“Taking it to the limit: In the studio with Luciana Lamothe”
The Buenos Aires–based artist talks about her demanding process, the status of women artists in Argentina, and her latest piece for Art Basel Cities Week
Luciana Lamothe knows she’s onto something when the piece she’s working on starts to get a little alarming – too tall, too vast, too tenuous. Whether joining iron pipes with simple clamps or lashing panels together with zip ties, in sculptures and installations that are robust yet malleable, the Argentine artist tests the limits of her materials, as well as the boundaries between interiors and exteriors, built environments and psychological ones. ‘I like to play with how far I can push the limits of a particular material, and with resistance,’ says the artist. ‘This extends to the spectators and those who interact with my work as well.’ Lamothe will unveil Starting Zone (Zona de inicio), 2018 – her first public commission – as part of ‘Hopscotch (Rayuela)’, curated by Cecilia Alemani for Art Basel Cities Week in Buenos Aires, September 6–12. The artist recently welcomed Art Basel into her studio in Munro, outside Buenos Aires, for a discussion about how her work is received locally and the heightened sensation she hopes to provoke with her project for Art Basel Cities.
Vanessa Bell: Your work alternates between sculptures that can be experienced visually and installations that require viewers to enter into them. Has this always been the case?
Luciana Lamothe: I was very influenced by a professor at the Pueyrredón art school who was a Modernist-architecture fanatic. I always loved architecture, and at one point I was torn between following a path in architecture over sculpture. Ultimately, I chose sculpture because I feel that with architecture, there are many boring elements, such as having to make concessions for the client and being conditioned by functionality.
Right after I finished my degree and was trying to figure out what to do, there was a period of civil unrest in Argentina. When I did my acciones in the street, it was just after the economic crash. There was a lot of violence and roadblocks. I was fascinated with the marks left by rubbish on street corners, where it would be piled up, then burned, leaving imprints on the asphalt. I took photos and documented it. Then, when I began working in public spaces, I was experimenting with what was legal or illegal and what I could get away with: what’s hidden and what’s visible, what’s private versus what’s public.
Many of the materials you use in your works are synonymous with strength and construction, and your creative development involves lengthy experimentation with them. What did this journey of discovery stem from?
Even when I was carrying out these acciones in the street, I knew that in some way it was connected to my sculpture. My interests started to gravitate towards materials. I returned to the workshop to continue taking these materials to an extreme, to see what they would resist – not just the materials but also the structures, what they could withstand.
Your process is quite physical: welding, torquing metal …
I work extensively with iron tubes. I’m not only defying the properties of the material, but also its shape, testing new ways that the element can create or generate something new. I’ve had older women ask how I manage to work with the materials that I do, perhaps because I’m slight and not very tall.
It seems there aren’t many women sculptors in Argentina. The artworld [here] is very macho, and I always felt a sense of resentment, but I never really expressed it much – I just got on and did my thing and tried not to care. I do think it affects all female artists, to a degree. Starting out as a young artist and seeing how one’s male peers received more institutional recognition, it was really obvious. But now, I’d say women [in Argentina] are feeling this sense of inequality.