ALMUDENA ROMERO

The Pigment Change

The Pigment Change studies and uses reproductive and photographic processes naturally occurring in plants and organic matter, such as photoperiodicity, photobleaching, photosynthesis and selective growth, to create photographic artwork,  and to develop a scientific, artistic, philosophical and intimate reflection on production, reproduction and sustainability. Divided in four chapters,  it explores questions and perspectives on producing or causing existence, sometimes in relation to maternity, sometimes focusing on the act of producing as such, and the subsequent dynamics  of exploitation, accumulation, and legacy. 

Across The Act of Producing, Offspring, Family Album and Faire Une Photographie,  plants and organic matter are exposed to specific amounts of light and particular wavelengths to produce image-objects and photographic experiences that promote an expansive sense of the medium, but that also look beyond sustainable forms and materials to explore the role of an artist in the current environmental crisis, and our relationship to nature.  

Working with photography and other art forms including video, performance and installation, The Pigment Change,  uses photography as a tool for research, reflection and self-expression.

Chapter I: The Act of Producing 

Can research on sustainability focus merely on sustainable materials without wondering if there is a need to produce at all? What’s the role of an artist in an environmental crisis? Starting from these two questions, the first chapter of The Pigment Change explores the relationship between art production, sustainability and photography.

Producing artwork and knowledge (research) is central to any artist career and life. But how does that participate in dynamics of consumption, exploitation, accumulation and disposal which are central to the current environmental crisis, as well as central to the art market?

This opening chapter of The Pigment Change wonders whether artwork production contributes towards a different understanding of photography, photographic processes occurring in nature, and our relationship to nature, or if it simply fulfils artistic ego and needs. Researching a sustainable physicality of photography helps artists keep practising, but does it facilitate others sustainable futures?

Thinking and working with photography as a process rather than as a result multiplies the plurality of spaces, materials and forms where photography can exist, including photographic processes occurring beyond human perception and regardless of human intervention. Can photography be a tool for reassessing our relationship to nature and explore non-anthropocentric perspectives?

In the Act of Producing, this wider reflection on sustainability and artwork production goes together with scientific and intimate research of my grandma's garden and how her plants, flowers and trees react to the action of sunlight. The research results in a collection of small samples preserved in bio-resin fossils as well as in large-scale collages,  depicting hands in the act of producing. 

Images below of The Act of Producing series. BMW Residency Award Solo Show at Cloître Saint-Trophime, Les Rencontres d'Arles 2021. 





Chapter II: Offspring


While choosing not to become a mother is often wrongly catalogued as unnatural and  associated with genetic, emotional or socioeconomic factors (instead of just will), there is a growing number of women expressing an unwillingness to give birth as a result of the current unsettling state of the planet. 

Selective reproduction and growth strategies are common in plants, in some cases, such as the one of Welwitschia Mirabilis to the extreme of only producing two leaves in a lifetime. Offspring documents via  time-lapsed photography the birth of a new leaf as a visual metaphor to refer to the vast range of "natural or occurring in nature" scenarios, including selective reproduction strategies.

Images below of Offspring series. BMW Residency Award Solo Show at Cloître Saint-Trophime, Les Rencontres d'Arles 2021. 

Chapter III: Family Album 

In Family Album, negatives from my family archive are projected directly on cress cultivation panels.

As these plant-based photographs grow, develop and disappear, the series explores the notions of filiation, documentation, continuity and sustainability.

Whilst the ephemerality of things, contexts and relations has become one of the few constants of contemporary living, the photographic art industry still understands disappearing photographs as problematic. Family Album presents the opposite scenario; where archival photographs serve commercialisation purposes but have a limited life as they depend on unsustainable dynamics of production, accumulation and disposal.

These disappearing photographs do not leave evidence nor legacy, yet serve as a tool for reflection on the notions of property, legacy and heritage. What is the legacy that as an artist I want to leave to others including future generations?

Family Album works embody the paradox of having a short lifespan and at the same time offer lasting materiality of photography, which can exist over time, presenting real lasting materials as those that decompose in a short cycle.

The Family Album chapter promotes a broadening understanding of photography, beyond analogue or digital, where photography is a process, rather than an output, that exist in a plurality of forms and materials.


Chapter IV: Faire une photographie


Faire Une Photographie is a two-act photographic performance where Poinsettias or Christmas plants are subjected to specific light regimes to force a change in the pigmentation of their foliage.

Using plants' photoperiodicity, a mechanism of plants to adapt to seasonal lights variations such as the shortening of daylight hours in autumn, I explore photography in a primitive manner, as purely light writing, where pigment variations are traces of a photographic process. 

Autumn

In  Autumn, a Poinsettia is subjected to a restrictive light regime to change some of its pigmentation from green (typical summer leaves) to red (autumn leaves).Poinsettias normally bloom during this pigment variation. With the help of a black box and a specific schedule, the plant gradually receives less exposure to daylight mimicking the natural shortening of the days.

In this 6.5-week photographic performance, the plant and I work together to produce a pigment change resulting from the action of light. However,  photoperiodical pigment variations should naturally happen if light pollution wouldn't stop Poinsettia plants from reacting to light  and blooming. 

Spring

Using an artificial source of continuous lighting for 3 months, spring like conditions are created in the studio so 50 Poinsettia plants produce new chlorophyll abundant green leaves ready to absorb light energy while releasing white leaves (useless for photosynthesis). This work considers both the performative processes and the physical output as photographic pieces. 

*As these photographic traces could have happened without human intervention, this last chapter of The Pigment Change has led me to explore the possibility of photographic processes occurring in nature regardless of humans. In line with emerging non-anthropocentric perspectives such as the one of Stefano Mancuso whose International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology argues that plants can play, can these seasonal photographic performances happen not only as primitive responses to the environment, maybe as sophisticated as prehistoric art, but also as a mean of recreation and play as refined as human artworks can be? Maybe we struggle to think of a perspective where plants can make artwork regardless of humans and beyond humans (we might not be the target audience). Because in that perspective a historically claimed difference between humans and plants would no longer exist. 

Using Format