The Hurry Lens / 2012

An engine that floats is a call to the theory of the sign.
Anyone that wonders why he does certain things and not others, is questioning the past, their own and the collective.

Rain, Steam and Speed: In Turner’s picture, the machine is just a blemish, the same as smoke, portrayed as part of the landscape.  Despite the novelty and perhaps to separate it from center stage, Turner only hints at the train.  The machine will take a long time to appear as an esthetic element.  Pissarro and Caillebotebring it closer to the viewer and Monet finally places it next to the station’s platforms.  The means of transport up until this moment was not an object to be painted.  It was an esthetic object that, like any other, is used more for the benefit of the composition rather than as a sign.

In spite of the enormous burden of accuracy carried by the machine, which is exactly opposite to the idea of Impressionist painting, the artists of the time incorporate machines into their paintings, although it will be photography and the advertising media that portray the machines’ more adequately to their meanings.  When motor cars appeared, the artists did not take notice.  Cars were a minor subject compared to boats and trains and their individual meaning coincides poorly with the prevailing esthetic at the time of their birth.  Artistic photography in the first half of the twentieth century supports and makes motor cars almost residual.  Lartigue, perhaps one of the few artists, who refererences the car as a mount which produces beauty through speed.  His ideas are a new speed, however his photographs arestill indebted to earlier ideals such as Coubert’s Runaway Horse.  It was not until Stephen Shore that the car was made a social sign, an indispensable element in the relationship between reality and representation.

Lartigue found a new form of elegance in speed. On the contrary, Mudbridge approached it from the technical.  Static in the last and esthetic in the first, both approaches to movement today bare significance because they are opposite yet complementary.   The motors of Pagola establish the basis to see and to interpret.  They are not simple machines.  Their power is much greater than the cars we are accustomed to.  They are not easily driven and their mechanics are complete and precise.  Pagola translates these attributes to the way they work:  hundreds of cuts in vinyl used for each image do not correspond exactly with the mechanics of the engine.  The image is quite understandable precisely because the elements that make reference to their perception by the viewer and not the operation of the object.  The same result could be achieved in a less arduous fashion but the work is important here: the effort is a direct reference to the complexity of the object and the knowledge gained as to the difficulty of its construction.
We have seen Lartigue’s cars passing in front of us leaving behind the wake of modernity and still this image diffuses the machine presented by Turner.  Both the steam plume and the cloud of dust solidify the idea of accuracy and speed: as the century advances, the means of transport are painted or photographed more accurately.  They are no longer part of the landscape nor do they blend in with the touch of Impressionism.  It is true that the Italian Futurists exalt the beauty of speed.  Marinetti’s famous statement leaves no doubt:  “We affirm that the world’s splendor has been enriched by a new beauty:  the beauty of speed.  A racing car with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath… a roaring car that seems to run on shrapnel is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.”  But Futurism can only represent the speed and the car through kinetic “tricks” borrowed from Cubism that are just hiding the true essence of the machine or speed.  The same applies to proposals in which beauty is subordinate and buried under layers of anguished desire for violence.

It will take many years for a fellow countryman of Marinetti to offer the world a vision less menial concerning velocity in relation to the esthetic.  In his Six Suggestions for the New Century, Italo Calvino did not forget speed.  Velocity is for Calvino one of the few new pleasures.  It is not just a physical pleasure, but stylish and structural:  the narrative forms have changed and velocity is now increasingly in effect: the object and how to represent it.  A good example is Paul Auster’s novel The Music of Chance in which the car, a Saab 9000, becomes an indispensable element by which Auster relates the story in an agile and precise manner.  Calvino also includes lightness in his suggestions.  Lightness is for him a weight elimination process.  The idea of “the world based on extremely subtle entities” is a truth that we have just barely understood.  We can find the trail of this newly acquired knowledge in these machines created by Pablo Pagola.
Without producing shadows, weightless and against a neutral background, the powerful engine of a car floats before our very eyes, light and devoid of earthly weight and becoming the symbol of speed and displacement.  The engine released from the car, as the noun phrase in a sentence, appears strong andclean, but its sterile essence does not deprive it of the slightest bit of capacity.

Panonfsky took the radiator of the Rolls Royce as an example of the repeated motifs in art over time:  a modern machine adorned with a neoclassical front-end.  The same occurred with the other elements of the car: the framework.  In the case of the engine, something that is hidden from the secular, elegance lies in its usefulness and what it takes to generate its best performance.  Devoid of unnecessary frills, the machines constructed with accuracy float in Pagola’s images like beautiful objects of speed and precision; more than a possibility is the certainty that he invites us to enjoy the esthetics of our time, lightness and speed.

Miguel Leache.

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