St. Moritz. The non-place of Luis Molina-Pantin.

Karina Sainz Borgo / 2007

 His glance voids the places he looks at, it deserts them. To blink, to photograph. It’s the same: it prompts a wipe out. Luis Molina-Pantin (Geneva, Switzerland,1969) does not portray objects; he listens through them. He speaks in their own language. He captures the silence, the instant in which you wonder if his images are sneering at us or if they are just there, quietly, about to burst.

Kitsch lamps have crossed his lense, soap opera scenarios; oil towers have exploded and he has captured –like a Chinese box the image of an old Elite magazine with the illustration of a still imaginary earthquake that would devastate Caracas. Apocalyptic? A fit of Blade Runner syndrome? It’s not only this. Luis Molina-Pantin’s work is archaeological, beyond photography. He accumulates through it apparently devalued public spaces and captures them, staring intensely until they break.

From the beginning of his work, Luis Molina-Pantin has exploited the poetry of the generic place or of the non-place. He sees what no one looks at. He finds, digs, captures. He seizes the reverse of things, without the slightest intention of contributing anything to it.

From the I Salón Pirelli de Jóvenes Artistas (1993), where he showed a series of portraitsin black and white which could have been the work of an amateur, Luis Molina-Pantin left aside the anecdote, the tacky shadow or the expected gesture. He simply looked at his models – a supermarket cashier, a bus driver through a camera with which he decodes the emptiness surrounding things. His language, always portrayed as sober and direct, traps images in the limit of their own frame. It is he who decides when the objects will silence.

From the wandering glance, always transient, of Present, Past, Future (1995), to the weight of exaggeration and hyper reality as a satire in Apocalyptic post-cards (1996), to a finer and more complex elaboration in Inmobilia (1997) and, finally, in New landscapes (1999-2000) and Best-sellers (2001), Luis Molina-Pantin transforms objects into a cultural landscapes.

The deliberate play of images within images – as in a readymade- that Molina-Pantin achieves in his souvenirs photographic series –lighters, lamps, ash trays- turn the landscape into a “common place” sterilized by use. This trait also prevails in projects such as Confort 1996- 2000 (2000), a photographic mise en scene with the aesthetics of the Lufthansa airline.

Artificiality is not the physical place that embodies the images but the progressive mechanism by which they loose content as the artist detaches himself –and us- from them. Detachment is a language that Luis Molina- Pantin again resorts to in his photographic series St. Moritz (2006), a collection of ironic landscapes as perfect as they are artificial.

Captured by the impersonal aesthetic of a tourist brochure, Luis Molina-Pantin records the town of St. Moritz, a favorite winter holiday resort among celebrities. It is a sort of collection of vanities; strange patches; privileged non-places, impersonal, laughable.

The series is infused with ever-greater strength by the paradox of joining, in a same visual spectrum, the immaculate white mountain landscape with another completely delirious one, populated by shops and streets, which aesthetically turns luxury into a theme park. Snowy peaks and Cartier and Hermés stores fitted into the bucolic facades of houses with the air of a Swiss village, all in the guise of a holiday perversion, an exclusive Walt Disney.

Taken in Switzerland, Molina-Pantin’s birth place, the St. Moritz photographs complete the satire on the idea of well being. Created in a way that captures the aesthetic of Ansel Adams, St. Moritz spills out with laughter within and beyond its own context. A graduate from the San Francisco Art Institute, whose photography department was founded by Adams, Luis Molina-Pantin collects –and reinterprets- a way of looking which creates even more absurd places as the work is exposed in an exotic tropical context, completely alien to an artificial order that acquires and sheds new layers of sense depending on who looks at it.

Abandoned in an exhibition room, the St. Moritz images summarize that embarrassing moment in which you wonder if the images of Luis Molina-Pantin are outwitting us or if they are just there, quiet, about to burst.