ScapeLands: a fiction (2009)


Literature created fictional worlds by stringing words together. Music arranged sounds in accordance with the dictates of the human ear. Painting sought the visual abstraction of the world. Sculpture interpreted the three-dimensional nature of things. Architecture created complete spaces that human beings inhabited and used for relating to each other. Theatre represented tragedies and comedies, a euphemism for even greater tragedies.

And then virtualism came along, the art that integrated all of the others into one. Virtualism began in times immemorial; it is difficult to establish the exact date. Its precursors were called virtualists and its works, which later became known as fractals, as they are today, lasted for centuries and centuries.
In the beginning, the virtualists’ fractals were exhibited independently and in isolation, in spaces intended for that purpose. The public visited them during the official opening times. But on Sundays the fractal exhibition rooms were packed, and interminable lines formed outside. Spending the day among the virtualists’ fractals was a unique and complete experience in itself. Entire families would troop into the exhibitions. The children would run around among the works while their parents would stand gaping, commenting on this fractal and that one in hushed tones. After crossing the threshold to leave the great exhibition, the visitors would stop for a few minutes to catch their breath and allow their eyes to readjust to the sunlight, and their ears to the frequencies of nature. In short, to let their senses adjust to the real world where they lived.
And many years passed in this way.
The demand for fractals grew exceedingly. And, little by little, the works were taken out of the exhibition rooms to be displayed as urban fixtures. They were displayed on avenues and in parks and squares until they became just another element of the cities. Civil engineers were needed, who designed subtle fasteners for joining each fractal to the next. They then hired foreigners, who worked side by side with the natives. Each one had a task. The workers fitted the fractals together skilfully, concealing the joints and settings, and managed to join the virtualists’ works together seamlessly, through a rhythmical time sequence, with negligible lapses, that escaped the senses. Any attempt to describe the mechanisms that joined all of these creations together would be in vain, and even difficult to believe. They called it the new order.
This was how the virtualists became the only artists on the face of the earth. The rest were relegated to oblivion. Art could only be understood based on virtualism, so that any death rattles from the previous discipline were not only lacking in interest, but useless, since their products could not be appreciated by the senses.
A long time has passed since the instauration of the new order. The archives containing the construction details and the engineers’ precise calculations have been lost (if they still exist). The spaces of the virtualists gradually invaded the natural space of man. It was like a plague, like a huge oil stain that dissolved reality, just like blue dye in a glass of water eradicates transparency forever. The world was engulfed without violence, without revolutions or opponents. Those who participated in the new world did not miss the old one, so perfect was the new creation.
Man occupied the unified work of virtualism, which he enjoyed with no need to create, surrounded as he was by an art that was unlimited and, for the first time in history, merged with the world, forming part of it.
It was only recently, by which I mean a few thousand years ago, that man again felt the need to create. The fractals had become too familiar, too uniform, too perfect. That is the official version, but the explanation is different. The impossibility of tearing the fractals apart was unbearable. Man needed to take reality apart, return to the origin of things, recover the essence of the world, as it was before.
Any attempt was in vain.
The new order was a path of no return.
Then came what is now called the silent revolution, which was born, once again, of philosophy and the arts.
The silent revolutionaries dismissed the possibility of taking apart fractals, claiming that it would only be possible to interpret them with the eyes. They said that the fractal written by the author, moulded by the sculptor or drawn by the painter was irrelevant. Thus, the musicians of the silent revolution composed their works based on popular melodies; the sculptors moulded their original sculptures based on athletes and Roman column heads; architects erected pyramidal buildings; and painters painted everyday things. It was a path of infinite possibilities.
Recently, some thinkers have risen up against them. They claim that with their art, the artists are actually enveloping the world that surrounds us for the second, third or umpteenth time, creating a new landscape that will come out of their art and, progressively, become our own.
They call it EscapeLands.


From Landscapes to Escapelands: the creative process


The painter imagines the place. He has never been there. Ever. But he could have been. The landscape exists somewhere. And nowhere. The horizon expands before him. It encompasses everything. From the east to the west, as far as the eye can see. The curvature of the world is concealed behind the final line.
A vanishing point in the centre, the hidden geometry of the canvas. Everything irradiates from there. It is an imaginary and real point at the same time. Impossible to determine, impossible to paint, but inevitable for the viewer who will gaze at the canvas. Everything seems to fit. There is still nothing, but the painting is already a reality in the artist’s imagination.
He closes his eyes and allows the light to invade him. Blinded by it, he opens his eyes. He takes the canvas and places it on the floor. He paints it white or grey or a cream colour. It is not colour, or even background, only relief. Relief that no one will see. The landscape is transparent, white, even absurd.
A first colour ploughs across the cloth. A rag dries it and expands it. The artist’s arms envelop the horizon, as if the painter wants to embrace the world and apprehend it. Music invades the atmosphere and the notes stain the painting. The harmony doesn’t matter yet; there’s not even a melody. It is only a rhythm. The metre where feelings will live, the mathematics that will house expression.
Afterwards, a second colour.
And yet a third.
The spaces are now becoming defined. A photographer would call it depth of field. All of it needs to be blurred. Or almost all. The lines dissipate and fade, and will constitute the freedom of the viewer.
New colours in the sky. The same on the earth. Reflections of a same light, like low and high notes. The melody is now present. It cannot be heard, but is repeated again and again. It is a canon of voices, which intertwine and merge, a succession of colour tones. The abstraction is maximum. A dodecaphonic landscape that is not a landscape. The eye goes much further.
The painter is filled with a certain calmness. The essential has been achieved.
Then come the appoggiaturas and trills. Stalagmites of oil plough over the space, a Requiem Lacrimosa. The cries tear the cloth, and cloud the eye so that it evades the apparent.
And finally, the apparently superfluous. The detail without which the viewer would remain disarmed and confused. Five elements, six at the most. The only thing objectively (the adverb is misleading here) recognisable. From there, the eye reconstructs the rest. And the public’s imagination will connect with that of the painter. And they will see that place that the painter imagined but never set foot in, the imaginary place that he wanted to show, the one he took apart so that the viewer could put it together. Hegelian dialectic in the form of oil. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Gaudí was obsessed by the etymology of the term “originality”. Originality comes from origin. The painter and the viewer will meet at that origin. The encounter is what is essential. Everything else serves such a purpose. Even the landscape.


Fernando Trías de Bes