Some may see the work of Guillermo Santomá (Barcelona, 1984) as a shocking orgy of disconnected forms, toxic materials and attractive utopian functionalities. A rave of boundless creations. However, his insightful mystical-aesthetic bait isn’t bitten by chance. Once one sees his pieces, constructions, works or interventions there is no going back. Although one may get distracted by the happening elements wisely decorating all his work, what is seen is the living image of perseverance, and there’s nothing more anti-modern than that. His pieces come out of a personal and labyrinthine laboratory of forms he has been building for years. Santomá creates objects that predict the future: an omen, a constant rebirth coming from an impetus to create. He thinks it, he produces it, he frees it.
Playing, joking, irony or not taking things entirely seriously also contributes to making your work free and alive
We interviewed him on the occasion of his much-awaited intervention at DEMO, an almost performative action open to everyone, on show at Nave E in Cornellá de Llobregat. It will kick off this festival highlighting the processes in the world of design and experimentation, with Santomá as one of the headliners. He will also participate in WIP (Work in Progress), a collective exhibition within the festival on show at DADA Studios featuring a collection of previously unseen pieces by emerging and established designers.
What does the concept of freedom mean to you?
It’s not so much about freedom as it is about not having a predetermined method and allowing the project to follow its own rules. That’s something basic in my work, right from the start. I don’t like to repeat things. I want my projects to develop in a different way.
So there is also a metamorphosis, from the beginning till the end …
Yeah, that’s right. The project is free and develops without constraints. Considering all my projects, on a large scale, you can see some of them influence others. This way of working, of juxtaposing things, gives them more freedom and makes them be more alive.
What about playing? How does that manifest in your work?
Playing, joking, irony or not taking things entirely seriously also contributes to making your work free and alive. Everything fits in the end, all the elements can be identified. Zooming in and out is very interesting since you realize small and big are the same and they mix. My projects play with one another. They are all linked together.
I think there is something between the formality and practicality of suicide, of wanting to do something that may not work
What tangible aspects do they have in common?
The way they have been created, as if forms were made in the same way. I think there is something between the formality and practicality of suicide, of wanting to do something that may not work. That’s what makes the form very concrete and that it materializes into something.
The objects you create are like the monsters you have in your head?
There is certainly something that repeats itself, but I don’t see them as monsters. I think it’s a means of expression rather than something that haunts me. It’s about giving them life.
I sometimes see like beings…
Sure, because the beauty of the chairs is that have like two legs and two feet and can be placed in space. The trampoline is like a kind of snake or dragon, then there’re the burned pieces. It’s more related to our way of perceiving and understanding objects: we always tend to humanize them. That’s why in the end you don’t care what object will come out of that. Like the ideas of the Surrealists, three spots make a face. It is the very power of forms that forces us to relate them to other things.
For DEMO, I will produce a series of live objects in order to create a new object: a book. This is a way to explain what I do.
Is the reaction of the people fundamental to you?
I always look for an observer, for a point of view. It’s like a photograph. In fact, my talk at DEMO, here in my studio, is a bit about this. The idea is to make three pieces live. A way to explain what I’m is having people seeing my working because I don’t like to teach or explain the process I follow. In fact, I don’t care about the process, although it is a fundamental part of what I do. On the other hand, it occurred to me that since I was going to reveal that process, I had to create a final object that could register it all. Then I came up with the idea of make a compilation. I will produce a series of objects to create a new object: a book, which will be the most important one.
There’s some theatricality in your work…
The theatricality is part of the imaginary you build yourself. Most important of all is to think that everything is possible. Saying ‘this is possible, what I have imagined can be done’. But to do so, you have to surround it by some theatricality and look for resources.
And what about Porno místico?
It is a concept that was very present when I was more devoted to writing. Now it’s all more practical, but somehow it’s still present. It is basically about connecting a superficial or absurd idea with a much more mystical or profound theme. It may underlie that interpretation of forms, of which we spoke, for example. In the end, this is like a company or a business. Your work goes to someone’s home, where they will be used in a way I ignore. That the most porn thing of all!
What do you have most fun with?
With everything! For example, a few days ago, when I was working on the trampoline. We finished it in a day. We bought the remnants in the morning and phoned Decathlon to buy a trampoline, which they sent us to Sant Boi. Then we had lunch at Mucto and back to the studio again to put everything together. And that was it! And then we said: “What a fucking cool job we’ve done! It’s so great to be able to do this a job.”
Mano de santo comes from Santomà, your last name, but what does it mean to you?
Yes, it was actually Raquel Quevedo who came up with it. I gave her the poster and she interpreted it in her own way. I always tell her how I want things and she ends up doing her own thing, which is how we complement each other. For me it’s like the hand that can do everything. It’s the hand of the Pantócrator, and now that we have designed the logo, it looks even more like it. It’s the monster you referred to with a more tangible look. It’s not ‘I’m going to do this’, but ‘let this be something’.
However, the pantocrator is associated with creation and you are very destructive, right?
It’s the same. Heaven and hell. We return to Porno místico. Creation is destruction, it’s always been like this. You can’t create anything without destroying something else. It hasn’t to always be something physical. It’s also about destroying your referents andpreconceived ideas. You have to destroy everything.
And where does light fit in this destruction-creation process?
Light is what makes things real and photographic. Light is reality. You create the story you want and then light will interfere with it, making it come to life.
The love for an artwork is in continuing to do things because in fact I think that it is nothing compared to what I would like to do.
How do you approach tradition?
Deep down I think I’m terribly classic. I belong to a very clear and direct tradition. There’s no cheating there. You might see things you don’t really understand or, but I create from within, I see myself very much in the tradition of the free, of people who did what they wanted. James Joyce, Samuel Becket, Rimbaud, Baudelaire… Miralles in architecture, for example. The free are not professionals nor have a profession, but are able to cover everything and be people first and foremost.
How would you synthesize the last two years of your life?
Well, I’ve had the chance to do what I wanted. I struggled for a long time to be able to do what I wanted, and that period give me a very important background. Spending twelve years of your life preparing something and thinking about it bears its fruits. Now I have a very solid foundation.
Do you like all your works equally?
When they ‘become’, when they’re finished, I no longer care about them. The only thing I want is to continue doing things because nothing is close to what I really want to do.
Almost like a taxidermist …
Everything has an end, we all have an end. I wouldn’t keep anything, I would prefer to start over. To be born again…
Photos Guillermo Santomá © Cecilia Díaz Betz