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Text by Jorge Villacorta
What is Caja Ficción?
Text by Roberto Huarcaya
Caja Ficción Tour

Memorie of the Process  by Chionmang

The  process started when I first saw the box in which my friend's dog used to sleep. I was attracted to the box in a way I can't explain and I begged him to give it to me. He agreed.  This was 1993, I can't remember the exact date, it was between March and June. Since then and throughout the process, the box has always been with me.

Months went by without knowing what to do with the box. I took it with me  wherever I went, no matter how long I stayed. I found a use for it in photography after I made the first nude self-portraits in black and white and felt that the image was empty.

This happened during my first term at the Antonio Gaudí Institute in 1994. It was probably because I was not only interested in photographing a nude body; maybe I wanted to photograph more than just a body.

In my studio, I then started to make self-portraits in front of, behind and finally, inside the box. I worked with natural light. I realized that it was due to space occupation issues that the box worked as an element.

The box, initially empty, was later filled with my body: when I saw the image of my body inside the box, I felt that my body was complete in the frame.

I think Roberto Huarcaya's work for his exhibition "Continuum" (June 1994) influenced my process, due to our friendship and our common interests in certain areas.

Once I discovered all this, I left the box. But I kept on making nude self-portraits. On the way back from Arequipa to Lima (my friend and I went  to watch a solar eclipse), we passed through a spot in which the road seems endless. It is a long road that merges with the horizon (km. 95 of the South Panamerican Highway).

I asked him to stop at that point. The first thing I tried to do there was to try to photograph the sensation that particular spot gave me. When I placed the tripod in the middle of the road I felt something was missing. I asked my friend to stand before the camera. But then I thought that I wanted something simpler. I placed myself before the camera. There I realized that my clothes were interfering, they didn't relate to the  simplicity of that space ( my clothes and the space generated other sensations in me, not the feeling of solitude I felt at the beginning).

I had an impulse to strip naked. My friend was in charge of shooting ( I did this repeatedly in the following photographs I made of myself, allowing others to shoot).

Six hours after making these pictures we had a car accident and this fact would determine a later photograph for which I traveled back to the same place (km. 925 of the South Panamerican Highway).

At that time, and even later on, I thought that taking nude pictures of myself could be seen as exhibitionism to the eyes of other people. What I mean to say is that taking nude photographs of oneself is very different from photographing another nude individual. Photographing oneself nude is like exposing yourself completely. And I think this generates acceptance and rejection, disgust and pleasure, all at the same time.

So I resumed my work with the box in the studio.  I decided to photograph someone else inside the box. A woman. I did it with someone very close to me. I liked the feeling that a woman's nude body in the box gave me. We had three sessions in the studio, with natural light. By the third session I realized I could not achieve anything beyond what I had achieved until that moment with the box; I felt I had finished the process with her.

Some time went by after that third session and I felt again that something different could be done with the box, with a different person. For a while I worked with one of my classmates at Gaudi. she wanted to work with nude bodies to place them later in a wooden box. My collaboration to her work was very short but in the second and third sessions (always in a studio and with natural light) , when we ran out of black and white film, so we used color positive negative which I developed in negatives just for experimentation. It was the first time I used color film. I felt it was simply different but I did not know then that that´s how I had to work.

At the end of the second semester of 1994, I  presented a composition of nine black and white images using the box. In eight of them, there were nude bodies inside the box. In four of these, a woman; in the other four, myself.

Then, a photograph of the empty box. I worked on this composition using  the bodies in the images as formal elements: I was interested in the aesthetic match between the box and the body inside it, tense, pressing against it; but I was also interested in the relationship between the boxes with bodies inside them and the empty box, which I placed as the center.

Later, I  did a series of black and white pictures, where I photographed myself inside and outside the box, mouth muzzled with duct tape and handcuffed. In some of these images I did not know how to solve the dilemma of being inside the box and feeling trapped in it ( I was maybe trying to accentuate the feeling of the tape over my mouth and the handcuffs around my wrists). I was looking for more space. That is why I think that sometimes my poses were an attempt to differentiate the body from the box, to show that they were two separate and different things, not one.

After this series and parallel to  the lighting course I took at Gaudi during the second semester of 1995, I did some personal work in color,  using the E-6 idea developed as a negative, as in the first color film experience. I worked in the studio, with artificial light for the first time. In these pictures I made self-portraits of my nude torso, sometimes covering my mouth  with duct tape and  handcuffing myself, as a direct reference to the previous use of these resources. The background was white, the skin greenish and the copied image included a black framework around it that suggested the confinement of the body.

