Dopamine: Axel Void and Ana Barriga Discuss A Collaborative Exhibition @ Void Projects, Miami
Continuing their efforts to push the boundaries of contemporary painting as well as initiate collaborations and interchange, on April 11th, Void Projects will be presenting Dopamine, a dual exhibition with Ana Barriga and Axel Void. For this exhibition Spanish artist, Ana Barriga did a residency with Void Projects Space Miami, run in association with Mana Contemporary and Juxtapoz Magazine, and her solo presentation quickly expanded into a collaborative showcase with project founder, Axel Void.
Through a series of new collaborative works, the artists explore the role of Dopamine, its effects on our biochemistry and how this translates to our perception of the world. As a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, dopamine is a key molecule in how we navigate our everyday lives, and it is directly responsible for our attention, perception and emotional responses. As such, it enables poetic associations to simple, even absurd things, a phenomenon both artists can relate. Interest in this subject resulted in a series of conflicting images that are cleverly mixing Barriga's colorful, playful imagery and setups, with Void's moody atmosphere and themes.
We were curious to hear more about this intriguing showcase and the unusual collaboration, so we got in touch with the artists and had a chat about the Void Projects legacy, this project in particular, the creative process they developed, and the story that brought these two talented Andalusian painters together.
Sasha Bogojev: What were the reasons you've decided doing this collaboration?
Ana Barriga: Collaborations between artists seem very interesting to me. Getting out of your usual context to try and scrutinize the head of another person is a difficult but necessary process because it is a moment when synergies and enrichment take place, both personally and artistically. On the other hand, I love Axel's work. I met him at a conference at the school of architects while I was a student, and now I have the opportunity to work with him. How could you resist this?
Axel Void: Funny enough, this was supposed to be a solo show. We as Void Projects had invited Ana to do a residency and produce for the show. I was familiar with her work but had never met her properly, even though we have many friends in common. But it wasn’t until she showed up at my place that I realized she is not only from Andalucía but from Jerez, the neighboring town of Cádiz, where I was raised. We quickly bonded both in friendship and intellectually and after her visit to the space she proposed a duo show. It sounded exciting to me.
Did you do similar projects in the past and who with?
Ana Barriga: In my neighborhood we said: - Uno y no más! Santo Tomás (Spanish for: One, and no more!). Just kidding! For me it is the first time I collaborate with someone. I hope it is the beginning of many other experiences like this one.
Axel Void: Well coming from a graffiti background, I have done many collaborations on walls. But normally, on canvases, I don’t do it that often. A curious collaboration I did about 10 years ago was with Remed, Remon, and MrKern. It was when Seleka and I used to live together in Sevilla. I remember we were all working pretty hard on the piece and MrKern came and whited out a huge area of it and planted a portrait of Seleka in the middle. It was priceless.
How hard was it to figure out how to share the process/canvas and how did you end up dividing the work?
Ana Barriga: Although we have different styles, I think that the work is interesting. We have one thing in common that serves as an impetus for this project - we are both savages and we like challenges. We were clear that we did not want them to be collage works - you paint this and I fill that. We knew that we have to work hard. As for the process, each one of us started an image and when we thought that it was ready we would exchange it as many times as necessary until we agreed that the work was finished. This has been fundamental to give us creative freedom in terms of the choice of images and possible interventions between them.
Axel Void: Our approach was very organic, we decided on a concept or a base image together, and took turns to paint; the priority is the work and the final result. Although we both have different styles we have similar tastes. As for our differences, we both carry a knife, as a good Andalusian should…
What was the most challenging/satisfying part of mixing Ana's cheerful, colorful imagery and Axel's moody atmospheres?
Ana Barriga: For me, the whole process has been a challenge. Everything we have done here for me is very different from what I usually do in my studio. Starting by getting out of my cave to enter Axel's cave. I usually work alone and Void Projects is a great family. At first, I thought it would be inconvenient to concentrate, but it was quite the opposite: the partners are not only respectful but also help and collaborate with each other. Now I am convincing them to adopt me. This family reminds us that the great artistic movements are made in the community. We're already divided enough so integration and miscegenation is the way to go - that is Void Projects. I think that there is magic in this project that reminds us that art is versatile and does not attend to borders.
Axel Void: I think the common denominator was humor. We both have a dark sense of humor that comes through in a playful way. The collaboration somehow gave a rewarding release of this energy, letting it out through the work.
What do you think of the final result now that it's all done and what are your favorite parts of the new works?
Ana Barriga: It is an explosive mixture since we are very different, but I think we have known how to take advantage of the collaboration. I think Axel's work has a very important social component in showing the tragic face of our society and giving voice to those who do not have it. In that sense, we have a common point since sometimes my works also have a component of tragedy, although the comic element prevails. Especially in interventions.
Axel Void: I think it’s a very eclectic but cohesive show, which encompasses the essence of dopaminergic behavior. A reckless and obsessive compulsion driven by the reward or by hitting the pleasure button. This comes through, in this duality. A very serious subject taken executed in a playful as well as sober manner. Technically we are both quite academic but enjoy breaking the rules.
Where is the idea about Dopamine as the title/theme coming from and were you working on this subject in the past?
Ana Barriga: That is more of Axel's merit as he was the one who put the title for the exhibition. When he proposed it to me after several other ideas, it seemed perfect for us both to feel comfortable working. My paintings are very vital and who does not need dopamine every day? Without dopamine, life cannot go on.
Axel Void: It is a subject that is very close to me personally. I have been wanting to tackle this subject in a more direct way, and this was the perfect opportunity for finding the commonalities between Ana and me.
Any particular highlights from this project, memorable moments, creative discoveries, or random situations?
Ana Barriga: It was a very human project, which positions you in and with the world. Something very simple, but sometimes easy to forget. Beyond art is the human being, our concerns, our principles, what we believe to make us better people. And that is Void Projects - an experience that comes to our lives and shakes us to bring out the best in us. Among all the experiences we have had inside and outside the studio, I have realized that I have better things than playing pool and Axel is an extraordinary player. Despite that, I think he has learned to love me. I would also highlight an anecdote that has given me a lot to think about: The first time we went to the beach in South Beach I was sitting on my towel in the middle of the sand and when I turned around, a fish fell from the sky. It was a Pterois, apparently an invasive poisonous species in Miami. I do not know if I have powers or the gods want to tell me something, but in any case, it was an unforgettable experience.
Axel Void: There have been many very funny moments, just the culture shock. Both of us being raised in such a different environment. Seeing her in Miami has been somewhat of a mirror to my reactions to the city, and American culture in general. From going to the theater together, or entering gift shops in South Beach, to playing pool at dive bars. It has been overall a random situation in itself.
Dopamine will open at Void Projects Miami, 60 SE 1st Street, Downtown Miami, on April 11th.