By Horacio Reyes Páez
A Basic House Transformation.
An homage to Andrey Tarkovsky.
This installation and photo-film shooting took place during the strict period of lockdown back in Punta Ballena, Uruguay.
After almost 15 years of living abroad, first in Buenos Aires and after that in Vienna, I usally visit my family together with my wife Laura in Uruguay's summer season.
Our flight for returning was cancelled. The global health crisis made the Uruguayan government close all borders and all flights.
During months of quarantine, facing my homeland past, I have found myself rethinking the meaning of “Home”. I came up with the Idea of letting nature act over this powerful archetype.
The structure, the rotten woods, the beautiful and anonymously built house, was mirroring this Idea of home that I needed to heal.
Conspiracy theories, scientists proving the facts of an untameable virus, humanity not knowing which side is good or bad. Both are talking about the confusion and the great distance between human beings and their inner beings.
This quarantine the meaning of Home has been resignified.
I draw the “sketch” for this installation.
First I used the word transmutation but finally called it “A basic house transformation”.
During the enforced quarantine I thought about the possibilities I had at hand for producing an art that could also be a healing process.
At my grandmother's house back in Las Grutas of Punta Ballena, a few meters away from the beach, I've found the remains of what seemed to be a small dog house in its traditional shape. Looked like a basic children's drawing of a house.
For many days I kept looking at this abandoned dog’s house from my window, many times in the rain and some other times just decomposing in sunlight.
This basic house shape was moving inside me and acting in my soul during lockdown, like if this archetype was germinating the seed of a big question.
What does “Home” meant to me. Where is my Home?
Was I creating new rooms inside of me? Or was I just looking for a suitable, comfortable, convenient, external home?
As an homage to Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “The Sacrifice” (1986, Sweden),
I wanted the forces of nature to interact with matter, in this case the woods and nails that gave shape and put together this simple house.
Tarkovsky is always working with the elements in all of his films, these being fire, water, earth and air.
I wanted this House to be transmuted by the sacred and healing ancient elements of salt and water. On my recent Instagram post about this project I wrote:
“I worked with the archetype of “Home”. Wanted to see how the alchemical forces of the elements could transform my inner and outer house, my own house archetype, and go through the experience of detachment, healing and transmutation of this strong human symbol, while photographing the process. This work was an homage to Tarkovsky, as he also worked with the “Home” archetype with the element of fire in his film “Sacrifice”.
I took my 35mm full frame digital camera and a 24-70mm zoom lens so that I could work with various possibilities by the time I would be there struggling with the strong waters of “El Chiringo” beach. Even though this beach is on the “Mansa” (The calm side of the coast), many times waves are more violent there than in the “Brava” side.
The camera focus was set to manual, and as I was shooting during golden hour, I used a fast aperture of f2.8 and also f4.0 . I didn’t want to use high shutter speeds, so I could portray soft textured waves, foam and sand. This was a challenge for stability and precision with my hands, as with this settings some photos can look blurry or washed out.
Tarkovsky fixing the small house replica.
Sweeden, set of The Sacrifice, 1986.
Tarkovsky fixing his small house replica in the set of "The Sacrifice", 1986.
I took the basic house to the shoreline and waited.
Sunset kept going, the tide was getting stronger. The transformation was slow, and suddenly also a very fast and violent one.
While portraying this process, some individuals walking on the beach looked at this actions that of course they couldn't grasp entirely.
Just a few of them were enough for this to become a real time-process installation.
Looking at this house, sometimes dancing with the waves, and some others being destroyed completely, this worked in me as a healing process.
I felt an important release when the ocean completely devoured the rotten woods of this house. It was a starting point for going inwards, and a conscious act of alchemy and detachment, for objectively working with this strong archetype through artistic action.
"A basic house transformation,
by the alchemic forces of salt, and water.
My inner house goes with me.
Things need to be transformed.
More space for the new is needed.
Many Rooms in me.
Horacio Reyes Páez.
"A Basic House Transformation"