From the Land of the Symbolic

One comes into contact with the works of My Feet are My Wings (Mis
Pies son Mis Alas) and asks: What is there behind the obvious, or,
what is the artistic work really claiming? Recognizing the previous
work of Walter Iraheta, one knows that besides the aesthetic pleasure
that is experienced in front of a rigorous artistic creation, whether
be it painting, photograph, installation or another medium, there is
something more that searches to communicate, sometimes through irony
or a sense of humor, other times through nostalgia, and still more
through pure suggestion. Moreover, each work in the series is part of
a larger discussion that the artist has elaborated upon and can tell
us with detail, if he were asked. In fact, in the blog openned by the
artist in relation to this show we read:

"My Feet are my Wings is a collective of photographs in which exists
an analogy between the object and the human being, the object as live
matter, capable of evoking feelings and sensations, capable of passing
on to us a large amount of information left in it, contained by the
energy of the people who participated in its making and those who will
then make use of it. The object is a symbol of power, a symbol of
belonging, of tenacity, of status, of style, of necessity, history,
the beginning and the end. The object gives testimony to space and
time." That is, the work is an allegory, as Heidegger explains it
well: "The work is symbolic. Allegory and symbolism are the frameworks
of representation under which the characterization of a work of art
has moved for a long time." That is, the work goes beyond itself as an
object of art and guides our look toward other realities. A shoe stops
from being just an object of use and relates to us as a human
experience, real or fiction.

When one thinks about photography, it is assumed that this allows the
possibility of faithfully copying a fragment of reality. That is to
say, we assign credibility to it as a primary characteristic. We do
not doubt the existence of the shown as our eyes see it. Submerged in
the enchantment of good photography, we don't think in that moment of
light and shadow, compositions or games. Instead, we comfortably
accept the condition as visual truth. This is not to say that it is
not really this way. In My Feet are My Wings, for example, we see
shoes of every type, in photographs and in installations, and the shoe
portraits effectively remain to the world as real and possible.
However, the disposition of the shoes, the composition of the series,
and the combinations and sets change the dimension of the real
character that is presented to us, propelling us to look beyond to a
new alegorical reality, in such a way that the shoes stop being just
mere objects whose senses give others their use, and begin to convert
into elements of reflection about reality and human nature.

On the other hand, photography as a fragment of reality that remains
outside forms part of that chain of meanings already established by
that initial fragment. In "Preludio," for example, there is a boot
placed over a white sheet. We assume that it is a woman's boot and
that the woman has taken it off. We also imagine that the taking off
of the boot has been a prelude to an action that is only suggested to
us through the composition and the title of the work. So, what Walter
does to unite the boot, the white sheet, and the title is provide the
objects with new contexts, and by that, new meanings. It does not
matter if the artist has created a simulation by putting the boot on
the bed to photograph it in the end. The thing of importance here is
that not only have we've bitten the fishhook that's been thrown to us,
but with indulgance.

Even in photodocumentary, photography has those both sides, that of
the actual copied reality and the other filled with a multitude of
significances. This unites the fact that the selection of the fragment
of reality photographed has put the look of the artist, of the
documentory photographer, or of the innocent picture taker that only
wants to record what's been lived or seen, in an impossible act of
retaining an ephemeral moment. Therefore, the artist elects the object
of his or her gaze (and in doing so has already designed a new being)
and already knows how it appears in his eyes or recomposed according
to a prior idea. In other words, the artist adjusts the reality to his
lense. Walter Iraheta does both things by photographing shoes and feet
and applying new significance to them.

On the other side, photography places us in a precise moment that,
nevertheless, opens us to the world and history, creating a narrative
that starts from associations. But in the instant this has been fixed
and the artist has captured it, such existing is gone, and its
existence begins to take forms of discourse that the artist has
iniciated--even before taking the photo--and what we see of the work
we can continue or not, adding elements that come from our own
history, from our particular experience in this world. Photography in
its originality belongs to the artist, but it is also ours, like the
shoes photographed by Walter that belong to someone else and that he
makes his own through the camera, through their free disposition, and
the act of transforming them into works of art.

On one hand, we have photographs whose origins come from exhumations
done by the artist in Rabinal, Guatemala. Beautiful, elegant and
sober, despite the profound sadness they hold and the terrible reality
that alludes it. Next, we have installations like Mandala or Jardin,
en which Walter has decided the character of the shoes, the grand part
of them old and used, rescuing them from abandonment and giving them a
new sense of dignity. There are also that photographic installations
that establish a dialogue with artists like Magrite and Duchamp, and
with the ironic weight that they possess, seem to give the work the
necessary balance that takes us away from the nostalgic horror and
contemplation of beauty to the reflection over objects that define
us--in this case, shoes.

One of the symbolic values of the wings is that of the "regeneration",
which is precisely what Walter Iraheta finishes with in this work. By
photographing portraits of the shoes, we are told about the feet, and
doing so uncovers or grows the stories of life.

Anabella Acevedo, quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 2007.