Manuel Saiz

The reflexive structure of Manuel Saiz’s installation Interfaz (Interface, 1997) perhaps recalled Dan Graham’s pavilions, but while Graham’s installations pressure the viewer into recognizing that reality invades the representational arena, with Interfaz the viewer never entered a space that was recognizable as “real.” Instead, the viewer penetrated a virtual reality, a realm based on synthetic, computer-generated forms, and thus entirely artificial.

The dimensions and proportions of the room were familiar—a phone on a pedestal added to the sense of normalcy—but the viewer’s first impression was one of unheimleichkeit. Abstract forms covered the walls, ceiling, and floor, suggesting the crystallographic structure of an extraterrestrial mineral, or the ordered chaos of a fractal form.

Outside the room, two video monitors depicted its interior; the relationship between the images on the two monitors was key. One monitor depicted the computer-generated image from which the room was supposedly built, while the other relayed what was going on inside, in “real time.” What was picked up on either monitor was theoretically quite different: in one case it was a cause, in the other, an effect of the room in which we found ourselves. But the show’s impact lay precisely in, and in spite of, the fact that both images existed at opposite ends of the representational continuum, yet there was a clear similarity between the two.

In effect, there was no distance between the model or copy on the one hand, and the world on the other. The video that picked up the event “in real time” was perceived by the viewer with a delay of only an imperceptible fraction of a second. And this vanishing effect of time in the order of representation may be the mystery and the theater into which Manuel Saiz invites the viewer—one that offers an unusually lucid entrance into the problem of representation in the digital age.

José Luis Brea

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent Martin.