A visit to José Luís Neto’s latest exhibition will always be synonymous with encountering a photographer who repeatedly evokes freedom as the most subtle antidote for fighting the gradual wasting away that the act of photography may signify. As Vilém Flusser used to say, “the best photographs are those in which the photographer has subjugated the programme of the camera to adapt it to his intentions.”
For those who do not yet know his unique oeuvre, which captivates us not only because of the apparent simplicity of its processes, but also because of the depth of its themes, High Speed Press Plate may appear to be a somewhat fleeting exhibition. Normally a craftsman producing photographs that are powerful in their originality, José Luís Neto starts with fourteen glass plate negatives – kept in a box whose most important feature are the four words in English that have given their name to the exhibition – and converts them into digital images. And then the digital images are printed from an ink-jet printer onto large-format sheets of paper.
These glass plate negatives tell us an invisible story: corroded, consumed and worn away by time, any attempt at formal interpretation is fruitless. Their memories prove to be inaccessible. José Luís Neto understood this enforced amnesia and sought to lift the veil on a history that had given way to a patina, to fungi and to dust. He wanted to see the invisible. He wanted to rekindle the scars of a memory that only the active and passive figures of the negative lived through.
If we pause briefly and think about our past, we will conclude that our memories are not regularly aligned.
Visitors to the exhibition are left to play the role of accomplices: “If our memory were able to recover all that we have experienced, there would be no nostalgia, we would cease to understand it” (José Jiménez). In this work, José Luís Neto recovers the radiance of a time that is now past and resuscitates it in a present of shadows and temporal irregularities.
Madrid, 30 April, 2007