction.
JA: So what is it that spreads over the beds?
GK: Messages, names, images.
JA: Little beds, kid's beds.
GK: No, it's a child's view of adult things. When the bed is close to you, you have something that looks as if it were far away, but in fact it is under your eyes, here. I want to keep the abstract quality, because it's the most interesting aspect. Cemeteries, war: these are really different. It's so important to keep the abstract quality, to let the work breathe. We kill it by putting too much on top.