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Becoming Exergy


© Juan Fabuel


year: 2014 - 2018


sizes: varying from 124 x 154 cm to 30,7 x 47 cm


archival pigment print on dibond / UV pigments on lenticular photography



Some time ago I found among the belongings of my mother's aunt, who died when I was fifteen, a photo album that contained the postcards sent from her Venezuelan exile back in the sixties. In those postcards I found her words and heard her voice with that characteristic accent.
I inevitably missed her and wondered what her years would have been like in the distance, surrounded by a context in which her past did not match with that of her neighbors and where her gaze very often pointed to the other side of the Atlantic.

In her Venezuelan postcards I discovered places that I had never seen and I knew of people that no longer exist. Somehow, I saw myself reflected in her and in her gaze, although mine was never an exile in itself, but rather a desire to explore and know the world while discovering myself. Photography, during those years, played a cathartic role in my life becoming a medium to fantasize about what is possible, while capturing and transforming the immediate.

I noticed that something had to be done with that photo album and remembered a valuable concept extracted from the second law of thermodynamics: exergy. This is defined as the maximum amount of work that can be produced by a stream of matter, heat or work as the medium comes into equilibrium with a reference environment or into equilibrium with the surrounding environment (Dincer, 2000). Exergy is invariably related to entropy, or in other words, the disorder. The thermodynamics describes the states of equilibrium at macroscopic level and analyzes the role of certain materials in achieving a 0 equilibrium that stabilizes the system as a whole. Reaching 0 to make the system work by giving it balance and life or, from my poetics, to give life by being practically invisible.

Reaching 0, becoming landscape, becoming exergy.

This work, based on those images sent by her and my own images, lays on the search for that essential balance between an element and its whole. Between her Venezuelan exile and my life in Switzerland. Between her sixties and my present time. Between our absence and our presence. Between the distant and the nearby. A correspondence between two people accustomed to living out of their original axis. A correspondence between two contexts that emphasizes the importance of the landscape as a social construct.

Becoming exergy aims to make the invisible visible through an acupunctural manipulation of a possible common landscape, a balance between the objective world of the second law of thermodynamics and the subjective world of memory and its constant rewriting. Staring at something, implicitly, carries the need for order and also, to a greater or lesser degree, power and action. The series of shots intends to play with our perception when it comes to looking at landscape pictures, questioning what is real, what seems real and is in fact imagined. Real landscapes that slip into an illusory territory and imagined landscapes that support reality.