Richard Noyce, “Critical Mass: printmaking beyond the edge”, Ed. A&C Black, London 2010, pp. 121-122.
To a child born half a century or more ago the notion of the 21st century was the stuff of science fiction, an inconceivably distant place, a comic-book world as strange and unreachable as the world of the Middle Ages, and as odd as the world of the Victorians. Science-fiction books proposed robots and space ships, and dystopian worlds that satirised a future that seemed in peril during the time of the Cold War. We now live in a 21 st-century world that is less resolved than ever, in which some of the predictions of science fiction have come to pass, to be joined by technologies and events that were not foreseen. Science and technology are driving the world towards a future that seems to be as far away as ever but which, paradoxically, is approaching at increased speed. While we take for granted many of the advances in technology that would have astonished our grandparents, and communicate across the planet with the flick of a finger, we also are in danger of losing touch with our humanity.
This is the context in which Marina Núñez works. She was born and studied in Spain, lives in Madrid, and since 1989 has exhibited her work in Spain and internationally. Her early exhibitions featured objects with surrealist references, hyperrealist paintings on cloth, and drawings that prefigured her more recent work with digital mediums. In 1993 she produced a series of versions of faces from art-historical sources, painted on linen napkins. By the turn of the century her work had evolved into paintings combining oil and digital, paintings of neurons, light boxes with digital images and fluorescent painting requiring ultraviolet light. Throughout this period, and continuing up to the present, Núñez was deeply interested in the fundamental scientific, technological and philosophical concerns surrounding the relationship between humans and machines. It is therefore not surprising that her works relates directly to these issues, developing in conjuntion with the emerging field of “tecnhoscience”, which denies the historical separation between science (as theory) and technology (as practice), and by extension the distinctions between nature and society, natural and artificial, organic and inorganic. While much of the thinking in this field has in itself been theoretical, developments in technoscience are leading to extraordinary developments in prosthetics, human/machine interfaces, ans sensory aids, as well as the application of robotics in general.
While Núñez´s work has sprung from and is positioned within the art world, it clearly also has its place in the emerging worlds of biotechnology, post-silicon computing and global communication technology. Interestingly, in this context printmaking has always harnessed cutting-edge technology in the service of artistic expression; it is just that the technology has moved on further and faster than could have been envisaged in the middle of the last century. Virtual reality has moved out of the realm of fantasy films and into the real world; computer simulations have moved from the Star Treck “holodeck” into science and industry, and sooner or later will become part of domestic life as well. As an artist who is closer than many to the world of technoscience, Núñez is aware of her role in counteracting the conservatism of thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama, who call for new forms of state regulations of the emerging technologies that he foresees as offering a threat to democracy itself. Artist, like writers (Shelley´s “unacknowledged legistators of mankind”), can work to counteract that incipient conservatism and offer a credible choice somewhere between the dystopian and utopian visions of the future, in which democratic and beneficial developments may be possible.
Marina Núñez uses the term “infography” to describe her digital works, either on paper, on light boxes, or as projections. It is a term appropriate to the techniques she uses to express her ideas, which are almost entirely dependent on computer technology and software for their realisation. She is prolific in her output and meticulous in the means she uses for exhibiting her work. We are presented with images from a world that is hard to imagine, but which once seen appears to contain its own logic, not so far from the daily worlds in which we move. There are post-apocalyptic cities, skeletal masks with multiple eyes, visions of silent hells, fallen angels, Vitrubian spiders, and mermaids trapped beneath city drainage covers. Her vocabulary of images and techniques is extensive, and the worlds that she presents are disturbing yet fascinating, offering visions os strange purgatories and implied warnings of destinations that might await us should a balance not to be found between the emerging technosciences and the renewal of the humanity upon which our survival depends.