A short time later I wanted to photograph a child inside the box. But my model could not come to the studio, so for the first time, I took the box out. I placed it in the house garden and set up a black background. I let the child play with the box and waited to see what he did  with it.

Once the boy entered the box and stayed inside, I simply took the picture (using black and white film) of the boy playing with his toys inside the box.

After this “outing”  to a household environment with the box, I quit photographing using the box for some time. After this period, I made photographs of three individuals. Once again, developing an intense personal relationship took me to  photograph nude female bodies, and in some of these I used the box again. I feel that these nudes were the first I made with the real interest of achieving body images, as a means to shape the aesthetic quality of the body.  I did a session in which I photographed two women, inside and outside the box. After this, I left the box for a year.

During my final term at Gaudi, I had to present a Professional Project, so I decided to review my achievements with the box. However, I finished my career without a specific idea of what had happened with the box nor with the nude photographs I had made. I had no idea of how I wanted to use the box and the pictures.

A new personal relationship in which both of us enjoyed traveling, allowed me to consider the possibility of making photographs with the box in open and remote places.

Since that moment I accepted my body as a single element inside the box. All images are in color and in cross-process (except two from 1998)  I made the decision to abandon black and white because working with extreme color satisfied my need to radically differentiate the plane in which the box-body element was from the place. By extreme color I mean feelings of either extreme warmth or coldness. This color aesthetic functions as a means to put my ideas in order with regard to spaces; it helped me discover them and search for more. I realized that spaces were interesting and important to make photographs.

It all started with the photograph in Abra Anticona, in which I am inside the box with the lake in the background. On that same trip I did the picture of the box in the pampas on the way to Tarma.

On December 19,1996, I started working for Reuters to cover the highjacking of the Japanese Ambassador's mansion by a terrorist group (the MRTA). After that, in Cuzco I photographed the box on January 2nd. 1997, in a place known as the  X Zone, between Qu'enko and Sacsayhuamán; the photo was made a half hour before returning to Lima, although I had this idea of self-portraying me inside the box when I arrived in Cuzco  (it had been 10 years since I last visited the city).

The next picture was taken on Makaha beach in Lima.  I shot at night and with a hand flash. I chose that place because it brought back memories of the sea.

During the time of the highjacking, I spent almost three months stationed between a pastry shop and the Italian Clinic. This led me to making a picture  with the box in the space I was living in- the press area-  after thinking it over for three weeks. I shot the picture with two studio monolights and a hand flash towards me.

I was helped by two japanese press assistants, the only two journalists that were awake at four o´clock in the morning.

Cables were almost 30 meters long. It took me 30 to 40 minutes to set everything, lights, cables, tripod and box. The twelve policemen on that shift just mocked my nakedness, without understanding or doing anything.

At that point the photograph was much more that just the image in itself; it was sort of my ego's answer to challenge the events (photographically) in the area. It was something different and risky. Fortunately, no one noticed what was going on (it could have been easily interpreted as another eccentricity like many others that happened there: shamans, religious fanatics, "Santa Clauses", "Robots" and many others).

After the hostages liberation from the Japanese Ambassador's mansion and having finished my contract with Reuters, I traveled to Ecuador on May, and I took the box with me. There, I made a photograph of the box in front of a background of sewage pipes. I planned to make another photo in the neighborhood of Guapulo, in Quito-where my girlfriend lived-, but I did not find the time to. When she moved to Santiago de Chile, we traveled there with the box, but due to health  safety issues I had to leave it in the airport on quarantine for fifteen days.

To complete my project I made the following photos:

-On the dance floor at the Bauhaus club in Miraflores, February 1998, 1 a.m. This photo is made on normal negative.

-At the entrance of my parent's building, where I lived for 26 years. February 1998, around 10 p.m. This photo is also made on normal negative.

-At km.925. in Arequipa, my first nude self-portrait outdoors, four years ago on March 7, 1998 at 5 p.m.

-At the "showers" on Gallardo beach, km. 125 south of Lima. March 15, 1998 at approximately 5:30-6 p.m. On that same place, on January 2nd, 1988, when I was 18 years old I was for a couple of hours in the sort of limbo that suicidal people experience before dying.

-There is a 35 mm. black and white photo and a color photo I made in Huánuco, on 1996, that I would like to replicate. The box is on the street and the background is the house in which my grandmother and my mother were born and lived. I spent all my childhood vacations form age 7 to 12 in that house.