‘There is an enormous divorce between art, science, technology and society.’ Trained as a sculptor, lecturer at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, and expert in virtual reality, Roc Parés has always worked half way between art and science. He thinks that we live in a world that does not allow us to understand the knowledge of our times: ‘Physics that is taught today in schools is that of the XIX century’; technology and modern day science, he argues, are at the service of the market and they behave in such a way that they try not to leave any openings. With his thirst to investigate and delve into these cracks, Parés devotes himself to experimentation in interactive communication in order to extract an artistic expression as a result. He defines his work with one sole word: 'interstitial'. The result: interactive installations, interventions in public places and academic publications that make the pillars of communication in its most widespread conception shake and that, in the end, help us to understand.
Born in Mexico, from a family of Catalonian exiles during Franco’s dictatorship, Roc Parés has been living in Catalonia since 1983. When he was 22 and at a time he was finishing his Fine Arts degree, he carried out his first action, Plaga, with which he was already revealing his constant preoccupation with technology and his desire to reinterpret it with a markedly artistic and social standpoint. In one night alone, he faxed enlarged photocopies of dissected insects to hundreds of galleries and museums. It was a time when fax machines were one of the most important ways of communicating and, as a result, first thing on any normal morning, all the important decision making tables of every art institution in Barcelona had a plague of paper insects on them.
Three years later, he founded with his brother Narcís Parés, a computer engineer, the platform for research called Galeria Virtual, a project dedicated to the exploration of virtual reality as an artistic medium. Being able to work every day with a computer engineer, Roc Parés explains, allowed him to experiment with interfaces and social interactive ways of communication built from zero, from programming and the creation of computer code. ‘It was a luxury, not all artists can have that.’ During the seven years that Galeria Virtual was up and running, it carried out projects with visual artists and creators such as Joan Fontcuberta, Màrius Serra, Perry Hoberman, Andrés Lewin-Richter and many more. Many of these works have been shown and awarded prizes in numerous international exhibitions in institutions and museums in Europe and America, such as the Contemporary Cultural Centre in Barcelona (CCCB), the Reina Sofía Museum (MNCARS) in Madrid, the Tate Gallery in London and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto.
Amongst Parés’ most prominent projects is El ball del fanalet (2000), in which several participators equipped with Chinese paper lanterns interact leaving a trail of light behind them modifying their surroundings; Hèlium (2004), in which the participants follow from beginning to end the journey beyond the skies of a group of helium balloons that they themselves had prepared; and SIL01 (2006), where a silo of animal fodder is turned into a space for acoustic and visual interaction. Each one of these projects have a highly experimental, technological and social nature, that claims to make us see and live our world from a different and often unknown viewpoint. A world, Roc Parés says, in which ‘culture has been converted into a shop window used by governments’ and in which the artist is more and more, ‘the proletarian of the information society.’
Parés’ work is simply a way of rebelling against this trend. He looks for discontinuities in the technological market, he explores them, squeezes them and gives them an artistic form that makes us laugh at first and then think about them. Either this or ‘a knowledge society won’t exist’.
Santa Mònica Art Center
Hangar is a Barcelona-basedarts production centre placed in the area of Poblenou.