by Rachel Heidenry
He traces the fleeting.
Emilio Chapela is an artist concerned with the collective – though not in the obvious sense. Through installation, sculpture, drawing and film, Chapela captures the collectivity of encounters. He enables the systems that are already active – notably Google – and renders still information in the process of dissemination. He is an artist concerned with communication, with time, with production, with frequency.
Born in Mexico City, Chapela may be the conceptual artist most tuned into the now. He uses his artistic process as a method of exploring contemporary society, specifically the ways that technology, the Internet and social media inform the political. According to Google, a book project that began in 2008, archives google images of search terms such as “censorship,” “money,” “democracy” and “artist.” The resulting project produces visual encyclopedias that are momentary – frozen by Chapela – but yet never to be replicated – the Internet’s inherent flux dictates it so.
Other projects are just as clever. In Oli oliva, Chapela displays close-up photographs of various brands and qualities of Italian olive oils. In Biblioteca Roland Barthes, he exhibits 2,000 pieces of wood that form an apparent library. And in Narco, he displays colored blocks representing the frequency of Google searches for the word “narco” between 2006-2010. Throughout his works, Chapela directly sets up comparisons, often with the works’ titles becoming anchors to the social – revealing just how urgent his minimalist arrangements are.
Each project undertaken underscores Chapela’s provocative play with time-specificity, interpretation and word frequency – traits that prove that he is an archivist of stereotypes, of communication and of language. Emilio Chapela has that rare ability to balance humor with criticism and minimalism with complexity – and he is only just beginning.
“Biblioteca Roland Barthes,” 2012.
All photographs courtesy of Emilio Chapela’s website.