Interview with Martha Naranjo Sandoval

I sat down with Martha Naranjo Sandoval to casually discuss her upcoming solo thesis exhibition at the ICP-Bard MFA studios in Long Island City:


Petén 411, Hand-cut archival prints, Martha Naranjo Sandoval, 2015


ER: Let’s start with the title of your exhibition perhaps? What is the title, and what can you tell us about it?

MNS: The title of the exhibition is “How this has to be Told”. It is inspired by the beginning of Julio Cortázar’s short story entitled “Las babas del diablo” which somehow got transformed into being titled” Blow Up” in English.

ER: Like the Antonioni movie?

MNS: Yes, actually, Antonioni’s film was loosely based on this story.

ER: Interesting, I had no idea!

MNS: The first line of Julio Cortázar’s short story goes like “Nunca se sabrá cómo hay que contar esto, si en primera persona o en segunda, usando la tercera del plural o inventando continuamente formas que no servirán de nada.” Which translates as: “It’ll never be known how this has to be told, in the first person or the second, using the third person plural or continually inventing modes that will serve no purpose at all” This is where the title of the exhibition originates.

ER: Ok. Then, do you see this title as an attempt to provide an answer to something?

MNS: I would say that it is more of a question than a declaration actually. It refers to how we tell things; it is more about how we think things have to be told.

ER: It definitely has this sort of ambiguity, where it could first seem to operate as a kind of injunction, or as a question and that’s what is most interesting about it I’d say. Let’s talk about the pieces that are going to be part of the exhibition.

MNS: In the largest room, I will be presenting a slideshow with pictures that I didn’t take; they will be accompanied by interviews of people who are close to me. The two other rooms will comprise a mobile light installation and a collage.

ER: So the slideshow to be clear, will be made of found and collected photographs from your family recordings?

MNS: Yes


Ofelia Sandoval Lopez, circa 1990

ER: I assume they were not slides to begin with, how did you turn them into slides?

MNS: I scanned them and got them printed as 35mm slides.

ER: Using slides today becomes a clear choice, especially when you have to go through that laborious process of scanning the physical pictures to turn them into digital files and then into 35mm slides.What brought you to this decision? Is it the materiality of it, which includes the sound of the carousel as part of the installation?

MNS: Yeah, that aspect is important to me, but it is also a way to speak more specifically about photographs, as opposed to video. With the slide, it emphasizes the singularity of the one photograph that is being shown, one at a time.That is the main reason that explains the necessity of it being a slide projection.

ER: How about the interaction of the photographs with the interviews? How is this going to operate?

MNS: The interviews were very specific for every single person. Depending on my relationship to them, the questions would be very different. I didn’t want to do the same thing with everyone, so each photograph / interview is very discrete.

ER: I know you have a background in cinema right?

MNS: Yes, I majored in film and then I worked in the film industry for two years.

ER: Do you find that this is a knowledge that you bring to an installation such as this slideshow with recordings? I am thinking of the way people like Chris Marker have used stills and narrated sound, in a different way of course…

MNS: I think, everything I do is informed by film, but I also learned how differently time is conveyed with moving images. Coming back to Cortázar, there is an essay he wrote where he says that short stories are to novels, what photographs are to movies.The framing is also very different, moving images require a much freer form of framing, whereas in photographs, the framing is very definitive.In that sense the influence from film in my work comes through mostly in the way that I attempt to convey narratives.Overtime, I noticed that the approach I have to putting together images is very inspired by the activity of montage in a cinematographic sense. Not necessarily in the way that I construct a story with a begging and an end, but more so in creating a progression of things through time even if it remains open ended.

ER: Talking about montage, I was wondering if any alterations were made to the photographs that are in the slideshow in the process of scanning them and adjusting them?

MNS: No, all I did was adjust the scans the way I would for any photographs in order to make them look closer to what they are supped to look like. Although I have used some of these photographs for collages in the past, here, it was more important to keep them the way they were; as a mean to highlight the fact that these photographs were taken by people who do not consider themselves as photographers.

ER: You said you scanned the prints, do you know if your family also kept the negatives of these pictures?

MNS: I am pretty sure they didn’t, or if they did, they are most likely misplaced and in a rather poor condition.

ER: It seems that most often, people would keep the prints and throw the negatives, but I was curious because I know my mom most often kept the negatives, which is quite unusual. Since both of the rooms are going to be in the dark, the exhibition is going to have a rather immersive quality to it?

MNS: Yes, that is an important component to it. It’s very easy to get tricked into thinking you are experiencing a movie when you watch it on your phone or on your computer, but it can never replace the experience of going to the theatre. Similarly, here, I want the exhibition to be experiential and unique, not something you could experience again in the same way in any other settings.The importance of physically being present in the space has become more and more predominant for me. The disembodied relationship implied by having to communicate through Skype with my mom has gotten me increasingly fed up with the lack of physicality.


Petén 411, Hand-cut archival prints, Martha Naranjo Sandoval, 2015

ER: Other than a way to deal with our disembodied world, I am curious to know what originally brought you to actually start applying these physical marks on photographs that contain family memories?

MNS: When I was seven years old, I moved out of my childhood family home. This was a first lose which I eventually started to attempt to recall and recover by doing sound recordings, talking about it with my brother etc, which then lead me to ask my mom for pictures from the time we spent in that house. With these photographs I started cutting myself out of them to see what would happen without my presence.This was the first instance of me physically intervening on my family pictures.

 Opening – March 17th, 2016  6:00 – 10:00

By appointment:
Friday 18 and Saturday 19, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday 20, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

24-20 Jackson Ave, Third Floor, Long Island City, Queens, 11101

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