'Emoticons x m2', Patricia Camet

Artist: Patricia Camet
Dates: September 4th to October 25th, 2018
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Hundreds of ceramic objects are hung all over the height and width of the wall, positioned very closely together. Despite this, amongst the host of items a certain order of shape and colour can be perceived. The objects are arranged in small kingdoms, with prominent pieces in the centre and others rotating around these magnets like vassals. Tiny communities with a common cause can be detected; similar objects march in line. Repeatedly, however, we find the odd piece which wants to strike out on its own in terms of colour, form or shape, but which is unable to free itself from the madding crowd that surrounds it.

For Patricia Camet all these pieces are portraits; deformed, disfigured, distorted images, yet still portraits. It takes little effort to perceive in them anthropomorphic expressions, interposed to highlight an expression or grimace. But there is something unsettling about this, because wherever we look, in the images we experience the strong, albeit confused, echo of an industrial world.

Where do these images come from? They are survivors of a world parallel to ours, ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and causing, increasingly, serious environmental problems. They are items of rubbish, the majority of which cannot be recycled. They are packaging from products we buy in supermarkets which Patricia Camet has collected and sorted. We can guess that one item formerly housed a pair of scissors, another an electric razor, a third quails’ eggs. They are traces indicating different facets of our civilisation. The vast majority of the pieces, however, do not reveal why they were made or what they once protected. Our associations remain uncertain.

Using plaster moulds, Patricia Camet has transformed these residues of fragile, cheap materials, this trash, into ceramic objects. This process of artistic appropriation does not have the same characteristics as industrial production. Each piece is manufactured slightly differently to the next, and this result is supported by the artist’s interventions. In each of the ceramic pieces, she develops facial expressions and anthropomorphic emotions in the manner of emoticons with different meanings, which in our globalised world are frequently used on the Internet.

The word emoticon is a portmanteau of the words emotion and icon. An icon is a sign or symbol that substitutes an object through its meaning, representation or analogy. That is to say, in this artistic work, artistic objects without any particular history, manufactured in bulk for a single purpose, have been assigned by the artist symbols of expression and sentiment which have been equally standardised and commoditised. This wall is a collection of portraits from a world which has been completely “technologised”. It is a critical and alarming vision, but it also contains a delicate helping of irony.

Patricia Camet uses a different appropriation technique when dealing with photos of landscapes by Pacaya Samiria. In a radical change of perspective, this allows her to find anthropomorphic expressions in trees reflected in the water. It is the opposite of the world depicted in the great, overwhelming wall. In these few images, there is no trace of humans or of their devastating machines. It looks more like an enchanted kingdom, home only to gigantic trees with supernatural powers. For most of us, our only knowledge of this other world comes from images produced by the media or from our experiences as tourists, and in these direct and fleeting encounters we are intimidated by its majesty. For many, the untouched jungle seems disturbing and dangerous. Unspoilt nature is totally alien to our urban civilisation; fantasy and humour offer ways to approach this other world cautiously, and to overcome its strangeness.

Patricia Camet uses very subtle aesthetic strategies to link and criticise elements from different areas in our current world: material production with its controversial consequences, and symbolic production through the media of mass communication. Lastly she reveals the increasingly limited space left for unspoilt nature, where humans have not yet begun their destructive acts.

Barbara Panse
Doctor of Theatre Sciences and Art Critic


Patricia Camet is a Peruvian artist born in New York in 1962. She holds a Master’s Degree in Art from the School of Design in Rhode Island. She lives and works in Lima.

Patricia Camet’s work consistently reflects on the problems caused by our patterns of excessive consumption, our impact on the environment, and our new forms of communication. She becomes an archaeologist of the present, producing iconic objects from our material culture of instant gratification. By sanctifying everyday objects and landscapes familiar to her, she poetically reveals the challenges of our accelerated lives and the consequences that we don’t take the time to understand. Playful and tender, the works of Patricia Camet should also be understood as an educational project of universal scope.