Our community manager interviewed Ana Nuñez Rodriguez, one of the talents Der Greif nominated to join FUTURES in 2022. They spoke about Rodriguez's practice and her upcoming plans for 2023.
Der Greif: Hi, Ana! Firstly, congratulations on being selected by Der Greif as a FUTURES talent. Can you tell us what this nomination means for you as an artist?
Ana: I am so grateful to Der Greif for considering my work for FUTURES. I see this nomination as a great opportunity to help me to achieve a new level of professionalization within my practice and to expand my professional network. Meeting curators, photographers and other experts in the field with large knowledge is a great experience full of inspiration that enriches my practice and that lets me grow not only professionally but personally.
Der Greif: How and why did you decide to focus on the potato as a subject for your series “Cooking Potato Stories”? Ana: In my artistic practice, I delve into the politics of identity, connecting my own experience -navigating between Colombian and European cultural realities- with other voices. Through the use of images, I establish new forms of collaboration and knowledge production that interrogate the impacts of collective memory and cultural heritage on identity as well as colonial heritage on the construction of our social imaginaries. The potato turned out to be a vehicle to continue interrogating myself about the complexities of the construction of identity. I use as a starting point the analogy between the potato and myself, both moving between Europe and Latin America, both processes of acceptance and adaptation. The history of the potato is marked by many obstacles in its adaptation and acceptance as a food crop: a long process of transformation, through which, many conflicts, beliefs, and traditions stood in its way. The continuous transformation and adaptation of the potato become a metaphor for human resilience, and for how our identities are rooted in the stories we tell each other. Here, it also serves to open a conversation about identity, politics, and some of the difficulties that must be overcome when adapting to new contexts and the forms of power that are within. The interesting thing is that the potato has the ability to easily connect to the collective consciousness and in the end, it is a way to talk about ourselves.
Der Greif: How does the inherent autobiographical nature of making photographic imagery affect your work? Ana: I usually connect in my projects my own experience with other voices, intertwining several perspectives. Having as a starting point the autobiographical aspect is something that has led me to collaborate with my family in the creation of my images. Actually, in most of my projects, I used my context ( landscapes of my daily life, my hometown, routines …) as a scenario and my family and friends as the main subjects of my photographs. This collaboration with them turns the production process into a way to open up a conversation to face together the topics I am interested in, and this continuous feedback finally inspires also the visual dimension of the work.
Der Greif: Your practice carefully combines your personal experience with broader cultural narratives. What does the process of engaging others, whether participants or audience members, look like for you? Ana: I started the project using mainly my personal experience and focus on the topic, but through the process, I understood that I also needed to involve different points of view. So I finally based my working method on the encounter of different narratives, involving different voices and perspectives. I decided to collect stories, as a way to protect and give importance to knowledge passed through generations that has not always been accepted as true or official. My inspiration was a movement that took place in Latin America towards the end of the 1970s, a line of thought concerned with the collective (re)construction of history that emerged on the fringes of institutional academia and was widely disseminated during the 1980s. This line of thought that involves oral practices (something I also used in my project) questions the specialized nature of the production of historical knowledge and the conventional procedures that composed it, proposing other ways of "making history" from multiple perspectives, including those of women, workers, and youth, to show the facts from the perspective of different actors. Through this collection of stories, I want to configure a space that encourages a new dialogue and generates new relationships between members of society. This encounter helps me to build an alternative movement of knowledge between Latin America and Europe that connects from the personal to the collective dimension. Using different mediums to collect those translocal stories (such as images, texts, and audio) I want to collectively reconstruct in a polyformic and polyphonic way the social memory of the potato.
Der Greif: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned through photography over the past year? Ana: I have had the chance to prove to myself how photography is a wonderful tool to connect different contexts and a very efficient way to push empathy and build bridges of knowledge and experience across the globe. For instance, my visual material based on my research about potatoes in Ireland, The Netherlands, Colombia, and Spain, has been a conversation starter to connect to different histories, questioning in a collective way our social imaginaries.
Der Greif: What role does the history of photography and representation play in your work? Ana: The narratives that surround the representation of a particular object, space, or event often contain within them certain ideological mechanisms that condition the way we think and perceive reality. These narratives strongly influence the way we construct our identities because at the end of the day, we are the stories we tell each other. And this is something that also happens in visual representation. In my work, I propose counter-narratives around the potato that question how visual representation can empower or disempower us. The subjectivities behind visual narratives are embedded in our historical memory and encapsulated in local ideas so we need to continuously reframe this representation.
Der Greif: What happening right now in contemporary photography particularly excites you? Ana: I think that what strikes me the most is the huge number of new proposals that hybridize photography with other mediums, betting on an expanded vision and blurring the boundaries between disciplines. Also, how today photographers generate a series of activities or events besides the creation of images that seek to generate a greater impact on the audience and that reflect on the ways and ethics of collaboration.
Der Greif: Can you tell us where your work is headed? What’s next for you in 2023? Thanks for talking with us!
Ana: The project “Cooking Potato Stories” is part of the next issue of the Foam Magazine dedicated to food. The project also will travel to Switzerland in May where I will be working on potatoes there in the context of the Biennial “Food Culture Days”. I am also working on potato stories in Ireland, developing a video piece that will see the light this year. I also will be working in Spain on a new photobook “Between Waters” thanks to an Editorial Award for Galician Documentary Photography. And finally, I am starting a new project here in Bogotá, with the support of a grant from the IDARTES- District Institute of the Arts in Colombia. It is about an invasive plant that was brought from Spain and is now a big threat to the local ecosystem, affecting native species. But in Galicia (my place of origin) it is harmoniously and strongly linked to our culture. The link generated by this plant between both territories allows me to reflect on how the colonial invasion profoundly reshaped the relationships between plants, people, and places, immersing us in the effects of human influence on nature.