In Conversation with

Fidel Ernesto: Transitioning between the Digital and the Physical

Influenced by the ruins of the Caribbean, resident of Santo Domingo Fidel Ernesto fuses elements of urban and digital life in his painting. His multidisciplinary work, which includes drawing, engraving, and video installation, is full of distorted figures and noises that reflect the city’s decadent spaces.

C&AL: Noise is a recurrent term in the field of digital art to refer to the subversion of coding. What does noise mean to you and why ruining form will bring us light, as the title of your first solo show indicates?

FE: In my practice, I am interested in putting myself into those mundane, decadent spaces, in the ruins, that space between things, where you find what is left over. Those spaces that form a part of our daily life, but which, by having them so close by and being surrounded by the chaos of the city (Santo Domingo), become invisible to us. The messages and images deteriorating on the walls, others that come to the surface through time, the climate conditions these spaces have been subjected to, incomplete fragments scattered throughout the city. I also feel that in some way those spaces we inhabit digitally, where information comes to us and not us to it, are generating a particular way of reading and interacting with reality and the events that are presented to us through the senses.

C&AL: In your images, there are recurrent human and nonhuman figures, smiling, shouting, in ecstasy and, often accompanied by distortions and sounds. Who are those bodies that in your work? What are they telling us?

FE: For me, drawing is a way to get rid of all that noise and information that is accumulating in my head. When I draw, I leave consciousness and reason aside, and I start making marks, movements and gestures on the surface, continuously. From all that chaos and noise that is being generated, facial expressions, bodily gestures, and loose limbs emerge… It’s like when you saw little cartoons on the television and in a confrontation between two or several people, a kind of cloud formed where at times you could distinguish fists, legs and facial expressions. I feel that the characters that emerge in those noisy landscapes seem to be inhibited with respect to that which is happening around them, as if the movie playing in their head is not contemplating what is happening in their immediate surroundings. I am interested in how micro-scenes/scenarios are generated with characters that come from contexts that are distant from each other but connected by noise.

C&AL: To produce a project, an exhibition or a work of art, critics and artists from the Global South are used to working collaboratively. What impact has other artists’ production had on your work? And what does a collective mean to you?

FE: The Internet has made it possible to enter directly into contact with the dialogues and reflections that are being generated in various contexts, and to see how we share a lot of common references. The predominance of multidisciplinary approaches is also interesting. In my case, local artists often resort to working in design, film production, commercials, as teachers, and even things that have nothing to do with art in order to make a living. That is how a network of relationships with different kinds of creators is formed. It also brings new viewpoints and visions to artistic work outside of traditional focal points.

This text was produced with the support of the Caribbean Art Initiative.

Fidel Ernesto (Santo Domingo, 1998) is a multidisciplinary visual artist. His means of expression are drawing, in the broadest sense, engraving and video installation. He graduated from Chavón Design School in 2019, with a degree in Fine Arts and Illustration. He has exhibited his work and collaborations with other artists in collective shows in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. His work has been reviewed by local media platforms, such as Hola Pardo. When referring to his work, Fidel says: “I am interested in highlighting the accumulation of brands and the different processes to which the images I generate have been exposed.”

Guilherme Ferreira (Rio de Janeiro, 1996) is a researcher with a master’s pursuing his doctorate in Communications and Culture from the University of Rio de Janeiro where he studies Contemporary Art and Ecological Thought. He is a member of the Anthropocene Commons research network and a visiting scholar at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. He also works as a designer, writer, educator, independent curator and member of the Brazilian artist collective Acta.

Translation: Sara Hanaburgh