Name: Eva Fàbregas
Place of birth: Barcelona, Spain
Eva, your large-scale sculptures often have a sensual, voluptuous quality to them, while others can seem almost grotesque. Is desire an important part of making pieces that evoke these emotions?
Definitely. That’s the first part of how and why I want to work with certain materials, there’s a desire, there’s a fascination, there’s attraction, but sometimes there’s also repulsion, an ambiguity. And then when my sculptures are in an exhibition, you maybe feel this sense that you want to touch them, but you’re not allowed; so your desire is left unsatisfied. It creates this interesting dynamic, and I love to think about how we engage with our desires, even ones that are perverse. For example, Freud referred to childhood sexuality as “polymorphously perverse.” Those desires are still unformed, without a specific object, therefore flowing in every direction. This is how I’d like to think of my work.
In what sense?
It’s a space for playfulness. The challenge is not to think of play as something naive, but rather as this wild, raw, misbehaving creative energy that is full of potential. I’m very playful when I work in the studio, I have fun, I mix materials, I play.
“I don’t really believe any desire can be totally satisfied. The desires mutate and transform into something else.”
And does that act of play satisfy those initial desires you mentioned?
I don’t really believe any desire can be totally satisfied. The desires mutate and transform into something else. For the viewer, this means that the importance is not in whether you are allowed to touch the sculptures or not. The important thing is that you really want to touch it, the somatic reaction that you have while you are walking through the exhibition. This sparks people’s imagination, and even arouses more questions: How would it feel to touch it? How would it feel to squeeze it? How would it feel to be this body? Is it alive? Is it growing?
Some of your sculptures also vibrate very subtly, which really adds to that visceral feeling.
Yes. We adjusted the level of vibration at my recent exhibition, Devouring Lovers, at Hamburger Bahnhof so that it was very low. I was hoping that there would be audiences that don't realize that there's movement, but also other people who would not really understand if the movement was part of the artwork or not. I played with some movements that were louder and more pronounced, some that only occurred once every few minutes so that if you catch it in your peripheral vision, you’re not sure if it was real. In creating my work, I also try to engage with forms, materials and colours somatically, focusing on the particular body effects that they produce on the viewer and how they facilitate an embodied experience.
The shapes are often described in biological or scientific terms. Certain pieces reminded me of intestines or organs.
When I work, I try to elude conventional categorization, so that the sculptures cannot be directly linked to a particular thing: they are not intestines or tumors or placentas, nor are they corals or sea sponges or worms or cocoons. Rather than imitating something that already exists, the sculptures come from mutation, from combination and multiplication. They allow me to enter into a speculative landscape where all these ideas, shapes, and forms are merged together.
That mutation and merging of forms meant that walking through Devouring Lovers could evoke warmth or softness, but seconds later, disgust or queasiness.
Exactly, it can change drastically in a second, and take you to some place that is a bit more disgusting, more visceral or even repulsive. I work a lot with that ambiguity, with contradictory emotions and impressions: nourishing and parasitic, peaceful and menacing, innocent and perverse... For example, the title Devouring Lovers comes from a fascinating text by Daisy Lafarge’s book Lovebug, in which she describes the cannibalistic mating of two praying mantis as devouring lovers. I think this ambivalence is embedded in the extraordinarily violent, yet also desired coitus of this insect species, as well as in the two words that Daisy chose to describe it. And I think that a similar dynamic takes place in my work.
Your use of space is very effective as well, with galleries being completely transformed with pieces that seem unique to them: some sculptures bulge out of tight crevices, others wrapping around poles or ceiling beams.
There are specific spaces that are extremely inspiring for me. They help me imagine scenarios I couldn’t think of in a plain white space. The hall at the Hamburger Bahnhof is a good example of that. The process of working with architecture is a pure collaboration between its features, myself, and the objects that I produced. When I’m installing my sculptures in the exhibition space, there’s always a negotiation taking place, a struggle even, because my sculptures are misbehaving and stubborn. They have a tendency to insist on how and where they want to be installed, and it’s not always easy to persuade them otherwise.
All of these elements combine to make your installations very “Instagrammable.” Is that intentional?
Not at all. It’s something that I'm happy about but, at the same time, I have lots of trouble with. When you see the work from far away, as you do with pictures, it looks almost as if the sculptures are made by a computer. But when you experience the work closer, there is dirt and dust that accumulates, there are traces of hand sewing, there are broken seams and marks and stains and holes… And all these details are very important for me. There's a lot of things that are missed if you only experience the work through pictures. When I work, my whole body is engaged in the process. Even if I tried, I don’t think I can make a sculpture without involving my own body and my sense of scale. And then the body of the viewer also becomes part of it when you’re in the exhibition itself.
How did you first come up with the idea to craft these unique inflatable sculptures? Did they contain those multitudes in their first iterations?
The first time I did these sculptures were really born out of necessity. I knew I wanted to work with sculpture but I couldn’t afford a studio in London. This is how I began working with flexible materials, inflatable sculptures and collapsible objects. These works could be inflated during the day, and deflated at night. Since then I’ve been working with soft, malleable and elastic materials. They have a fluid quality that inspires me a lot; they wish to remain formless, they are endlessly becoming. I feel strongly about the capacity of art to transform in that way, to propose new ways of being and experiencing the world beyond language.