Fictive Histories and Future Projections
An Interview with SANGREE — Written by Cortney Lane Stell
SANGREE is a Mexico City-based artist duo composed of René Godínez Pozas (b. 1986) and Carlos Lara (b. 1985) who both studied together in Mexico City at La Esmeralda. With only a handful of works behind them, they’ve already given life to some interesting scenarios, such as the apocalyptic fantastical landscapes in their digital collage work, in which stone monkey gods emerge from suspicious green lightning bolts frozen in the sky. Or, their Stone Board (Serpiente) sculptures of monolithic grey finger skateboard parks modeled after pre-Columbian temples. Regardless of the works you look at, common themes in SANGREE’s oeuvre include tensions between ancient histories and present moments, the relation between fact and fiction, and the omnipresence of branding images and symbols (including the identity they have built for their collaboration, which includes a branded logo). We spent some time with SANGREE discussing their most recent Black Cube pop up exhibition, Unclassified Site Museum, in which the artists envisioned a block-long archeological site underneath Denver’s former 16th Street Mall RTD bus terminal.
How long have you been working collaboratively as SANGREE? How did the collaboration begin?
We've been working together for around 8 years. We met during the first year of art school but it wasn’t until the last year that we started collaborating. At the time, we were working with photography and wanted to start a publication where we could publish our work. While working on the creation of our publication project, the content for the publication began to become more important than the author of the images. That's when we decided to publish under a single name, SANGREE.
Is it true that you don’t have a studio? How do you produce artworks together?
At the beginning, we both lived far away from school and far from each other, so working together was difficult, and our school itself wasn’t a very inspiring environment for working either. So, we were usually taking pictures on the streets and discussing projects at any random Burger King. We still don't have a studio, but now we live closer to each other in a central area of the city so it's easier to meet anywhere to work together.
What were your first feelings about Denver? Did any of these impressions affect the artwork that you produced? Did any of those initial impressions change over the course of time while working on this project?
Most of the examples of public art we saw in Denver were large sculptures placed in different locations of the city that interacted in a very invasive or forced way with their surroundings, so we didn't want to create another piece similar to those. We decided to do something that felt discreet and minimal, but would still give the impression of being a large intervention because the Market Street site is very large.
Tell us about the Market Street Station site. How did you approach this location as your first site-specific commission?
The Market Street location was first proposed by Cortney Stell. She sent us some pictures, but we weren’t very convinced about the place until we saw it. When we saw the site, we thought it was great. We were very excited about its central location and the amount of different people that would be able to interact with the work.
You’ve mentioned that with the Unclassified Site Museum installation, you wanted to encourage a sense of wonder. Why is this important to you?
It definitely has something to do with how our work process begins, which starts with us strolling through the streets until we discover something new or something unexpected that could trigger a further interest or curiosity. We wanted to take advantage of the fact that all kinds of people were going to see our work on Market Street. It was an important element for us because anybody could approach or get something out of this piece, not only people interested in art.
This was your first public commission and major project in the United States. What was the most challenging part of this project?
There were several challenges for us- the distance, for example. Even though we had regular conversations with Cortney and she kept us informed with pictures and updates on the progression, it is always difficult to work from a distance. The safety restrictions and regulations for working in a public space provided us with some difficulties during the process as well.
One type of artifact that can be found in Unclassified Site Museum is different variations of brass and abalone inlayed phone cases. These cases are production samples from an exhibition you recently had in San Francisco. Can you tell us more about the concept behind these works and why you included them in this installation?
These pieces were created while thinking about the tech culture that you find in San Francisco, CA. We then created a very contemporary object, a cell phone case, which at the same time becomes obsolete rather quickly. The fabrication of these cases was entirely handmade. We used abalone shell and some synthetic and natural stones. These kinds of materials can be found in ancient precious objects, such as tools, jewelry, or tableware.