Madrid

Francisco Ruiz de Infante

Francisco Ruiz de Infante is probably the best-known young Spanish artist working with video today, and he uses that medium in two ways: to create stories intimately related to film narration and as a complement to his installations, in which he mixes sculpture, sound, and moving images. Although in the past he inflected the strictly audiovisual with a strong literary bent, he moved away from that practice as his work progressed. However, in his most recent show, for which he prepared two installations, the artist once again brought these heterogeneous elements together for the first time in several years. But language was evoked here in a different way: Words were no longer used to communicate but to confuse.

The first of the two rooms housing the show featured Habitación & Lenguajes (Bestiario no. 3) (Room of languages [Bestiary no. 3] ; all works 1998), an installation in which a table and chair were perched uneasily on an uneven platform made of wooden slats. The precarious tableau hinted at a recurrent theme in the artist's work: an implication that his own relation with reality is fragile. Looming above the rickety platform, five slide projectors intermittently flashed an image—actually three separate images manipulated by a computer to look like one—of a scuba diver being eaten by a giant shark (the projection was activated by a sensor when the viewer crossed an invisible threshold in the room). The meaning of this assemblage was cryptic, and, like much of his work, evaded easy explanation in favor of suggestion or the creation of ambience.

The similarly titled installation in the second room, Habitación & Lenguajes (Bestiario no. 2), created a kind of sensory pandemonium. Furniture seemingly on the verge of collapse was strewn about; projections of various animals covered the walls; and animal sounds simultaneously “translated” into nonsensical Spanish, English, German, and French—audible in the room and through fourteen headphones hanging from the ceiling—came across as a Babel of abstract languages. The idea? That excess communication does not necessarily add up to meaningfulness, and that an abundance of visual and acoustic elements, rather than aiding comprehension, may instead be the source of chaos.

Beyond any precise meaning, the installation demonstrated once more the great virtuosity of this artist, whose work explores the difficulty of communicating meaningfully and the perplexing question of what is real. Quite frequently, Ruiz de Infante's mission is to create strange atmospheres through scenography. (It is no coincidence that he was a disciple of Christian Boltanski.) At other times. he employs simpler elements, precise symbols that more directly suggest his intention. The two pieces created for this exhibition reveal the wav in which his work often achieves its effect through a balance of these complementary opposites: To the larger room's chaotic set design, he contrasts the simplicity and metaphoric pointedness of the image created by an off-balance table and chair.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Vincent Martin.