By Alexia Tala, curator and art critic
Contemporary art has presented itself as a fertile space to dismantle the ways in which representation absorbs and exposes a geography, being a purposeful place when dealing with the relationship between territory and knowledge. Among these coordinates is the work of Nicole Franchy, who works through the historical forms of such representations, giving space to question us about the ideologies that are behind the construction of knowledge.
This interest in the ideological dimension of the historical images of the territory means, in Franchy's works, an absolute involvement in them, remaking them from the collection and use of different archives. Combining sources and times, the artist creates what she calls “associative landscapes” or “political geographies”, sources such as postcards and scientific books ranging from anthropology to astronomy.
They are images recreated from fiction, landscapes full of enigma because despite recognizing typography, engraving motifs, places and text content, we cannot accurately distinguish the nature of what we see. These are images that mix historical density with apocalyptic touches, where plants, palm trees or architectural buildings are abundant, and where the artist puts past, present and future in dialogue. The artist arrives at documents through a search for hosted knowledge systems, that is, as time deposits: in each image there is a way of seeing and perceiving the world.
Thus, the artist arms and disarms the images through appropriation. The strategy that unites her works is collage, which is presented both in installations and in two-dimensional formats. In both, whether spatially or through a single image, the importance of layers in the montage is perceived: the image expands in layers, privileging transparent backgrounds, which create an effect of integrity and depth. In these landscapes, despite being the product of multiple documents or fragments, that is, in a way cumulative, they are calculated and configured in such a visual way that it is always integral.
At work tropical void (2018), the artist presents installations in leather or transparent vinyl panels on which she arranges the content of pages from encyclopedias, an ethnographic archive showing how Europe examined the continent. The artist includes images of the silhouettes of indigenous people with their faces cut off. In Another Sunset (2017), Franchy radicalizes the fictional landscape in his large-scale collages, where he builds images that mix constructions with inverted spaces.
But the previously silent hierarchy of its origin is diverted in the work through visual and material strategies that are exposed, on the contrary, to openness. This opening has to do with a remaking that disappoints her, cuts her apart and displays her denatured. One of these materials has been the encyclopedias, which shelter these problems of an epistemological nature, containing the agency that distributed in its own way the ways of assimilating the territories.
Thus, geography, the ways in which they were fixed in another era, is the way to activate a post-colonial critique that demonstrates the constructive dimension of cultural imaginaries in the West. The result shows the tensions between the natural and the artificial, through an imaginary landscape, where the place appears disturbed by European elements. Foreign times and lost geographies are articulated through compositions that insist on the “repetition” of archives, these need to be reiterated to glimpse the presence of power.